Dead End: The Atheist Buses

(photo: British Humanist Association)

Why would anyone want to ride on an atheist bus? After all, atheists believe we’re all headed for nowhere.

It’s hard to resist making jokes like this about the international campaign by atheists to place large ads on the outside of buses. The ones on British buses are captioned, “There’s Probably No God — Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.”

The bus campaigns actually have provided an opportunity for Christians to bear witness to their faith. Plans to place such ads on buses in Genoa, Italy, were scrapped after drivers warned they would refuse to drive the buses, since the ads serve little purpose other than to deride the faith of religious believers.

Similarly, a Christian bus driver in Southampton, England, told his employer he would refuse to drive any buses bearing one of the atheist ads.

Still, as the bus-ad campaign continues to capture publicity, it’s useful to deconstruct the message on the British buses. First, one wonders on what authority its sponsor, the British Humanist Association, has concluded that it’s “probable” that no God exists.

Science has no way of assigning “probability” to the philosophical question of God’s existence. Atheism’s foremost contemporary apologist Richard Dawkins (a major backer of the bus-ad campaign) claims otherwise, but here’s a link to an article summarizing New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel’s refutation of Dawkins’s fallacious reasoning on this point.

Second, the implication that faith in God gives rise to “worrying” and interferes with the capacity to “enjoy life” also flies in the face of known facts. Numerous studies have found that those with a strong, working faith in God are happier and better able to remain satisfied with their lives in the face of life’s inevitable ups and downs. Studies such as this one.

These empirical findings only make sense, given that it’s hard to maintain an optimistic view of the future when subscribing to the atheist creed that personal oblivion is your inevitable destination.

Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that Judaism and Christianity instruct that a fear of God is a basic element of faith. But this brings up the third point: That this “fear,” which can be worded instead as “awe” in the face of the infinite majesty and authority of God, actually gives rise to a healthy confidence because this respect induces believers to live within the God-given moral boundaries that make happy and purposeful lives possible.

Here’s how Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton famously put the matter, in his book “Orthodoxy”:

“Those countries in Europe which are still influenced by priests, are exactly the countries where there is still singing and dancing and colored dresses and art in the open-air,” Chesterton noted. “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism.”

Continued Chesterton, “We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”

— Tom McFeely