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« The End of an Error The RantsSole Mates »

AFP Misreports the Point
2009.01.25 (Sun) 01:30

The AFP put up a little ditty on the (by now) famous atheist bus campaign in London — those large signs reading: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." They look a lot like this:

There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

In fact, an awful lot like that. That's one of the actual signs, on an actual bus. Unfortunately, the AFP reporter seems to have missed the real point. From the Atheist Bus official website, we can clearly see their reason for doing this:

Our aim is to raise the profile of atheism through innovative and exciting advocacy projects, starting with the Atheist Bus Campaign.
[our emphasis]

Whereas, the AFP article oddly decides to print:

An atheist drive to persuade people that God doesn't exist is catching on in a surprising fashion
[again, our emphasis]

What? No, AFP, that's not the motive or goal at all. In what possible way are these signs meant to "persuade people that God doesn't exist"? Far more accurate would be to say that it's meant to persuade people to just chill the fuck out about it, really, or even more accurate would be to simply refer to the Atheist Bus organization's stated motive: to get the simple fact that atheists exist (and don't eat babies or strangle kittens) a little more exposure. Reporter Prashant Rao's take on the purpose of the signs suggests either an agenda driven by religious leanings (which we're not inclined to suspect), or the fundamental problem with how atheism is generally perceived by the religious contingent (which is to say, as "pushing" our lack of god-belief rather than declining participation in theirs).

The sign itself doesn't "persuade" anyone of anything — and it's not intended to. There's no evidence or reasoning presented on the sign, so how the hell could it persuade anyone of anything? The imperative phrase is simply advice, and that advice is founded on the likelihood of the declarative phrase, which is, unfortunately for the religiosos, 100% true (thanks to the inclusion of the word "probably," actually; which is funny, since so many atheists — including us — are not big fans of that inclusion).

The implied, but never outright stated, "third phrase" in this thinking is: "...because there's a whole lot of great stuff you could be doing if you weren't preoccupied with this religious shit, and if there were a god, he'd probably be happy you did it!"

In other words, no one is trying to persuade anyone of the truth of the first phrase — they're simply trying to interest them in the value of the second. The Atheist Bus organization's obvious reasoning for that value is founded on the accuracy of the first phrase...but readers are free to get to that imperative second phrase any way they like, and it will still hold great value.

The same logic would hold with any variation of this sign, in a number of different contexts. Try this one on for size:

Smoking will probably give you lung cancer. So try to quit, or at least cut down.

The implied third phrase here would be: "...because your chances of cancer go down, and your life expectancy goes up, which is good for you and your loved ones."

Or this one:

Drunk driving will likely ruin lives. So don't drive when you're fucking blitzed.

With the implied third phrase: "...because then you'll be less likely to kill or hurt somebody, or damage any property, and you won't go to fucking prison for it and ruin your own life as well."

Or how about:

People tend not to enjoy it when you kick them in the face. Try to avoid that.

Implied third phrase: "...because they'll be very cross with you, and may attempt to kick you in the face back. Accompanied by several large friends."

It's an easy exercise: you make a statement of pretty certain fact (the perceived certainty is, admittedly, helped by qualifiers like "probably" and "tend not to"). Expanding on that — with the understanding that it is pretty damn certain — you give some advice that naturally follows based on that fact. The conclusory implication is that the advice will help you lead a fuller, happier, less problematic life with your fellow human beings.

Play the home game. It's fun and informative. And you can pester the neighbors.

And that's all the bus signs are doing — having fun, informing, and pestering the neighbors.

Said neighbors are, of course, that particular brand of religioso who find the slightest suggestion that their beliefs are not shared by all to be horribly offensive. Despite the fact that the suggestion to "just enjoy your life" should be a pretty universal thing, when you get right down to it.

It's always strange to us that the folks who believe in God might think he wants them to waste so much time bothering him and other people. If nothing else: he gave you a really cool place to hang out — you know, the world — and you should put more effort into checking that out than into sitting in a stuffy synagogue muttering platitudes. But, more to the point, the apparently random nature of...well, nature should tell you that praying or not praying, piety or the lack thereof, religious demographics, and all that crap simply make no difference in how you are being treated by the cosmic forces around us. So even if you are right, and those cosmic forces are, for lack of a better word, "God," then perhaps you're simply supposed to happily believe, occasionally say, "Hey, nice one! Thanks for that!" — and go about your life without any more fuss over him than that.

As usual, whatever floats your boat, just do it, as long as it's not sinking someone else's. We can't imagine the appeal of wasting so much time at churches and taking shit like that so seriously, just as the religious folks can't imagine the appeal of living in a godless universe with no magical superdaddy to protect them and offer them licorice and badminton after they croak. Well, rock on, kids. Of course, in that light, the message you should be gleaning from this whole experience is simple: if you don't like it when other people's world views are paraded around in front of you, maybe that should give you a hint as to why we're not overly fond of your world views invading every aspect of our lives.

Perhaps that, in itself, would look good on a bus.

Don't you hate it when people throw their beliefs in your face? Yeah? Then cut it the fuck out.

[Original image copyrighted by Jon Worth / British Humanist Association, used without permission but with gratitude, via the Atheist Bus website itself.]

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[  Filed under: % Media & Censorship  % Religion  ]

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