Friday, January 09, 2009

Atheist Bus Campaign: God-lovers come over faint

About 60 people have complained to the ASA about the new Atheist Bus Campaign which tells you: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Some Christians and other monotheists find this statement offensive if only because it's misleading: there's more evidence for God - whichever one we're talking about - through personal experience than not, they say.

Arcatistes will know that I am always amused by the certainties of atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and so many others (including close friends), but I'm certainly not offended by this campaign's wishful-thinking message. Before Christmas, a humanist on the radio explained that the campaign was designed to reassure people that atheism was respectable now: she claimed that not-believing was still taboo. Really? I should say being religious is taboo in some circles, especially those where literary and philosophical fashion predominates.

What's really happening is that Atheism is itself slowly turning into a religion, as I have explained before. The mistake is to suppose that atheists are unbelievers: but a faith in something need not be of a mystical or supernatural nature. Atheists often believe wholeheartedly in science, in education, money, materialism, intellectualism: they would rather place their faith in empiricism, or what's testable, than in the essential subjectivity of a spiritual belief. The vogue is for a claimed objectivity because personal experience (or testimony) is seen as suspect.

That science is forever correcting itself, and turning theories into faux-facts, is neither here nor there: the altar is ready for service, be worshipful in the presence of Fact. As I have said before, the current cathedral of Atheism is the Large Hadron Collider, presently a little under the weather. But let's wish it well.

If the Bus Campaign comforts a few atheists, then what's the problem? Like the God-lovers, they too need the pastoral care of their priests. Probably.


Tufty said...

"What's really happening is that Atheism is itself slowly turning into a religion"

Atheism cannot become anything. It has no central dogma and only one point - the lack of belief in a God. What you mean to say is that some atheists (definitely not all) are treating their beliefs like a religion. As for "worshiping science" - those who are scientific do not have blind faith in theories, so the comparison is a little silly.

Either way, though, your statement is a little odd - how can a religious person bemoan others expressing themselves in a manner that seems religious? Why moan about atheist adverts when there have been religious ones for years? In the end, it's not even about you - the purpose of the adverts has been clearly stated as reassuring non-believers who have previously seen adverts threatening hell and high water.

(see my blog against atheophobia)

Madame Arcati said...

No Tufty, you are quite wrong, but elegantly wrong, if I may say.

Atheism, like any belief system, will gradually evolve into dogma: electing not to believe is paradoxically a belief since there is no factual basis for the conclusion other than an unbelief. It makes sense if you re-read a few times, even if you do not agree.

As to a lack of blind faith in science, the statement is far too general: for instance, many people accept the big bang as gospel: perhaps the big bang does account for the physical universe (I have no idea myself), but as we know, it is still a theory, one treated by so many as a fact. The cathedral that is the Large Hadron Collider was created to probe this mystery further: so many are placing their faith in this structure/experiment, especially those who haven't a clue about the big bang but an antipathy to paranormal faith.

I am not a religious person in the sense of belonging to a religion: I am actually sceptical of all religious dogma; interested however in the essential philosophical unities which may point us to greater truths about what we are and what we need.

You read the posting carefully so I'm surprised you think I'm moaning about the adverts. In fact I say that they do not offend me in the least and hopefully will reassure atheists.

(I would add though as a PS that a sick old person glancing up at a late fucking bus to be told to get over the idea that there might be something better to look forward to is not likely to be heartened - just the way life is)

Anonymous said...

This posting is one of your mysterious, Madame. Your sanity is plainly a bungalow of many mansions.

Elvira said...

This year was the first time ever I heard of the Humanlight Festival celebration (, so I’m thinking that yes, the Humanists’ advertising that there is no God must have gone into full force.

A few weeks back when I heard the small news report of the then upcoming celebration my first thought was that, most likely, atheists and agnostics have begun to feel a lot of pressure from their children who may be feeling ostracized by their peers and excluded from the holidays vibe for not sharing their beliefs. After all, during this time there is Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (not religious, I know), Dong Zhi (Chinese winter solstice festival) and I’m sure that even Jehova’s Witnesses find a way to celebrate that they don’t celebrate Christmas.

Before this, the atheists and agnostics that I knew didn’t feel the need to find more PC names to call themselves (humanists), allowed their children to grow up and make up their own mind as to believe or not in deities and even kept (actually made sure to keep) at home bibliography on each of the major religions’ holy books (Qur’an, Tanakh & Talmud, Bible, Puranas and so on).

I agree wholeheartedly with you that today it is in fashion - in ALL circles, dear - to declare we are too smart to believe there is a God and to "confess" belief in a Higher Being is what is becoming taboo.

Today more than ever, when I speak of my belief that there is a God, I can feel that people’s reaction is wonder if I would dance a rain dance if they awe me by offering mirrors and matches in exchange. I consider myself a whole and balanced human being because there is a physical, a rational, an emotional AND a spiritual side to me and I’m saddened to see that more frequently these days believing that goodness, more than just a philosophy is a spiritual need is considered by a rapidly growing number of the population as very unsophisticated. It’s their loss.

