Friday, June 20, 2008

Atheism: a Worthy cause*

There are many things on which Jon Worth and I violently disagree on (me rather more violently than he, to be sure) but there are also some areas in which we definitely concur—the superiority of Macs for example, or the desirability of using anything other than fucking Internet Explorer.

And it seems that religion might be another of those areas.
Preachers on street corners, ads in the underground and on the sides of buses - you can’t spend a day in central London without being confronted by some sign that religion should be your only salvation. In frustration I’ve had a rather sporadic go at this in the past - shouting ‘long live atheism’ at street preachers and even being told ‘good on you that man!’ by another passenger when I proposed atheism in response to a 40 minute sermon from a mad bloke on the top floor of a 345 bus from South Kensington. In short I’m fine with people having religious beliefs, and keeping those beliefs to themselves. What I really loathe is people somehow judging that those with religious belief are somehow superior beings. I have morals, and I don’t believe in god. It’s possible—really.

Yes, yes it is; well said, Jon.
Anyway, so why am I writing this now? Because I’ve come across an amusing column with a serious message at Comment is Free by Ariane Sherine about god adverts on buses. In it she proposes that 4,680 atheists could all contribute £5 and pay for an ad on a London bus for a fortnight. She proposed the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.” It’s wacky, but count me in!

Yup, I'd donate towards that: it sounds like a good cause to me.

Oh, and Jon's done rather a spiffy mock-up of how it might look...

UPDATE: thanks to John B in the comments, who points out that Jon has set up a Pledgebank page for this...
"I will pay £5 towards the campaign to put an atheist advert on the side of a London bus but only if 4,678 other people anywhere will do the same."

I've signed up because it would be a giggle...

* Do you see what I did there?


Jon Worth said...

Ho, ho! I've never heard those jokes before... :-)

But I'm glad we've found another area of common ground other than Macs and IE and, I seem to recall, neither of us wants Patricia Hewitt to be the next UK member of the European Commission either...

John B said...

Might be worth pointing your readers at Jon's pledgebank page...

Mark Wadsworth said...

Isn't organised atheism a bit of a contradication in terms? I mean, I don't even believe in agnosticism or atheism. I can't actively not believe in something that I genuinely don't believe in.

I am happy reading books about let's say evolution, it's all very interesting, but why on earth would I want to read about Intelligent Design being codswallop?

The fucking beardies will never let you put up an ad like that anyway. So count me in!!

Anonymous said...

finally bought my first mac since 1982. Oh My God (or impersonal godless universe should you prefer). What an improvement. I can't believe I lived with Microhell for two decades.

Anonymous said...

Jon Worth said: "I have morals, and I don’t believe in god. It’s possible—really."

Actually, no, it isn't. That is, it is philosophically impossible to create a universal system of morals starting only from any one human being.

Stop! I'm not advocating theism (I'm not advocating atheism either).

Theists have the advantage of being able to claim that their system of morals is outside of any particular human and is therefore universally applicable. They claim it is a gift from God.

But the theists have their own problems: there is no proof that God exists; where did God acquire this moral system (just stating first cause gets nil points).

Devil's Kitchen said...

Whoah there, Budgie! Who said anything about a system of morals?

I have morals, quite strict ones in some areas, and I have never believed in a god.

The point is that it is entirely possible for a person to have morals without believing in a god.


Anonymous said...

It'll all be a bit of a laugh until somebody gets on the bus with a rucksack full of hair dye and batteries.

Anonymous said...

That's wonderful! I live in the U.S., but I'm signed up. Maybe I'll start another, local to my area. Worth looking into, anyway.

Anonymous said...

i stumbled across a bizarre sight outside Kings Cross station the other week - a bunch of whackos with "Jews for Jesus" embalzoned on their t-shirts.

needless to say, it wasnt too long before an elderly Jewish gentlemen confronted them (what with it being the Sabbath and all that...)

Anonymous said...

"What I really loathe is people somehow judging that those with religious belief are somehow superior beings."

But I don't see how this follow from the rant about preachers and ads - were said preachers and ads saying that the religious are better people than the non-religious?

Katabasis said...

