Probably no God?
Atheists bury their heads in the sand
Photo by Zoe Margolis, Wikipedia
Ariane Sherine and Richard Dawkins at the launch of the atheists’ “There probably is no God” bus ad campaign
Published: 7 April 2009(GMT+10)
Out and about on Britain’s roads, you probably wouldn’t expect an atheist to challenge you about your belief in God. But this is currently the case in England, Scotland and Wales1) where what have been dubbed ‘atheist buses’ are currently sporting the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The initial idea for the advertising campaign came back in June 2008 from an article2 written by a comedy writer, Ariane Sherine. She was unsettled by an advert that she saw on a London bus with the verse: “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8), followed by the Christian organisation’s website. Sherine was able to read there that, as a non-believer, she would be “condemned to everlasting separation from God and then spend all eternity in torment in hell.”3
In response to this, Ariane jokingly suggested that if 4,680 atheists read her article and all contributed £5, then they could run their own advert on the London buses. The suggestion was warmly received by the atheist community with over £150,000 raised since October 2008 in support of the idea.4 Even the ‘evangelical’ atheist and supreme Darwinist Richard Dawkins personally donated £5,500. Due to the vast amount of money which has been donated to the campaign, it was decided to also place slogans inside the buses as well as throughout London’s tube (underground rail network).5 The advertising campaign was officially put into action on 9th January.
Atheists: “There’s probably no God”
The slogan does not say that there is no God, but rather is qualified by the word “probably” for two reasons: firstly, so that it does not breach the advertising standards in the UK, and secondly because you cannot prove a negative; i.e. lack of positive evidence is insufficient to completely disprove something. For example, just because no-one has ever seen a luminous green elephant wearing a sombrero, this does not necessarily mean that one does not exist, even though it is highly unlikely. To disprove it one would need to be simultaneously observing every part of the world, indeed the universe, which could possibly harbour such an entity. Similarly, to completely disprove God’s existence, one would need to have a near-infinite amount of knowledge.
While an official definition of atheism simply means not believing that there is a God, as defined on the official ‘atheist bus’ website, it has a bigger meaning: “It’s about making sense of the world, thinking freely and feeling liberated because of it. It’s about using your intellect and sense of reason to learn what life is about, and having the courage to think for yourself. It’s about relying on evidence when deciding on your beliefs, and being brave enough to speak the truth.”6 There is considerable fluff and nonsense in this statement. Let us consider some of these statements.
Atheists: “It’s about making sense of the world … . It’s about using your intellect and sense of reason to learn what life is about … . It’s about relying on evidence”
Just how does anyone go about making sense of the world? They have a framework (a set of presuppositions) from which they look at evidence and interpret this accordingly. The atheists’ framework is naturalism—which does not allow the divine to intervene in this world (since it allegedly doesn’t exist!)—and they interpret the things that they see in the world around them accordingly. Both the atheist and the Christian have the same evidence. However, the Christian’s presuppositional framework should always be the Bible, regardless of whether they are examining a spiritual issue or a physical issue. As Cornelius Van Til once said,
“The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything which it speaks. And it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc, directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly of indirectly. It tells us not only of the Christ and his work but it also tells us who God is and whence the universe has come. It gives us a philosophy of history as well as history. Moreover, the information on these subjects is woven into an inextricable whole. It is only if you reject the Bible as the Word of God that you can separate its so called religious and moral instruction from what it says, e.g., about the physical universe” (emphasis added).7
Atheists: “ … feeling liberated because of it”
Feeling liberated from what? In Ariane’s case, the founder of the campaign, it is liberation from the coming judgment of God upon this world. Ultimately this is what all atheism boils down to, a rejection of God, because it enables them to justify living any way they desire, without having to come under judgment for it by the Creator God who owns them.
Atheists: “ … and being brave enough to speak the truth”
In effect the whole campaign is a blatant attack on Christianity, for they do not want the Creator God to sit in judgment of them.
Just how do they define truth? For atheists, truth can never be an absolute, but only a subjective term. One wonders if it really matters what truth they are speaking as long as the truth they speak isn’t that every knee will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Atheists: “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”
Some Christian groups have responded with advertisements promoting a belief in God, saying that it is only by becoming a Christian that you can enjoy life. Surprisingly, a more cutting response to the slogan has come from the agnostic camp. An article by Sarfaz Manzoor,8 who has recently lost his uncle, and lost his father 13 years ago, asks of the “atheist bus” people,
“What on earth is there to celebrate? We’re talking about death, about not existing, being wiped out for ever. And it can happen any time. If that’s not a cause for worry what is? … … Believers can take comfort in certainty; atheists have to take solace in the fact that life is short and then you die. That may be the truth but, my question is, how is that meant to cheer us up?”
