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.

No comments: