Lisa Hilton

An affront to faith and thought

An affront to faith and thought
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Many of us may no longer believe in God, but it appears we still miss Him. The nineteenth century’s anguished howl of loss as the tide of faith receded across the sands of Dover beach had diminished to barely a whimper before the atheist buses zoomed along to jolly up the argument. Catholic bishops in Genoa have succeeded in banning the Italian version of the campaign whilst bus driver Ron Heather has declared his intention to boycott any bus carrying the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”.

Perhaps Mr Heather is objecting to a certain lack of rigour in the statement; “probably” inclines to a more agnostic view, whilst as a predicate for relaxation the absence of God seems inane, if not vulgar. “There’s no God. Start reading Sartre” might be a better prescription. As a solution to existential angst, the buses aren’t really cutting it, but perhaps the real objection is that they reduce atheism to pugnacious sloganeering.

Dr Rowan Williams’s fearsomely impressive book on Dostoevsky suggests that some churchmen are willing to engage in rigorous intellectual debate on faith, but the best the atheists can muster is Christopher Hitchens thumbing his nose at a deity in whom he professes not to believe. Why bother? Discussion of secularism is already hidebound by political sensitivity, and whilst the buses aim to promote exactly such discussion, their cheerfully simplistic hectoring succeeds only in offending the faithful and the thoughtful alike.