Whilst on my travels on one of England’s spiffing train services.. ..I happened to encounter a lovely advert that appeared to cast a negative connotation onto the reasonable conclusion regarding the absence of god.
“Did this advert have the long awaited evidence for such a being?!”
I hear you cry..
It was simply a passage from that most erroneous, sinister, fear-mongering, immoral, racist, sexist, pro-slavery book and tool for the corrupt power seekers:
Psalm 53 1
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”
Now I was quite offended by this obviously derogatory statement.
(I know, I know “so fucking what?”)
Also I was mildly surprised.
Doesn’t their bible also state that calling someone a fool is a hell-worthy sin?
Needless to say I decided to contact the group behind the posting of the offending article to relay my mild outrage and concern for their perceived souls:
Five days later I received my rather condescending reply:
“I would not like you to think that we are ignoring your questions of 11th September below. Rather, I have been considering our response, and will convey that to you in the next day or two, God willing.
Please note in the meantime that we do not regard these posters as ‘advertising’, rather the publicising of God’s Word. Most are entirely apathetic, but we welcome comments such as yours which demonstrate that you have read the text and that it has had an effect upon you.
Nevertheless, the ‘nerve’ to which to which you refer is God’s not ours, since it is His unadulterated wording (we only publish the Scriptures ‘without note or comment’), and in all honesty you would be wiser to address your complaints to the Lord God Himself. Isaiah 55.6 says ‘Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near’. More of that when I have the opportunity to deal more fully with your complaint.
Our name is on the posters in small type in case people wish to make representations to us about the wording on the posters, favourably or otherwise. Having said that the train operating companies superintending the placement of the posters, and giving their permission, also have to run the content past the Advertising Standards Authority, as there is no comparable body for Christian charities such as ourselves which have a message to proclaim; we would indeed echo the words of John the Baptist, who memorably and humbly stated, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ (John 3.30)
The posters are automatically removed after a space of a couple of weeks, and replaced on a month on month off basis with the next in the series to be put up on that station. There are many different Bible texts in our railway poster series, and I hope that the next one may be more to your liking. If you would care to name the Lancashire station where you saw the poster, I could tell you which one comes next, and when, God willing.
Although we do not wish to offend it is a fact made clear in the Bible that all men naturally find the Gospel offensive, for it strikes at their self-reliance and pride. Isn’t it is a matter of rejoicing that we still (just about) have freedom of expression in this country and that we have not (yet) become a totalitarian state? I imagine that you would find that far less acceptable. I see many things displayed that offend me travelling daily on the London underground, but the answer is to look away and concentrate upon better things.
However, If you will bear with me, I hope to revert to your specific points before the end of this week, as afterwards I will be on leave until mid-October.”
Whilst I am tempted to await their further correspondence I do think that delaying a response to this would give too long a break when they are on leave.
To this end I put together this simple response:
“Thank you for your response.
Whilst I await your full response validating your edit of the copies of the translations of the copies of the erroneous manuscripts which you call your bible I believe I can dismiss your ideas about the “unadulterated wording” of god until our next communication.
I do however feel the need to remark upon the condescending tone of your reply which is obviously not designed to placate me but to infer a holier-than-thou vanity of your position of belief that that you are privy to special knowledge.
Whilst freedom of expression is a right you have thanks to secularisation and the increased pluralism it brings, I cannot but respond in kind.
I also do not understand how you infer that the bible “strikes at [my/men’s] self-reliance and pride” when the whole concept is laughably illogical and bereft of foundation in reality as we understand it today.
I look forward to your more detailed reply.
and indeed I do look forward to it..
continuation as of 23/09/13
“As promised I now wish to expand upon my interim response and to try to deal with your various comments, including those below, as God enables.
Dealing firstly with the purely practical, I have examined the list of station sites where the Psalm 53 v.1 poster is displayed this month, and the only one in Lancashire is Lancaster, so I am guessing that is where you saw it. You may be interested to learn that once this poster finishes its ‘run’, in the first week of October, there will not be another poster for you to see on that station until next year. These posters cost us quite a lot of money to display, some of it generously donated by supporters for posters to be affixed in their chosen locations, so we are not able to afford to cover as wide a range of stations as we have done in the past, nor to put up posters as frequently as we would wish. Although a notable part of our work, and one we have been enabled to do for many years, the railway poster displays are of course ancillary to our main raison d’etre – to translate, publish and distribute many hundreds of thousands of copies of the Word of God, faithfully and accurately translated in English (the Authorised Version) and many other languages worldwide.”
