Friday, January 23, 2009

Missing the bus

There was a minor flurry in the papers last week about a bus driver who, being an evangelical Christian, refused to take out one of the buses carrying the 'atheist slogan' There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

This does raise the interesting issue of bus drivers refusing to drive buses on the basis of objecting to the adverts on the side, which are often for films advertised on the basis of their sexual or violent content - yet I never heard of a Christian refusing to drive one of those.

I haven't seen any of these buses yet, but apparently there are now 800 of them over the country carrying this advert, paid for by funds raised through the atheistcampaign website. Now in principle, obviously, I thoroughly approve of this campaign, which was itself initially prompted by scary fire and brimstone Christian bus adverts. In practice however, the slogan is terrible. That 'probably' - inserted at the insistence of Transport for London - makes it mealy mouthed and bet-hedging. It's not even an unequivocally atheist statement. An atheist is simply someone who does not believe in the existence of any god or gods.

And the second sentence, Now stop worrying and enjoy your life does us a disservice on two fronts. Firstly it implies that religious people are worrying, which they're no more likely to be than atheists, so it can be easily dismissed by those whose religion is a source of comfort and security rather than eternal questioning. Secondly, it can be interpreted to give credence to the idea that atheism equals unbridled selfish hedonism. Not what was meant, I'm sure, but undoubtedly how it could be read by opponents.

Having had a read of the atheiestcampaign website though, I can see why they chose to go the way they did, and it's great to see that so many people are supporting this very simple idea, and that it's taking off worldwide.

If I had to think up a slogan though, to reassure the worried and show that atheism is not equivalent to amorality, it would be: You don't need god to be good


Simon said...

I like your slogan more, I must admit...

I did think it was all a bit of a pointless exercise - most religious people are pretty much live & let live, and the rest who insist on going to war about who's god is best aren't likely to be swayed by what they saw on the 207 bus, sadly.

What people find offensive and inoffensive is another matter entirely. Reminds me of the Brand/Ross thing - despite the high ratings of the show, very few people complained about it until the Daily Mail told them it was offensive. Having said that, I'd probably find a way to0 let the driver take a different bus, if it were down to me.

Andrew said...

'You don't need God
to be good'
'You don't need
God to be good'

Amy said...