Tuesday, October 21, 2008

just a stranger on the bus

I read this BBC News article with some interest.

Obviously I don't agree with what the advertisement says, but I think that anything which prompts people to consider God can only be a good thing. That said, I did smile at Steven Green's comment:

"Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large."

In this case I have to say that the advert makes some very misleading claims. To claim that 'God probably doesn't exist' implies that the possible existence of God can be quantified in some meaningful way. Let's face it, although the writer of the advert is entitled to claim that they don't think God exists they cannot prove anything.

Secondly, I would like to question the implication that not believing in God will stop you from worrying and ensure that you enjoy life. What rubbish.

It will be interesting to see if the usual 'don't preach at me brigade' object to these adverts in the same way as they object to Christian advertising, but I won't hold my breath


Gareth P said...

Damn it JP - you can't resist lighting the touch paper can you? I expect that the usual suspects will be out in force shouting at each other before long. Can't we just talk about the weather?

Chuck said...

I ceased to be surprised the minute I saw the name "Richard Dawkins" in the article. I really ought to read a couple of his books, just to see whether or not there's any truth in a certain quotation I heard a while ago comparing Dawkins' writings on religion to an encyclopaedia of biology written by a birdwatcher...

Although I like the subtle irony - they're tired of seeing evangelistic posters, so they're doing it themselves. Y'know, that's normally called "sinking to their level"...

KDG said...

Atheists do annoy me in the way that they spend their lives trying to force their beliefs on people whilst complaining about religions doing just that.
However, Atheists do have the right to express and advertise their views just as much as any of the religions do. It seems that many Christians are happy for them to do so (seemingly up for a bit of God based debate however it comes about), but any Christians who do say that atheists don't have the right to put up these adverts would be wrong. They would be right however, to point out what a load of hypocrites Atheists are for complaining about other faiths spreading their own message.

One thing I don't like about the approach of Atheists is that they don't just try and spread the message about their faith, they have to do it by belitting, slagging off and discrediting other faiths. Christians may ideally want all Muslims to covert to Christianity but they'd do it by saying "Christianity is good" without adding "and Islam is ****", which is virtually how Atheists seem to carry on.
Another thing about Atheists that annoys me is the way they essentially go "Those Christians are so stupid, thinking they can possibly have all the answers about everything! By the way, I have them, here they are... there's no god". Atheists are no more capable of truly knowing the ultimate answers of the universe than anyone else..

I don't see why Atheists have to ruin it for everyone either. I don't agree with that old quote about how Christianity is "either of great importance, if it's true, or of no importance, if it's false". I think that even if Christianity were false, most Christians have a much better life because of their faith, true or not. So why not let them get on with it?
There's a chapter in Dawkins' (who I think is a psyco for what it's worth) book addressing this, explaining that things would be better without religion because of all the wars etc that it causes, but I think it would be better to try and straighten out these problems with religion rather than banning them altogether. Okay so the opposing religions may never get on, but perhaps we got get it to the point where each religion could just think "I'll get on with my religion and they can get on with theirs. If they're wrong, I'll let God deal with them when they die, rather than going and hurting or killing them myself."

It's times like this I'm sometimes relieved to be an agnostic. People from all sides (atheist and organised religions) slag us off for supposedly somehow deliberately deciding to sit on the fence, but the fact is I have no evidence or reason to believe or disbelieve in any faith (be it atheism or religion) so the only thing I could do would be to arbitrarily pick a random faith based on nothing, as though I were a Hollywood celebrity. I can certainly see the advantages of being a Christian but I'm not going to somehow "choose to believe" in it just because of these benefits, which is what I sometimes feel some of these born-again Christians do. Therefore my position is that I simply don't know anything. Any of the faiths may be true or false, but I don't know which. And this is what I genuinely feel, which is more honest than if I arbitraily went "Okay, I'm going to believe in... Christianity" or, equally so, if I went "Okay, I'm going to believe there is no god".

To be honest my gut instinct is that there is no god and this life is all there is.. which is a depressing thought (I certainly wouldn't reconcile it with "enjoying my life and not worrying" !) but I'm not going to try and prevent my worries by trying to force myself to believe some faith. However, this pessimistic thought is simply a gut feeling, which I would never hold up as fact (hence why I don't have a faith, because they're all essentially based on gut feeling), so I remain an agnostic, even if I'm 95% convinced that there's nothing out there.

I really don't see how you choose. Even if some miraculous event occurs in your life, like overcoming some terrible injury, how do you know which god did it?! If you grew up in Britain you'd most likely automatically accredit it to God and if you were born into Iran you'd more likely than not be citing Allah.
Anyway, at least being an agnostic means you can respect every possible faith or viewpoint because they all might be correct for all you know. And I wouldn't try and force agnosticism on other people.. it's a bit of a bleak place, though it does at least make you open minded.. but still, I think people with a faith are probably better off than me, if they're somehow able to fully believe in it.

So, back to point.. I think Atheists have the right to put these adverts up if the other faiths are doing it too, and have the right to put their message across, but they don't have to act like such shits all the time like some of them do (here's looking at you Dawkins).

dave said...

Love it JP. Love it.

Should I give you an intelligent response?

Oh go on then.

On your first point squire: You answer your own question. God probably doesn't exist. The advert never claims to be all powerful and knowing, just points out the odds.

On your second point: You are correct, but again that is not implied in the advert. Just the same as, because you believe in the Bible I don't think you're going to put your daughters up for slaughter. You're probably a really nice bloke.

I had some Mormons around my house today, now they were nutters. We were talking about the Matrix and the bastard ignored me. Literally ignored every word I said, then said "I see your point, but < insert prescribed nonsense >." Suppose Mormonism ain't so bad, you get plenty of vaginal variety.

alasdair said...

The article that started the campaign is:


I don't think the author was implying that atheism leads to a worry free, enjoyable life.

They were saying that the probability of god not existing (which for the purpose of this comment I'll be agnostic about, thus avoiding the bile kdg aims at atheists) means that the reader doesn't need to worry about the prospect of eternity in a "lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels".

It's only "sinking to their level" if you think that bus advertising is inherently objectionable. The authors issue was the content of the websites advertised on evangelical posters. If chuck can show me examples of www.humanism.org.uk trying to scare readers about the consequences of their religion, then I concede the point.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Green's comment might be funny, but I think it's outrageous that he then encourages people to vandalise public transport with grafitti. I hope you're not condoning such behaviour, JP.

JP said...

Wow, I've come in to work this morning and discovered that Gareth was right. I have certainly lit some form of touchpaper.

There's some good stuff here which I shall endeavour to respond to properly in due course when I have the time and am not meant to be working instead.

However, I can't resist a couple of brief comments before I get on with my day.

Firstly, Dave, can you explain to me why "believing in the Bible" should mean that if I had daughters I would put them up for slaughter?

Secondly, after looking at the last anonymous comment I have just re-read the BBC article. What Mr Green actually says about graffiti is this:

"I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti."

This is not, as far as I can see, an encouragement to graffiti, and neither is he explicitly condoning it. In the same way that some 'religious' advertising has attracted graffiti in the past, it is probably fair to say that this advert could be a similar target.

Anonymous said...

JP, he didn't explicitly call for graffiti, but when I read the comment, it made me think of a mobster saying 'nice bus campaign, it would be a shame if something happened to it'. I should have said threatening, not encouraging graffiti. Doesn't matter anyway, my outrage was mock.