atheist bus

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There’s been an admirable atheist bus advert campaign in DesMoines, Iowa.  Firstly, the advert is a bit more “atheist” than the British bus adverts that kicked off the international trend for atheist publicity (the text reads “Don’t believe in God? Your not alone”.  Of course the initial response of the Transit Authority responsible for the buses was to refuse to carry the ads – this decision was quite rightly overturned.

Now, however, and in a parallel to the events in the UK, a bus driver has refused to drive a bus on the grounds that it offends their religious beliefs.  Or something.  Back in January, a Hampshire bus driver was suspended for refusing to drive a bus with the original atheist advert:

A Christian bus driver has refused to drive a bus with an atheist slogan proclaiming “There’s probably no God”.

Ron Heather, from Southampton, Hampshire, responded with “shock” and “horror” at the message and walked out of his shift on Saturday in protest. (BBC – Man refuses to drive ‘No God’ bus)

Exactly the same thing has happened in Iowa.  According to a report in a local news service (DART Bus Driver Suspended Over Atheist Ad),

The Des Moines Regional Transit Authority has suspended a driver who refused to drive a bus bearing an ad for an atheist group.  Angela Shiel was suspended on Monday after she refused to drive a bus with an Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers ad on its side. The ad reads “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

Oh, and amusingly there’s an online poll (Vote: DART Driver’s Suspension)!  At the moment, the results are in favour of the driver’s suspension.  Perhaps the poll’s been Pharyngulated…

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So it appears that the loopy Christian Party have coughed up for a riposte to the Atheist bus adverts, as previously promised.  Apparently the text reads: “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.”  Which is of course interesting – I look forward to hearing George’s proof that there is indeed a bearded sky dude looking over us.  Or indeed any Invisible Magic Friend.

In the meantime, reports indicate that the Christian party offices got their windows broken (Christian Party offices trashed after bus adverts).  It’s not clear to me from this and other reports on the internet quite why this is thought to be a reaction to the bus adverts and not just to the Christian Party per se and their batty policies, but I suppose one might not expect a bunch of fundamentalists to have the best understanding of cause and coincidence.

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As an amusing afterthought to the recent fuss from the Christian Party and their desire to counter the Atheist bus advert, here’s Jesus and Mo’s take on it (from the ever excellent Jesus and Mo site)

Jesus and Mo and the atheist bus

Jesus and Mo and the atheist bus

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George Hargreaves (a minister and leader of the Christian Party) has posted a terribly aggrieved article at The Guardian’s Comment is Free (Our answer to the atheists).  In the article, he grumbles how:

over the past month I have had to be at my most tolerant as the 149 bus passes my office bearing the words “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

Well, he’s upset is he?  George should just get on with his life.  As an atheist, I have to deal with a considerable barrage of religious tosh thrust at me via quite a range of media, including bus adverts. He’s advocating a religious backlash in the shape of their own bus adverts.  He goes on:

[...] atheists and humanist are, of course, a minority group. Most people, whilst not being attached to an “organised religion”, do believe in God. There is, as it were, an innate recognition of God in mankind. The Bible does, however, say “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ (Proverbs 26:5). Our party’s bus advertising campaign, which says “There is definitely a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life”, does just that – it answers the foolishness of the atheist and humanist ad. Indeed, the recent Advertising Standards Authority ruling on the humanist ad seems to suggest that we all can express our opinions on the side of buses. So from next week our adverts will compete alongside the atheist ads in a simple case of “Don’t get mad, get your own advert up.”

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Stephen Green’s made a wonderfully immoderate response to the rejection of his appeal to the ASA over the atheist bus adverts.  Over at Christian Voice (which I strongly suspect is something of a one-man-band) is a press release from the homophobic Green, in which he tries to spin this in his favour, but goes and blows it with an intemperate tirade:

We always knew the ASA was just another tool of the politically-correct secularist establishment, but here’s the proof. Their ruling is a good example of how the deck is stacked against Christians today, and the Church needs to wake up to the anti-Christian agenda right now. The good news is we now know that when the secularists decided to say: “There is probably no God”, they had no reason for making that absurd claim, and time has not helped them come up with one. The bad news is that if Christians don’t start standing up for their Faith and their Saviour soon, we shall see religious liberties trampled on, and the secularists will take us further down the road to their hell on earth.’

I like the way the arrogant twerp thinks this was targeted at Christians.  Foolish man.  But ultimately, he’s a pretty hate-filled person, as revealed in this quote:

On planet ASA, complaints from people of faith are not given the same weight as those from secularists. But what do you expect when the ASA Council is appointed and run by a campaigning homosexual, Chris, Lord, Smith of Finsbury?’

