Wednesday, January 28, 2009

God in a Slogan

Responding to the atheist bus slogans that have roiled the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking worlds, Alan Jacobs offers some truth in advertising by way of alternates, including these:

“There’s probably no God. So forget about being reunited with loved ones when you die.”

“There’s probably no God. So realize that the people who cheated and abused you will never suffer retribution.”
Ouch! Correctly noting that the internet doesn't do irony, he clarifies his position:
[T]he slogan on the Atheist Bus makes the implicit but quite clear argument that religious belief is simply a source of “worry” and that if you give up that belief you’ll be better able to “enjoy your life.” However, abandoning religious belief does not always make people happier; nor is it true that everyone is fortunate enough to have an enjoyable life. These truths, and my post, have nothing whatsoever to do with the question of whether religion is true, but rather address the claims about happiness and enjoyment that the slogan makes.
True enough -- bus-side slogans are an awful way to conduct a thorough inquiry into a fundamental question about life, the universe, and everything. And yet judging from this post and the post on which I am commenting (and countless more besides), bus-side slogans do appear to succeed in opening the broader conversation.

The same applies to all slogans, of course, whether they appear in buses or not. The ubiquitous "John 3:16" does not suffice to solve all the puzzles of theodicy; it doesn't even get around to covering what "everlasting life" feels like if the set of "whosoever believeth in him" does not include, say, your parents and grandparents.

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