Pastor Supports Anti-God Movement

I have a great deal of respect for Frank Ritchie. I believe that he does some great work in promoting humanitarian causes.

Frank works for Tear Fund NZ, an organisation similar to World Vision as their Education and Advocacy Manager, he is also a member of grass roots Labour, (but we wont hold that against him :D) and has recently become a frequent commentator at Red Alert.

I am somewhat perplexed though at a comment he has made in the comments section of this post.

Let us take a look at the post in full first.

Here in Aotearoa (NZ) there has been a campaign to put advertising on the sides of buses that says “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.” It’s commonly known as the Atheist Bus Campaign and follows on the heels of the same campaign in the U.K. It has garnered a lot of support and raised the funds necessary to get the messages of the side of buses… but now NZ Bus has backed out of running with the campaign due to complaints from the public

No problem with Atheist Bus having their say, personally think that they are wasting their time and it is a stupid message, but if they want to throw their money at a bus, I will not stand in their way. I am not surprised that the campaign has drawn complaints though.

I am an unashamed Christian. I work for a Christian development organisation, am a theological/biblical studies student, am licensed as a Minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand, consider myself a devoted follower and imitator of Jesus of Nazareth, believe that he was God incarnate, that he died and rose again and I take the Bible very seriously and have devoted myself to studying it.

I’m one of the last people anyone might call an atheist. That said, I wholeheartedly support the Atheist Bus Campaign. I uphold democracy and freedom of speech where it does not incite violence, as great tools of a healthy and functioning society.

Likewise, apart from the licensed Minster part and the biblical studies student (well not at an ‘official’ institute).  I support the Bus Campaign to have their say, I do not support the objectives of the campaign at all.

A good community encourages dialogue and conversation that allows opposing opinions to be voiced. The ability for us to share and be heard whilst also listening to others when they share is critical for the development of empathy and relationship within a community. Shutting down some voices while favouring others breeds divisiveness and resentment. This doesn’t mean we have to agree, but it does mean we have to provide room for varying voices and at the end of the day, if we wish for others to listen to us and give us room to speak, then we must be willing to allow the same in return.

Frank might want to point that first sentence out to the team at Red Alert :D, other than that, I agree with the basic gist of Frank’s comment, I just wish more people would take it on board! Often when debating issues such as AGW, denying AGW is compared to denying the holocaust.

The Atheist Bus Campaign provides an opportunity for a group to be heard. It provides an opportunity for conversation and discussion and it gives room for people to air their beliefs about the existence and nature of God where they might have otherwise felt unable to, whichever side of the discussion they feel closest to. The campaign offers a great opportunity that should be supported by people of all thoughts, those who don’t believe in God, but also those who do. We should be supporting the right for the ad to be put out there in the public domain. NZ Bus, please run with the ads.

Interesting.  Yes, the campaign provides the opportunity for a group to put the point across in a series of ads and yes we should all support the right for the campaign to run just like we should support the right to the Danish cartoonist who drew this, agreeing with the message is an all together separate issue.  It may provide the opportunity for discussion around those issues.  The campaign should not however be supported by those who do believe in God, to do so is counter productive to say the least!

As you can see, it is only the last bit of Frank’s post that I disagree with, why then this post on it? Well, follow me to the comments section.

Mike, thanks for your comment. For what it’s worth, I’m considering throwing a few dollars into the campaign myself, just to show my support for the right of others to have their say.

How can a pastor financially support a campaign that promotes atheism, I find this odd.  Sure, support their right to have a say, you’ve done that by posting a blog post about it on NZ top 100 Blog, but that is pretty much where I believe Frank should stop.  Campaigning further for an “anti-god” campaign on the “official Tear Fund blog” must surely run in conflict of the values that Tear Fund stand for?

Further Discussion with Frank reveals that Humanitarian Chronicle is not the official blog of TEARFund.

From Frank via HC-

Alright, let me address the concern about me possibly giving money to the Atheist Bus Campaign.

The comment I made is this:

For what it’s worth, I’m considering throwing a few dollars into the campaign myself, just to show my support for the right of others to have their say.

