Thursday, January 8, 2009

Get on the (atheist) bus

As most readers of this blag will know already, an attempt to raise GBP5,500 for pro-atheist bus adverts in London was excessively successful, raising (to date) GBP135,000. There's a good write up by someone involved in the campaign -- indeed also its originator -- the writer Ariane Sherine on The Grauniad website here.

A few observations:

(1) The campaign is quite innocuous - the message on the adverts simply says "There's probably no God: Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life."

(2) The campaign was occasioned by a thoroughly non-innocuous one by some Christian nutters, that included a URL taking you to a website that advised that non-Christians "will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell … Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire prepared for the devil".

(3) The comment thread following Sherine's piece is mostly depressing reading. Anti-atheists grousing and grumping away, suggesting other uses for the money, and also -- it seems to me -- missing the point by complaining that nobody has been made into an atheist by the adverts.

It seems to me that the point of the adverts is not so much to make more atheists, and to make existing ones feel better. And this is worth doing. My mate Dave has spoken publicly a few times in defence of atheism, and on every single occasion some pro-God idiot has insisted that atheism is equivalent to Satanism, that atheists are opposed to all morality, etc., etc. That this is obviously fallacious self-serving dishonest hateful rubbish appears not to concern the religious. Atheists aren't Satanists - they don't have ANY imaginary friends. If you need a magical imaginary friend to be the basis of morality, then YOUR imaginary friend needs one of her, or his, or its own too, and so on ad infinitum. Being an avowed atheist is a ticket to ongoing, ignorant, bigoted abuse and this make a morale boost a fine thing. And maybe it makes some waverers feel a bit better about crossing the line - that would be good too.

Freedom of religion includes freedom to have no religion at all. People who have no religion are entitled to spend a tiny fraction of their money on advertising if they want to. And that is all there is to it.

Added 11 January: The Official Campaign Website has plenty of stories and pictures.

14 comments:

Michael Meadon said...

This is sure to annoy you: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2009/jan/08/religion-atheism-longley-advertising

Oh, and I've had my first real rabid response from another blogger: http://atheisticreligion.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/why-weak-atheism-is-a-bunch-of-crap/ . Apparently, I'm a poser.

Doctor Spurt said...

Dead right. I'm annoyed.

Congratulations on the rabid response, though.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. This isn't about conversion any more than a gay pride march is. If there is a God, may it strike the buses down in some unambiguous and credible way.

Come to think of it, an atheist pride march might be a good idea.

Doctor Spurt said...

Steady on. An atheist pride march could be very, very lame. We need to think carefully about floats, and costumes...

JustSomeDude said...

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/creatorfacts.htm

Look similar to Longley's complaint? Something odd is up...

Doctor Spurt said...

That anthropic principle stuff is bollocks of the first water, though. I suppose it could provide some kind of relief to people exhausted from justifying the view that God is Love, and he'll only forgive us if our ancestors torture his son to death, or various other idiocies.

What's odd is that people take it seriously.

Anonymous said...

Atheists aren't Satanists, but some Satanists are atheists.
Strange but true.

Doctor Spurt said...

I don't see how that could work - atheists don't have *any* magical imaginary friends - no God, no Easter Bunny, no tooth fairy. If 'satan' isn't just the name for some guy's pit bull, but a bona fide magical being, then being a satanist and an atheist looks contradictory.

Anonymous said...

I'm what you'd pass off as a pro-God idiot however I don't understand how you cannot see the difference between true atheism, "there isn't any God," and the Satanic, "there 'probably' isn't a God." For Heaven's sake, if you're going to enjoy life for the sixty or eighty years you have, enjoy it 100% and take a 100% stand; no regrets!! And that way includes taking or leaving religious views like love thy neighbour as thyself, dance to the music, think globally and act locally, etc., but dear Lord, don't dilly-dally your life away touting wishy-washy ways; they never last the test of history and aren't as much fun as getting into hot water for your views then getting out again scot-free! God intended everyone to have fun in His world. That's what Heaven is for, a soulful rest home for doing the things we loved doing on Earth and doing so for all eternity (yes, there's sex in Heaven too, and if we have all eternity it's likely we can do everyone and the good ones twice ;-). And all we got to do to get in is follow the ten golden rules. So, life live large, dear blogger and damn the 'probably' bits because they're scenic Satanic detours to mislead you from the real joys of experiencing our short lives to the fullest. See you in Heaven sometime. Cheers, Johnny. P.S. you may like the recent novel, 'A Travel Guide To Heaven,' and not only to read up on the naughty bits :-)

Doctor Spurt said...

Maybe anonymous means something different by 'Satan', but that being is standardly taken to be part of a world with a god, specifically a Judeo-Christian one. It's part of a package, and someone who says that they believe in Satan but not God is failing to get the rules of the story as surely as someone who says that they believe in the Joker but not Batman. Since Satan is (again standardly) an angel, demon or otherwise half-God, it's also confused to say that one can be a Satanist and an atheist. It's like saying "I'm a vegetarian, but I eat chicken". No, chickens are vegetables, and anybody who eats them is just not a vegetarian. The blather about the orgies in heaven is genuinely beneath reply. No doubt somewhere on the intertubes there are fora for just such chatter.

Anonymous said...

If I understand your recent reply, you're lumping the two anonymouses together instead of replying to the second anonymous Johnny, whose text includes Satan and God and is trying to inform you that the ad campaign [There's probably no god..] isn't as you wrote to make existing atheists feel better but is instead misleading atheists from feeling the true or 100% joy that Johnny believes his God expects of everyone because he disagrees that the term [probably] implies a 100% guarantee of a worry-free existence. And that stuff about sex in Heaven isn't about orgies, it's an example he used about doing things you like for all eternity. Maybe the >Spurt< part of your moniker made him believe you liked having sex and he was trying to give you an example you'd relate to? I get the impression from his comment that Johnny really likes having sex with the opposite sex and since that's acceptable in Heaven, he's happy that he'll be 19 forever, isn't he? Doesn't the Bible or Jesus say there aren't husbands or wives in Heaven? Anyway, I think that his view of Satan is Christian and that view is that Satan is someone who misleads people much like the village idiot forcing a square peg into a round hole and after forcing it in saying it fits. Sure it fits, but I think Johnny believes his God would stand up and say it's not a proper fit. By extension his view of Hell may be that everyone there's a sexless creature working on computers. That would be an interesting bus advert [Hell is where you waste your life typing. Now stop worrying and start blogging]. Hmm, I convinced myself there. Gotta go out and play.

Doctor Spurt said...

Not lumping, just responding to the only bit common to the two posts that didn't seem entirely pointless rambling, and that's the (bizarrely common) equivocation of satanist and atheist. It's a striking bit of evidence for the thesis that religious belief is corrosive of basic capacity to handle simple concepts in a competent way.

Michael Meadon said...

I'm not defending either of the anons but I should note for the record that some Satanists are in face atheists. Specifically, LeVeyan Satanism (as opposed to theistic Satanism) does not include a belief in an actually existing Satan; Satan is simply a symbol.

The "High Priest of the Church of Satan" was interviewed on Point of Inquiry a while back. Interesting stuff. http://www.pointofinquiry.org/peter_h_gilmore_science_and_satanism/

Doctor Spurt said...

Those are just Goths. They like the dress up and stuff, but it's 'Satanism lite' or 'so-called Satanism'. Like the 'vegetarians' for whom 'vegetarian' is a symbol for something other than not eating meat.