Monday, 27 October 2008

Atheist Buses?

It was only a matter of time before I wrote something about the new atheist marketing campaign on buses. When I first heard about it I thought it was a great idea - I only have to go into the city centre and there are evangelists preaching about us all going to hell unless we embrace God. There has been an increase in the number of such evangelists in the city centre as well lately, which is not really surprising considering the 'credit crunch' - people are in more need of a grand narrative which provides a reason which they can understand (news programs and websites dress financial and business matters in such impenetrable language at times that it's no surprise that many people cannot understand it) for the current situation, and religion provides that. So I thought an atheist advertising campaign would be beneficial - I thought maybe it could entice people to think about the events in their lives from a more rational standpoint.

However, as soon as I saw the actual slogan being used - 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life' - I was rather disappointed. First of all there is no conviction to the statement. It's almost like a watered-down version of atheism. Evangelists who sound certain of their beliefs - i.e. there is a God - are more likely to be taken seriously than an agnostic who says 'there might be a God'. Atheists should sound sure of their convictions also, otherwise religious people are only going to suggest we are not sure. Of course, if you're not sure then feel free to say so - there is much discussion that could be had about the subject. But the term atheist is generally used to denote a person who does not believe in God, and if you don't believe in God, you cannot say there may not be a God. The whole thing smells of trying to make people think without offending anyone in the process.

The second problem I had with it is summed up quite nicely in this post which I found linked to from here (thank you A Sceptical I). The slogan suggests that atheists do not worry about anything, that they do not take life seriously. Whether or not there is a God is not the only thing in life worth worrying about, and I'm sure that religious people don't only worry about there being a God. The slogan, unintentionally, plays into the stereotype of atheists - the one which says they are not moral because they don't believe in God. Someone who does not worry about anything could not be moral because they would have nothing which they value - when we are faced with a situation in which we must act, our values suggest which actions would be relevant to the situation. Someone who did not have any values could pretty much do anything they wanted in that situation without feeling any repurcussions on his/her conscience. There are already too many people who think atheists are guilty of the above; atheists themselves don't have to suggest they are right with messages on the side of buses.

Therefore, it was a nice idea which could have been an effective counter to evangelists, but the way it was done was extremely disappointing.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


First of all I would like to apologise for the ridiculously long time since my last post. I recently started a college course in computing and for some reason I've not written a post since then.

Something BJ said to me last night struck a cord with me - she said that the world is "such a dangerous place for women at the moment". And something which happened this morning really demonstrated that statement to have some truth to it. One of the women in my class had taken the elevator down to the lower floors and whilst in there a man, accompanied by his friend, had pointed a video camera at her. She said "don't point that thing at me" - she clearly didn't want to be filmed without her consent even though, as one of the other passengers in the lift said, "it was just a bit of fun". *rolls eyes*. Yes, just a bit of fun filming someone without asking them first. Anyway, on being told to turn the camera away the friend said "don't talk to my mate like that", and he started threatening her, calling her "just a little girl", at which point he even threatened to kill her. All because she had told him to turn the camera away from her.

This disturbed me considerably. I mean, men do not have the right to do whatever they like to women and then threaten them should they tell them not to, yet for some reason many men seem to think that they do. I have noticed many times that when women tell a man that his attention is not welcome they react as if somehow she is insulting his masculinity, and in order to defend one's masculinity one must blatantly show it. And what counts as masculine behaviour? Threats of violence, swearing, etc. In the elevator once she had reacted negatively to the man pointing a video camera at her, it was almost as if he and his friend felt they had to defend themselves as heatedly as possible - perhaps they did not like being told off by a female. Perhaps they thought it somehow demeaned them as men to have a woman tell them off in front of other people. Hence the threats.

And all this is in a world where women are constantly told that they've won the war. We haven't won the war, we've won a few battles here and there, but as the above story shows we certainly haven't won the right to consider our bodies our own. Men and women are not at the moment equal, no matter what anyone may say. Women are constantly demeaned, objectified and treated as if they can't do anything quite as good as men can. We are considered the lesser sex, and when we try to gain some advantage we are threatened.