Religion in the News: Will Atheism Be Advertised on London Buses?

The Situation

The British Humanist Association has decided to run advertisements on buses that say, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” After raising more money than they expected for this endeavor, they may even get some in-bus ads going. Richard Dawkins, world renowned atheist and author of The God Delusion has supported the group.

The idea, the group claims, is to make people think. Religious posters often adorn the sides of buses, and no one gives it a second thought as these religious groups are given liberties like tax breaks and the right to never be offended and more. This group seeks to put a stop to that free ride. At the very least, they hope to make people smile and think.

Compared to the many advertisements threatening eternal damnation or salvation through Jesus, the BHA hopes that its posters will be a breath of fresh air for commuters and locals. Some local religious figures made appreciative comments about the campaign because it encourages people to engage in deep and important questions about life.

My Thoughts

On the one hand, this seems antagonistic to me – trying to get people riled up about their beliefs. On the other hand, I love riling people up about their beliefs. It’s true, religious people do think they’ve earned the right not to be offended and it’s true that they’re allowed to preach at everyone else all the time and we are subject to their nonsense way too often. Just the other day I couldn’t get through a hoard of Scientologists without taking their stupid and nonsensical flier.

Putting posters up like this could make people think because many do worry too much about the next life and God and salvation and all that jazz to live enjoyable, meaningful lives here. Not all religious people, mind you, but there are enough to make this a valid comment.

Funny enough, England seems like a silly place to do this. England has one of the least religious populations and believers in God of nearly any country in the world. It seems like this is something better suited for a generally devout country (or part of it), like middle America. I’d like to see somebody try that here. But hey, I suppose it’s only a matter of time.

What do you think? Do you like the sentiment behind the posters or do you think it’s unnecessarily antagonistic? Do you think that religion deserves the free ride it’s on?

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4 Responses

  1. As long as freedom of speech is used with responsibility, I think it is good to have a diversity of views. The belief that there may not be a god is a valid belief after all. –one that I do not agree with but nevertheless respect as a way of life of some.
    The pursuit of happiness—I see nothing wrong with enjoying ones life—how else can we appreciate God’s bounty? —as long as this enjoyment is tempered with compassion for others.

  2. There is that key element here – compassion for others – that does seem to have been left out of the equation. It’s the one thing that tips the scales of this “prank.”

    As JDsg and I have discussed on more than one occasion throughout the comments of this blog, not offending others – no matter their beliefs – does have merit, and it has been argued that this has more merit than free speech. As I read an article recently about a group and preacher that hangs around the University of Oregon spreading anti-Semitic hatred, denying the Holocaust, and insisting that Jews are the direct descendants of Satan, all white people will be enslaved when Jesus returns and blacks are the true Israelites, I begun to wonder if it was better for society to shut him up (which is to say, the University tells him to go elsewhere) or if defending his right to voice his opinion was supremely important.

    The case of the atheist bus ads is a lot different – the atheists are not calling believers names. They’re just denigrating a belief – in some sense, they’re professing their own belief. Moreover, the point they’re making is that religious people constantly thrust their offensive beliefs in everyone else’s face (threatening him/her with Hell and torment if he/she don’t take communion and believe in Jesus) – and they get a free ride to never have their own beliefs offended – so why shouldn’t atheists share their primary belief especially in the hopes of potentially making others smile?

    I can understand where they’re coming from. Rather than it being a “cool” thing to do, perhaps everyone should consider toning down his religious rhetoric and leaving everyone else alone, unless asked.

  3. You have a point Jay. —how to balance freedom of speech ? —and where does this begin? how do we begin to set standards of conduct such as manners, courtesy, respect ? are these a matter of laws? policies? or private affairs? ….or religion?…..another interesting question—-should religions be held accountable for the conduct of their followers? or is a believer solely responsible for his/her beliefs? What roles do we as individuals and members of society play in this?

    Maybe the answer is to debate these issues and come up with solutions that are right for that particular environment/culture?

  4. I enjoy JDsg’s comments —I may pay another visit to your archives to read both your discussions.

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