The atheist bus advert thingy

A rare straying from moaning about how papers lie and lie about things (or how the BNP do similar) follows. Skip it if you like.

I'm an atheist. I've mentioned it in passing a couple of times here, but people still sometimes assume I'm a Muslim because I attack the tabloids' rampant Islamophobia. I'm not a Muslim though, and I don't believe any sort of god exists at all. There, I said it.

So I must love this atheist bus advert thingy, right?

Wrong. Wrong wrongitty wrong. I hate the bugger.

I can't help being an atheist. It isn't something I choose to be. It's just that the available evidence leads me to the conclusion that I do not believe that any gods exist. I can't believe in a god any more than I can believe that my feet are made of chipsticks. I don't even like talking about it.

In the grand scheme of things, whether or not I believe in any god is one of the least important things you could tell anyone about me - at least, I hope so. I would hope there was a long list of interesting things that people would think of to say about me before they got to 'doesn't believe in god' - like whether or not I'm a nice person, whether I'm funny or serious, how much I wish I was Spider-Man. And on and on and on.

And frankly, I couldn't give two flying shits whether you or anyone else believes in god. Here is the main thing I care about when it comes to other people:

1. Are they going to be nice to people?

Everything else is gravy. Nice people believe in god and shitbags believe in god. Nice people don't believe in god and shitbags don't believe in god. Who would you rather meet in a dark alley, a nice person or a shitbag?

Frankly, if I got involved in a horrible encounter in a dark alley, it wouldn't help me any if I understood that the guy punching me in the teeth and nicking my wallet had a sound grasp of why Pascal's Wager is a poor piece of logic.

In short, the way people treat each other is far more important than their motivations for doing so, by and large.

If I had the choice to send everyone in London a message on the side of a bus, I wouldn't be mentioning god. 'Be excellent to each other' would be better.

So, why am I bothered? Because now there are fucking bus adverts all over London telling people that the most important thing atheists want to tell the world is that there's probably no god. That's not the most important thing I want to tell the world. It's not even in the top seventeen. It's even behind 'chocolate tastes nice, if you like chocolate'.

One of the things I like about being an atheist is the individualism. Nobody speaks for me. But now, anyone who ever sees the adverts and either knows or learns of my religious views will think otherwise. One of the greatest arguments I had against overtly religious people - namely 'why don't you just bloody leave people alone? You don't see atheists turning up knocking on people's doors telling them there's no god,' - has gone forever.

Thanks, bus advert people. You've now made atheists look like those born again people who can't stop bloody banging on about Jesus all the time. You've sunk us to their level. Give yourselves a lolly.

And what Justin said. Except the bit about dropping the 'probably'. I'd never make a positive claim about god not existing, I'd only talk about my lack of belief in gods' existence. See, we believe different things, but we're not in a club, so it doesn't matter. It's not as if anyone's sticking up posters telling everyone what we think, is it?

Oh, wait.


BenSix said...

Yeah, lots of people are justifying it by saying "Christians do it as well", but I take a different view. As long as there isn't a sinister Fallwellesque character lurking behind it, I like the religious adverts. Unlike promotions for chocolate, bras and pills that don't do anything, they often provoke curiosity (whether to actually discuss things or just have a rant) and this bus'll do the same.

Did you find your atheistic feet through solitary contemplation or arguing with people?

Having said that, Dawkins and AC Grayling (who donated five hundred fookin' pounds) are a little bit sad.

BenSix said...

Having wittered on about that, "Be excellent to eachother" would indeed have been a much better slogan...

Akela said...

I had feared that I was the only leftie that didn't have much time for these bus adds, it would seem I'm not alone!

Some people have said it's because I'm Christian (albeit of the live and let live, don't shove it down your throat non homophobic varierty) but it's not the case. It's everything to do with the fact that, like you say, there are surely more important things to day and also because, particularly with the involvement of Richard Dawkins, it makes scientists look like insensitive pricks, which of course they are not.

Dawkins is, in my opinion, an insensitive arse who does almost as much harm to the perception of scientists and aetheists as that even more biggotted shit Stephen Green does to the perception of Christians. I say almost, you'd need to go a long way to equal Green in the being an arsehole stakes.

To be honest I wish they'd both fuck off and grow up.

Mephitis said...

I agree - what a crock it is.

Lee Griffin said...

Hmm, I didn't really see it this way. For me it isn't about promoting atheism or telling people that what they believe is wrong...it is more about giving organised religion as a body a taste of their own medicine and to make people think. For too long religious advertisement has gone on without someone advertising the opposite, and a bit of contrast is never a bad thing for a healthy debate.

IanPM said...

This 'atheist fundamentalism' is a little worrying. The luxury of not being part of a religion is making up your mind, even if there is some lingering residue of that Christian lecturing from your youth.
Saying 'just because the other side does' as an excuse, is a little pathetic. Shall we start leaving books in hotels? Opening buildings for people to come and confirm their disbelief in God?

Christie Malry said...

Although I feel similarly - that these adverts are more than a little bit sad, they do have one great virtue: they've pissed off Stephen Green of Christian Voice.

And that kind of justifies it for me. Poking Stephen Green with a stick can't be that bad a thing, can it?