Well done for spotting that it was in Lancaster. I hope this practical insight will be instrumental to you, although I cannot fathom how.
Turning now to your original complaint, that you felt ‘appalled by’ ‘our nerve to insult people who actively live a lifestyle without need to resort to mythology for comfort’, you do not actually call yourself an atheist, but unless you are truly an atheist in your heart of hearts, that Bible verse is not addressed to you. I put it that way because there are many who like to call themselves atheists, or to use the kind of wording that you have, but as soon as anything goes badly wrong in their lives, or they hear of some tragedy or disaster they are quick to blame the God they profess not to believe in. We all have a conscience, even though in most people it is ‘seared with a hot iron’ as the Bible puts it (1 Timothy 4.2, where the Greek word translated by this phrase is our English word ‘cauterised’), but our consciences are God-ward, and try as we might we cannot entirely bury them and pretend that God does not exist.
Firstly I don’t know quite what a hollow muscle that pumps blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions has to say on the matter. I am indeed an atheist (although this merely describes what I am not rather than what I am). There have been many events in my life but nothing which has given rise to the foolish conclusion that there is a god. Why would a conscience be anything to do with a posited god either? I find this all rather a baffling line of reasoning to use against my complaint.
As I have already said, the text in Psalm 53 v.1 (repeated incidentally in Psalm 14 v.1, so we have the double witness in Scripture that is always significant) is addressed by God’s own mouth as the Divine Author to the fool who has such deep rooted atheism in his or her heart. The Hebrew word nabal literally means ‘empty person’, for without God his life is actually bereft of meaning or purpose. Interestingly, there is a character in the Bible called Nabal, the husband of godly Abigail, who later became king David’s wife, after he treated David and his servants so abominably, see 1 Samuel 25 vv.2-42. He was truly what one might call a fool by name and a fool by nature.
Witnesses are the most unreliable form of evidence available. If it were not so then how would you explain all the contradictory accounts in the bible? Saying that those without god have no purpose is a strange statement. I find that most people make their own purposes in life without resorting to magical thinking and hoping that there is some kind of grand purpose, especially where I see none. Given that the atheist sees the world without an overall purpose it becomes quite laughable when the sort that the bible describes is presented. Or at least it would be laughable if it didn’t have such violent ramifications when used en masse by people as a tool for power.
By way of contrast you draw attention to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 v.22, where Christians are warned off calling a brother (i.e. a fellow Christian) ‘thou fool’ for that would suggest that they (the accusers) are not true believers at all, but rather in danger of hellfire. It is altogether a different matter for usto call someone a fool, for we do not know another’s heart, but the Lord knows the hearts of all men and so He alone is entitled to make that solemn judgment – and He does so. A much more appropriate comparison, which would actually have tallied fully with Psalm 53 v.1 is the Lord Jesus Christ’s solemn reference in Luke 12 vv.16-21, the parable of the rich man who was only interested in his earthly lot, so much so that he could only think of building bigger barns for his goods, and eating drinking and being merry – which sums up the lifestyle of a great number of people. Please notice verses 20-21 – ‘But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’ Is the Lord perhaps speaking to you in these verses?
I must point out that quoting biblical verse has little effect on me. As previously communicated I find myself wondering what the validation is that you use for your version of the bible. Until a validation is presented you may as well be quoting Lord Of The Rings to me for all the relevance it has.
When you enquire as to the ‘validation for your texts’ I am not sure whether you are questioning our ‘right’ to display them at all, or the textual basis of the Authorised Version. If the latter, I think you will find ample information on our website, and if you care to provide your postal address we will gladly send you free of charge one or two of our articles in booklet form which will tell you all that we believe on this important subject. This is our rationale for publishing only the Authorised Version in English, and foreign language Scriptures translated in the same manner and based upon the same most reliable Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.
The “most reliable” are still erroneous and themselves copies of other works and so unverified. The crux of my point is that there is no evidence for the claims within. Specifically I would like to point out the lack of proof for claims of the divinity of Jesus.
However, I think you may be questioning what ‘right’ we have to ‘inflict’, as you might call it, our views on the travelling public. I have already mentioned I think that we are not advertising ourselves, but publicising the Word of God in line with our main published principles. We believe in preaching the Gospel of God’s wonderful mercy and grace, for ‘Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ Romans 10 v.17. Part of that involves the declaration of man’s sinfulness, and yes, foolishness, in order that he might be convicted of sin, under the power of God’s Holy Spirit and repent, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Our Lord Himself was the best preacher that ever lived, and His public ministry commenced with the words ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matthew 4 v.17.
