Probably a Bad Idea

7 01 2009

As you may have heard – or seen, if you’re a London local – atheists have started their mission to convert you via the medium of London’s ubiquitous red busses. The slogan goes:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”

I love the campaign. Sure, it may not turn many towards Godless ways, but the very presence of an atheist campaign causes us to reflect on religion and religious advertising.

But… “probably”? That’s a mistake. Richard Dawkins thinks so too, according to the Times.

Dr Dawkins, speaking at the launch in Central London, said he would have rather not had the word “probably” in the advertisement. He said the existence of God was about as likely as that of the tooth fairy.

Organisers of the four-week campaign said they had included the word “probably” because they did not want to be dogmatic in the way that so many religious leaders are.

I can understand them not wanting to be dogmatic, but “probably” is just weak.”Probably” ain’t going to win over any agnostics. Let alone the faithful.

I see it as a symptom of a broader problem with atheism: it’s a negative thesis. Until such time as there’s a secular philosophy that provides existential comfort, moral guidance and community services without relying on the supernatural, atheism isn’t really going to have much constructive to say.

And when that day comes, I’ll damn well stick up the billboards myself.

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