The Sunday school children are performing an Easter play that explores the premise of a future without churches, with no knowledge of God. Could that ever really happen? I like to think not, but history is full of examples of once-great civilizations that ignored God and are no longer in existence — Assyria, Tyre, Sidon and Babylon, for starters.
Back in the “God is dead” movement, John Lennon made such a proposal with his 1971 hit: “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us; above us only sky … Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for; and no religion too.”
It’s a beautiful piece, musically; but the words offer emptiness rather than hope; doubt rather than faith. They remind me of Ecclesiastes 1:9: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.”
Nearly 40 years after Lennon’s hit, nothing has changed. In the March 2010 issue of Israel My Glory, an article features photographs of buses in Germany and Spain sporting, in their own languages, the slogan “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” This is the Atheist Bus Campaign.
It all started with a bus in London carrying the advertisement “When the Son of Man comes, will He find Faith on this Earth?” A Web address printed below it took the reader to a site that explained eternity in hell for nonbelievers. A woman who visited this site was upset that “religious groups were allowed to advertise Web sites which warned that the nonreligious would face torture at the end of their lives.” So, on an atheist blog, she proposed the bus project, and was met with overwhelming enthusiasm.
The wording intrigues me, though: There’s probably no God. Hmmm. For a group that denies the existence of God, why the wishy-washy “probably?” A visit to the official Web site suggests “the inclusion of the word makes it less likely to cause offence.” It was felt the word “probably” was “more lighthearted and made the message more positive” (www.atheistbus.org.uk).
Atheist writer Richard Dawkins says that uttering, “There is no God” is taking a faith position, and atheists don’t have faith.” But to say atheists don’t have faith is like saying there are no absolutes. Everyone has faith of some kind, whether it’s faith that the air we breathe won’t kill us, or that gravity will continue to keep us from spinning off into space.
Stop worrying and enjoy your life. If one doesn’t believe in God, one should have no worries concerning one’s life, right? Being accountable to no one but yourself, you already should be enjoying your life on your own terms.
St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until we learn to rest in Thee.” Might it be, then, that those who have a beef with all things Christian are experiencing this restlessness proposed by St. Augustine? Otherwise, why would they even care?
I’m all for equal opportunity in advertising and speech. What I don’t understand is the drive to eliminate Christianity from the playing field. In 1934, a cross was erected by the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Mojave Desert. It stood for 70 years as a tribute to their fallen comrades. In 2004, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the offensive cross covered with a plywood box until the U.S. Supreme Court decides its ultimate fate; all because one man felt it violated the separation of church and state law when it became federal land in 1994.
If all outward signs of Christianity are removed from our land, where will that leave us? Will churches have to take down steeples in order not to look like churches? Will gravestones become generic blocks free of angels, crosses and Scripture? What about music — no reference to God allowed in anything? No performances of Handel’s Messiah? No more public singing of “The Old Rugged Cross” or “In the Garden.” No Christmas or Easter. And what if someone overhears you humming “Silent Night” or “Amazing Grace” while shopping? Will you be sued for violating their peace? Or will you be handed over to the religiously correct authorities, if the word “religion” itself hasn’t become taboo?
As the kids in our play discovered, a future without God would be a bleak and sad place. Thankfully, the Bible tells us God is. Revelation 22:13 says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
Given that, it’s safe to say there definitely is a God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life!
Brenda J. Norris is assistant Sunday school leader and choir director at the West Lubec Methodist Church. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.