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Bus Wars

A while back I blogged about the atheist publicity campaign which used advertising on London buses (see “Probably No God” on 2008-10-25). According to a report from about a month ago, the Christians have taken up the challenge and are responding with their own campaign.

Three Christian groups have launched advertisements on London buses which try to convince pedestrians of God’s existence. They claim “there is a whole lot of truth in the Bible that people need to get to grips with.” What these truths actually are wasn’t specified in the article unfortunately. I haven’t personally discovered any truths in the Bible which aren’t available in a far more concise and accurate form in other sources, but I’m quite happy to look at any of these “truths” that a Christian can specify.

Apparently one of the methods of convincing people is from Psalm 53 which states: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” Yes, well they would say that wouldn’t they? I could just as easily write a book saying the “fool hath said there is a god”, so really that’s just noise. But in reality that’s all Christianity is: just meaningless noise. Nothing is ever backed up with real facts, and everything relies on circular arguments.

The Bible is the truth because God says it is. How do we know what God says? Because the Bible tells us. The average primary school kid could see the problem with that argument I think!

The original atheist campaign started as a result of another common Christian trick, the old fear tactics! A London atheist saw a bus advertisement showing a pro-Jesus message with a “fiery apocalyptic sunset.” The implication was clearly that you will suffer unless you toe the line and join the church! How this fits in with the common portrayal of Christianity as a religion of peace and love is left to the observer!

The Christians have dismissed the atheist campaign as futile but the fact they have chosen to respond might indicate otherwise. I think the ads might show atheists that they aren’t alone. There is a community out there of other people who believe (or don’t believe) the same way. Because atheists are usually free thinkers they don’t usually get organised into big groups like the Christians do, who are often herded like mindless sheep, so it often seems like atheism is much less common than it really is. Hopefully the ads will help overcome this idea.

To demonstrate the difference between the atheists and religious people consider one of the ads supporting god. It read “There definitely is a God”. The atheists are more honest saying “There’s probably no God”. The claim that there is definitely a god is just dishonest because no one knows for sure. It would be tempting to counter that by saying there definitely isn’t but atheism is about honesty and lack of self-delusion, so the more realistic “probably isn’t” message was used instead.

The idea seems to be spreading too. According to the article, similar campaigns have been run in Barcelona, Madrid, Washington, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany and Italy.

The campaign in Italy reads “The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that we do not need him.” As I said above, I would prefer the more honest approach of saying that we are fairly sure there is no god, but that is a catchy line, a lot more positive than the threat of burning in Hell anyway!

The Archbishop of Genoa, has spoken out against what many people call blasphemy (you can often tell you are nearing the truth when you are accused of blasphemy). He said “there are some methods which promote dialogue and others which feed intolerance. Head-on opposition always demonstrates intolerance.” Apparently its OK when Christians use that tactic though because the church appears to have an obvious opposition to atheism.

Richard Dawkins points out that the atheist slogans are far more tolerant than the Christian ones. The Psalm I mentioned above accuses atheists of being fools, whereas the atheist ones just suggest not to worry. Which of those is more intolerant and confrontational?

But the Advertising Standards Authority still received more than 150 complaints about the atheist campaign in January, and at least one bus driver walked off the job because he thought the ads were “a public attack on people’s faith”. Is Christian faith and belief so weak and pathetic that it needs protecting? Well of course, yes it is, but by they would never admit that.

One thing is for sure, as Dawkins has said, if more people think for themselves we will have fewer religious people, and that can’t be a bad thing in my opinion!

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