I love the Atheist Bus.
I’m sure many of you have heard about it. A group of atheists, humanists and the like had a whip-round and sponsored some London buses to carry a poster which reads, “There’s probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life”.
It’s the word ‘probably’ that makes me love it. If it had said “there is no god”, I’d think it arrogant and stupid. But that ‘probably’ makes it work, adds the element of genuine scepticism and honest doubt which is so often missing from atheist propaganda – and entirely missing from religious propaganda.
So inevitably, Stephen Green (among others) lodges a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority on the grounds of false advertising.
(A word about Mr. Green. He’s the leading light of Christian Voice, a protest group which was born in the wake of the Jerry Springer – The Opera controversy. The best way to describe Green is that he wants to be the Mary Whitehouse of his generation – except he lacks her charisma, wit and intelligence. And for the benefit of my non-UK readers – yes, that was sarcasm.)
Green’s complaint reads in part;
I believe the ad breaks the Advertising Code, unless the advertisers hold evidence that God probably does not exist.
This is a man who clearly doesn’t understand the word ‘probably’. He’s also delightfully ignorant of the point that, if his complaint is upheld, it will likely mean the end of religious advertising for the exact reason he complains about. Unless, of course, he can prove the existence of his god…
The Atheist Bus is coming to a city near you, if you’re in the UK. In Australia – that bastion of rebellion and freedom of expression – a similar campaign was rejected by the advertising company which had been hired.
A similar plan for atheist bus adverts in Tasmania was thrown out by the state-owned bus company, Metro, which is set to lead to legal action on the grounds that it is discriminatory.
Metro has previously allowed adverts from religious groups including anti-abortion campaigners, but says it has now changed its policy to ban all material deemed controversial.
There’s an interesting debate to be had about how modern belief systems are propagated through the unsubtle application of money and influence, which I hope will be stimulated by all this. And with luck, the notion of trying to ban opinions which differ from ‘deeply-held beliefs’ being treated as blasphemy or religious hatred and prosecuted will disappear as a result.
The more opinions out there, the better. Even the ones I hate. And the more of such opinion holders that have the moral courage to add the word ‘probably’ to their opinion, the better.