London Busses Bear “No God” Slogans

on October 25, 2008

“There’s probably no God”: a friendly reminder from your neighborhood atheist?

Buses plastered with that phrase may be cruising London streets soon. Smaller print below suggests in red-and-yellow lettering, “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Apparently Dawkins and fellow atheists want to claim their share of the “brainwashing” market.

The poster is the brainchild of the British Humanist Association, who organized the campaign with partial funding from sometimes-cantankerous atheist Richard Dawkins. The original funding goal was £11,000 ($17,802)—half from supporters, the other half in matching money from Dawkins. But according to the campaign’s website, nearly £90,000 (just under $150,000) has been pulled in already. This will presumably sustain the campaign’s duration or widen its scope; it was originally to be featured on 60 buses for four weeks. Now, the BHA may expand to Birmingham, Manchester, and Edinburgh.

“Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride—automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children,” Dawkins said. “Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.”

Apparently Dawkins and fellow atheists want to claim their share of the “brainwashing” market, yet his comment that “nobody thinks twice” about religious slogans seems to indicate widespread societal disinterest in religion—exactly what Dawkins wants!

While Dawkins added that the campaign “will make people think,” Methodist Church spirituality and discipleship officer Jenny Ellis keenly retorted in gratitude, thanking Dawkins for encouraging “continued interest in God” and getting people to “engage with the deepest questions of life.” Dawkins seems to believe “religious thinker” is an oxymoron—even claiming, in contradiction with Matthew 22:37, that “thinking is anathema to religion”—but the fact remains that, as Ellis put it, “Christianity is for people who aren’t afraid to think about life and meaning.” Dawkins’ view of Christians as uniformly unthinking will likely resonate only with fellow atheists—who all presumably ignore atheists and agnostics who haven’t given much thought to God.

Also, there’s the obvious question of what should motivate atheists to spend their own sweat and treasure to convince others that they’re “wrong.” Not only is there no epistemological foundation for truth in a godless universe (hence the “probably” in the campaign slogan), but if humans had truly evolved, where’s the incentive for atheists to waste their time and resources promoting their philosophy?

We also disagree with the campaign’s suggestion that the lack of a god means you should just “stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Is it a comfort to imagine one lives in a world with no morals; no afterlife or resurrection; no inherent right, wrong, or truth; no meaning whatsoever? Does it confer much enjoyment for one to believe that death is the one inevitable fact of life, that everyone’s worldly pleasures will be forgotten? And what about the victims of Darwinism and atheism—from those killed by Hitler, Stalin, and Mao to those massacred by Darwin-believing school students? Removing the fear of God and replacing it with a “do what you want” attitude only sounds good before one thinks about it (again, in contravention with what Dawkins believes about thinking and religion).

Finally, we have to laugh—or cry—at the wording of the campaign, which some atheists have cringed at. In addition to (allegedly) helping the campaign get on the buses, the word “probably” is reminiscent of Dawkins’s atheistic thesis that there is “almost certainly” no god. It reflects the impossibility of disproving the existence of God in general and the atheist’s shifting foundation for truth in specific.

It is wiser to have faith, fear God, and try to live piously.

But imagine if an organization paid for some of these bus campaigns:

  • That asteroid will probably miss Earth.
  • Terrorists probably won’t ever get nuclear weapons.
  • You probably don’t need flood insurance.

You can imagine the outcry! Detractors would point out that the consequences of an asteroid hitting earth, terrorists armed with nukes, or a large-scale flood are severe enough that it’s foolish and ignorant to merely dismiss the possibility as “unlikely” and be done with it. Famous mathematician (and creationist) Blaise Pascal thought up his well-known “wager” to explain why, even if a person is agnostic on God’s existence, it is wiser to have faith, fear God, and try to live piously. C. S. Lewis echoed Pascal with his character Puddleglum’s faithfulness in the Narnia series book The Silver Chair.

We pray that the atheist bus campaign, rather than an in-your-face suggestion of atheism, will instead remind individuals of the deeper questions of life. And we hope the insertion of “probably” reminds them of the weakness of atheistic and agnostic arguments.

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