Bishop criticises atheist bus ads
The Bishop of Bath and Wells has attacked an atheist advertising campaign which declares: "There's probably no God".
The Rt Rev Peter Price said the bus campaign lacked both judgement and a sense of reality.
The advertising drive has been financed by the British Humanist Association and other groups and involves posters on the sides of 800 buses around Britain, including Bristol.
The posters say: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
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But in a sermon at Bath Abbey at the weekend, the bishop said: "In terms of the present economic downturn, the loss of jobs, particularly to the most vulnerable of people; together with the world situation in which major conflicts daily take the lives of friend and foe alike; the threat of billions starving, and the seemingly unstoppable Aids pandemic, such advice seems to lack both judgment and a sense of reality.
"At the same time, people of faith should always be willing to face challenges to their faith. To ask themselves whether their understanding and perception of God is borne out of experience, out of reality; or whether there is a measure of delusion in false comfort and security."
The comments were made at a service in a packed Bath Abbey on Saturday to launch the Diocese of Bath and Wells's 1,100th anniversary celebrations.
He paid tribute to what he called "the most extraordinary commitment and faithfulness to God, amongst the people and parishes of this diocese."
He added: "Whatever the realities of the past may have been for good and ill, the changing nature of the church, let alone the world, require dedication and fidelity among laity and clergy alike, that is unprecedented in the history of the Church of England.
"There is good reason to be hopeful, as the latest available statistics indicate an average increase in people attending services both on Sundays and in the midweek of ten percent; and of Sunday attendance of nine per cent."
The anniversary celebration will last most of the year and will close with a Songs of Praise programme in Wells Cathedral on Sunday November 21.
The schedule for the year will also include:
* Peter's Progress: a walk by Dr Price, along the boundaries of the diocese from May 4 May to July 4.
* a 60-mile youth pilgrimage starting between Sherbone Abbey and Wells Cathedral in April.
* a Peace and Reconciliation event on July 4 in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey.
* the publication of two books specially written for the celebrations – Bath and Wells: A Diocesan Celebration by Dr Robert Dunning, and Big Drips from Bath and Wells, a children's book by local historian Hilary Binding.
* the production of an anniversary ale by Bath Ales called The 1100.
The bus adverts feature lines doubting the existence of God, and celebrating the natural world, written by Albert Einstein, Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Adams and Emily Dickinson.
It is the first-ever atheist advertising campaign to take place in Britain, and similar adverts are now also running on public transport in America and Spain.
Ariane Sherine, a writer who came up with the idea of the adverts, said: "I hope they will brighten people's days and make them smile on their way to work."
Pressure group Christian Voice has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority saying the posters break rules on substantiation and truthfulness.
Full details of the anniversary celebrations are on the website www.bw1100.org.