UK Christians, Atheists Battle it Out with Ads

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CWN.org -  In the United Kingdom, atheists and Christians have been fighting it out in the streets.

Not literally, of course, but through a war of words.  This battle for Britain is aimed at people's hearts and minds, and they're using a vehicle unique to their culture to get the word out.

Ron Heather spends his day driving Britians famed bendy buses. He works in South Hampton for a bus company called First Bus.

One morning, Heather walked up to his bus and saw a new ad printed on the side. It read: "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life"

"When I saw that on the side of my bus I thought..what do I do about it," he said. "I can't get on and drive [this bus]."

Heather, a Christian, left the bus and confronted his managers. The managers said there wasn't another bus for him to drive, so Heather went home.

The Atheist sponsored ads ran on 800 buses all around Britain in January.

The British Humanist Organization, with help from famed atheist Author Richard Dawkins, raised more than $200,000 for the project.

Not all Christians agree the ads are negative.

British Christian organizations like the Methodist church and Theos, a faith-based think tank, supported the ads.

They said the provocative message promoted healthy conversation about the existence of God.

"It was encouraging people to think about God," said Paul Wooley, director of Theos.  "If you say, God probably doesn't' exist then it immediately creates the question: what if he does exist. And the issue there was it started conversations."

The Christian party of Britain added its voice to the conversation by creating a Bus ad of its own.

It read: "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life."

Party Director George Hargreaves said christians have to make themselves heard in British society.

"You know the humanist and the secular have been center stage in Britain for maybe 40 years and this ad is probably the panicle of their cynicism," he said. "So we felt we needed to answer that with the truth."

Humanist groups across the globe have run similar ads in Canada and Spain and are planning to run them in Italy, Germany, and Brazil.

In Washington, D.C. last November buses featured a picture of santa with the words, "Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness sake."

Back in the UK, Christians say it's part on an ongoing battle over faith in the public square.

"There is a spiritual war going on in Britain, and I don't know about the rest of Europe, but there is a spiritual war against Jesus Christ and against Christianity and against Christians going on here," one Christian said. "And we simply have to take a stand."

As for Heather, he says he wasn't thinking about those issues when he refused to drive the bus that day. He just did what he thought was right.

"As a Christian, you can't just leave your Christianity at home," he said. "You've got to be a Christian 24 hours a day 7 days a week."

*Original broadcast February 27, 2009.

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