Friday, November 28, 2008

Coming Soon to a Bus Near You


Atheism, the belief there is no God, is still a view held by a few Americans. In fact, according to a June 2008 survey by the Pew Forum, only 1.6 percent of Americans identify themselves as Atheists. However, though small in number, this is becoming an increasingly vocal group with an apparent interest in growing their number.

In October, British atheists announced a plan to place advertising posters on London buses proclaiming, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” A website was set up to take donations and within a very short time over $80,000 had been donated to the effort.

Richard Dawkins, an Oxford Professor and author of the bestselling The God Delusion, pledged to match all donations up to 5,500 pounds (approximately $9,300). Dawkins, who is a member of the British Humanist Association (atheists also refer to themselves as humanists), said, “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist, describes the message as a positive one that is not intended to bring in new recruits but to communicate it is okay not to believe in God and to dispel the idea presented by the religious that atheists will burn in the “lake of fire”. According to Stinson, “It’s about reassurance.”

Despite the protestations otherwise, it sounds more like it is about “recruitment”. Could you imagine, for example, a Christian organization placing a billboard proclaiming, “God is real – Trust Jesus” and saying it is only for the purpose of reassuring believers? Of course not, any such claim would be viewed as ludicrous by humanists.

Whatever one believes about their real motivation, they plan to start the campaign in January, 2009. Not to be undone, their American brothers have also jumped on the bandwagon, or maybe we should say the band “bus”.

On November 11, members of the American Humanist Association held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. and announced they will be placing advertisements on Metrobuses in the D.C. area during the holiday season. Their message: “Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness’ sake.” (Image of interior bus signage above.)

As with their British counterparts, they claim the campaign is not intended to proselytize. Rather, the Communication Director for the American Humanist Association, Fred Edwords said, “Our message is that all of us can have moral values as a natural result of who we are as a species and who we have become as a civilization”; adding, “Each of us knows what it means, generally, to be ethical.”

Specifically, there is a problem when he throws in the word, “generally” to his statement of man’s ethics. Do you want to do business with a person who is ethical, or one who has some “general” sense of ethics? Also, what is the standard this “general” sense of ethics is based upon?
Typical of the humanist view, Edwords states it comes from “who we are as a species and who we have become as a civilization”. This, at minimum, implies that mankind has some innate sense of ethics, or morality that has grown and developed as civilizations have developed.

Does that mean less advanced civilizations have not developed the same degree of ethics? Do we have better ethics than less developed countries? Were older civilizations, such as the Roman civilization, less ethical since they were less advanced?

If the answer to these questions is yes, it means the standard of ethics is evolving and varies depending upon where and when one lives? Without an established standard for ethics, each person and each civilization is left to establish their own standard. Therefore, one could not question the ethics of any society, even though it disagrees with one’s own.

Thus, based upon such an assumption, how could anyone dare say someone else is unethical when they are only being true to their own established ethics? Were an atheist to be cheated by someone, how could he legitimately complain when that person was only being true to their own sense of morality? For an atheist to question another’s ethics would be judgmental. Interestingly, an allegation they love to apply to Christians who promote a biblical standard of morality.

Atheists maintain morality is not established by a deity or found through religious belief but comes from within and its standard is established and changed by evolving civilizations. In stark contrast, the Bible teaches the standard for morality is not self-determined but is established by God and is constant no matter where and when one lives.

Furthermore, the Bible teaches that man is not inherently moral, but derives his morality from being made in the image of God and that morality has been corrupted by sin and can only be restored through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Apart from such a relationship one cannot be “good for goodness sake” no matter how hard he tries. As the Apostle Paul states, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)

The British campaign declares God probably doesn’t exist, so enjoy life. The American campaign more assertively asks, why believe in God, just be good? A better question for each group to ask is, “What if God does exist?”

God does exist and He doesn’t call us to be good for goodness sake, but to come to His son, who is “good”. Our greatest need is not to be good, or to have fun, it is to know our Creator.

Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” (John 14:6-7) Now that is good news – put it on the bus!

RELATED ARTICLES
Read our article on Atheism
For Nonbelievers, Reassurance on Wheels, Washington Post
Taking Atheism for a Ride Around Town, Washington Post

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Okay, I admit it. I have been remiss in posting to this blog on a timely basis.

Do I have an excuse? You betcha!

Is it a good one? I don't know, let me try it out.

Earlier this year, I was approached by Dr. Bob Terry, the editor of the Alabama Baptist Newspaper, with an idea he had for a series of articles to help their readers understand more about the diversity of religious sects in our nation. This was to be an eleven week series and he asked if I would be willing to write the articles. I agreed to take that on and, while it has been a great ministry project and well received, it has also taken up a lot of the time I have allocated to writing. Thus, a decrease in attention to this blog.

To make amends, here are links to the first six articles (maybe these should count as six blog posts, which would mean I haven't been remiss in my blogging after all):

Spiritual Buffet

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Christian Science

Atheists and Agnostics

Scientology

It is my understanding that the remainder of the topics (New Age, Wicca, Occult, Nation of Islam, and the Word-Faith Movement) will be placed online once they have all been published in the print edition of the paper. This should be sometime in December.

By the way, I may get a little behind in my blog again next year. A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Terry contacted me and told me this series was being so well received by readers, he would like to extend it with a second part, next year.

Don't worry, if I do get behind, you can count on me to come up with a lame excuse. Now, don't you feel better?