Thursday 8 January 2009

god is a concept by which we can measure our pain....

I really shouldn't waste my time getting irritated by stuff like this, but....

**deep breath**

Remember the atheist bus advertising campaign?

You know, the advertising campaign sponsored by the British Humanist Association from an original idea by Ariane Sherine, who had been appalled by some of the religious messages she saw on buses. I'll quote her directly:

"Yesterday I walked to work and saw not one, but two London buses with the question: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find Faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). It seems you wait ages for a bus with an unsettling Bible quote, then two come along at once....There was also a web address on the ad, and when I visited the site, hoping for a straight answer to their rather pressing question, I received the following warning for anyone who doesn't "accept the word of Jesus on the cross": "You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)" (Matthew 25:41). Lots to look forward to, then. Now, if I wanted to run a bus ad saying "Beware – there is a giant lion from London Zoo on the loose!" or "The 'bits' in orange juice aren't orange but plastic – don't drink them or you'll die!" I think I might be asked to show my working and back up my claims. But apparently you don't need evidence to run an ad suggesting we'll all face the ire of the son of man when he comes, then link to a website advocating endless pain for atheists."

Determined to do something about this, Sherine then set about raising enough money to run some atheist adverts on buses... and aren't they a whole lot more uplifting than the usual crap you see on the side of a bus. It makes me smile. It's not saying that there definitely isn't a God, it's just saying that maybe you should be worrying about something else instead.

Richard Dawkins, as you might imagine, and as pictured on the bus above, thought this was a brilliant idea, but so did lots of other people, and they soon raised £140,000 to run the campaign as widely as possible.

Brilliant. You'd have to be completely humourless not to see the funny side, wouldn't you?

Oh, apparently The Christian Voice has complained to the Advertising Standards Agency. Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said:

"There is plenty of evidence for God, from people's personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world. But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it."

So you're suggesting that there is more evidence for the existence of God than there is evidence that God doesn't exist? Where exactly?

Well, the complaint goes on, "According to growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so "finely-tuned," and so many "coincidences" have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence. In fact, this "fine-tuning" is so pronounced, and the "coincidences" are so numerous, many scientists have come to espouse "The Anthropic Principle," which contends that the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing mankind. Even those who do not accept The Anthropic Principle admit to the "fine-tuning" and conclude that the universe is "too contrived" to be a chance event...."

The Anthropic Principle? What about the infinite monkey theorem that states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. That being so, why is it so hard to believe that, in an infinite universe, it might be possible for a series of absurdly unlikely accidents and coincidences to happen and create life? Or is God an infinite monkey? Why am I even attempting a rational argument?

I'd go on with the detail of their complaint, but I'm rather losing the will to live. You can read the whole thing here, but it cites various scientists, including Sir Fred Hoyle and Stephen Hawking, as apparently all being forced to conclude that God does, indeed, obviously exist.


Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.

Actually, that might just be the funniest thing I've ever heard.

As I drove home this evening, there was a big sign outside the church just around the corner boldly proclaiming "JESUS IS HOPE". No caveat there, is there? Jesus isn't probably hope, he is HOPE. Definitely.

The atheist message was originally intended to be "There is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The Advertising Standards Agency would only allow them to run the campaign if they added the word "probably". Possessing previously unheralded metaphysical authority, the ASA determined that the advert had to leave room for doubt, and they insisted that it acknowledged that there is "a grey area".

So if the atheists are forced to put in a caveat, how come the christians aren't?

Anyway, why are christians getting so agitated about this? Why do they feel so threatened by atheists? Why are they so interested in anyone "proving" whether God exists or not? I thought the whole point of their religion, and the source of all their smugness and immunity to rational debate, was that it was based upon FAITH. Not hard evidence. After all, there can be no hard evidence that a made up mystical, all powerful being exists, can there? The whole thing is based upon the blind belief that there is something guiding our miserable lives and that there might be somewhere better for us to go once we had died, as long as we'd lived a good and worthy life. Why should they give a shit about proof? And actually, why should they feel that they're a special case, somehow worthy of special treatment, with a right to leave things like copies of their hubristic and mostly fictional propaganda material in every hotel drawer? Who do they think they are? God's chosen people?*

I realise it's a waste of time being angry about this, but I simply cannot help myself. I pride myself on being a rational, tolerant and reasonably intelligent human being, and I find this kind of bullshit infuriating. Everyone has the right to believe what they want, of course they do, and I know that lots of people draw huge comfort and solace from their faith. I also realise that the silent majority of christians probably aren't in the least bit worried or threatened by these atheist adverts. It's a small but vocal and high profile minority that are kicking up this fuss, and it's them that have annoyed me. Why do they feel the need to inflict themselves on everyone? Why can't they respect anyone else's views or opinions when they don't agree with their own? Why do they have to be so fucking self-righteous about everything?


*ah no, they're busy bombing schools and shelling civilians at the moment, aren't they?


  1. Mr Swiss, you put it beautifully. Glad I am not the only one who gets majorly wound up by the volume of crap that goes on in the world in the name of religion.And the pope can take a running jump as well. Thank you for that.

  2. I have an aunt who would fit right in with The Christian Voice. She got remarried and turned into a Born Again Christian. You can't have a conversation with her without her dragging God into it at least once. She tries to argue and force me to believe as she does, otherwise I'm going to hell. And other Christians are going to hell, too, if they don't agree with her version of the bible. Because there's no room for other interpretations of it, you know. Unless they bow down to her God, they are not true Christians; they are blasphemers. Traveling Christian Revival meetings? She thinks they're meetings of the occult.