P.S. I also agree with you on your other points: science theories taken as the truth until they’re “debunked” with new theories, atheism becoming a religion (because religion is nothing but an organized belief and that is exactly what is happening with the humanist movement) and don’t even get me started with poor Hitchens (what a sad … soul), but you already know I’m like a zeppelin, so long winded, so I’ll leave it at this for now.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

I agree, the population that claims that there might be a more fulfilling consequence of death "up there", has never faced this unique terror straight in the eye..these ignorant people can not truly relate to a distraught state that one must wake up to and face on a day to day is easier said than done, believe me... ironically, I get down on my knees and pray when I am faced with still another challenge; such as the new biopsy prospect I must now await downright pisses the shit out of me and questions my faith. I guess that makes me human and not an atheist.

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Steph, one wouldn't be human not to have one's faith shaken by mortal fears - there is also a visceral fear of death, of oblivion, which I can understand. Many athiests wear their "un-belief" belief as a sort of badge of courage, as if they do not need the psychological support of faith. One does not believe (in a supernatural god) out of fear or hope of favour: for me life simply doesn't make much sense reduced to flesh, bone, money.

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Elvira, a thoughtful comment - more sense in those few words than the entire work of Hitchens. You should think about some sort of book - you write very well. I do not underestimate the messianic nature of humanism and its determination to remove religious expression from the public narrative. I know of psychoanalysts who discourage any religious faith, encouraging their patients to see this life as the only life and to view it in material terms. This can exclude a whole spiritual reality - though it depends on the patient. Faith and belief are entirely personal and subjective, as is atheism.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

yes, Madame, what matters is what comes directly from the heart...and words may be expressed on paper eloquently, but truthfully it's the actions of mere "mortals" and their actions that clearly defines ones soul...

Elvira said...

Well, I don’t take it against them when
Psychiatrists/psychologists try to convince their patients of such thing, because I realize they are only encouraging them to move on with their lives and stop waiting for solutions to their problems to fall on their laps.

This is because most people that believe in God, at least within the Muslin/Judeo/ Christian world, think of our maker as someone that is handing down our faith/destiny good and bad, rather than looking carefully into our prophets teachings that tell us that we are responsible for our life and future and we have to tune in and ask for enlightenment. That is exactly why we are here: we have been given talents to invest and we are expected to make them multiply and show results for our stay in this material world. It’s what I applaud about Hinduism and Buddhism, they got a long time ago that communication with God starts with us listening better.

Without going into to much rhetoric or personal anecdotes of how I argue with friends/family that think that I’m just lucky and what I have achieved has nothing to do with my faith that God takes care of me if I work diligently towards my goals, I think that the old story of the blond widow illustrates it best: Her husband has just died and she is afraid she will not be able to keep their business, car, home, other possessions and take care of the kids. Every week she prays to God to help her out and make her hit the lottery jackpot so she’ll have the solution to her problems and every week someone else wins, meaning the lady one by one loses her business, car, home… she cries out, “why me?” still praying when a big thunderbolt opens up the skies and God responds in the most loving way: Darling you have got to meet me half way on this, you must buy a ticket.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said... is a well known phenomenon that healing can take place in the mind...negative and toxic people who try and derail that positive attitude is a dangerous place to tread. There have been a myriad of unexplained experiences in my life that have stregthened not only my faith, but that there IS more to life than power, money, etc. I believe that religion can be defined as a faith in oneself..balance and healing comes from a positive attitude..I have recently been introduced to many religions including the Mormon faith. There is a common thread to all of my recent sectoral visits... that if one truly cares and has empathy towards your ellow man on earth, than it will be returned ten fold...

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Elvira, I like the blonde parable: I think I can identify with the blonde in question.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

it is called the "Golden Rule" and doesn't pertain to psychiatry.
Why is it that all of the world's great religions, though disagreeing greatly about theology, nonetheless concur on the Golden Rule. A world based entirely upon the Golden Rule would bring us close to heaven (or as some once called it, the Kingdom of God) on earth. Clearly however we are not there. And why is that? Is it because of the devil? Original sin? Or can something else provide an explanation?
The Buddhist sacred literature says, "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Islam teaches, "That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind." Confucius said, "Do not impose on others what you do not desire others to impose upon you." Jesus preached, "All things therefore that you want people to do to you, do thus to them." All of the world's major religions embrace some version of the Golden Rule.
In essence, we must all follow human kindness,to attain our inner beauty.

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Steph. This would be one example of the unity of the major religions.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said... me the only religion that truly matters is love. When you love your fellow man it can cure disease, and bring on excessive happiness... some people need to be reminded of that...something that we all, including me, seem to forget... when the worst times are upon us practice love and forgiveness...

Anonymous said...

What the hell is excessive happiness?

The Golden Rule is universal because it is the essence of living peacefully with one's fellow man in a group and groups are better able to survive than individuals. Primary in all man's thinking and behavior is the primitive instinct for survival.

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

..excessive happiness?
sad, by asking that question, not only are you not creative in your thinking, but have never experienced it..think non-linear...

Anonymous said...

Forgotten Ones Fund:

No, I have never experienced too much happiness - too little occasionally, but never an excess.

Nonlinear is an adjective, not an adverb.

It appears that English is your first language. Why does it seem so foreign to you?

forgotten ones fund/stephmastini said...

Don't take any notice. He's just letting off esteem.
stick to the topic Anonymous..

Anonymous said...

You are Dogberry.