One of my blog readers and now newly assigned European correspondent sent us this report from the the UK about the “escalation” of the “There is [Probably] No God” Atheist Bus that I shared about several weeks ago. In response, a group of Christians have responded in kind with the “There Definitely Is a God” Christian bus.
Mary – my European correspondent [just writing that makes this blog seem that more impressive] writes:
I don’t know much about the group that has financed this response to the Dawkins “There is no God” bus campaign, but I think it is worth thinking about the way they chose to address it.
I find it interesting that the Time article (although being a bit overly dramatic calling it the “London Bus Wars”) mentions the spread of the atheist bus campaigns all over the world.
Does this sort of campaign matter to those of us who believe in God? Should we see it as an attack or a stimulus for dialogue about God? Why does it appear that Christians (as opposed to other groups who believe in God) seem to be the most up in arms regarding the campaign (and thus are the ones who have responded with their own adverts)?
Just some questions to think about…
Couple Pennies for your Thoughts:
What do you think? Is this good? Are these as the Time articles writes the “London Bus Wars?” – a la ‘culture wars? Or is this good cultural engagement and conversation?
My Thoughts: I don’t think Christians need to go crazy and/or “up in arms” but see this simply as a wonderful entrance into conversation and culture. I know that some may think the money could have been used by the Christian groups for “better” things. And there are certainly other things but there’s always others things. The bus ads – from what I’ve read – have sparked numerous conversations that typically would not have taken place. They should actually be thanking the Atheist groups. I see this as good cultural engagement -> leading to what I hope to many conversations -> leading to the Church in the UK going deeper in their commitment to Loving God and Loving People -> and Living That Out.
The Trinitarian Bible Society, which is running advertisements on buses quoting a line from the Bible, is not a church; it is a Bible publisher. The society has asked us to clarify that its campaign is unconnected to those being mounted by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Christian party.
In the beginning, there was the atheist bus campaign. And it was good. Unless, that is, you were one of the many God-fearing folk who considered it blasphemy. They, however, are planning to get their own back.
A trinity of Christian groups have created their own series of advertisements to run across London buses, the medium of choice for the battle of beliefs, it seems.
The original ads from the British Humanist Association insisted: “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The new campaign is organsied by the Christian Party, the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Russian Orthodox Church. Their pro-God campaigns will run on 175 buses for two weeks from Monday.
In a somewhat cheeky move, the Rev George Hargreaves of the Christian Party has created a bus advert which proclaims: “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.” It will run on 50 bendy buses in central London, east London and the West End.
Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church has booked 25 supersize bus advertisements, backed by a sponsorship deal with Russian Hour TV, using the line “There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life.”
The Trinitarian Bible Society has taken a less temperate approach, using a line from the bible to scold nonbelievers: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God,” runs the advertisement’s slogan, taken from Psalm 53.1. The church’s campaign, which like the others was booked through outdoor advertising company CBS Outdoor, runs on 100 buses.
Last month the Advertising Standards Authority received almost 150 complaints that the atheist bus campaign was offensive to Christians, and that the “no God” claim could not be substantiated.
However the ASA ruled that the campaign did not break the advertising code, concluding that the ads were an “expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation”. As such, it said that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause widespread offence.
Writer Ariane Sherine first suggested the campaign in a Guardian Comment Is Free blog last June, to provide a reassuring counter-message to religious slogans threatening non-Christians with hell and damnation. She wrote: “Yesterday I walked to work and saw two London buses with the question: ‘When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8) … If I wanted to run a bus ad saying ‘Beware, there is a giant lion from London Zoo on the loose!’ I think I might be asked to show my working and back up my claims.”