Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Atheist bus ads

I recently read about the so called “atheist bus ads” that have appeared on public buses in the UK. They simply say, “THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD, NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.”

Brazen, you might say. Foolish, I would add. But something for Christians to oppose? I think not. A Winnipeg Free Press article (January 30, 2009) asks “When will city get atheist bus ads?” If it ever occurs, I sincerely hope that Christians don’t try to form a protest or a petition to ban them. If someone does, it’s something I won’t be a part of.

The freedom of speech we have in this country is a valuable right, and one that was fought hard for by many Christians who came here from countries that had far less freedom in this regard. And censorship is a double-edged sword. If Christians think it wrong for atheists to print their thoughts on the sides of city buses, then no Christian should be surprised if they’re refused when they try to put “Jesus is the reason for the Season” on a city bus. Do we as Christians want that freedom? Then who are we to take that freedom away from someone of another viewpoint that is entirely legal to hold in our country?

Rather than wasting energy protesting such a sign, I’d rather put my energy into the discussions such an ad could create. The possibilities are endless. Especially in light of the fact that the atheist bus ad is a flawed premise in so many ways! For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply list the headings of some of those flaws: 
a) It doesn’t seem wise to stop investigating something this important if you only consider your conclusions a probability (see Acts 17:11-12)
b) Believing that there “probably” is no God is far greater cause for worry that believing in a wise and loving God who offers to be powerfully involved in our lives (see Philippians 4:6-7)
c) The enjoyments of this world have left people feeling empty and dissatisfied time and time again, and the sooner people realize that the greatest satisfaction comes from a life lived for the God who created us, the sooner people will truly enjoy their life (see Psalm 16:5; 42:1)
d) It’s important to recognize that the people who wrote that ad view the life they want us to enjoy as the life we live on this earth, and even if some people find that life on this earth actually feels suitably satisfying, it’s important to realize that our time on this earth will last no longer than a vapour compared to the eternity in one place or another that awaits us (see 2 Corinthians 5:8; James 4:14). 

That’s just a few introductory thoughts that I’d enjoy discussing with anyone who had seen the atheist bus ad and was open to talking about it.

These sorts of ad campaigns are not a threat to God. They are a sign (a true sign) of where many people in this world are at, and are a springboard for conversations about the God they dismiss. There was a time when a man named Friedrich Nietzsche created quite a stir by writing, “God is dead.” Though Nietzsche was actually referring to his culture’s apparent abandonment of a belief in God, Nietzsche was not out to convince anyone that they were mistaken. And now, all these years later, I see great evidence of God being alive in my life and in this world, and Nietzsche… well, Nietzsche is dead. And today, we still have work to do if we want to counter the same mistaken notions about God. That doesn't mean starting petitions, but rather, proclaiming an alternative message that in fact, there is a God and He loves people enough to have died to save them, and has risen from the grave to offer us a life of eternal satisfaction in Him!

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I support this ad campaign. Such ads have potential to subtly influence the general spiritual perspectives of many people who give these things very little thought. This could be especially true of children who read the ads (for they tend to accept advertising at face value). But such concerns don’t leave me wanting to boycott these ads. I support the idea of people being free to choose what they believe and to express those beliefs freely.

But in light of Luke 17:1-2, perhaps the question is not about whether or not the atheist bus ads should be allowed, but about whether or not it would be wise for those who pay for the ads to do so?... “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone [which weighed hundreds of pounds] were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones [those young in faith or in age] to sin.”

© 2009 by Ken Peters

No comments: