Recently, Chicago has been the target market for a campaign of billboards and bus placards sponsored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation which advocate a dismissal of all things religious. Father Barron offers his thoughts on this initiative here:
I have no particular political objection to the recent advertising campaign launched by atheists and agnostics, which involves placards on the side of buses urging religious people to sleep in on Sunday morning and stop wasting their time going to church. I mean, it’s a free country, and people can express their views publicly, even on controversial matters. But what I object to is the stupidity of the view that’s being advocated.
This campaign is in fact quite similar to one launched in Europe a few months ago, which also used the sides of buses to advocate the philosophy of the“new” atheism. Those placards said, “There’s probably no God; so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Only those who have no idea of the dire implications of real atheism could ever express such flippant sentiments. Here the “new” atheists represent a sharp declension from the classical atheists of the twentieth century, figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Those worthies indeed denied the existence of God, but they saw that such a denial implied, as Sartre put, that la vie est absurde (life is absurd). Both of the great fathers of existentialism grasped something of great psychological importance, namely, that all of us are wired for ultimate meaning, for fullness of justice, love, and truth. We are, in a word, hungry for God. Now if there is no God (and they were convinced there isn’t), then we are programmed for a deep and abiding frustration, for there is no objective correlate to our subjective longing. Sartre and his followers said that, in the face of this dark truth, we should buck up our courage and create our own meaning, etc., but they were never less than perfectly clear that, without God, life is, in point of fact, meaningless.
What they would have found ridiculous is the casual recommendation that, in the face of this awful truth, we should just turn over in bed, relax, and enjoy our lives! My great quarrel with the recent campaign is that it represents such a wimpy, unserious atheism. Bring back the old atheists! At least they understood what was at stake and had the courage of their convictions.
Father Robert Barron is the Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.