The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified

In response to the 'Alpha course' adverts placed on the side of buses across England, atheist and agnostic parties have created their own adverts saying that, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

This has caused outcry amongst various sectors of the UK population, but has also enjoyed much support. Are the actions of these people any better or worse than the actions of Christians that they seek to hold up as inappropriate?


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The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
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The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
Yes because...

All Parties are as Bad as Each Other

Fair enough, the atheist adverts are not inflammatory. They do not say, 'Religion is an oppressive tool - stop going to Church' or 'Christians exploit the vulnerable'. However, their ultimate point is still conversion. They are there to provoke the thought of Christians who see them, and win them round to the atheist cause. They are not there to look pretty, or to amuse tourists. They have a message.

This is precisely the same behaviour of the Alpha course adverts. They too are not directly inflammatory. They simply alert people to the idea that others believe life has meaning, and they could too. Their ultimate aim is conversion.

Thus far, both parties are equal.

Atheists have argued that Christian advertising has no place in the public, secular world of the UK. Fair enough, perhaps it doesn't. Their adverts, however, are a part of the religious debate. They are contributing to what they profess to hate.

What would have been optimum would have been that both groups were simply informed that their advertisements were inappropriate for public transport, as I am sure would be the case if the Neo-Nazi party took out an advertisement that, whilst not overtly offensive, had undertones of a desire to recruit new members.

No because...

As the 'Yes' argument points out, even as a reaction to Christian advertising the Atheist Bus Campaign is akin to the discourse it opposes, ultimately aimed towards conversion. This equivalence is also applicable to the Christian argument that the Atheist campaign cannot 'substantiate' its message.

Taking this as assumed, the issue we face here is not one of substantiation or religious debate, but of marketing standards.

Although hyperbolic, in utilizing Neo-Naziism as a comparable belief system, we reveal the most salient aspect of our legal system - that the United Kingdom operates (in theory) a secular and apolitical jurisprudence. Thus, just as a Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat party campaign may advertise itself and its beliefs for a process of recruitment, so any other party (or political-belief organisation) should be allowed to do the same. Such is a democratic principle. The same applies to Atheist and Christian organisations - embroiled in the same system of debating and conversion as political parties.

Taking this as a necessary foundation of marketing standards, we find that the main issue here is that such adverts were 'inappropriate for public transport'. Such an argument places too great an emphasis on the importance of public transport as an advertising medium. The saturation of advertising within modern (particularly urban) society, both within the home and on the streets, makes the emphasis on this medium somewhat inconsequential.

To assert that public transport infers upon adverts a particular and advantageous veracity is incorrect. Although the debate over the 'inappropriateness' of religious advertising is an intensely complex matter, the argument that such adverts are specifically inappropriate for public transport is little more than an argumentative cul de sac. And, as we know, there is nowhere more annoying for a bus to be than a cul de sac.

The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
Yes because...

Waste of money

The money used to fund the adverts could have been spent contributing to UK life in a meaningful way. Funding a secular charity would be a point against religion - that people do not have to have religious motivations to be good people with integrity.

The campaign organisers say that the point is simply to "brighten people's days". Fine. They could have done that by giving homeless people food. The Humanist Society, who are behind the campaign, should stick to their goals, which is the betterment of society free from religion, and cease their tedious aggressive, resentful behaviour towards those who do not agree with them - the religious.

No because...

By the same token the money that funds all adverts for charitable causes could be used to contribute to life in a "meaningful way" instead. However, it's long been realized that merely doing good work is not going to get you noticed, and that by diverting some money towards advertising, charities can increase their resources considerably. Given that BHA membership isn't particularly large at the moment, despite many people identifying with their goals, they're in entirely this position.

Also, note that the money was donated specifically towards the campaign, and not to the BHA for general use.

Also, it can hardly be seen to be the case that The Humanist Society are acting in a "tedious, aggressive, resentful" manner toward the religious. The advert was, by all accounts, a mere cheerful nudge in the direction of non-belief. Claiming that all who disagree with your particular worldview will burn in hell - now that sounds tedious, resentful and pretty darn aggressive. It certainly seems to be the case that many believers are new to the idea that their beliefs reside in the same field of discourse as any others, and may be challenged in just the same way.

The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
Yes because...

Plurality

The UK establishment is not neutral to religion. The Christian Church of England is institutionally tied up in the constitution of the UK with an representatives in the House of Lords in the form of the Lords Spiritual, all members of the Royal Family must be members of the Church, Christian prayers are given in state schools, and the rituals of parliament and the royal family contain references to the Christian God.

Whether this is acceptable or not is not to be debated here, neither is this an appropriate topic to discuss reforms regarding the institutionalisation of religious representetatives that more accurately represents the religious spread of the population of the UK, but the idea that it is offensive or inappropriate for the people of the UK to potentially witness information that actively promotes a atheistic or agnostic view point that are both sparse in their number and formatted in a mild manner is a rejection of the ideal of political plurality which is one of the sentiments that the establishment of this country prides itself upon having.

It's strange that these spark up so much controversy when we are all too obsequious to the cause of those who plague everyday life with adverts in in order to subtly manipulate opinion regarding fashion, lifestyle, beauty, and which reinforce gender and racial stereotypes.

No because...
The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
Yes because...

They are inconsistent with a scientific approach to behavior change

The question is whether or not atheism is valid, but whether the bus advertisements are moral within the constraints of the atheist value structure. Atheism can be completely valid and that doesn't mean any action done by atheists is somehow correct.

