I've written a few times about the UK's atheist bus campaign. It consists of a series of bus ads that quote famous non-believers (Katherin Hepburn, Douglas Adams, and Albert Einstein, among others), and concludes with the slogan "There's Probably No God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." It's a pretty non-confrontational way to inject a little atheism in a public sphere increasingly cluttered with religion.
The campaign was bound to attract complaints - and it has. The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has received about 57, which is fairly small considering the profile of the campaign. But one complaint, from an Organization called "Christian Voice", is beyond stupid.
Christian Voice is challenging the atheist bus ads on the grounds they violated the ASA's standards of substantiation and truthfullness. Said spokesman Stephen Green:
"[The ad] is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules."
No, it's not. It says God "probably" does nto exist, which is more of a statement of opinion. But Green doesn't stop there:
"There is plenty of evidence for God, from people's personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.
"But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it."
Hmm. Where to start. I'm not sure subjective personal experience - short of Jesus appearing in a video of your 39th birthday party - is really proof of God's existence. As Lionel Hutz one averred, "Well, I have plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence." Yes. Junk evidence. If it's not admissable in court, I have to think the ASA isn't going to buy it.
As for the "interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world" rap, some 500 years of science have demonstrated that, at the very least, none of these things depend on the existence of a divine entity. Therefore, in the spirit of Occam's wonderful razor, these things cannot prove that God is an actual thing.
I'll be the first to admit that it is impossible to definitively prove that God does not exist. But that knife cuts two ways. If you're attacking something as being untruthful, you'd better have some demonstratable proof of your own. Religion instantly loses in this equation. It is, by definition, based on faith and the infinite mystery of an unknowable god. Reason utilizes evidence that, while not always correct, is based on observable phenomena. In other words, Christian Voice = epic fail. It's fine if you believe in God. But at least accept that when it comes to 'proving' things, science has a clear advantage. And besides, isn't God's whole schtick that he doesn't have to prove anything, least of all to us mortals?
More to the point, I doubt the ASA will want to make a decision on the existence or non-existence of God. I suspect they'll decline to investigate, and Stephen Green and his ilk will just have to deal with a few bosses covered in anti-theological sentiments. That, and my boundless contempt.