“There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life” is the slogan of an atheist bus campaign launched in January around the UK. The campaign was financed by public donations to a fund administered by the British Humanist Association as well as a substantial payment made by Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, in fulfillment of his pledge to match a portion of the contributions made by the public. Many Christians have heralded the coming of the apocalypse because of this first ever UK atheist advertising campaign. I don’t get what all the uproar is about. I say “Thanks atheists”. This campaign serves to keep the question of God alive. In the wise words of minister, author and theologian Nicky Gumbel, the rant of the atheists is free advertising. Numerous press articles discussing the controversial campaign nonchalantly make mention of the fact that the athiest campaign is a reaction to a bus campaign advertising the Christian run Alpha course. Ariane Sherine, mastermind behind the atheist bus ads, in an article entitled All aboard the atheist bus campaign published in the Guardian, states: “As you read this, a new advertising campaign for Alpha Courses is running on London buses. If you attend an Alpha Course, you will again be told that failing to believe in Jesus will condemn you to hell. There’s no doubt that advertising can be effective, and religious advertising works particularly well on those who are vulnerable, frightening them into believing. Religious organisations’ jobs are made easier because there’s no publicly visible counter-view to refute their threats of eternal damnation”. So perhaps Alpha is scorned and tossed aside but Alpha still entered the consciousness of many – and that is something rather than nothing. What’s that thing they say about negative press? Alpha is being mentioned more than ever, without the help of a costly press campaign. Bonus. Lets deconstruct the campaign slogan: “God probably doesn’t exist” – the word probably (synonym: in all likelihood) says a great deal. Observe the following statements: “I probably locked the front door”, “I probably turned the oven off”, “I probably passed my exam”. So, probably tells me that I will take another look at my front door, have a second glance at my stove and check out my exam results when they are available. Probably is just not very convincing. Columnist for The Times and “confirmed atheist” Matthew Parris, in December of last year, wrote an article entitled As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God, following a trip to Malawi. Parris states “I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good”. I ask, why should London be any different? With Alpha attendance up by 25 percent at Gumbel led church Holy Trinity Brompton, perhaps the indication is that there is no difference.
Posted in: Comment– March 1, 2009
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