To be specific, the type of atheism being represented in these advertisements is a sort of scientific humanism. Science is good and forwarding human progress, religion is fear-mongering and resistant to change, and so on.

So are the advertisements a good method of dealing with religiosity? The most recent advertisements said, "Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings." Given the scientific understanding of the decision making process, is this a good method for helping people deal with their delusion of theism? No.

There are quite a few studies, as well as simple common sense, that say when you attack someone they become resistant to change. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't.

These signs force reactive people to take sides and are not a productive step forward in atheisms humanistic goals. Atheism forfeits it's legitimacy of standing on the side of science through the use of these advertisements.

These advertisements are neither a philosophical argument nor a well-targeted public health intervention, they're kids bickering in the schoolyard.

No because...

It is irrelevant that these adverts are seen as meaninglessly provocative and have misrepresented atheism. The adverts have provoked a debate over atheism and religion, forced a recapulation of the different aspects of atheism.
This is surely the point of the adverts rather than a cheap gibe. Even if this was the intent was to make a cheap shot, those who feel affronted by it have made the attempt to share their views.

To cut even more quickly to the chase: the claim that the adverts misrepresent the 'atheist value structure' is fallacious. There is no 'atheist value structure' - to declare oneself an atheist tells others only what one does not believe in (any kind of God), and nothing about one's actual beliefs. To say that these adverts advocated a form of scientific humanism is both debatable and irrelevant.

The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
Yes because...

They make false assumptions about people of faith

Assuming that people who believe in God worry all the time and don't enjoy life is inaccurate. Some studies have actually shown that religious people are happier. The atheist bus adverts are based on a caricature of belief as joyless and about guilt - not so!

No because...

The Christian advertisements that prompted the atheist retaliation made quite a few false assumptions about non-believers: namely that they are sinful and will burn in hell. They also arguably made the false assumption that Christian theology provides an accurate picture of the world - yet the attention seems to be on the comparatively conservative assumptions made by the atheists' advert. It appears the public at large have grown used to tacitly accepting the unverifiable truth claims of the religious.

The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
Yes because...

It raises the awareness of the issue(s) involved.

Encouraging discussion can only be a good thing. Assuming everyone is a Christian ( or in my area a Muslim just because they wear a head scarf ) , just supports the status quo and discourages creativity and the progression of society.

The vast explosion of new technology , medicine and extension of life expectancy , did not come about by sitting in church pews reading ancient wisdoms from an iron age book.

When people are allowed to think and behave more freely , they learn more and achieve more. Sure, some people will be overwhelmed , I remember when I was 1st allowed to legally drink alcohol – I had two whole pints of Guinness !

No because...
The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
No because...

Plurality--

The UK establishment is not neutral to religion. The Christian Church of England is institutionally tied up in the constitution of the UK with an representatives in the House of Lords in the form of the Lords Spiritual, all members of the Royal Family must be members of the Church, Christian prayers are given in state schools, and the rituals of parliament and the royal family contain references to the Christian God.

Whether this is acceptable or not is not to be debated here, neither is this an appropriate topic to discuss reforms regarding the institutionalisation of religious representetatives that more accurately represents the religious spread of the population of the UK, but the idea that it is offensive or inappropriate for the people of the UK to potentially witness information that actively promotes a atheistic or agnostic view point that are both sparse in their number and formatted in a mild manner is a rejection of the ideal of political plurality which is one of the sentiments that the establishment of this country prides itself upon having.

It's strange that these spark up so much controversy when we are all too obsequious to the cause of those who plague everyday life with adverts in in order to subtly manipulate opinion regarding fashion, lifestyle, beauty, and which reinforce gender and racial stereotypes.

Yes because...

It is true what is said opposite about the way the Anglican Church is entwined with the political Establishment of this country, but that is irrelevant if no ordinary people go to Church, which increasingly few do.
The problem with these adverts is that - as the overall title of this debate says - they simply aren't justified. All they do is proclaim a particular point of view. This was NOT what the original Alpha Course adverts did. The Alpha Course adverts were advertising something that might be of use to the passer-by reading the advert. They didn't simply say "There is a God".

The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified
No because...

Atheism is a perfectly legitimate belief system

Whether it is meant as an attack on the Christian adverts or not, Atheism is not an attack on anybody - 'there is no God' is a belief system that many people decide of their own judgement after a long, thorough consideration. If one organisation can advertise their belief system, why can't the others?

In any case, rationalistic atheism eschews belief in God because there is no evidence of his existence - like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. However, there is no reason to KNOW that there is no divine being - hence, atheists BELIEVE that God does not exist, and hence it is a belief system. And through advertisements, if that be the vehicle for sparking debate, discussion and hopefully make people doubt their stances and beliefs - which plays out to the advantage of atheists, and showcases why the choice is rational.

Yes because...

Atheism is not a belief system, it is the absense of a belief system. The statement 'there is no God' is borne of rational and scientific bases rather than totemism or faith.

The way we use the word 'belief' is wrong - often interchangeable with 'know'. I believe in the existence of the cheese - that is not a belief system. I eat, taste, buy, smell and spread cheese - i KNOW it exist

The Atheist Bus campaign is certainly justified and I welcome it with open arms but not because I desire to see a plurality of belief systems as the proposition states. Atheism is the rational chocie.





The ‘Atheist Bus’ adverts are not justified

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