Apparently no one can bend it like Beckham, except, I guess a bendy bus with a message of false comfort sponsored by atheists: THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.
In The Independent (25th October) Howard Jacobson points out the false comfort which such an advert offers:
“As for the rest of the bendy bus message, it makes not a grain of sense. THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD STOP WORRYING? That’s a non sequitur. Why should the non-existence of a God stop us worrying? Who ever claimed it was belief in God that caused us to worry? Some of the least worried people I know are unworried precisely because they believe in a benign creator who takes individual care of them. We might think of them as deluded crackpots – we might be driven crazy ourselves by their baseless blitheness and serenity – but if not worrying is to be the measure of happiness then, like it or not, they’ve found happiness in spades. Ivan Karamazov on the other hand, is misery incarnate, unable to enjoy a moment of mental peace because he cannot see how, if God does not exist, anything can be deemed unlawful. SINCE THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD it would say on the bendy bus Ivan hires to drive around St Petersburg, START WORRYING BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED”.
For my money, though, the pursuit of happiness seems inextricably intertwined with the pursuit of God. For sure, for some, this has ended up in craziness and a fog of despair. But when you consider that the God of the universe came in pursuit of us – “seeking and saving the lost”, as Jesus put it – we find that “holiness and happiness” are not that far apart.
Blaise Pascal wrote:
“All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions. However different the means they may employ, they all strive towards this goal… The will never takes the least step except to that end. This is the motive of every act of every man…
“Yet for very many years no one without faith has ever reached the goal at which everyone is continually aiming. All men complain: princes, subjects, nobles, commoners, old, young, strong, weak, learned, ignorant, healthy, sick, in every country, at every time, of all ages, and all conditions.
“A test which has gone on so long, without pause or change, really ought to convince us that we are incapable of attaining the good by our own efforts. But example teaches us very little. No two examples are so exactly alike that there is not some subtle difference, and that is what makes us expect that our expectations will not be disappointed this time as they were last time. So, while the present never satisfies us, experience deceives us, and leads us on from one misfortune to another until death comes as the ultimate and eternal climax.
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.
“God alone is man’s true good, and since man abandoned him it is a strange fact that nothing in nature has been found to take his place…” (#428)