Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Atheists' God does not exist campaign - Why we’re all set to go to hell in a bus

Spending money to disprove something never makes much sense to me, hence my confusion with the latest campaign by atheists in the UK to convince people that God does not exist.

Non-believers, unbelievers and disbelievers have taken out advertisements on buses that state: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ Apparently, they are worried about religious slogans that threaten non-Christians ‘with hell and damnation’. (Now be fair — Christianity also threatens Christians with hell and damnation.)

As campaign slogans go, it is not much cop. Saying there is ‘probably’ no God is much the same as saying there may well be a God. I can’t imagine any political party running an election slogan that says: ‘there is probably no alternative’. Further, many Christians would argue that they enjoy life all the more by knowing God. (Perhaps they might take out adverts of their own: ‘There is a God. Who is worried? Enjoying life just fine.’) Even more curious is the statement by one of the leading lights behind the ads, comedy writer Ariane Sherine: “This is a great day for freedom of speech in Britain. I am very glad that we live in a country where people have the freedom to believe in whatever they want.”

Freedom of speech? What an odd statement. Looking at Britain from this side of the water, I always had the opinion that Christianity — of every hue — was held in slightly higher regard (but only slightly) than witches and warlocks at Stonehenge by most British people. The idea that the majority of them are cowering in their beds in case they suffer censure from Christianity seems absolutely bizarre.

In fact, they are probably more frightened of receiving an obscene call from Jonathan Ross than having the local vicar kick down the door and read from the Gospel. Not surprisingly, Miss Sherine has gained support from the great and the good: television presenter and actor, Stephan Fry, comedy writer, Graham Linehan (co-creator of the fabulous Father Ted), Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and philosopher AC Grayling. All have media access and influence on a scale that your average Christian could not dream of and are not, by any means, on the margins of society.

Christians could justifiably argue that they have a much greater difficulty in getting their message across than whose who do not believe.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is no stranger to a media mauling and witness the recent storm which Pope Benedict suffered over remarks he did not make.

A speech the Pope gave at the end of last year in Italian was inaccurately translated and he was reported (incorrectly) as saying that saving the world from gays and transsexuals was just as important as saving the rainforests. But, yikes, he did not actually say that. Of course, it is not too late for Pope Benedict to get his message across — he could take out an advert on a bus.

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