Allow me to stress that at the time of writing that comment, as stated, it was/is something I am considering – I have not committed myself to it.

That said, I have no moral or ethical reason for not doing so. To do so does not contradict anything I stand for.

At it’s simplest it would be a case of me putting my money where my mouth is for the one reason that I stated:

to show my support for the right of others to have their say.

Giving a small donation (and I’m only talking about $10-$20) would demonstrate that support beyond mere words on a blog.

Allow me to state for the record that I do not agree with the statement in the campaign that there probably is no God. My disagreement with that statement should be blatantly obvious – but I wholeheartedly support the right for it to be said and I love the conversations that can come from it, the sort of conversation that is already taking place here.

If the bus company had just gone ahead and displayed the ads I wouldn’t bother donating anything or even be considering it… but it hasn’t, so as a Christian who believes in giving opportunity for others to have a voice and as someone who loves to see forums develop where differing voices coming together, by donating I would be, in a sense, helping to create a forum, helping to spark a conversation, demonstrating a willingness to step beyond the boundary of the Christian circle and sit with another group, giving my help.

I can understand why people would struggle with any move from someone such as myself to donate to this campaign even though the statement of the campaign dismisses something I believe in – but I’ve got nothing to be scared of by saying to people I disagree with, I support you and want you to have your say and I’m willing to front up with something from my wallet to demonstrate that.

It in no way changes anything that I believe in or my wholehearted commitment to living as a disciple of Jesus.

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12 Responses to “Pastor Supports Anti-God Movement”

  1. Frank Ritchie Says:


    (this comment is pretty much exactly the same as the one left over at the Humanitarian Chronicle – hope you don’t mind me copying, pasting and editing a little ;) )

    Thanks for offering your thoughts, mate. It’s always good to hear from you.

    Aside from any concern about my lefty political persuasion (and thanks for not holding that against me ;) ), there’s two separate issues in your concern about me possibly offering a small financial contribution to the campaign.

    I’ll deal with the first now and the second tomorrow when I have more time.

    I’ll respond here this time, but I’m afraid I will limit further discussion to The Humanitarian Chronicle so I can focus on the discussion in one place :)


    Campaigning further for an “anti-god” campaign on the “official Tear Fund blog” must surely run in conflict of the values that Tear Fund stand for?

    If you go to the “about” page over at The Humanitarian Chronicle you will notice that it says it is the “unofficial blog of TEAR Fund NZ” – that is stated to demonstrate that whilst it exists in proximity to TEAR Fund, it still maintains a level of independence and does not represent official TEAR Fund comment. Also and extremely importantly it says this:

    Any opinions expressed on this blog are held by the individual writers and are not necessarily those of TEAR Fund New Zealand.

    Any expression from me offering a financial contribution on the grounds of supporting another group (that I disagree with) to get their message heard has nothing to do with TEAR Fund.

    If I was putting up TEAR Fund money then maybe you would have a case (which I wouldn’t dream of doing) but any mention of such a contribution is about my own personal money which I am entitled to do with as I wish. Thus my personal mention of a financial contribution has nothing to do with the values TEAR Fund stands for as it is about my own personal money.

    The Humanitarian Chronicle is a place of discussion about various issues where opinions can be shared honestly, including mine. Those opinions, as clearly stated in the “about” page, are not necessarily a reflection of TEAR Fund and any position that TEAR Fund might hold. TEAR Fund’s website is the place to go for that. This should be reflected in the fact that there are times when Drew and I disagree on things written here, though we both work for TEAR Fund.

    In terms of me financially supporting the campaign as a Christian and Minister, I’ll address that tomorrow over at HC.

    I hope that helps clear that bit up somewhat.

    • lukassoapbox Says:

      Hey Frank, thanks for taking the time to reply. Sorry, if my initial post comes across as harsh… as the footer says, this is my knee-jerk reactions :) As for your leftie persuasions… we all have our faults mate :)

      I must have miss-read the ‘about’ or remember it wrong. I was under the impression that it was the official Tear Fund blog, for that you have my apologies and I will correct the post.

