More On The Atheist Bus Ads

The UK atheist bus ad campaign hasn’t generated as much outrage as a similar undertaking in the USA might, but unfortunately not everyone over there is as level-headed as might be hoped.

A group of MPs has signalled their opposition to atheist bus ads which claim, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

They are encouraging Christian groups to launch a counter advertising campaign using the slogan, “But what if there is?”

A number of cross-party MPs support two Commons motions attacking the “religiously offensive and morally unhelpful advertisements”.

One of the motions regrets the British Humanist Association’s backing for the campaign and calls on ministers to “seek to remove” the adverts. (Source)

I’m really very curious about the phrase ‘religiously offensive’. By any standard, the slogan on the atheist bus ad is incredibly mild, as evidenced by the amount of atheists and theists alike who were bizarrely irritated over the ‘probably’. (And it says something about this whole debate when a mildly worded message causes outrage.) Many would claim that the ads don’t go nearly far enough, which makes me wonder just how diluted an atheist’s message must be before it can be considered fit for public consumption. Worse is the suggestion that ministers should ‘seek to remove’ the ads – what exactly does this mean? Will they have such a horrendously negative effect on the country that freedom of speech can be justifiably ignored in this case?

(And ‘But what if there is?’ is a stupid comeback. I’m willing to bet that every atheists has asked themselves that plenty of times; if nothing else, it’s a fascinating hypothetical, but it smacks of intimidation tactics to me.)


4 Responses to “More On The Atheist Bus Ads”

  1. 1 northerntribe January 16, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    As a Christian, it doesn’t bother me for people to use their freedom to say what they believe. I wonder if it would work the other way around though. Just curious. To me this whole thing seems like an excersize in sensationalism. There have been atheists from the very begining. A bus ad isn’t going to change anything. People have a right to believe (or not believe) whatever they wish.

    I would draw the line at porn and gore because those images have the power to harm people’s minds and effect children. But if someone wants to display their atheism from the rooftop, they should be allowed to do so in a democratic society.

    The thing I find interesting is that the ad makes three assumptions:

    1. There probably isn’t a God
    2. Belief in God leads to worry
    3. People who believe in God don’t enjoy life.

    The existance of God cannot be proved scientifically, but it also cannot be disproved scientifically. Believing is seeing, not always the other way around. Also, all of the research shows that belief in a higher power actually leads to less worry and a more fulfilling life. Having said that, I still believe that atheists should have the right to say what they believe.

    God bless,

  2. 2 augustine January 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm


    Most atheists who were once theists would say that they’re far happier (or at least less worried) as atheists than they ever were before, although there could be something of a bias there – as in, people who are unhappy while believing in God may simply be more likely to become atheists. I suspect that much of the findings which report greater instances of happiness among the religious are picking up on the societal factors of being involved in a closely knit religious community rather than anything inherent in theism on its own. I mean, I can’t imagine that simply believing in God as a philosophical proposition has the power to improve anyone’s life a great deal, but I can see why belonging to a religious community would; and in fact, the lack of a real ‘atheist community’ is something that plenty of us are looking at fixing if possible.

    It’s a common misconception that God can’t be disproved, or that it’s impossible to prove a negative. This isn’t actually the case; you could in theory disprove God’s existence by demonstrating that such a thing is logically impossible or internally contradicted. (The usual analogy is of a square circle – one can say with certainty that there are no square circles.) Naturally people have tried to do this, although I haven’t seen anyone get very far with it. The ‘probably’ is, I feel, a rational stance to take on the issue of God’s existence.

  3. 3 northerntribe January 19, 2009 at 7:49 am

    And a theist might say the same… that their probably is a God.

  4. 4 augustine January 19, 2009 at 11:38 am

    And that’s why we’re all still arguing about it ;) And likely will be forever.

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