Tom said...

Dawkins has stated that he is modeling his campaign on the gay rights movement, and I agree that there are definite parallels.

In the mid to late 90s people like Peter Tatchell were criticized as being 'militant homosexuals' for daring to suggest that gay people should be allowed to be openly gay, when the preferred option at the time was to reluctantly accept that gays had equal rights as long as they kept quiet and didn't offend anyone: i.e. gays were de facto second class citizens.

The atheist movement is still roughly in that position today. You have the legal right to be an atheist, but there is still legal discrimination: faith schools exist to brainwash children, Christianity is still the official religion of even non-faith schools, parents are allowed to choose their child's religion, atheism cannot be promoted in school but religion can. If you think redressing these inequalities is 'militant', or that being openly an atheist instead of shutting up and staying behind closed doors is 'militant', you've fallen for the same trick that the anti-gay campaigners of the 90s used.

What Dawkins has noticed is that the gay rights movement took off exponentially once a critical mass of people had come out as openly gay. They were always there, but before had helped maintain the status quo by remaining in their places.

The point of these adverts is to encourage atheists to come out openly so that our mass presence cannot be ignored. The idea isn't to present atheism as a religion, but to stop atheists being treated as a lower class of people to the religious.

Stuart M said...

I like this advert. I think it’s the first advert I’ve ever seen that’s not tried to persuade me to part with some money, informed me that my life is missing something, sell me a lifestyle, ideology etc, patronise the hell out of me, use questionable statistics to convince me that their product is better then one I buy, patronise the hell out of me, make out that by not owning something I’m missing something from my life or patronise the flipping hell out of me. Instead, it informs me of their opinion (with brilliant use of the word ‘probably’ it stops from declaring their opinion to be true) and wishes me a nice day. What’s wrong with that?

First time poster, long time reader. Keep up the good work!

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Hello people. Thanks for the comments.

I can see that in the grand scheme of things, a little slogan isn't such a big deal, and I can see that religious organisations do worse every day with their proselytising - but I still don't like the advert - for the reasons I've said above.

Maybe the worst thing about it is that people in the middle, the people who don't think one way or another about religion, will lump atheists further in with the overtly religious. I think that most people in the country regard being loud about anything even remotely connected to religion as being a bit nuts. It's why you get people saying vague old poop about being 'spiritual but not religious'. I've actually had conversations with people - more than once - where the othr person has said they don't believe in god or any of that stuff, but they're not an atheist. People generally don't like banging on about religion or god, and a bus advert qualifies as banging on about it.

Most people in the country don't care either way about religion and are put off by anything that overtly mentions it. For them, even mentioning you don't believe in god puts you only one step above the bloke with the plastic bag who shouts Bible verses in French through his mini amp outside Victoria Station. The bus advert will put atheists collectively in that box.

fourstar said...

"I think that most people in the country regard being loud about anything even remotely connected to religion as being a bit nuts."

No they don't. A lot of people don't even notice it, but for those who want to have the discussion, it's good to have some balance. As Tom said, regardless of whether the majority agree, we live in a forcibly religious country (ref: schools) and if we need to hang our hat on something called atheism to push that back, I am wholeheartedly for it.

If I may say so, you perhaps appear slightly superior that you have arrived at your atheism through assessing "the available evidence" and that a load of people 'joining' because they saw an ad on a bus would diminish that somehow. I'm not saying that is how you are, but some bits of the post come across that way.


Five Chinese Crackers said...


I think there must have been some seriously poor communication on my part for you to have come to those conclusions.

'No they don't. A lot of people don't even notice it, but for those who want to have the discussion, it's good to have some balance

When I talk about 'being loud about anything even remotely connected to religion', I mean those things that you can't help but notice. Like shouty people on street corners, people who knock on your door to tell you about god, or massive adverts on the sides of buses that have been trailed in just about ever national news outlet available.

If I may say so, you perhaps appear slightly superior that you have arrived at your atheism through assessing "the available evidence" and that a load of people 'joining' because they saw an ad on a bus would diminish that somehow.

I must have been doing some incredibly poor communicationg here, because I actually think the exact opposite to that. I think the adverts will push most people away from considering themselves as atheists and more likely for them to push that idea away, by making 'atheists' just another group of religious shouty people who can be ignored.

I also think it'll hurt any effort to remove religious influence, by working toward making atheists just another special interest group to be pandered to or ignored.

fourstar said...

Have you spoken to any other athiests? Or people who are against religion but haven't hung their hat on it (yet)?

As far as I can tell, every one of my non-religious friends and colleagues thinks it is a brilliant riposte to the preaching that goes on in the name of [insert religion of choice here].

And some of those people may now wish to look at atheism as a choice they make, or not. But not one person with whom I have talked about this felt like they were being addressed by 'shouty people', quite the opposite.

Anyway, does anyone still knock on doors and try to convert the populace? Not in SE6 they bloody don't, I can tell you.

OK, you're not being superior, I retract that. Must have been tarnished by Arsenl's 4-4 draw lat night.

But the sheer volume of people supporting this monetarily would suggest that quite a few are happy to consider themselves atheists, even if they haven't felt the need to declare it. No?