I Can’t Think Up Yet Another Bus Pun Headline…

17.01.09 | Ariane | Email This Post Email This Post
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Ron Heather is the Christian bus driver who has refused to drive the UK atheist buses, creating a news story which has been in the press a lot over the past 24 hours. He and I have something in common: we’ve both taken exception to websites promoting belief systems different to our own.

The website I took issue with was JesusSaid.org, advertised on buses and tube cards in June last year, which - as you can read here - promotes the idea of God’s wrath and eternal punishment. It insists:

God’s wrath includes the prospect of eternal punishment - it is appointed to men to die once and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). You will rise from the dead and will face the Judge and know that you rejected His kind and merciful answer. You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels.

Our adverts were designed to counter these rather alarming ideas.

Conversely, the website Mr Heather didn’t like much was… er… this one. The Guardian revealed today that “Heather said he had been particularly offended by the name of the website featured on the ad, atheistcampaign.org.”

Maybe the words “atheist” and “campaign” unsettled him for some reason, but they really shouldn’t have, because this campaign is as gentle as any. I truly don’t think he’s visited this site, because we’ve taken great care to make it very peaceful and upbeat (as we have with the entire campaign). We wanted to create a calm place where people could talk freely about their beliefs - the very opposite of JesusSaid.org, in fact. We believe in freedom of speech, so we rarely delete comments, but the main content of this site is very mild, friendly and straightforward.

If Ron ever does visit, he’ll be very welcome here. But somehow we don’t think he will.

Here’s the quote I gave to the press yesterday:

We live in a democratic society, which will only function as such if we are allowed to peacefully express different viewpoints. The bus companies have accepted the adverts, and nobody imagines that bus drivers wholeheartedly endorse everything advertised on the sides of the buses they drive.

87 Comments to “I Can’t Think Up Yet Another Bus Pun Headline…”

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  1. Comment #87
    24.01.09 at 21:05 quedula said:

    You are very learned Oliver R. I’m glad you on our side.

  2. Comment #86
    24.01.09 at 11:35 Oliver R said:

    As an optimist about human nature - on the whole — I do think with increasing communication and technology life on earth will go on getting better and people will go on getting wiser and kinder.

    I think the more we focus on this life the more we will want to make it nice for everyone and want justice and fairness and to get rid of any pointless conventions or silly ideas that hinder this. One problem with religion is it promotes ideas like:

    Ok there is a lot of suffering going on, maybe in my life and certainly other people’s lives around the world, but hey, it’s all part of God’s big plan somehow and we are just too humble and little to see it. IMO it is better to think there is no God anywhere sorting anything out and if we want things to get better we have to do it

    or — if my life is not very good, or the life of someone else (like, say, someone born into a low caste in India — because of their bad karma from a past life), hey, it’s God’s will and what he wants is we should endure it meekly in this life for our heavenly reward afterwards. It gets even sillier in some forms of religion — deny myself now, don’t enjoy sensual pleasures and material things, keep beating myself up for even wanting them and for not being some saint — then I will have constant comfort and pleasure (and maybe 72 virgins if you are Muslim), after I die

    Traditionally Christianity — like other religions — also helped “keep everyone in their place” — people thought God put kings and nobility in their places, god made some people servants etc — as Seneca said: religion is seen by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful.

    if people all thought actually nothing was pre-ordained by God and it’s up to Humans to create the kind of world they want to live in and make the most of their lives, then we might not put up with some things so much

  3. Comment #85
    24.01.09 at 11:19 Oliver R said:

    Fran, yes it would be lovely to think we all just go on living in heaven after we die, but:

    traditional Christianity has always taught that the majority of people are going down the “broad path” to hell for “eternal suffering” (I quote from the New Testament). I would like to think Jesus at least only meant this to be for unkind people — the “goats” who did not care about others — however a number of Bible passages, and Christian church teachings from the ealriest times have suggested it is not just about this, but is about having the right beliefs (in Jesus) first and foremost, which atheists find illogical and repugnant.

    Even if the first scenario is what Jesus really taught then eternal punishment for not being a particularly good or kind person in one finite life seems terribly harsh and unfair.

    And even if Jesus did not actually mean eternal punishment after all (despite the examples of Christian texts I posted before) then a God who gives one small set of people eternal bliss while annhiliating the rest, based on the above factors, still seems unfair and not worthy of praise.

    I think many modern Christians are somewhat “universalist” if they think about these things at all; they think God will sort it all out and only - if they believe in hell at all - send a few really nasty people to hell; but that is not what the Bible says or the churches have taught. Now some Christians might exult at the thought of seeing non-Christaisn go off to burn — like Tertullian. I seem to recall reading that Thomas Aquinas, the great Medieval theologian, also said the fact non-Christians would be in hell would add to the pleasure of heaven for the saved — ie the thought that you were one of the chosen lucky ones — but I am sure to most Christians, if they thought about it, the prospect of non-believing friends and family roasting is not a comforting one at all.

    Also it is a bit naive when Christians claim that they just believe in the survival of the soul etc.

    The 2nd Century Christian writers Irenaeus and Justin Martyr got quite fed up with this misinterpretation. Justin said: “Seeing as … the Saviour in the whole Gospel shows that there is salvation for the flesh, why do we any longer endure those unbelieving and dangerous arguments, and fail to see that we are retrograding when we listen to such an argument as this: that the soul is immortal, but the body mortal, and incapable of being revived? For this we used to hear from Pythagoras and Plato, even before we learned the truth.”

    In fact traditional Christianity claims Jesus bodily rose from the dead - in his real flesh and blood body, that had nonetheless been transformed into some thing more glorious, powerful and immortal; he then floated off into heaven; he will come back one day and raise all people into new immortal bodies like his; he will then transform the world so it is a kind of blend of heaven and earth and the Christians will share this renewed kingdom with him forever while the non-Christians go in their immortal bodies into hell. I am not making this stuff up, this is traditional catholic Christainity, which also = Anglican Christianity and most other protestant Christianity if they admitted it and did not try to waffle around it. Once you understand these doctrines the creeds people parrot in churches actually make sense (I mean you can see what they mean, not that they make sense in scientific/logic terms).

    In any case, even going back to the “soul goes off to heaven” theory, no one has ever given good proof a soul or spirit world exists or that all beliefs in afterlifes and reincarnation etc are not - probably - wishful thinking (I know about Spiritualism and about NDEs and so on but when you really try to see if these have provided much very strong proof, the answer is, IMO, no). How much more so has no one ever proven the things I explained above? Why should we believe them just because the Bible and church tells us so. The Bible also says that when Jesus rose from the dead many dead people got up out of their graves and walked around Jerusalem — do we think that is likely? If it was so would not some non-Christian text of the time mention it?

    So, the likely thing is we die and that’s it. If you realise this after a life of believing some comforting tale that you will go to heaven — and that the goal of life is preparing for it — then I think it can be a bit of a shock. I think it is better to not teach children the comforting - and probably not true - story as factual in the first place, so they can better focus on living a good and enjoyable life here and now.

    I would just end by saying I think it is possible to make your peace with the fact you have to die, but I personally do not wish it to happen soon, and I recently got interested in cutting edge science concerned with attacking the causes of aging at the cellular level (www.methuselahfoundation.org), so one day humans may live permanently youthful and healthy, until killed in some acccident or by some uncurable virus etc. In practice some people may one day live thousands of years. Humanity has always been interested in eternal youth or immortality but in the past anything approaching this has only been possible as a fantasy (what is religion if not a promise that you will never really die?), in the future it might start approaching a possibility through science. An interesting thought, but it is still important to try and accept the idea you are likely to die some day and live a good life at peace with yourself and others and try not to worry about it too much

  4. Comment #84
    24.01.09 at 0:13 Phil holley said:

    Amazing Fran, how sweet the sound,
    A pity you’re so deceived
    If once you were lost but now are found,
    An Atheist you would be.

    Through many dangers, toils and snares…
    we have already come.
    T’was Love that brought us safe thus far…
    and Love will lead us home.

    Nothing is promised I can see
    But if I try, my hope secures.
    And my effort shield all around
    As long as life endures.

    When we’ve been here ten million years…
    bright shining as the sun.
    We’ve no less days to sing Our praise…
    then when we’ve first begun.

  5. Comment #83
    23.01.09 at 21:35 quedula said:

    Amazingfran,

    . . or as Hamlet had it “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

  6. Comment #82
    23.01.09 at 21:22 deedyi said:

    Amazingfran,

    Calm down dear! Its only a bus!

    (with apologies to Alfred Hitchcock, I think it was)

  7. Comment #81
    23.01.09 at 21:19 quedula said:

    Amazingfran,

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

    Was it something we said?

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