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By Jean Ko Din
Laughter might truly be the best medicine if it can encourage friendly conversation between Christians and atheists. That was Andy Bannister’s goal when he wrote The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist.
In his new book, Bannister uses humour as a way to recognize and dissect what he calls “atheist sound bites,” common cliché arguments that are being used to support the New Atheism movement. He hopes that in writing this book he will be able to engage Christians and non-Christians alike.
“I often think that too much Christian literature, for those who are non-Christians, isn’t fun to read, so the humour is (in the book) for a reason,” said the British author. “I wanted to write an apologetics book that is fun to read, so that when (a reader) gives it to an atheist friend ... (he or she) can say to them, ‘Look, you might not agree with everything in this book, but you’ll enjoy it.’ ”
Bannister begins each chapter with a scenario that exposes what he calls the lazy skepticism that many atheists use today. In the first chapter of his book, Bannister tells the story of how he first came across London’s “atheist bus.”
An ad on a London bus reads, “There is probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The advertisement, sponsored by the British Humanist Association, is a good example of a bad argument.
“An argument so bad, so disastrous, in fact, that one has to wonder what its sponsors were thinking... Like a cheaply made cardigan, they’re full of loose threads, that if tugged firmly, quickly began to unravel,” Bannister writes.
“But here’s my question: what’s the connection between the non-existence of something and any effect, emotional or otherwise? There probably aren’t any unicorns, cheer up. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is just a parody, so take heart.”
Beyond the first part of the ad’s claim, the second part is not much stronger. Bannister writes that the slogan might be a symptom of a general trend in culture to zero in on the emotion of enjoyment. He writes that to be authentically human, there is considerably more to life than to experience the one emotion of joy. Without joy, he asks what principle does New Atheism have for times of trial?
It is with bad arguments like these that Bannister opens discussion on the danger of lazy slogans to reduce complex arguments for New Atheism…
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