In 2009, atheists in London paid for 200 adverts on the city’s buses, declaring: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
Now Premier Christian Radio has paid for its own version on Oxford buses, after the distinguished evolutionary biologist turned down the chance to debate with Christian philosopher William Lane Craig when he visits the city later in the month.
The new advert reads: “There’s probably no Dawkins. Now stop worrying and enjoy Oct 25th at the Sheldonian Theatre.”
The trouble with that as a witticism is that it isn’t true. It’s as if X taunts Y by saying “You flunked out of high school!” and Y returns the favor by saying the same thing, when in the first case it’s true and in the second case it isn’t. That’s one of the first things you learn as a child: when exchanging taunts with a sibling/cousin/friend/enemy you have to avoid that particular trap.
There are good reasons to think there is a Dawkins. I’ve seen him myself, I’ve exchanged a few words with him. I know other people who have talked to him. I’ve seen him on DVDs and YouTube, I’ve heard him on the radio and in podcasts, I have books he’s written. I don’t think Oxford University is deceived about his reality. That’s just a few of the good reasons to think there is a Dawkins.
God is very different in this respect. I’ve never seen God or exchanged words with it. I don’t know anyone who has. I don’t know of any reliable accounts of anyone who has – not one. All the purported information about God that I know of is in the form of stories or apologetics. I’ve never seen God on tv or You Tube or heard God on the radio or in podcasts. I have no books that God has written, though I have one it’s purported to have written (but is obviously written by a number of human beings). There are good reasons not to think God exists, and no good reasons to think God does exist. There are good reasons to think God doesn’t exist.
So the two ads are asymmetrical, you see. Because there are good reasons to think God doesn’t exist, the sentence “There is probably no God” is not a daft sentence, while because there are good reasons to think Dawkins does exist, “There is probably no Dawkins” is a daft sentence.