In a move which will surprise few and may end up interesting fewer, three Christian organisations are putting thousands of pounds into advertising campaigns to counter the 'atheist buses' backed by Richard Dawkins, the British Humanist Association and others.
The Christian Party, the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Russian Orthodox Church will now run 'pro-God' campaigns on 175 buses for a fortnight from 9 February 2009.
The Rev George Hargreaves of the Christian Party, who is famous for having written the none-too-pious hit single 'So Macho', has created a bus advert which proclaims: "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life." It will feature on 50 bendy buses in central London, east London and the West End.
The Russian Orthodox Church, meanwhile, has reportedly booked 25 supersize bus ads, backed by a sponsorship deal with Russian Hour TV, using the slogan "There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don't worry and enjoy your life."
The Trinitarian Bible Society will opt for a text from Psalm 53.1 that says: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." This will feature on 100 buses.
Some scholars, such as Jose Portifa Miranda, point out that a better translation from the Hebrew might be "the rich person" rather than "the fool", and that the challenge was originally to powerful manipulators of faith rather than ordinary people buffeted by competing beliefs.
"This is all sadly predictable," commented Simon Barrow from the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia.
He added: "It is part of a societal trend to package and 'sell' beliefs of all kinds, as if they were commodities. Many people will feel this has little to do with anything Christianly or humanly edifying. One has to wonder whether the purveyors of pro- and anti-God slogans really think they will persuade people? It feels more like a war of position between groups who cannot resist 'having a go back'.
"But imagine if these tens of thousands of pounds could be spent meeting human need and promoting understanding rather than sloganising. That might be both more persuasive and more useful."