A couple of years ago, the famous atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins, supported a plan to promote atheism by putting advertisements on London buses. They tried to copy some religious groups by using the kind of slogan you might find on a wayside pulpit - except one that rejected belief rather than promoted it. The adverts read: “There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
I find it fascinating, and amusing, for three good reasons.
Firstly, they said that “There's probably no God”. Ah - not certainly. They’re not quite sure…
Secondly, they said “stop worrying”. They obviously think that belief in God makes people worry. Well, the idea that God exists might worry them, but for most of us, to believe in God is far from worrying.
Thirdly, they say “enjoy your life”. They clearly believe that a religious believer does not enjoy life, but is miserable and unhappy.
Today’s Gospel presents us with the commandment to love. Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment, and he gives not one but two, though the two are really one: Love God and love your neighbour.
If we believe in God, then we must live by these commandments. But does this make us worry? Do they make us unhappy?
Quite the opposite. To know that God is love, and that we should respond to him in love is a source not of anxiety, but of great comfort, great hope, great consolation. To love God is to acknowledge the source of meaning and purpose. To love God is to embrace the truth. To love God is to glory and wonder at all that he has made.
Believing in God does make us anxious or unhappy. He encourages us in our lives. He guides us in the decisions we must take. He challenges us to love one another so that not only is my life happy but the lives of our neighbours may be happy too. He gives us comfort when we are sad. Hope when trouble confronts us. He gives us joy and blessings in our lives. He makes sense out of confusion and hope out of despair. He provides us with far more than enjoyment - he gives us happiness, the happiness of living in the Truth.
To be told “enjoy your life” might at first seem attractive, but what it really means is you are on your own, there is nothing else - no hope, no purpose - and no one else - no sacrifice, no commitment - other people are only there for what I can get out of them.
“Stop worrying. Enjoy your life.” Does not only mean that there is ‘probably no God’ but also that there is ‘probably no Love’.
We know better.