The atheist billboards which went up in three New Zealand cities recently have provoked some interest. Most of it has been quietly positive.
However, there are the critics. Inevitably there are those who criticise the weakness of the slogans. Lindsay Perigo had a slightly humourous article on this (see SOLO-NZ Press Release: Memo to NZ Atheists—Grow a Pair!). He said:
“What sort of abject cop-out is ‘There probably is no God’ after ‘We are all atheists about most gods. Some of us go one god further’?! There probably is no God? Is that what we say about all the other gods?
“Would we say there probably are no goblins, ghosts, tooth fairies, taniwha and trolls under bridges?
“Given that we live at a time of resurgent goblinism, particularly of the pseudo-Mordi variety, it’s refreshing to see someone taking on these morbid superstitions and urging folk to enjoy their lives uninhibited by fearful fantasies spouted by charlatans and witch-doctors. For that precise reason it’s exasperating to see the punch-line of this campaign retreat into a wimpy nod in the direction of the politically correct, Richard Dawkins-type agnostics who believe one shouldn’t state anything with certainty for fear of frightening the horses or upsetting philosophy professors unsure of their own existence.
“There is no God. There are no goblins, ghosts, tooth fairies, taniwha or trolls under bridges. Now you can really stop worrying and enjoy your life,” Perigo concludes.
Perhaps he has a point.
Then, inevitably, there are the religious critics. Inevitable because their collective noses are obviously out of joint over this little bit of democratic voicing of opinion – something they just aren’t used to
But somewhat pitiful given that part of the success of the atheist advertising campaigns results from the criticism and opposition from those who are upset by people having different ideas to their own. Attempts to prevent adverting (successful in New Zealand with the buses) and their public condemnations before and after the billboards went up have only created more interest. And support – even from many Christians who are offended by attempts to prevent others from expressing a viewpoint.
What I have found rather amusing is the efforts of some of the theologically inclined (and hence offended) bloggers who make a theological criticism of the slogans (see man created God, There’s Probably No God? Fisking Atheist Billboards, More Billboard Fun and Stop Worrying?).
Bloody hell – its one thing to condemn Richard Dawkins book “The God Delusion” because it is a consciousness raiser rather than a typical dry and convoluted theological treatise. But to try to apply the same analysis to two-line slogans really does bring up the image of Don Quixote and Sancho Panses charging a billboard instead of a windmill.
Anyway, I wondered if these theologians would dare apply some of their skills to those signs that go up outside churches. After all, Church theology is so much more naive than academic theology. What about a bit of constructive criticism there.
Theological critiques of church signs?
I hunted down some church signs for them to criticise. No, not locally, those are so dry and meaningless. But there are some interesting ones on the internet. mainly American but a few Kiwi ones.
In fact some of them are so funny, or weird, that I got distracted. They are good for a laugh. I could see someone putting a collection together. Unfortunately I became aware that the better ones were probably not genuine. Rather they were designed using the Church Sign Maker. Pity! I can imagine a Pastors job is so boring that some of them may be tempted to express themselves on their church billboard.
Anyway – here’s some samples for these theological critics. Come on Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and your mates – you have written dry academic screeds critiquing these harmless atheist billboards. Lets hear your theological comments on the Church billboards. (Click on the thumbnails to see a larger image)