Posted in Updates on Saturday 10th January 2009 at 2:33pm
I've just seen my first Atheist Bus and I confess to feeling childish excitement and, had it not been in the midst of Saturday crowds in Leeds City Centre, I might well have punched the air and done a little dance. Those who know me in real life will realise what an alarming and unlikely prospect this is - and thus just how important this first sighting was to me.
The bus ads were launched last Tuesday and have taken to the streets of London as originally planned. However, the overwhelming and heartfelt response to this refreshing campaign raised over 2000% more than originally planned - thus they can now been seen in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, York, Newcastle, Dundee, Sheffield, Coventry, Devon, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Newport, Rhondda, Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Aberdeen and of course Leeds. The campaign has also been able to fund tube cards including quotes from notable freethinkers and large digital billboards in Central London. Unsurprisingly, Stephen Green of Christian Voice was irked enough by this national sigh of relief from the non-religious to complain to the Advertising Standards Agency that there was "not a shred of evidence" for the claim there is no god. Presumably Mr Green has his irrefutable sources all lined up for the inevitable theological showdown. It will be interesting to see if the recently highly political Drs. Sentamu and Williams will manage to keep quiet and dismiss this with a chortle as they have to date?
As pressure mounts on the BBC to review their refusal to let humanist and secular speakers participate in Thought for the Day and today's iPM show features ABC originator Ariane Sherine in a 'thought for the afternoon' segment, there has never been a more open debate about secularism in the UK. Typing this in a freezing Leeds station, I'm still grinning from my first sighting of the bus. It feels rebellious - I want to ask people what they think of it - but of course, discussing religion is impolite - isn't it?
Posted in Updates on Thursday 25th December 2008 at 11:27pm
Back from a rather quiet, but warm and comforting day with the family. As ever in my Christmas Day posts, I must stress I don't find the time of year easy at all, and my instinct is to avoid much of the festivity. Given the changes which the family has seen over the years though, it's an occasion when I tend to reflect a little too much. The highlight of course was to get to spend the day with my two wonderful nephews, and to remember that last year we were all waiting eagerly for nephew No.2's arrival in March. It seems like a very long time ago now, and he took the day in his stride, his big brother looking after him and making an old uncle very proud!
It's been something of a watershed year for atheists, with positive press attention and genuine engagement with the mainstream. It's always a shame to see the rather foolish 'Mad Atheists banning Christmas' stories floating about, because I think along with a lot of fellow unbelievers, I value this quiet time of the year with my family.
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.
Posted in Updates on Wednesday 23rd July 2008 at 10:38pm
The Colas Class 47 visiting the bay platform at Weston spurred me to write an entry for this blog earlier which I mentioned in a post to the South West Rail Gen Group. I also indicated my dismay that I had no idea what date I took the picture on. Photography wasn't a big hobby for me then and I was three years away from owning a digital camera which would free me from the frustration of waiting for a film to be developed.
Amazingly, the message elicited a response from Tony Hughes, a local who posts regularly to the group, giving the date as 2nd May 1997. This fits into my memory of a strange time - I'd just fought an election campaign, stayed up all night at the Wells Constituency count and turned up at Bridgwater Town Hall for the local election count which I lost - but not desperately embarrassingly. I was on my way to my grandmother's house in the Midlands. When I got to Redditch station I was so exhausted I got a taxi to her house, which caused quite a stir on Batchley estate! I can't remember why I had my camera, perhaps I'd wanted to capture something of the atmosphere that night?
A lot has changed, but how amazing that this history is all out there in the information democracy.
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.