Riding the Atheist Bus

bus-mockupThere’s a little bit of a storm in the Old Dart over the  British Humanist Association advertising campaign that has a fleet of London buses carrying the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  See BBC news story here. This has sparked off a blog war (based on responses such as here and here) to which I am loathe to contribute energy, but because I have been asked to comment, here I go.

The reason, I suppose, I lack energy for the debate is because it is predicated on the false dichotomy between faith and reason. Both sides of the debate, having driven each other to the stockades, are to blame.

One side emphatically concludes that the integrity of logic and rational process excludes claims based on faith (although the bus campaign tempers the emphasis of this assertion with the word “probably”). To them the idea of God has to be proved scientifically to be viable.

On the other side, many defenders of the faith play into the hands of their opponents by responding emotionally, defensively, and from a limited and little supported assertion that faith eclipses reason – a puzzling  stance that is unsupported by the weight of Christian scholarship and tradition.

I hold the position that faith is eminently reasonable, and this is perfectly consistent with that part of the Christian spectrum that has nurtured and formed my thinking and being over the years. For those whose faith is informed by reason, there is some common ground for dialogue with those whose reason leads them to an anti-faith stance. To borrow from a recent image, this common ground forms the “no-man’s land” which invites a Christmas truce to be declared so both sides can come out of their trenches and meet each other beyond the labels with which a polarised warfare approach has a vested interest.

It is in the spirit of informed and respectful dialogue that those called to always be  “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:16) can contribute to a worthwhile discussion.

So, while I have little energy for an epithet hurling debate, I have plenty for a good well-rounded, respectful – maybe even a spirited – discussion!

Published by wonderingpilgrim

Not really retired but reshaped and reshaping. Now a pilgrim at large ready to engage with what each day brings.

4 thoughts on “Riding the Atheist Bus

  1. I think the atheist communities overseas have more to be angry about than we do in Australia. USA particularly, where fundamentalists are very intolerant towards atheists, and where politics is continually being influenced by massive lobbying from religious groups.

    I like to think that here in Australia we’re more accepting. I know that I’ve never come across any outward hostility towards me for being a vocal atheist.

    That said, a similar bus campaign was rejected in Australia


  2. Interesting link, #327. There seems a lack of consistency to the advertising company’s refusal. I agree with Greg Clarke -“freedom of expression should be favoured as often as possible. As long as it’s done with a level of civility that means we actually do engage with the issues, rather than just fighting with each other.”

    That said, you raise the important issue of context for such a discussion. Lobbying interests in the USA certainly colour the debate there. The UK has a different social dynamic based on its short and long term history.

    It’s been suggested to me that, In Australia, the debate is more laid back because the whole issue of faith in God or otherwise is seen by many as irrelevant. Any thoughts? Anyone?


  3. So the atheists have put some advertising on London buses. Viva la difference! To be believe or not to believe, to agree or to disagree on any topic, and the freedom to say so, is surely what a democracy is supposed to be about – although for sure, recently this would appear to be a step too far for some Western governments.

    My personal faith and belief system has been carved out over many years and I’m not in the least bit disturbed by the slogans on the London buses – they neither disturb nor annoy me. Which is more than can be said for car stickers saying ‘Honk if you love Jesus.’ But even here, I totally support the right of the owners to put them on their cars.


  4. I guess the reason I hoped you’d say something about it was because I suspect the “bus bit” neatly expresses the thinking of many of my relatives and maybe ALL of my neighbours (certainly the young ones). And they don’t see it as a debate about faith or reason. They just think religion is quite irrelevant. The “bus bit” will give them cheer. And that’s sad.


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