A few days ago I wrote about Ariane Sherine‘s delightful ‘Atheist Bus’ article / idea which has been taken up by others and is still attracting attention on various websites and blogs. The Facebook pledge page has over 500 signed up (I think she should start a FB group to let it spread wider but anyway).
Now Ariane has added to that discussion by saying:
Now that it looks as though the advert may become reality, I hope that the campaign stays positive and tolerant. Lately, there have been a few suggestions for slogans which would (a) be strongly anti- particular religious groups, or (b) turn the slogan into a much more controversial message. (a) is not what the campaign is about: it is about being pro-reason, pro-science and pro-freedom of thought, not anti- specific religions. And, though I understand why many atheists would prefer (b), and why many would like to remove the word ‘probably’ from the slogan, I inserted it because the ad won’t be allowed to run if the wording is too strong.
Yes, all atheists would like things to be different. And hopefully, one day in the near future, they will be, and we’ll live in a properly secular society. But change takes time, and if the “atheist bus” advert runs, the most helpful thing it could do would be to make people feel a bit brighter, and generate debate within society, rather than set itself above groups of people who might otherwise consider its message.
I think this is spot on. What annoys people like myself about religion is that too often the preachers use negativity to keep people in line or attack others. They are the nasty unbelievers… they will go to hell… this is why our religion is the best… OMG if you do that you’re gonna burn in hell for eternity!! etc.
Religion has become one big turf war and much of that relies on negativity towards the other religions. Of course they all believe in ‘tolerance’ but scratch underneath the surface and the venom can quickly spill out. To modern day religious self-styled leaders, only the numbers matter. They want to protect their patch or extend their empires rather than inspire people with positivity. We see this play out especially in India where religious groups offer incentives to new converts or try and prevent people from converting.
Which is why I think Ariane is right to resist deleting the ‘probably’ from the original suggestion: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.” Her motive for the ad seems more towards trying to get people to think past the negativity of modern-day religion. Unfortunately a fair amount of supporters just want to stick one up at the believers. The problem with the second approach, to me, is that it’s just another turf war – this time between the religious and the atheist. And a turf war invitably means more negativity, which she clearly wants to avoid. So well done to her.
If you haven’t signed up the pledge on FB or online, do so already!
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Filed in: Religion