      My concerns still remain about a Minister supporting an atheist campaign, so I will look forward to seeing your comments on that tomorrow.

  2. Dale Says:

    Hey there Lukas,
    Funny how much NZ Bus’ decision has boosted the publicity, aye?
    On Frank’s notion of giving to the campaign, I suppose it could be argued that TEARFund stand for justice, which could broadly include the ‘fairness’ of free (non-violent) speech?
    And I’d also want to say that there’d be a rather large difference between TEARFund funds going to the campaign and Frank’s own personal funds going?

    Btw (to toot my own horn), I’m another pastor who supports the freedom of the campaign to run ;)



    • lukassoapbox Says:

      Hey Dale, thanks for stopping in.

      Yeah, a bit like the St Mathews billboards I guess.

      I believe that NZ Bus are wrong for stopping the ads, that is stopping their freedom of expression and I would join with both yourself and Frank in speaking out against NZ Bus for their decision. My main concern is with a Minister donating cash to their cause. Frank has cleared up that it is not TEARfund money (hopefully my post didn’t make anyone think that was the case!).

  3. Rhys Corlett Says:

    I’m an atheist and sometimes give money to the Salvation Army.
    Do I get a blog post too?

    If you really are right (wing), I’ll assume that you believe in protection of private property, presonal choice and self-determination. Doesn’t that mean that others are free to give their own money to whomever they wish.
    And at least he’s open about it – if he was doing it on the sly, then you might have something to complain about.

    Isn’t it funny that God gave us free will, but his servents keep trying to take it away?

    • lukassoapbox Says:

      Hi Rhys.

      I suspect that I will not do a blog post on you at this stage, though if you have something more interesting going on…

      Absolutely Frank is free to give his money to whomever he feels like, I just find it odd that a minister would support the campaign.

      I am not trying to take away free will from anyone. I made it quite clear that I support the right of the campaign to happen, I just disagree with the message and would never contribute to it.

      Good on you for contributing to the Salvation Army, they do a lot of good work in the community; can you say the same for the anti-god campaign?

      • Rhys Corlett Says:

        To be honest the atheism campaign is more at home where declaring yourself atheist is still a decision that can cost you friends and job opportunities. But even here in New Zealand it can still feel like religious folk are judging you or trying to control how you behave. I guess that it’s kind of funny that atheists are sure that Christians are out to get them, and Christians are sure that atheists are out to get them.

        I see the campaign as a net positive. Something that says, “Hey, we are people too!”. And I think that being good because I choose to try and make the world a better place is just as worthy of celebration as doing good because you believe a grumpy father in the sky will smack you if you don’t.
        It’s not an attack on any religion – it’s just saying that our opinions and ideas are worthy of respect and acknowledgment too.

        I don’t make the mistake of lumping all Christians together. I know that for every Destiny Church troublemaker there are two Salvation Army workers doing their best to serve the community.
        I just wish that Christians would realise that not all atheists are the same. We are not all liberal nut-jobs who want to banish religion from our communities (conversely, I value many of the traditional morals encouraged by the Christian church, even if I don’t agree with the reasoning). Some of us just want equal opportunities – even if those opportunities show themselves as a light-hearted ad campaign on a bus.

      • lukassoapbox Says:

        Fair enough Rhys. Interesting comments on the Destiny Church saga!

        I think that the rest reporting on Destiny highlights the ignorance of media on Christian matters. One of the main areas that they attacked Destiny on was on having Eftpos machines. The church that I go to has two in the lobby… does that make us a cult too? Pretty much every large church you go to these days has one! Men’s only meetings? Heard of Promise Keepers? Mens groups are common in every church!

        Destiny are doing some rather strange things, but the media are not asking the right questions at all, they need someone who is familiar with pentecostal traditions and practices to question him, for example, the recent Close Up interview completely missed that until the last couple of days, the Destiny Church website said that Brian is the physical manifestation of God… that is something he should be pulled up on.

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