    She used to be sweet. Now I can't stand even getting an email from her.

    I hate this stuff, I really do.

  3. Glad you wrote this, saves me from doing so!

    I just find the whole 'complaint' thing hilarious. Particularly as the atheist bus says 'PROBABLY'.

    So, the argument is that there is PROOF that there is 'a' God (just the one mind) but no proof that there probably isn't??


    What a bunch of nutters.

  4. When I was growing up (and caught in the "Dungeons and Dragons is a satanic cult" era, I remember reading an article that argued that the only reason why Satan (and therefore Satanic Cults) was vilifiled was because people who believed in God had to have a scapegoat for all the problems in the world. After all, why would a benevolent higher divine being actually allow [free choice?] evil free rein in the world? Does that mean that Satan therefore serves some kind of purpose (like making sure all the lawyers serve a befitting punishment)? Ergo, is Satan on God's payroll? Do they attend the same golf club?

    Anyway, I believe in the [Discworld] Anthromorphism theory, that the more people who treat "God" as a specific entity, the greater the chance that a particular being is brought into existance that has all the elements of "God" and occupies his time doing "Godlike"* things.

    * Like screwing around with nature by 'making' the Duck-Billed Platypus.

  5. You do know the atheist's deathbed prayer, don't you? "Dear God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have one."


  6. Religion = peace, love, understanding, and killing anyone who reads a different book... at least that's the impression many religious people seem to give me.

    I myself am Religious, but I leave people alone about their beliefs in it. I'm not going to convince anyone. Its all faith, a gut feeling so to say.

    I do find it funny though when atheists celebrate religious holidays though. That's capitalism for ya though... just like ads on buses for religion. Lot of money to be made off of a belief structure.

  7. Michael - I take part in the festivities at Christmas and have the time off work as it's a public holiday, but it's nothing to do with God or the birth of Christ for me. And in any case, the early christians simply appropriated an existing mid-winter festival for their own purposes only. The Christmas tree is a pagan symbol, you know...... You take your public holidays and saints days where you can if it means you don't have to go to work, right?

  8. Post of the week! You've nailed it, ST. Totally agree with you.

  9. You took the words right out of my mouth, as meatloaf would say.

    I supported the campaign as I really wanted to see what the reaction would be from the religious side of the tracks. I'm sick of having to hold in my opinions on religion out of respect for the beliefs of others, while 'others' feel they can cause offence willy nilly and justify it as their unassailable religious right to do so. This whole thing proves that the buses were not, in fact, a waste of time.

    Rant over. Happy New Year!

  10. This has completely passed me by. But will be very useful for some of the classes I teach about regulation in advertising, so thanks for that.

  11. Brilliant post - though you're right that they (Christian Voice etc) hardly deserve this much energy being expended on trying to argue against them.

    I love the idea of the ASA ruling on whether God exists. WTF?!

  12. Mr Toni, came here via Ms Rullsenberg above. Just wanted to point out, being a Red Sea Pedestrian myself, that you shouldn't conflate 'God's chosen people' with the sociopaths currently bombing the Gaza population into a finer grade of rubble than they were already living in. We are Jews, they are the Israeli government, and the two are not interchangeable.

    Or, to put it another way, not in my name.

  13. fair point Stu, although the very phrase "God's Chosen People" makes me raise an (atheist) eyebrow. I know it's complicated, but that's part of the problem, isn't it? That and the accompanying "Promised Land" connotations.

    The not-in-my-name bit though is well said, and I thank you for it.

  14. Yes, plus the fact that the original Children of Israel ethnically cleansed the place before they moved in. It gives the loonies what they see as a historical precedent, and the rest of us see as proof of their idiocy.

  15. ST - very much aware of Christianities useage of pagan celebrations and all that. I think most historians place Christ's birth in July due to the shephards, steller events that would lead to the star, etc.

    Also agreed, that I would gladly take off work for Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan, anything handed to me... but I wouldn't take part of any of the customs... unless it involved drinking. For some reason any time a day off work and an excuse to have a few pints I'm most likely to oblige.

    As far as modern interpretations of Christmas though, its become far more embedded in western culture than religion. Its (sadly) about a fat guy in a red suit and capitalism nowadays.

    I still find it funny though.

  16. Here from Mr Diva, hear hear from me. Just one thing to add: some Christians have actively welcomed the atheist bus campaign for promoting thought and expanding the debate, e.g. (sorry am technoprat who can't do links in comments). Judging all Christians by the standards of Christian Voice is a bit like, er, judging all Jews by the standards of the Israeli government. (And I write as one who has been a fully paid-up member of the British Humanist Association for over a decade now.) But that's a detail, what I mostly want to say is: terrific post, and thanks.

  17. I dunno. It all seems like gossip to me...


  18. Well, they're getting their knickers in a twist because it's a threat. If they didn't complain, then frankly it wouldn't have been an effective campaign. It makes people think for themselves, which is the absolute antithesis of most religious teaching.

  19. I feel just as patronised and irritated by this wise-acre campaign as I do by the Christian Voice's wrathful finger-wagging. It's a hopelessly self-satisfied, smug, smirky gap-year Dave Gorman-y sorta stunt, preaching to the happily non-converted. Yuk.