God: An Old Argument Between Friends

“There probably is no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” These words, plastered over buses around the world, are not offensive to me but they seem to be for a good many people. So offensive that NZ Bus refuses to post them on their buses in major centres.

My quick take on this is that there seems to be a stupendous double standard – religious advertising is fine but an atheistic message is somehow “too shocking”. Perhaps non-believers should protest that, as people who are unconvinced by the claims of religion, they too are also offended at being censored. NZ Bus officials appear to have capitulated because a few loud believers don’t like their beliefs being challenged. (*Even if the quantity of people offended by the atheistic slogan is 99% then so be it – in a free society that is not grounds for censorship).

It is clear that the cognitive dissonance caused by an atheistic message is too great for some to contemplate. Those who complained about the bus campaign are seemingly unwilling to submit their beliefs to criticism. I argue that is why this campaign is necessary – thinking about your beliefs and why you believe them is not a bad thing (though the whole notion of “think for yourself” is a threat to the power religious authorities wield and hence frowned upon). If we are to take ideas seriously in this world, we must submit them to criticism. Granting them a free pass is both dangerous (some ideas have genuinely terrible consequences) and a little condescending.

In a free society, you should be able to say whatever you like – the price of admission to the public square is allowing ideas to be criticised. Good ideas will survive ethical, philosophical and empirical challenges. Isn’t this what the enlightenment taught us? It seems any civilised society allows no ideas to enjoy special protection (which is why communist political ideologies and theocratic and totalitarian states like Saudi Arabia and Iran will always leave the door open for authorities to abuse the human rights of others).

In the next few posts, I will examine the phrase “There probably is no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life,” and look specifically at an Jeff Tallon’s apologetic arguments against this phrase. His opinion pieces featured unchallenged in the NZ Herald around Christmas 2009. I will discuss the flaws of reasoning he employed to reach the extraordinary claim that there is a God, though we have no evidence of such a being.

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