Manzoor realises that death is indeed an inevitability for all people, regardless of what they may believe or their certainty as to when it will come. And although he believes in annihilation, rather than in the judgment of God to come after death, he acknowledges that this is a prospect less than comforting and well worth worrying about for the atheist. For Christians, it’s why we should make the most of every opportunity to evangelise.
The atheist does not need to put a bus slogan up saying, ‘Jesus is not the Son of God, he did not die for your sin, and he did not rise from the dead.’ By simply removing the concept of God, and thus His ownership of this world, they don’t need to enter into discussion about what the Bible has to say regarding sin, judgment, grace, mercy, love or Jesus Christ.
In effect the whole campaign is a blatant attack on Christianity, for they do not want the Creator God to sit in judgment of them. They want to put up a big sign up saying that this world is “under new management”, a management which says, “God, we don’t need you anymore. We now know that evolutionary processes brought us into being and that ultimately there is no meaning in life or judgment to come. So we will live our lives as we please. We will stop feeling guilty and will enjoy our lives in whatever way we see fit.”
The atheist does not need to put a bus slogan up saying, “Jesus is not the Son of God, he did not die for your sin, and he did not rise from the dead.” By simply removing the concept of God, and thus His ownership of this world, they don’t need to enter into discussion about what the Bible has to say regarding sin, judgment, grace, mercy, love or Jesus Christ.
It’s disappointing then that so many Christian leaders (and many Christians) just don’t seem to see the importance of the creation/evolution origins debate for society today. In an interview in our last edition of Creation magazine, With no apology!9 Pastor Joe Boot said that,
“Suggesting this is a ‘side issue’ not only reveals a lack of exposure to sceptics and seekers of our time, but a profound ignorance of the Bible and the elementary questions of philosophy. Can you imagine, Moses, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Pascal, Copernicus, Galileo or even Darwin, Marx, and Freud referring to the question of origins as a ‘side issue’? I believe many Christians feel ill-equipped to deal with the subject as it is almost never preached about. However, the church will continue to be irrelevant to our time, if we persist in such thoughtless evasions.”
And he’s 100% spot on. Christians need to wake up and see where the battle lines are! Atheists are on the march and they are overtly attacking the very first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God created.”
This militant atheism should not surprise Christians because, after all, it is the ‘year of Darwin’, the year of celebrating the man that allowed atheists to be ‘intellectually fulfilled’ through believing his naturalistic theory of evolution—an undisguised attempt to remove God from the creative process.
This militant atheism should not surprise Christians because, after all, it is the “year of Darwin”, the year of celebrating the man that allowed atheists to be “intellectually fulfilled” through believing his naturalistic theory of evolution—an undisguised attempt to remove God from the creative process. This year should provide Christians with even more opportunities to be pro-active in challenging atheism and evolution at every opportunity. This is an exciting year for CMI with the impending release of our new Darwin Documentary at various venues in the countries where our offices are based—and in some cases further afield. Plus ongoing efforts to secure as many broadcast screenings as we can. The Voyage That Shook The World seeks to bring the creation-evolution debate into the mainstream, gently challenging folk to consider some of the serious flaws with Darwin’s theory. (If you’re interested in hosting a Deconstructing Darwin event, perhaps incorporating the screening of the documentary, please contact your CMI representative here).
Pray that the ‘atheist bus’ campaign will have the opposite effect from that intended by its proponents—that people might be given cause to think, “Hold on, what if there is a God?”, that they might worry about their state before Him, and find true enjoyment in their lives, having come to a repentance and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” Psalm 118:8
|This article prompted one reader to query whether Christians should bother with trying to reach out to people who are determined to go their own way. See: Why bother talking with atheists?|
- Atheism, agnosticism and humanism: godless religions — Questions and Answers, including
References and notes
- Similar Atheist slogans have also been advertised on buses in Washington DC, USA, Genoa, Italy, Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia in Spain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheist_bus#Bus_adverts_in_other_countries, 19 February 2009. Return to text.
- Atheists – gimme five www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/20/transport.religion, 19 February 2009. Return to text.
- www.jesussaid.org, 19 February 2009. Return to text.
- Current giving to the campaign and comments http://www.justgiving.com/atheistbus, 19 February 2009. Return to text.
- The quotes from the advertisements inside the buses and the London Underground Tubes can be read in full here: http://www.atheistbus.org.uk/tube-cards/, 19 February 2009. Return to text.
- Atheism http://www.atheistbus.org.uk/atheism/, 19 February 2009 Return to text.
- Cornelius Van Til, The defense of the Faith, P & R Publishing Co, 1980, p. 8. Return to text.
- Stop worrying? You’ve got to be kidding http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/04/religion-atheism, 19 February 2009 Return to text.
- With no apology!, 19 February 2009 Return to text.