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Atheist Ads On Buses – raising the debate

Here’s an opportunity for creative ideas and debate. You might want to look at this link. Peter Kerridge and Christine Elliott for the Methodist Church on ITV news. Watch the report and the discussion that follows too. It may take a while to load, but will play automatically after the bed advert. About 7mins long.

To Watch (Click Here)

In addition:
The British Methodist Church has welcomed news that Professor Richard Dawkins is to fund an advertising campaign on London buses despite its slogan ‘There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’.

Revd Jenny Ellis, Spirituality and Discipleship Officer, said; ‘We are grateful to Richard 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.’

Responding to Dawkins’ comment that ‘thinking is anathema to religion’, Jenny said; ‘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. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed that no one should be saved from the trouble of thinking because that is the path to understanding God.’

Also: Theos, the public theology think tank, launched with the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in 2006, has made a £50 donation to the Atheist Bus Campaign that the Guardian newspaper has been promoting throughout 2008.

Although first launched nearly six months ago, the campaign to put a pro-atheist advert on London bendy busses has nearly folded several times due to lack of interest. It has only been rescued by the millionaire Richard Dawkins who has offered to match donations ‘up to a maximum of £5,500’.

The campaign is clearly anti-religious, but its message ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’ is so bad that Theos believes that, like the Alpha posters it attacks, it will encourage to think about God.

Paul Woolley, Director of Theos, said: “Initially, we almost felt sorry for the campaign, as its difficulties showed that there were not many atheists in Britain, and certainly not many who were willing to put their hands into their pockets. But when we saw the message, we couldn’t believe it.

“Not only is the poster very weak – where does ‘probably’ come from? Richard Dawkins doesn’t ‘probably’ believe there is no God! – but it is also counter-productive.

“It tells people to ‘Stop worrying’, which is hardly going to be a great comfort for those who are concerned about losing their jobs or homes in the recession.

“And what does it tell us to do when we stop worrying? Volunteer overseas? Give money to charity? Campaign for the environment? No. It tells us to enjoy ourselves. It would be hard to come up with a more self-centred message than this.

“Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity.”

Personally, I feel this IS a good opportunity for a public debate.  My concern is that Christians don’t fall into the trap of feeling defensive, attacked, or hurt.  God has broad shoulders and Jesus taught us to be wise in our responses and loving too.  Let’s enjoy the debate and be creative.

Tony is a Superintendent Methodist Minister, broadcaster and author. He is a radio presenter with Premier Christian Radio and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2's Pause for Thought (5.45 am). Tony is married with two children and four grandchildren.

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