Monday, February 16, 2009

There's probably no God...!!!

Last week in one of my posts, I alluded to the incredibly popular atheist bus campaign currently running in the UK, Scotland, and Wales. Posted on buses around the country, it states, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” I grudgingly admit that I admire the campaign! What??? I know, I know, many of you ‘religious’ Christian folk are already up in arms that I would make a statement like that. Many of you might even suggest that I’ve become soft, ‘seeker-sensitive’ and unwilling to take a stand for what I believe in. Whatever! I still admire their pluck, creativity, and foresight. So here’s the real story. Last year a comedy writer named, Ariane Sherine, while riding the bus noticed a ‘Christian’ ad which stated, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on this earth?” That quote, taken from Luke 18: 8, inspired her to check out the website listed below the ad, where she discovered that non-Christians were hell-bound in a very literal sense. Now, as true as that statement may be, I’m not sure it’s the overarching message of the Gospel.

Ariane proceeded to write an article on the Guardian’s blog in which she suggested that “An atheist bus campaign would provide a reassuring counter-message to religious slogans threatening non-Christians with hell and damnation.” She further suggested that if atheists contributed 5.00 pounds each, they would be able to cover the cost of the campaign. The fund raiser was launched on October 21, 2008 with a goal of raising 5,500.00 pounds. Within hours they had surpassed that goal and have currently raised over 135,000.00 pounds (I wonder if Christians can learn anything from this?).
Meanwhile the Christian response has been nothing if not predictable. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) have received almost 150 complaints suggesting that the ad is “Offensive to Christians and other religions that believe in a single God.” Wow! What about the campaign that ran quoting Luke 18: 8? Wasn’t that offensive to people who don’t believe in a single God? Why would we advocate such a double standard? Why would we think it’s okay for us as Christians to advertise anything we want, yet deny others the same right?

Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, argued that the atheist campaign broke the advertising code on the grounds of substantiation and truthfulness. Green further said, “It is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules.” Why do we as Christians always want to win the battle and lose the war? Since when did the word “probably” indicate a statement of fact? All this complaining simply sounds like we’ve lost focus on what’s important and are merely fighting for the irrelevant. If atheists question God’s existence, it’s “probably” because of the way we have portrayed Him to our world (last I checked God hasn’t been down here recently to represent Himself). When asked why the use of the word “probably” instead of a more definitive term, Ariane responded, “…it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist.”
So what exactly are Christians up in arms against? By her own admission, Ariane cannot say with any empirical certainty that God doesn’t exist. So the only part of the campaign that rings with loud clarity and indisputable truth is the following: “…Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Has it occurred to Christians that this is God speaking through the mouth of Balaam’s proverbial donkey? The only true part of their campaign is overwhelmingly God’s message to His creation. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12: 25)
“Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him.” (Philippians 4: 6)
If we are ever going to reflect the true nature and character of God to our world, we must learn to have a conversation with people who believe differently than we do without drawing swords and slashing away at everything that doesn’t look, sound or feel like we think it should. What are your thoughts on this issue?


Anonymous said...

There are not many things more offensive than to be controlled or to feel powerless. In His wisdom, God gave us the freedom to choose because willing response is far more satisfying than forced compliance.

I agree that it is absolutely right for them to have their say in public. The fact that the atheists/agnostics inserted "probably" is very gracious, and some Christians could learn from this example that people are more willing to listen if they feel they've been heard.

Something that strikes me, though, is that humanity tends to blame an entire group of people for the actions of a few. I grow tired of the broad brush of statements like "The Church is failing" to do this or that as much as I tire of comments like "All athiests are baby killers" or whatever.

I personally don't know any Christians who are up in arms over this advertising. Every Christian that I spend any time with would say, "Well, what else would we expect." The protesters are the same few idiots who scream while holding up "You're going to hell" signs on street corners and are just as much enemies of the Church as a "Christian" who would bomb an abortion clinic.

Joseph said...

Anonymous, how I wish you didn't post your comment anonymously, as it somehow seems to detract from the strength of your voice. Having said that, I couldn't agree more with what you say.

Your point about the "broad brush strokes" is well taken, but I must highlight the fact that, while you and I may not be personally acquainted with Christians who are "up in arms" about this, there are many of them, including the gentleman whom I referred to in the post.

I have also followed this story quite closely and have read numerous Christian blogs which vilify the atheist ads and, unlike you and I, see nothing gracious in how they presented their campaign. However you slice it, the protesters are representative of you and I. Whether you find it equitable or not, it is human nature to paint with broad brush strokes. That's why most people would raise an eyebrow if they were boarding a flight and there were a number of bearded Arab men, in flowing kaftans, head coverings and dark glasses, also boarding with you.

The conversations about Christians and Christianity are taking place largely behind these kinds of incidences that speak nothing of God's love and compassion, but simply denigrate everyone who expresses a worldview different from our own. This means, anonymous, that people like you and I need to speak up more often and more loudly.

Ash said...

it's ironic...i just read another blog somewhere ever so recently addressing the same issue, but i believe it was an atheist billboard in south carolina.

my response touched on a couple of things...first off, you're right, God has an uncanny ability to use any tool to reach our hearts and minds....even an atheist sign.

i was also watching a rob bell nooma recently that talked about the aspect of "breathing" and it's relation to the syllables used for the name of God, YHVH (have you seen this one?) and at the end he notes: maybe you're sitting across from a friend who is an atheist and when they say "There is no God," all you're hearing is Yod Hay Vav Hay...," the name of God.

it brings up the point that we should set our sights on Him and his purpose for us rather than the "other guy's" billboard.

of course my second thought was in the u.s. of a. the first ammendment does not just apply to christians. it applies to people who do not wish believe in God as well. and from a purely plutonic or political stand point, it doesn't bother me that a group of people decided to put their sign too as long as it doesn't counter the constitution. christians, sometimes, want the gov. to protect their first ammendment rights not the other guys. what does that say??

and yes, in some underground way, it's a brilliant sign. wink.

Erejuwa said...

Many thanks for your rather insightful commentary...
As one of those Christians that firmly believes that we need to dialogue with those who feel differently, I couldn't agree with you more!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Really love what you have to say about this! Stop worrying and enjoy your life is definitely a message we all need to hear!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Joseph! Really love what you have to say. Stop worrying and enjoy your life is definitely a message we all need to hear.

Joseph said...

Ashley, Reggie, and Kamsin. I appreciate your feedback on this issue. It is just another one of those 'hot-button' topics that seem to generate so much argument, and highlight the disparity between what we believe and how we communicate what we believe.

Anonymous said...

Kuddos on this post. :) Oh, that more 'Christians' would understand incarnational grace. Thanx!

Anonymous said...

Kuddos on this post. :) Oh, that more 'Christians' would understand incarnational grace. Thanx!

Joseph said...

Jeff, thanks for being a part of the conversation.