You are literally attempting the oldest type of fearmongering known. It may be from a genuine desire to aid other people whose souls you fear for, but it is a foundless fear with no rational and should be abandoned for the superstitious nonsense that has become so painfully clear that it is.
I am sorry that you thought my interim response was ‘condescending’ and ‘holier than thou’, for nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes that is a defence mechanism if the truth has pricked the conscience, I pray that it may be so. I have been in your position, ‘people who actively live a lifestyle without need to resort to mythology for comfort’, and wasted 19 years of my life going that way. Thankfully the Lord loved me from before the foundation of the world, pursued me and saved me and for the last 45 years I have come to know His utter reliability and the fact that He is the true and living God, not a myth. The Bible actually says ‘But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ 1 Corinthians 2 v.14. In mentioning below ‘belief that you are privy to special knowledge’, you are therefore correct upon the evidence of the Bible – we all need to come to a knowledge of God that is supernatural, as the Lord Jesus Christ said ‘Ye must be born again’, see John 3 v.7 and the verses from 1-21. In passing these things onto you I neither pretend nor assume any superiority to you, I am a sinner as you are, as we all are, but by the grace of God I know that my sins are forgiven, I am born again by the operation of the Spirit of God and saved for all eternity. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than for you to seek this for yourself. As a Christian once famously put it, the Gospel is one beggar showing another where he may find bread.’
The idea of ‘sin’ has intrigued me for some time. Some of the commandments for example contain good ideas, i.e. killing is bad. But others seem vain on god’s part and not particularly useful. Especially to those who don’t believe.
In effect, if I don’t have a god then I cannot blaspheme by necessity.
It is also important for you to realise that Christianity, uniquely of all religions, is based upon love. God first loved us, and we, once saved, must love others, and spend our lives doing so. If you ask a man how he knows that he loves his wife, he will not resort to debate and argument, so much as to point to his heart and say that it is something ‘more than a notion’, a reality known and felt. So it is with Christians and the love of God.
Many religions practice peace and love yet few manage it. I have never ‘felt’ the presence of god but I do possess a working knowledge of neurobiochemistry and find that most descriptions of experiencing god are quite simple to explain without out the need to resort to the complex and foundless idea of deistic interpretations,
I trust that in my own poor way I have tried to address your main points of disagreement. I neither have the time nor the inclination to enter upon a pointless debate upon how we have our freedom, any right thinking man who knows anything of history will see that this country has been built upon Christian values, and that all that has made it truly ‘great’ in the past derives from the Christian Reformation and the grace of God upon our land. You may have your opinions upon that, we have ours, and in my view it will not be profitable to keep on citing examples from either perspective. What is far more important is the soul, and it is abundantly clear that as Christianity is more and more opposed and resisted in our land, the results are shameful, not ennobling. We only need to look around us.
I shall not pursue that line if you do not wish to discuss it except for this; the making of this ‘great’ by utilising Christian values is not quite so charming.. If we do indeed ‘look around us’ I’m sure you will notice the spread of the violent religion of Islam. This is not dissimilar to the spread of what was once Christianity.
May you rather be led to seek the Bread of Life, available to all who will repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
In closing and to summarise my complaint:
Your poster was purposely insulting, the bible from which it was taken and that you wish to spread the word of is a vile book with unsound ideas regarding morals, unscientific ideas regarding creation and the nature of the universe, and to top it off is not even set upon any firm basis. It asserts that it contains knowledge yet contains lies. The work of people who knew nothing more of the universe than anyone else at the time. The idea of converting people to the backwards worldview is abhorrent to me, especially when done in such a fearmongering way with regards to the insistence without evidence of a place like Hell. If the audience you seek happen to be children then I can only imagine the damage that truly believing in a hell and all the consequences thereof would cause to a developing consciousness.
I must say that the displaying of such posters goes against most ethical value I hold. Without validation there is no reasonable ground from which to posit the things contained in the bible and it is an affront to the dignity of our evolution as a social species.
P.S. I hope you are reading this Anne Newman as your missent email caused me much amusement.
An excellent reply and one to add to the complaint’s file for future reference, I think Mr. [MnemoniXs], will be sorry he even wrote to us by the time he reads all, unless of course your reply is instrumental in his salvation and then he will be sooooo grateful, may it be so!
Definitely one for the Fail File. As you can tell I’m not in the least bit sorry nor have I found your mythological ‘salvation’ to be relevent to reality in any way. If this is how you treat complaints then it is a poor service you do yourselves. Insulting and then mocking. What would Jesus say?
[To be continued..]