October 24, 2008
I ripped a blurb out from the Chicago Tribune this morning. (Yes, I still read the morning paper. Interfacing with a computer cannot replace coffee and the sports section… yet.) The story was about a slew of billboards going up in London (alas, none to show), produced by a group of well-moneyed atheists who, according to the Trib, “object to the favorable treatment given to religion in British society.” Some 30 buses will carry the slogan:
There’s probably no God.
Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.
As many of you know, I’ve got a novel out about God and advertising: The Happy Soul Industry. In it, God finds an advertising agency to market Heaven. The campaign they come up with features this headline:
These days everybody’s skipping prayer.
So, how’s everybody doing?
You can imagine my amusement, then, at the non-believer’s advertisement. Same tone but a very different message! My line suggests the world is fretting and could really benefit from communion with God. The other suggests that there is no God and just get on with it.
Interesting use of the word “probably” as opposed to “definitely.” Does that make them agnostic? Regardless, unequivocally denying God’s existence would only infuriate the many to get a chuckle from the few.
What I don’t like is the “stop worrying” declarative. Constructive worrying is not a bad thing. It leads to positive change. And Lord knows, we have PLENTY to worry about, in the UK as well as here. “Don’t worry, be happy” is not so much atheistic as it is ignorant.
One has to place the now-famous “God Speaks” campaign into this discussion. For many years, a Southern congregation has underwritten countless messages beseeching people to heed God. Especially provocative about this campaign is that it maintains God as the copywriter! I know for a fact He isn’t, but the conceit does provide the work with a unique and powerful voice.
Like a lot of sensible people, my religious views evolved over time. As a boy, I was ignorant of God. He was merely a concept. As a young man I was an atheist. Not only did I believe in the power of “Self” (Ayn Rand being a huge influence), I also bought into the dismissal of religion as opiate for the masses. When you’re 22 you feel immortal -what need have you of God? By the time I got into my thirties, I questioned everything. At 40, I understood the need for a power greater than myself. I could no longer fill the hole in my soul by intellectual or hedonistic means, which had been my previous defaults.
Apparently, a lot of people can live without a higher power, hence the campaign from Britain. Like it or not, the message will get noticed. To what aim, I’ve no idea. I am fascinated (and amused) by God’s infiltration into popular culture. After all, I wrote a book about it! He (or She) is EVERYWHERE. Including, even now, in advertising.