I find this story amusing on several levels. It seems, according to this AP story at Fox News, that atheists in London plan to buy advertising - in the form of posters - on thirty or so city buses, in order to promote their cheery and robust philosophy.
The signs are to read "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.".
They hope, I'm sure, to present the bright side of the idea that the universe is meaningless and empty. That is to say, since your life and your relationships have no ultimate meaning at all, you can do as you please and enjoy yourself. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you (and everyone) will be a mere sack of inert chemicals and will thereafter dissolve into your composite elements and that will be that... probably.
You can rest assured that there is no eternal judge, no one to pay out justice and mercy, no life after death, no heaven or hell... that is, very likely not.
At least these signs acknowledge, in a backhanded way, that this is the most that Science™ could possibly have to say against the existence of God... "we see no scientific evidence for it". Admittedly, Richard Dawkins (who contributed a good chunk of the money for this charitable enterprise) doesn't like the "probably" part, which was a qualifier more or less forced on the atheists by the bus company in order (in their view) to keep from positively offending religious folk. He sees no reason to place these kinds of limits on his philosophical hubris by leaving room for the possibility of being in error. He knows there is no God with exactly the same level of self assurance that Pierre Pachet had when he declared that Louis Pasteur's theory of germs was a "ridiculous fiction" or that Lord Kelvin experienced as he announced that "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.".
But the bus company (apparently afraid of running afoul of their own advertising guidelines) insisted on some kind of qualifier, which turns out to be the only sane or entertaining bit of the entire sentence in which it appears. The second sentence is simply inane and could have been tagged on by any group; Buddhists - "Life is an illusion. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."... Muslims - "There is no God but God, and Mohamed is His Prophet. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."... Insurance companies - "ABC Insurance is rated #1 in customer service. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.".
There is entailed in this also the curious idea that atheists now find evangelism and missionary work - that is, assertively trying to convert people out of their own presently held beliefs - to be quite commendable. Given that this has been a favorite charge against the Church - that we don't respect others' right to their own beliefs and culture, that we won't let things be - this is quite a step for atheists. They now give tacit assent to the importance of "spreading the good news", and it is refreshing and comforting that we now enjoy their understanding and sympathy, at least on that point. Truth is truth, after all, and sharing the truth with people is a good thing in itself, apart from concerns about cultural niceties or hurt feelings.
The campaign was conceived, appropriately enough, by a comedy writer, Ariane Sherine, who the article states
"I thought it would be a really positive thing to counter that by putting forward a much happier and more upbeat advert, saying 'Don't worry, you're not going to hell,'" said Sherine, 28. "Atheists believe this is the only life we have, and we should enjoy it."
She goes on -
"A lot of people say trying to organize atheists is like herding cats. The last couple of days shows that is not true"
This concept of organized atheists made two things spring to mind; for one thing, I wondered if later generations of young free-thinking atheists will be fond of saying to their exasperated atheist parents, "I believe in atheism, just not organized atheism".
Secondly, I tried to remember what organized atheism has looked like in recent history and couldn't get out of my head images of the disciplined, assembly-line columns of Hitler's stormtroopers, the gulags of Soviet Russia and the killing fields of Pol Pot. They kept appearing behind my eyes, like a cloud of gnats that won't be waved away. But then, history has never been my field, and I'm sure I must have overlooked the numerous benevolent regimes of the more kindly organized atheist states.
There are some sensible London theists who are responding, I think in an appropriate way to the hubbub;
The religious think tank
Theos said it had donated $82 to the campaign, on the grounds that the
ads were so bad they would probably attract people to religion. "It
tells people to 'stop worrying,' which is hardly going to be a great
comfort for those who are concerned about losing jobs or homes in the
recession," said Theos director Paul Woolley. "Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity."
The religious think tank Theos said it had donated $82 to the campaign, on the grounds that the ads were so bad they would probably attract people to religion.
"It tells people to 'stop worrying,' which is hardly going to be a great comfort for those who are concerned about losing jobs or homes in the recession," said Theos director Paul Woolley.
"Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity."