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November 22nd 2008 print

Bill Muehlenberg

Here Come Those Pesky Atheist Evangelists Again

That atheism is really a religion has long been noted.

That atheism is really a religion has long been noted. They have their untouchable beliefs which dare not be questioned; they have their revered leaders who can say no wrong; they have their sacred texts which cannot be gainsaid; and they have their full-time evangelists spreading the good word.

Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et. al., are some of the leading missionaries for misotheism. They are on a holy crusade to convince the world of the rightness of their beliefs. The most recent example of this is in the UK where atheists are taking out ads on buses proclaiming their anti-God gospel.

This is how one press account puts it: “British atheists have raised a pile of cash to tell Londoners there’s probably no God and to get on with life. The nation’s first atheist advertising campaign has beaten its funding target in less than 24 hours, raising nearly nine times the amount it needed to posts its ads on public buses in London. Organisers hope to run more than 5000 ads in the city over a month, telling people: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’. By last night, less than a day into fundraising efforts, pledges of more than £47,900 ($118,300) had rolled in, organisers told The Guardian newspaper.”

And uber-evangelist for atheism, Richard Dawkins has “has agreed to match all donations up to a maximum of £5500 — the amount needed for advertisements on one set of buses.” The ads are expected to run in January.

Well, it’s a free country, and atheist missionaries are just as entitled as anyone else to preach their gospel. The funny thing is, according to the atheist, there is no God, there is no supernatural, there is no afterlife, and there is no soul. We are just a bunch of “selfish genes” as Dawkins is so fond of reminding us.

All of this raises the question, of course: why is it then that atheists need to evangelise for atheism? Why waste your breath? Surely evolution will eventually weed out all these false beliefs. Indeed, Dawkins has developed a convoluted scheme to account for religious beliefs, including his faith-based concept of memes.

Just as genes pass on physical traits, so memes pass on cultural traits. Memes are replicators of ideas and beliefs. Thus Dawkins informs us that there are God memes. There you have it: the reason why billions of people throughout human history have believed in God, the good professor assures us, is not because God exists, but because we have God memes. Simple. Why didn’t I think of that? (No wonder most people do not have enough faith to be an atheist.)

But one small problem. Not only is memetic theory just that – a theory, lacking in any empirical proof – but if it is true, then surely we must account for unbelief in exactly the same way. Atheism is not a true set of beliefs; people simply have atheist memes.

So if everything is determined by our genes and memes, that is just the way it is. Put your money back in your wallet, Richard. You are wasting your time (and ours). People will believe whatever their memes have determined they should believe.

Of course it is interesting to note that what we have in this evangelistic crusade is really atheism-lite. Notice the words: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’. Probably? OK, so what we have here is not in fact hard-core atheism, but a form of agnosticism: we are just not sure of God’s existence. Of course Dawkins said as much in his missionary tract, The God Delusion.

That of course is a much more respectable – and humble – position to hold onto. Instead of arrogantly asserting that something does not exist which would be impossible to prove anyway, our atheist buddies are just telling us that God more than likely does not exist.

But consider the rest of their advertising jingo. We are to ‘stop worrying and enjoy life’. The implication seems to be that the possibility of God’s existence leads to worry and an unhappy life. Never mind that countless millions of individuals have been quite happy indeed with their theistic beliefs.

And never mind that it seems life is far more to be worried about if this life is all there is. Knowing that one day every wrong will be righted and every right will be recognized seems to make life far less stressful than to abide by the atheist creed: craps just happens, so get used to it.

But these must be dark days for our atheist friends. So worried are they about the souls – I mean, bodies – of believers, that they have to resort to bus ads to reach them with their gospel. The only problem is, this is one big case of false advertising.

And when the atheist zealots one day stand before their maker and judge, they will see that they wasted a lot more than their money on silly ads.