Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Atheism


«Godless» buses and the «broad» highway

By Protopresbyter fr. Thomas Vamvinis

 Re-published from: http://www.parembasis.gr/2009/09_01_04.htm

An advertisement with the sloganThere's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life“ was mounted on eight hundred buses in England.

Behind the idea of launching this slogan is a 24-year-old British woman, Ariane Sherine, who is an author and an atheist.


The 17/1/2009 edition of the Greek magazineTachidromos” (Greek=postman) from where we obtained the information says of her:  “Tired of religions and their representatives who each preaches hostility towards the others, has collected money though the Internet and has in turn begun to preach atheism.”

This excuse for preaching atheism is weak and rather poor in conclusive evidence, however, the news item itself has parameters of exceptional poemantic and theological interest. But before moving on to further details, we would like to present certain general observations.

Ariane Sherine‘s atheist campaign is nothing more than an ephemeral blossom of western civilization, in which deism is dominant; that is, the faith that there is a supreme creative principality, which however has nothing to do with the world at present.  Surviving hues, branches or derivatives of this religious view are agnosticism, atheism, and even the anaemic Christian faith of heretic Christianity, which has been cut off from the experience of the living God.  Having also imprinted in their memory the violence of religious wars between the various heretic Christian confessions, Europeans no longer want to talk about the truth of the Faith, but rather about the respect for otherness – the respect for every peculiarity. This is the reason that the slogan There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life“ was welcomed by so many Europeans.

Let us take a brief look at this message, as well as its underlying causes.

Ariane Sherine claims to be an atheist, but is basing her atheism on the “probability that there is no God”.  She does not express any certainty of her atheism. In reality, her message is agnostic by nature. She doesn’t know if God exists.  But she is annoyed by the religious quarrels and the threat of Hell for sinners and infidels.  When asked what the reason behind her campaign was, she replied:  “Last June, I came out of the house and I saw a message by an Evangelical organization on the side of a bus, saying that those who do not accept Christ will go to Hell.”

This threat triggered her subsequent reaction. She was annoyed by the claim of an impending danger of Hell – which she naturally does not believe exists.  Thus, with the help of the newspaper “Guardian” she commenced to collect contributions of money through the Internet for a campaign that would counterbalance the matter. Her action immediately found a huge response and in six months, on the Day of the Epiphany, 800 “godless” buses – 200 of them in the capital city – appeared on the streets of Britain with Sherine’s “counterbalancing” message..

Ariane Sherine’s weariness of “religions and their representatives, who each preaches hostility towards the others” is a weak pretense for the militant outburst of her atheism.  It over-simplifies the complex function of human religiosity. By generalizing hatred, which unfortunately is not absent from religious disputes, religions are identified with that passion. And while there may be some truth in the case of the Moslem religion, in whose sacred book it says “fight the infidels, until there is no other religion” (Koran, ch.8, vs.40), for Christianity – which teaches love, even towards one’s enemies – it is obviously being unfair.  It is only justified in the cases of spiritual immaturity in certain Christians and in the mentalities of certain heretic offshoots that are unaware of the spirit of Christ. But they are only misrepresentations of the Christian way of life, that aspire to abuse the sacred institution of the Church.

It appears that Ariane Sherine has perceived the Protestant message that she read “on the side of the bus” as a religious hatred, which foretold of eternal Hell for those who did not accept Christ. And her reaction was admittedly a natural one, to some degree. It was the reaction of a selfish and haughty person, who doesn’t want to even consider the possibility of temporary, let alone eternal hardship and sorrow; and who especially cannot tolerate anyone judging her actions and choices.

But there is another parameter here, which is provided by the orthodox poemantic utilization of the “fear of Hell”; Fear of Hell is not a weapon intended to intimidate, or to wreak vengeance on all opposition. Fear of Hell presupposes faith, and in fact a faith in the God Who was incarnated and had shown His love for man, “to the death”. In other words, it presupposes, through faith, at least a small taste of God’s love. Because only those who have had even a “small taste”, can feel what it means to be separated from God.  To others, the bus message is an extortionate one – a threat that implies spiritual subjugation. It was not perceived as a means for transcending the multiple fracturing of the soul in order to make it whole again, within the benevolent, pleasant and perfect will of God; rather, it was an incorrect “missionary” move by the Protestant organization which had mounted the advertisement and a product of their heretic theology and ecclesiology.  How indeed could an indifferent or atheist person be attracted to a God that threatens with Hell? And how is it possible to resort to a threat like Hell, without relating it to an enjoyment of God’s love?

God is love. That is why it is not worth losing communion with Him, by far. And that is why it will be terrible and humiliating if we prove to be traitors to that love, when Christ (as Basil the Great tells us) during His Second Coming - and in a sense Himself also undergoing judgment – will be revealing to each and every one of us that He had done everything He could to save us, to give us His life, so that we might become unselfish, with unrestricted love and a simple Nous – one that is open to the “view” of God.

Apart from the aforementioned points, also of interest were some of the first reactions to the circulation of the “godless” buses.  Very few people reacted negatively. Some (atheists and non-atheists) smiled…  Christian organizations even congratulated the idea!  In fact, Methodists stated that the campaign would actually “make the people give some thought to God”.  A certain Hasidic – orthodox Jew – thanked Ariane Sherine “on behalf of all the crypto-heretics of the world”, because, as he explained, “I have all the external marks of a Hasidic Jew, but deep inside, I am a liberal atheist.”

Unfortunately, atheism is often hidden behind a “painstakingly groomed” religiosity. The reactions to the “godless” buses have shown just this reality.  They have revealed the “broad path” - the highway of atheism and crypto-atheism and the impassioned enjoyment of this world, which a large part of mankind is pursuing, “without worrying”.  That is why nobody in that news report seems to have mentioned that Sherine’s message is a harshly racist one, inasmuch as it pertains only to those with health and possessions; those who have a body capable of enjoying pleasures and those who possess enough income to cater to their desires.  In other words, the message does not cater to the sick, the unemployed, the homeless, and generally to those who are unable to enjoy their life the way they would like to, and who can confront their situation only by ascribing a certain loftier meaning –mainly a theological one– that will explain the tribulations of their lives and provide them with an outlet.

And yet, Ariane Sherine inconsiderately and cruelly advises even these people to “stop worrying” about such theologically-oriented matters….



Translation by A. N.

Article published in English on: 20-3-2009.

Last update: 20-3-2009.