This reminds me of something the Heresy Project suggested - that they would like to see a militant Atheist organisation spring up that set off a bomb somewhere that did absolutely no damage in the name of absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

That's the problem with atheism; it's hard to put your back into marketing something that doesn't exist and that you can't believe in. In that the sky fairy crowd have a head start on us.

Tomrat said...


Oh dear or dear,

Have you finally snapped under the weight of proselytising by my more charismatic brethren?

My God has no truck with human morality - he is a God of action and of weights and measures to world events we cant even begin to comprehend; its true that morality is a byproduct of Christianity but as any true Christian will attest it is ONLY that - God directs us and just because towards the ideal - to seek perfection and gain the most we can from life, that we understand the difference between right and wrong is a consequence of following God. However an atheist is perfectly capable of understanding this.

In truth God is an economist - he has thought through every eventuality and arrived at fate for all who want to accept it from him; what people understand to be inconsequential living - dozens of people dying in a Nigerian church being burned down by Muslims, Christian groups disappearing in China - mean very little when measured against eternity.

This is the truth - as an Atheist you cannot understand this; there is no "jam" after death, as I recalled you so provocatively put it, only service and everlasting life in Gods plan, and to that there is no higher goal.

Have your adverts; I find the concept repugnant anyway; "try Christianity; its fun!" - silly. The "established" Church is rapidly losing direction as it is not kept to scripture and it wonders why people deride it so. The real Church has never needed to compete with the world in such a way and it has always been on an individual level; not blanket advertising.

Personally if you want to know what true Christianity is about you should google Jacob Presch or Maurice Barrett; the present church's obsession with worldly recruitment techniques dont wash with these guys.

Anonymous said...

Dear budgie:

Which bit of philosophy tells you this?
A moral, as far as I can tell, is a universal law that one ought to follow when given certain stereotyped situations, e.g. "Thou shalt not kill", i.e. given the option of planning to kill someone or not, choose "no".

I can't see where God is required in creating such a thing; I can generate prospective universal rules by the second if you'd like. See Immanuel Kant.

In any case, given that God is not known for talking to the general populace, all transmissions of such morals are human-to-human (via various media), including the Bible which was written by people.

Not only CAN humans generate laws, but if you accept any view that scriptures could have been influenced by humans, let alone written by them, then they are the only source.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tomrat,
You are an example of why belief in God is dangerous.

"We can't even begin to comprehend" - this leaves many problems. This logically concludes that all behaviour that is not yet explained by your views are; God did it, don't bother wondering why.

"...the difference between right and wrong by following God" - no you don't, you understand it through interactions with fellow humans. Your following of God is via prayer (talking to yourself) and via the prelates of your religion (being taking to by people).

"he has thought through every eventuality" - then, as he is omnipotent, there is no free will as his decisions decide all future paths completely. I suppose that this is a Lutheran view but it assigns all responsibility for everything to God, much like the last view. Atheists have to grow up and take responsibility for things because they know that nothing else will.

"This is the truth" - really? Tell me, where are your papers? Experimental evidence? You are merely reciting the authoritarian dictat of long-dead priests.

"service and everlasting life"? You're happy with being the ultimate slave? Again, what is this plan? God can, presumably, enact all plans at a whim, as he is free from the confines of space and time. One presumes that the whole thing is for his entertainment?

The Church, and its forebears, never kept to scripture; historical evidence suggests that, despite the disgusting theocracy that Leviticus demands of you, the Jewish kingdoms of the time were lax in stoning arguing teenagers to death, and didn't always lock menstruating women in sheds one week out of four.

In conclusion, it's nice to see religion laid bare; your lack of compassion to the dying is exemplary of the Old Testament although, unlike Moses, you haven't instructed us all to kill the males and older women and rape the pubescent girls.

Atheists value life before death because they view it as the only one we have. All that believe in a pleasant after-life will, inevitably, disregard this life to some degree.

Anonymous said...

" All that believe in a pleasant after-life will, inevitably, disregard this life to some degree."

Their own, ideally. But as far as disregarding that of others goes, I think the atheists are doing quite nicely.

Obvious point, but you appear to have been setting up for it to be made, so I thought I'd oblige.

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