Signs from above and below

April 19, 2015 • 8:45 am

I realized that the hyper-Christian (and pro-creationist) Bob Jones University was close to where I was going to talk yesterday (Furman University), so I asked my hosts to take me to BJU. I did so in the fervent hope that I could at last find Jesus, for if he’s real, he’s surely at Bob Jones University. Sadly, I did not find Jesus there despite my best efforts, I guess, à la Tanya Luhrmann, I just don’t have enough practice talking to God.


Fortunately, I was able to find Darwin, and so did about 100 other people. I think the talk went well, and there were a lot of questions. Although I talked for nearly an hour about evolution, and only about 7 minutes on religion, every question in the 45-min Q&A was about religion or sociology. I’m starting to think that The Albatross might be timely.

Jerry Coyne Overflow!!!

(Two photos above by Beth Purkhiser)

Afterwards we enjoyed a BBQ dinner with members of the Piedmont Humanists and the humanist group at the local Unitarian Universalist Church—the first time I’ve been inside a church in years. It was a great meal catered by Mutt’s BBQ: chopped Carolina pork BBQ with various sauces, fried chicken, potato salad, sweet potato casserole, sweet tea, and lemonade, with a luscious peach cobbler for dessert.  You can’t get more southern than that! And, at the “table of honor”, I found this place card, courtesy of reader and artist Su Gould:


At the next table there was this placecard:


As lagniappe after dessert, I was presented with this gorgeous hand-decorated tiger cookie, also courtesy of Ms. Gould. I don’t know whether to eat it or frame it!:



57 thoughts on “Signs from above and below

  1. You know the world has taken notice of you when there is a sign with your name followed by overflow parking.

  2. For about 30 years, Bob Jones was the !*only*! Christian school denied tax-exempt status by the IRS since they prohibited inter-racial dating. When they lost the case on this in the Supreme Court in the 70s, they chose to pay several years of back taxes rather than allow it. They finally caved in around the mid-2000s.

  3. Love the placecards! And the cookie! I hope you didn’t eat that; I’d feel guilty.

    I was stirred to do a little research on what exactly “Unitarian Universalism” is, and while it seems pretty much benign, I always roll my eyes at the endlessly amorphous concept that “the truth is whatever you believe!”.

    1. I have been to our local Unitarian church several times for various community events. I agree it is a strange place. But the halls are covered with children drawings about respecting others and tolerating all matter of diversity and not a thing about g*d.

    2. From my experience the Unitarians serve as a refuge for people who are fleeing some more potent denomination. Thus, they stress inclusiveness and general human values. There is no dogma and nothing is worshiped (except perhaps nature, poetry and books). I think most are humanists of one sort or another, and they are well known for discussion periods following any presentation. If you are looking for a community of like minded people it’s a worthwhile project. The picnics and parties are well attended.

      1. Seems to me the Unitarians are perfect for Alain de Botton and others like him who insist that atheists need to replicate the religious experience. Twice the potlucks but still without any added gods!

        I strongly suspect that the “early adopters” of atheism are those who not only don’t buy into the bullshit but also don’t care for the “church experience.” It seems overwhelmingly clear that there’re an awful lot of asses in pews just because of that experience who secretly don’t buy into a lick of the nonsense. If they were to leave the pews they’re in how for the Unitarian folding chairs, the world would be a much better place.


        1. When de Botton started his project, I thought – nice try, but it’s already available in every town in America.

    3. It’s a bit like a halfway house for those who have seen through the absurdity of religion but still feel the need for church. There is no central dogma.

  4. When I was six I saw Santa Claus kissing my mother and now to have saved a picture of Jerry Coyne praying at Bob Jones University. I have a friend here in Kansas City who attended Bob Jones University and is a long atheist and was on our Voice of Reason radio program on KKFI 90.1 Community radio station with host Don Kemmerling for many years. We got together after the show to eat breakfast and talk for decades at Chubby’s on Broadway.

  5. Sounds like a splendid time was had promoting reason and silence in the bible belt! The First Coast Freethought Society, of which I’ve been a member since 1999, joining shortly after I moved to Jacksonville, FL, originally met in a library but after the library started closing a half hour earlier, cutting into our meeting time, we wound up transferring our regular monthly meetings to a UU church, initially rent free but over the decade going from nothing to $90. I have been to a few Sunday morning meetings of the UU itself, just to check it out for myself, and I mostly enjoyed it as there was no mention of god and all about fellowship and humanist ideals. Admittely, however, I prefer to sleep in or otherwise just laze around the house on Sunday mornings.

  6. You didn’t find Jesus, but I can clearly see the face of Jesus in the stone pillar behind you. 😛

    1. It looks more like an image of the shroud of Cthulhu to me.
      Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
      [“In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”].

  7. I think, Jerry did not find Jesus, because he did not pray wholeheartedly enough. You know, an omnipresent god-like person only presents himself to truly believers, but not to us poor, poor heretics. 😁

    1. The second place card is even funnier! 🙂 I hope Jerry was able to save both.

      The cookie presents a hard choice it looks delicious. I’d say a photograph would do the trick, though.

  8. I suspect that you’d have better luck finding Jesus at a nice Mexican restaurant than Bob Jones University.

  9. Whenever I see the words, “Bob Jones University”, I can’t help but think of the Cohen brothers movie, The Ladykillers, with Tom Hanks et al. Not the greatest movie, but at the time, enjoyable.

    And there is a supporting role played by a cat, Pickles, who gets the last laugh.


    1. Since we’re on to the Cohens, my favourite movie of theirs is ‘Pass the Ammo’, with Tim Curry in true over-the-top form as a televangelist. I also liked Leland Crooke’s turn as a good-ol-boy Southern sheriff who really is a good guy. (Yeah I know, absolutely against-type). And the church’s pot-smoking probably-an-atheist TV technician. And it really takes the mickey out of televangelist churches.

  10. I find it odd that places like BJU exist when they promote obvious nonsense and contribute a big way to dummbing down the Souths Christians.

    1. My theory, and it is mine, is that BJU exists because the parents of its students strongly support a university that can shield their offspring from exposure to reality. The young are indoctrinated from their time in the womb and assiduously sheltered from unholy views throughout their childhood. The problem of how to get them a university education without bursting the bubble must be compelling.

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