Get off the bus – ‘there is no God’ AND a godly reponse!
Richard Dawkins is helping fund a campaign by the British Humanist Association to persuade people that God does not exist. Posters are to be placed on 30 bendy buses in London in January with the slogan: ‘There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ The campaign is the idea of comedy writer Ariane Sherine, who suggested it on a blog after hearing about a Christian campaign promoting the concept of everlasting flames in hell for unbelievers. The Atheist Bus Campaign will come shortly after the annual church campaign promoting Christianity during the festive Christmas season. My colleague Adam Sherwin broke the story first in The Times. As Ekklesia reports, the Methodists were among the first to welcome this. Read more about it on the JustGiving blog.
CHRIS SUGDEN ANGLICAN MAINSTREAM RESPONDS ……………..
Without God, there’s reason to worry
Contrary to what the atheist bus advert suggests, religion can provide an antidote to the anxieties of everyday life
There’s plenty of worry around at the moment – the governor of the Bank of England is worried about the imminent recession. People are worried about losing their jobs and negative equity in their homes. People will be worried about the pressure then on their relationships. Worry is destructive. It consumes energy. It distracts attention from getting on with life. It keeps you awake at night. It is always worse at night.
But it’s alright. Supported by Evangelist Dawkins, atheists are emblazoning an answer across our capital city for all to see: accept the probability that there is no God and you can stop worrying. This atheism is anything but theoretical.
Jesus of Nazareth was in touch with real people and real life. He said this: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable are you than birds!”
For Jesus, the existence of a creator God and the evidence of his provision for birds of the air, was, contrary to what the campaign suggests, not an argument for, but specifically an argument against, worry.
Jesus identified the origin of worry in the human desire for security and predictability. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” He identified the human solution: to build storehouses to secure the enjoyment of life. He told of a man who built large storehouses to store his goods so that he could then take life easy.
Jesus identified the flaw in this solution – thieves steal, moths corrupt, and death comes unannounced.
Once in this hole, the human antidote to worry is to keep on digging: to seek ever more secure solutions. Much advertising and selling is based on this. Are you fully insured? Do you want to take out a five-year guarantee? Have you a burglar alarm?
Jesus calls this solution folly and madness. He offers one simple antidote: God. God knows that people need food and clothes and shelter and security. God made us the way we are. “Your Father knows you need them,” he says. We just need to seek God’s kingdom which he is pleased to give those who will receive it and “all these things will be yours as well”.
But will this solution be enjoyable – the other measure that bus advertisement employs? It may be secure, but will it be the security of a silent monastery?
Jesus says there are two choices before us: life or death. He says that he offers life in abundance, overflowing, welling up, life that is eternal.
We are faced with those who suggest that if we are not living our dream, then life is not worth living. This was tragically brought home last week with the debate around the very sad story of Daniel James, the rugby player, with a mum and dad, two sisters and a lovely home, who decided he did not want to live a “second-class existence”. Who had suggested his paralysed existence was second class – in comparison with what? Jesus says: “How much more valuable are you than birds.” (Read Jesus’ words in Luke 12: 13-34 and John 10.10).
My late brother, an accountant, was achondroplastic – among his other accomplishments was as an actor in professional productions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Towards the end of his 54 years of life he said that in all likelihood under present legislation he might not have been allowed to live at all. Some might have considered his life, and his last six months in spinal paralysis, as second class.
Human personhood, human enjoyment, and the value of life will always be measured. The question is, “By what standard?” Remove God, probably, and we are at the mercy of our own solutions to security, and other people’s decisions about the value of our life. There’s reason to worry.