Adventists Say Atheist Bus Ad Won't Roll
'Humanist” message offers no hope
BY BRITISH UNION CONFERENCE, with Adventist Review staff
n atheist advertisement due to appear on London buses likely will backfire, industry professionals say. The British Humanist Association (BHA) advertisement, part sponsored by the prominent critic of religion, Professor Richard Dawkins, states, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".
Tristan Simmons, product-marketing director for a major IT company states, "It will undoubtedly secure attention... It is a campaign that should be met with enthusiasm by Christians, not negativity." Jenny Ellis, Spirituality and Discipleship Officer of the Methodist Church in Britain, has taken up that enthusiasm. In a press release she said, "We are grateful to Richard [Dawkins] for his continued interest in God and for encouraging people to think about these issues. This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life."
The fundraising campaign began earlier this year when Ariane Sherine, a young female comedy writer, wrote a blog article about Christian adverts on buses. The campaign floundered with insufficient funds until Dawkins offered to match donations up to a maximum of £5,500, or about $8.500 U.S. His rationale is, "this campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion."
However, the public response in newspaper columns, blogs and across the media demonstrates that Christians are not just thinking, but responding positively. Ellis states, "As Christians, we respond to Jesus' call to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, souls and strength. Christianity is for people who aren't afraid to think about life and meaning."
Susanne Kirlew, a communications officer based in London reflects that Christians need to be careful about how they react to such advertisements but "we cannot remain silent. We must declare that God is real, no matter what."
Tristan Simmons has analyzed the campaign. He argues that "to state that God probably does not exist and then say 'get on and enjoy life' is clearly saying that people who believe in God are not enjoying life." He finds that disturbing and argues particularly that it is a dismissive message. "If you are not enjoying life, it offers no hope or alternative course of action."
As a member of the Leamington Adventist Mission, Tristan believes that, in direct contrast, advertising such as [for the introductory] 'Alpha' [Christian lessons] which has previously posed the question 'Is there more to life than this?, seeks to engage and appeal to those searching for answers with a message of hope".
The official fundraising site behind the BHA initiative states, "With your help, we can brighten people's days on the way to work"
Tristan responds that, "If anything, it will raise the likelihood that people will think about how life often isn't enjoyable, and it is here that the Christian focus on having faith, hope and trust in God can actually make for a life worth living, especially in times of personal difficulty. As such we should embrace the opportunity that this campaign will bring; an opportunity for secular and Christian people to reflect on the message of hope that underpins their beliefs and that life can be just as rewarding and enjoyable."
For Christians, this is a positive message. Victor Hulbert, communication director for the Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland urges fellow believers to engage positively in the debate. "The BHA has raised an issue. As Christians we are more than ready to engage with them - in the news, on their websites and blogs, and individually with friends and colleagues as the posters will undoubtedly be a talking point at work and on the daily commute."
1532NewsFeatureE0l.jpg - MOCK-UP MOCKS GOD: This photo composite of a British double-decker bus with a proposed "advert" for atheism gained wide exposure around the world. Seventh-day Adventists, and other Christians, say the ads won't achieve the desired affect because they lack a message of hope.[British Humanist Association photos]