I’m now looking forward to the next Green activity.

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The Daily Telegraph reports that the Atheist bus adverts given green light by watchdog despite 326 complaints.  So the total number of objections has risen substantially since I last posted on the subject.

The decision is a victory for the British Humanist Association, which organised the campaign, as it had insisted the posters were only intended to reassure non-believers and not mock the religious. The slogan was created by Ariane Sherine, a comedy writer, as an antidote to posters placed on public transport by Christian groups that “threaten eternal damnation” to passengers.

Whether or not the intention had been to reassure non-believers, I don’t know, but it really seems to have been successful in rattling the cages of the true believers, and demonstrated the poverty of many of the pro-religion arguments.

I wonder if the ruling will dampen the enthusiam of the religious bloggers for posting.  In a way, I hope not, as I find them rather fun to read.  I’ve only read the content of two of the objections.

The ASA ruling can be found at their website: Atheist bus ad campaign is not in breach of the Advertising Code.  One wonders how long it took to plough through all those complaints.  But if they were of the same high quality of the two that emerged on the web, I guess it was a quick decision to take…

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has concluded that the “There’s probably no God” bus ad campaign by the British Humanist Association is not in breach of the advertising code.  The ASA will therefore not launch an investigation and the case is now closed.

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Another broadsheet blogger rails against the atheist bus adverts, this time it’s one Gerald Warner, blogging at the Daily Telegraph.  In his absurd blog article, Warner (who is described as “…an author, broadcaster, columnist and polemical commentator who writes about politics, religion, history, culture and society in general. If it is an exaggeration to say that he believes the world has gone to the dogs, it is only a slight hyperbole.”) writes in support of Ron Heather, the evangelical bus driver who had a bit of a paddy and refused to drive a bus featuring the advert.  For some reason his 25 years’ service in the Royal Navy is thought relevant.  I would have thought that 25 years in the services would have inclined him to do what he was told.

Bizarrely entitled “Atheists will need martyrs if they are to compete with Christians”, the article seems to be a mish-mash of poor argument, with some spectacular statements.

…the most interesting part of the slogan is the second half: “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Since when was the message that there is no one in charge, nobody to protect us or lend succour, thought reassuring?

Well, I for one am glad that their doesn’t appear to be some supernatural being in overall control.  And I do feel that the advice to stop worrying and enjoy life is good advice.

The notion that an unregulated universe, world and society are enjoyable is intrinsically nihilist. It betrays the fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity that afflicts secularists. They do not see God as comforting, but as threatening. That is because the concept of any curb on human passions, any moral sanction, is now regarded as making it impossible to “enjoy your life”. This grey hedonism is contradicted by the visible phenomenon that many of the people who most zestfully enjoy life are Christians.

I’m afraid that passage is just nonsense.  Certainly, my view is that the world and the universe is unregulated by some supernatural entity.  The work is however regulated by humans, I admit mostly with a heritage of strictures and instructions ultimately derived from ancient believers in supernatural entities. Onward:

Formerly, the most feared bores were fundamentalist preachers; today it is obsessive atheists of the Dawkins/Pullman/Grayling persuasion who bore for Britain.

Actually the most feared bores are the religious bloggers, like the plagiarist Clifford Longley.  Longley couldn’t even be bothered to check the accuracy and veracity of a piece of text he lifted almost verbatim from one of a number of religious websites out there on the internet.

He finishes with this priceless gem:

One further observation by Ron Heather will strike a chord with many: “There would be no way buses would be able to drive around with an anti-Muslim message like that on the side mentioning Allah.” Christians have two millennia of martyrdom behind them. If atheists want to crusade and play with the big boys, are their convictions strong enough to brave a fatwah? Answers on the side of a bus…

Is Warner arrogant or what?  The advert that so exercises him is worded “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  Why does he think this is specifically directed at his god in particular?

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At the back end of the Guardian report on the evangelical christian bus driver who objected to driving a bus bearing the British Humanist Association’s advert “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and go and enjoy your life“, there’s a statement that 231 complaints have been received by the ASA.

Now, we only know the text of a couple of these, the complaint from Stephen Green, the somewhat odd bloke behind Christian Voice, and one from supposedly respected religious affairs commentator Clifford Longley, which turned out to be an almost verbatim plagiarism from a religious website (and absolute bollocks to boot).

It’s to be hoped that the other 229 are equally vacuous.  And in the meantime the added publicity is all to the good.

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