THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD.
This is what you'll soon be able to read on the sides of buses trundling around the UK.
NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.
Apparently that PROBABLY was inserted to keep the advertising standards authorities quiet, like the "probably" in a famous Carlsberg lager advert, though a lot of the British Humanist Association who support this anti-God campaign would have preferred to leave the word out. Personally I rather like the inclusion of PROBABLY because it allows room for open minds. It's that NOW that bothers me, giving the command a bossy tone which is bound to alienate some of the very people at whom it's aimed. People can't be converted by nagging at them—that's a fact of life, and bad psychology.
The Humanists came up with the slogan in response to a rival campaign, as seen on the back of London buses in the months leading up to this face-off:
is there more to life than this?
THE ALPHA COURSE
explore the meaning of life
starting soon at a church near you
(sic) Maybe the Queen's English Society should have been the ones to organise a counter-campaign. The ALPHA COURSE organisers obviously wanted to appear trendy by minimising punctuation and capital letters and being lax with their syntax. The other side certainly has a better grasp of English, but that's by the way.
It's interesting to see the strength of feeling revealed by people's comments on the donation page for the NO GOD initiative. A hell (!) of a lot of people obviously loathe and detest Christian evangelists. I can't say I'm very keen on them myself, either, though "probably" not for the same reasons.
STOP WORRYING ... ? I wasn't worrying, actually, nor do I need to be reminded to enjoy my one and only life. When I'm dead, I expect to stay dead, although I hope and believe there's something essential within me and apart from me that will continue beyond my death in the lives of the people who love me. The concept of a Hell or Heaven after death is a red herring. It has always seemed to me that there's a Heaven and Hell in this world, never mind the next. That's what we should be WORRYING about. But I don't suppose the Humanists' slogan is aimed at people like me. The poor souls who usually fall prey to religious fundamentalism are almost invariably the sort who need emotional support to fill some empty space in their lives, and if you then take their acquired beliefs from them I'm afraid you pull the rug from beneath their feet. You can have great fun baiting such people with logical argument and snide remarks, and I've done it myself, but I can't help feeling this pastime is rather cruel.
What my opinion boils down to is that we should keep quiet about whatever it is we each mean or don't mean by GOD. Western thinking came a long way between the supreme confidence of Luther's Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott, and Proposition 7 of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
But there does seem to be a perennial urge in human beings to say the unsayable. In Goethe's Faust, poor Gretchen asks him a nervous question: "So you don't believe in God?" and Faust answers her in overwhelming poetry, which is the only possible way to talk about such things:
... Name ist Schall und Rauch,
Anyway there's far more to life than thou art 'ware of, Horatio, and more to our appreciation of life than having a nice day. Sometimes we come to the "edge of doom" and look over it with horror. Sometimes we look over the "Doors of Bliss" (as Samuel Palmer did) and marvel at what dwarfs us. I for one refuse to have all this reduced to a trite catchphrase, so I have not sent the Humanists any contribution.