Sunday, January 25, 2009

ATHEIST BUS CAMPAIGN TO GO EUROPEAN-WIDE

ATHEIST BUS CAMPAIGN TO GO EUROPEAN-WIDE



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden , Germany






Earlier in January 2009, in the United Kingdom a £140,000 campaign to advertize on behalf of atheists and agnostics across the country was permitted after the advertising review board approved the British Humanist Society’s ads earlier this month.



In an article last summer, Ariane Sherine, a comedian, had suggested the campaign to readers of THE GUARDIAN.



Sherine had explained how she had felt a bit too pressed and stressed-out after she had witnessed two successive buses pass her—with both stating: “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).



http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/20/transport.religion



Sherine noted that a website had been provided by the writers of the bus advertisements and she later checked out the website.



http://www.jesussaid.org/



The website warned her against her unbelief in Christ and noted, “’You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)’ (Matthew 25:41)”.



In her article, Sherine pondered, “Now, if I wanted to run a bus ad saying ‘Beware – there is a giant lion from London Zoo on the loose!’ or ‘The 'bits' in orange juice aren't orange but plastic – don't drink them or you'll die!’ I think I might be asked to show my working and back up my claims. But apparently you don't need evidence to run an ad suggesting we'll all face the ire of ‘the son of man’ when he comes, then link to a website advocating endless pain for atheists.”



NOTE: Not all drivers of buses in the UK agreed to drive such an advertisment. This was followed on Islamic websites: http://www.islamonline.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=204280 On the other hand, some churchmen, including the Methodists, appreciated the thought-provoking ads. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3931029,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf









WHAT ARE LIMITS TO GOD SPEECH & ADVERTISING?



In her June 20, 2008 article, entitled ATHEISTS, GIMME FIVE, Sherine states that she had already been busy investigated advertising law in Britain and Europe after her run-in with what she perceived to be a jarring billboard claim about God and the apparent demand to turn from one’s ways.



For example, she had checked out the Advertising Standards Authority and Carlsberg Beer ads. Sherine soon thus discovered that by simply using the word “probably” whenever making one’s advertising claims, one could basically say whatever one wants and not get sued for it.



In this way the firm, Sherine noted, Carlsberg Beer could claim something like “their lager” is "probably the best lager in the world".



Therefore, Sherine in THE GUARDIAN article last June proposed a campaign for atheists and/or agnostics with a sign which states something about hope in it. This could be contrasted to evangelical advertisements which she considered might actually really lead a Just-Made Redundant someone to throw himself under a bus next time he loses his job or the next time the stock market crashes, i.e. with him losing his life’s savings.



NOTE: What Sherine really stated was: “Imagine you've had a really bad day, and it's only 8.30am. You've spilt killer orange juice all over your crucial work documents, you're pressed up in a tube train against a commuter whose armpit smells like a biological weapon, and you're late for work and your only excuse is ‘I glued my hand to a dog’. You stumble out of the tube, and are confronted with the number 168 bus. It tells you that, along with your boss, a man with a beardy face is going to be upset with you, for ever, because you've refused to acknowledge his existence, despite the fact that he's too antisocial to come down here and say hi. You promptly throw yourself under the number 168 bus.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/21/religion-advertising



Later, in 2008, the British Humanist Association and hundreds (or even thousands) of donors got involved in a campaign to realize Sherine’s suggested advertising campaign.



http://www.justgiving.com/atheistbus



One of the bus slogans chosen for the campaign is "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".



According to a recent GUARDIAN article, the advertisements “can already be seen on buses in central London . A total of 200 bendy buses in London and 600 buses across England , Scotland and Wales will carry the slogan from today and tomorrow following a fundraising drive which raised more than £140,000.”



http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/06/religion-atheist-bus-campaign-national





MOVING ON EUROPEAN-WIDE




According to press reports across Europe, the atheist campaign has caught on and there will be similar advertisements on public transports in other cities, such as in Spain , France and Austria .



http://richarddawkins.net/article,3500,Atheist-bus-ad-campaign-provokes-bitterness-in-Barcelona,Guardian



While this trend appears at first glance to be a big boon or success for humanists, agnostics and/or atheists in Europe--and their rights to free public expression--, I am not certain it will catch on nor will it be remembered for what campaigners, like UK’s Richard Dawkins anticipate.



http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7813812.stm



For example, in the tiny bilingual Church I attended in Wiesbaden , Germany this weekend, the British advertising campaign by atheists became the focal point of the explicative sermon.



First, the German preacher displayed a slide of one of the red double-decker buses in London bearing the sign: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".



That German-speaking minister then proceeded to tell the story of how the author, Ariane Sherine, had first gotten the idea for the campaign (i.e. as outlined above).



The German speaker then noted that Jesus Christ had been quite a reveler in his days on earth.



Jesus had not only made wine from water as guest at a friend of his mom’s wedding party, but this same Jesus of Galilee had been known to drink lots of wine and hang out gaily celebrating life with even the most disreputable folk.



NOTE: Many musicals have been written about this man’s life. One joyous one is called CELEBRATE LIFE. http://www.menlomaranatha.org/CelebrateLife.html



Furthermore, the German preacher continued, citing verses related to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” that life wasn’t only just about what food one eats or the clothes on one’s back. The message for this group of binational Christians was the same as what the agnostics in the UK were, in a way, expressing on their bus-bound sideboards, i.e.“Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”.



By the way, those “Sermon on the Mount” texts come from the book of Matthew and state something like, “The Lilly of the Field has not thought a moment about what it might wear, but in all its poverty, that flower is nonetheless dressed in finery.”



That message sounds a bit like “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”—eh?



Similarly, that conclusion to Jesus’ “Sermon of the Mount” message also indicates that the millions of birds of the air don’t spend all their days wondering about their next bite to eat will come from as man too often does.



Again the message for believers and readers of the Gospel of Matthew seems to be from the founder Jesus to be simply put: “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”.



SOMETIMES THE PROBLEM IS THE PACKAGE—NOT THE MESSAGE




Naturally, what that German pastor was trying to remind his small- and aging flock in this time of global political-economic-social and spiritual stress that the Christian Church is too often packaging itself in terms of doom and gloom.



Too many Christians are living out their lives with dour faces and stress.



This is certainly why humanists (of which I am one to a great degree) can say that the packaging of the Christian message is often wrong and distorting.



On the one hand, there is too little real radical hope in the Christian message and witness of the Christian right. On the other hand, there is too much acceptance of the status quo by others.



NOTE: The status quo in America for nearly half a century, for example, has been that social justice and religious renewal do not go hand in hand. BaHhh Humbug !!



That sort of dour survey of Christian roots and history needs a great modern moral revisionist shake-up, which the British Humanists, i.e. which the likes of Dawkins and Sherine, have recently provided through their campaign focusing on advancing their political space, exercising freedom of speech, and discussion of freedoms of religion.



The German-speaking minister of a bilingual bicultural church of Americans and Germans in Hessen , Germany simply changed a few letters on the now-famous British advertising sign as follows—leaving many monotheistic believers very clear about the approach we need to take when speaking about our beliefs in public acts, words, or deeds.



This was the final message of the sermon, thanks to the background provided by on-going humanist campaign across Europe : "There's probably a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".

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