ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Probablement Dieu n’existe pas. Profitez-en ! »
by Peter Avis
Translated Saturday 24 January 2009, by
« There’s probably no God. Now, stop worrying and enjoy yourself. »
This is the new, loud and proud message that the English can read on the side of 800 double-decker buses which have been crossing London and other large towns since the New Year. Another 1000 of these advertisements will appear in the London metro next week.
The Atheist Bus Campaign, supported by the scientist Richard Dawkins, the philosopher A. C. Grayling and the British Humanist Association, raised £200 000 (€220 000) to buy these controversial adverts. (Dawkins would have preferred to drop the word « probably » from the selected slogan).
Believers have given mixed responses. The Methodist Church (Protestant) is pleased with the campaign as it has encouraged discussion about God. On the other hand, Sandra Lafaire, a sixty-six year old tourist from Los Angeles was stunned. « I think it’s awful, » she said when she found herself in front of a bus. « Everyone has the right to express themselves, but I don’t want it thrust in my face. »
Tim Bleakley, Marketing Director for London buses, explained light-heartedly that accepting this advertisement didn’t pose a problem for him: « I didn’t want to take the role of God in this matter. »
In surveys, 53% of the British consider themselves to be Christians, though most attend church only rarely, whilst 40% state that they have no religious belief. Returning to those who believe, they agree on the fact that mosques will have more followers than churches in a few years.
21st century Great Britain has become mostly a secular country despite appearances ; an official Church, presided over by the Head of State (Queen Elizabeth), and bishops with a right to seats in the House of Lords. Even the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, finds himself nowadays on the same side as those who agree with the separation of Church and State…a century after France took that course.