Yesterday I walked to work and saw not one, but two London buses with the question: “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). It seems you wait ages for a bus with an unsettling Bible quote, then two come along at once.
The errant capital letters weren’t the only disturbing thing about this (Faith Hill or Faith Evans?). There was also a web address on the ad, and when I visited the site, hoping for a straight answer to their rather pressing question, I received the following warning for anyone who doesn’t “accept the word of Jesus on the cross”: “You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)” (Matthew 25:41). Lots to look forward to, then.
The article is essentially about an advertising campaign that is being run on London buses by the ‘Jesus Said‘ organisation and the extent to which religions and their associated organisations should be able to make categorical statements and declarations when their message is largely (subjectively?) unproven – and potentially even inaccurate and false, to some (many?) at least.
I find this an interesting one not least because the article raises an important issue. Given that religions and religious groups do have messages that they want to share, are advertising billboards the right place to do this? Should there be any restrictions to who can, and of course, who cannot advertise? And what if we just do not believe that the message is true…?
So for example, could the entirely fictitious Church of Satan (NB. there probably is a ‘Church of Satan’ but I do not personally know of them and/ or it) for example commission a poster campaign that says, “Worship the Dark One and enjoy an eternal life of sex, drugs and rock & roll”, would it be acceptable and/ or allowed?
If the Church of Scientology advertised, “Join us, invest a fortune and find the truth”, again would we accept or agree with this? Would we be willing to accept that such a message might even be true…?
I’m not sure if I entirely know the answer to what should be acceptable and unacceptable but I did like the parting shot of Ariane Sherine. As she wrote:
…if there are 4,680 atheists reading this and we all contribute £5, it’s possible that we can fund a much-needed atheist London bus ad with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life”…
A nice idea but if the Jesus Said website is accurate, then rather than contributing their £5 to a new poster campaign in the short term, they may want to start worrying about things in the longer term or else “spend all eternity in torment in hell”.
To continue my theme of referencing song lyrics, as the Ash track “Jesus Says” notes, “You don’t get nothing for free…”. And if you’re an atheist, you might not even get it for £5…!!!