Posted in Updates on Tuesday 21st October 2008 at 11:10pm
I caught up late with Ariane Sherine's piece on The Guardian website regarding religious advertising on buses in London. Frequenting railways stations as often as I do, these posters, including a recent Alpha Course campaign have become a depressingly common part of the wallpaper, and I chuckled at how close Ariane's views were to mine and cursed missing the chance to support the original pledge to raise money for an atheist bus advertising campaign. However, with the support of the British Humanist Association and Professor Richard Dawkins, the campaign rose again this morning and made national news - including the brazenly pro-religion BBC. The aim was Â£5,500 at which point Professor Dawkins would match the sum from his own pocket. I gleefully tossed in my small contribution and felt strangely cheerful. Later I checked the website in the hope that the target was increasing. It had, and beyond all expectations, the Â£5,500 figure was reached as early as 10:06, and the total now exceed this by many thousands of pounds! As I type this article, the donations stand at Â£46,512 and continue to increase. You can check the total and donate yourself if you wish here.
Why is this important - and perhaps more interestingly, why do people who don't believe in something feel the need to express this lack of belief? The simple answer is because the insidious and accepted view that religion is somehow privileged in our society. If this campaign persuades just a handful of people to re-examine their acceptance of a two-tier school system, of workplaces divided by inequality, of public money spent on pointless and often lengthy court cases brought by mischief makers claiming religious prejudice, then it has been a success. Notably, the comments people are placing against their donations are warm, funny, celebratory and often express great relief that such a high profile campaign is under way, and appears to be making an impact.
The only truly dissenting note comes from the predictable corner of Christian Voice. In their deeply sincere 'letters to the editor' style of offended harrumphing and appallingly poor political quippery, they make a few 'bendy bus' gags before insulting Dawkins' intelligence and claiming it doesn't matter anyway. We'll all be burning in hell anyway if Stephen Green has his way, so he'll be assured of a warm reception when he makes it upstairs! This is the rather trite and amusing side of a very seriously discriminatory, inflammatory and offensive organisation however, and whilst this time Christian Voice have just made the whole thing even funnier for all concerned, you can bet your bottom dollar they'll have some truly appalling campaign up their sleeves soon! Amazing how one simple sentence can provoke such concerned handwringing by supposedly respectable individuals and organisations.
An interesting note related to the wording of the ad - "There is probably no god..." (my emphasis). I understand that this was included to ensure that the Advertising Standards Agency would not uphold complaints that the advert was making assertions of truth on an untestable proposition. Ariane compares it to Carlsberg lager in her piece. I don't mind the addition at all - it's questioning tone is appropriate to the scientific principle, and it's seemingly casual lack of concern for the answer reflects the true atheist perspective - it doesn't actually matter what anyone else believes, so lets get on with the one life we've got!
I appreciate that not all my friends or casual readers will share my views. For the sake of empiricism I have included links to a number of views and thoughts on this campaign.
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.