"A Man's a Man for all that!" - Rabbie Burns

"Religion? No thanks. I prefer not to outsource my brainwashing." - Bunc
Trying to get your average Joe creationist to understand the phrase scientific theory is as hard as getting a fish to enjoy mountaineering. Its an unimagined world for them - it requires a complete reversal of their normal modes of thinking and being. The fact that humans could explain the complexities of this world without a creating God is a world view they cannot grasp. It's like asking a tuna if it appreciates the view from the top of Mount Everest. Bunc

Jan 9, 2009

Christians complain about Atheist London Bus ads

The Atheist London Bus campaign which recently kicked of with the slogan "There's probably no God. Now Stop worrying and enjoy your life" appears to have triggered a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency ( ASA) in the UK. A christian group is attempting to attack the advertising campaign by complaining that the adverts break the ASA rules which require that Advertising be factually correct.

Myself and many others had been concerned that the Atheist Ad campaign was if anything too wimpy in it's message but it seems that the use of the word probably had been included in order to try to thwart this very form of attack.

The ASA is now in the unenviable position, if it accepts the complaint as within its jurisdiction, of having to decide on the existence of god. They would be very very foolish to go down that route but it will be all to the good for us atheists. Whose god or gods will they decide exist? After all not all non-atheists are monotheists so a finding for monotheism could be the subject of complaints by atheists, pagans etc etc.

Christians may also risk opening up a can of worms here if they do force the ASA to take a position on this. If the ASA take that position then any future advertising by a single religious group becomes fair game to complaints to the ASA not only by Atheists but also by other religious groups who do not share their beliefs.

Religion and Atheism are essentially about belief and non belief. The "evidence" that Christians use to support their faith is not evidence in the way that facts are used for example if claims about a beauty cream treatment are decided as accurate or not. Equally the Atheist view that there is an absence of evidence for a God is not the subject of the sort of fact finding that an organisation like the ASA is capable of undertaking.

The state would do well to keep out of the arena of religious belief and the lack of religious belief and the right of people to state their case. Religious believers have had the public domain to themselves for far to long. They have had absolute freedom to advertise their messages and make claims about salvation through religion. Can they substantiate their claims with factual evidence? Hardly - otherwise it would not require faith.

But they better be able to because there is no doubt that Atheists will be looking up the ASA telephone number ready to make their own complaints if the ASA opens up this issue. I for one hope the ASA do open this up because then the fun will only just be starting and a massive debate about the existence of god will open up. This will provide space for atheists to raise a debate in the public sphere which doesn't get anywhere near enough airing.


Delirious said...

I think freedom of religion means the freedom to not have one too. I think the athiests are well within their right to post the signs. I think if the Christians don't like them, they should post some of their own.

But you seem to be suggesting that if the government rules on this, and rules against Christianity, then that is all the authority needed to prove there is no God. Please, we know that government is screwed up....just because they rule on something doesn't mean they are right.

Bunc said...

Hi Delirious,

I was suggesting that the ASA would be foolish to rule on this because these are primarily matters of belief not factual evidence (unlike evolution!).

Whichever way they did rule then I think Atheists benefit from this complaint.

If the ASA accepts the complaint and rules that the Atheists ad campaign is problematic factually then any further religious advertising will be complained against by us on the same basis and this would clearly be successful using the same logic.

If they accept the complaint and rule the Atheist campaign was not problematic then this will be interpreted and spun as evidence that the ASA has ruled that god probably doesn't exist.

Also in both cases the argument about the possible non existence of god gets opened up to broader debate and christians are left looking as though they can't tolerate others expressing their beliefs.

It doesn't seem to me that this christian group has thought the matter through very well before making this complaint.

Looney said...

Bunc, I am still suspicious that the atheists needed to either pay the "Christian" group or else found a Christian group to issue the complaint! But then again, things could be different over there. The only way such an advertisement could raise eyebrows in the US is if it were sponsored by the Vatican or some similar outfit. Even the Lutherans sponsoring an add saying there probably wasn't a god wouldn't be particularly surprising.

Bunc said...

Hi Looney,
Your right it's all a conspiracy to make the christians look foolish. Oh if only we had been that clever. I take it from your comments that you probably agree with me that making a complaint about these fairly innocuous ads is likely to backfire.

Looney said...

Yes, I agree that Christians need to be very selective about what they complain about.

Bunc said...

LOL, I thought I caught the faintest hint of sarcasm hanging in the air there... but I am sure I am mistaken.

We atheists must also exercise discretion about what we complain about of course. It wouldn't do if we all started complaining about religious advertising. Tolerance of free speech is important.

Bunc said...

Just reading your comment again about Lutherans etc got me recalling something.

There was actually an Anglican bishop some time back in the UK who, if I recall right, said something about Christians not really needing to believe in Jesus. Something like that I am sure. It caused quite a stir.

Mind you the Anglican Church has always described itself as a "broad church". Possibily broad enough to accomodate atheists.

If only the RC Church had been so acccommodating perhaps I would still be attanding mass - as a purely social event.

Marf said...

@ Looney: Then you must not remember the blog post I did back on November 19th on this very subject. This very same religious outrage over atheist advertising does happen in the US.

In fact in the comments you asked for links to "anything regarding religious believers being shocked by such advertising". And I responded with with some links.

Looney said...

Marf, the linked articles really don't indicate to me any kind of strong reaction against the atheist advertisements. The one news channel had to go out of their way to find a Christian to comment. The other referred to a nebulous 90 "complaints", which for all we know might have been someone complaining that a female was dressed as Santa in the advertisement.

My guess is that the original budget only allowed for a few days of advertising, so they worked hard to contrive a controversy before the ad went down.

rummuser said...

Let me take a different view. Why use the media to hurt anyone's religious belief? It is not about Christians alone. London is full of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians and perhaps some others that I do not even know about. I believe that humor which is hurtful is in bad taste. The shock effect which I gather was intended could well have been achieved with different messages.

Bunc said...

The wording of the ad was really very mild. Also I would point out that I am offended and made anxious every time I see public messages /advertising by religious groups. It worries me and frightens me that people still engage in such irrational beliefs.

Either we ban all religious advertising or those who have no religious belief must have the same right as the religious to display their messages publicly.

This ad was not directed at any one religious group and could hardly be described as a hate campaign. Any religious believer disturbed by this message must have a very shaky set of beliefs I think

rummuser said...

I quite agree with your suggestion that all religious advertising should be banned. I also accept that it can offend and create anxiety in someone like you.

My submission is simply, is that the same treatment that you wish to give to others? Why not be different and even better?

Bunc said...

Actually I have no real desire to see religious advertising banned. But I also think that Atheists and Humanists have an equal right to use advertising if the religious are allowed to use it.

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