You never know what trivial incident will catalyze a strong reaction. Take the atheist bus campaign, for instance, which simply puts signs on buses that say “There is probably no god” — a few months ago, I would have said it was a good idea and that it should be done, to merely make the background existence of atheists a bit more apparent. I would not have predicted that it would so inflame many believers, or I would have been cheerleading even harder. Companies refused to run the ads in Australia, a smug Catholic cardinal squelches the ads in Italy, and an arrogant bus driver refuses to do his job over them. This is great! The godless are getting phenomenal amounts of press over a moderate and self-evident statement!
The other great thing is that it is effectively dragging many religious loons out of their dark, cobwebby crevices and exposing them to the light (see crazy bus driver, above), and also revealing their censorious tactics. One of the wackier opinion pieces on this subject comes from someone named Gerald Warner, who parades his ignorance of reason as if it were gold-plated and sprinkled with diamonds — when it’s more like a lump of lead painted yellow with cheap sequins stapled on. Warner suggests that “Atheists will need martyrs if they are to compete with Christians“, which gives you a hint right there about how silly his arguments are going to be. He’s very thrilled with Ron Heather, the easily offended bus driver, and praises him for his obstructions.
It is good to see a Christian making difficulties for aggressive secularists, who usually have a monopoly of harassing Christians. Normally it is the banning of nativity plays and other killjoy aggressions against the free expression of Christian faith that make the headlines; so congratulations to this British sea dog for fighting back.
Hang on, Gerald — you feel harassed by signs on a bus? Does this feeling extend to people who might similarly dislike messages your kind of jingoistic wingnut might wave in their faces? I find these signs to be intensely dishonest and disagreeable — am I being harrassed?
I find it remarkable that you consider what Heather did to be “fighting back”: he took a holiday from work because his tiny, sensitive soul could not bear the sight of a belief that did not reinforce his personal superstition.
But Warner is not done. Let’s see how much sillier he can get.
To claim “There’s probably no God” suggests a somewhat faltering faith in the thesis being advanced. Is this not, in fact, an agnostic, rather an atheist, advertisement? Could its promoters fall foul of the Trades Descriptions Act? But the most interesting part of the slogan is the second half: “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Since when was the message that there is no one in charge, nobody to protect us or lend succour, thought reassuring?
A two-part misapprehension!
“There’s probably no God” is an accurate summary of the atheist position. There’s no virtue to be found in iron-clad certainty, and it is no sign of weakness that a statement might allow for acceptance of evidence in contradiction. People like Warner, however, think that certainty is a necessity. It is unassailable certainty in their positions that allowed good Christians to march people of another religion into ovens at bayonet point; that allowed good Christians to hang widowed old women for witchcraft; that led to wars and genocide over trivial matters of theology, like the degree of god-nature in Jesus’ existence; that allows racists and homophobes to declare a significant portion of our population to be second-class citizens; that encouraged priests to appease imaginary beings by burning babies; that led to monsters cutting the living hearts out of their neighbors so that the sun might rise. Let’s leave certainty to the oleaginous evangelists, the jingoistic war mongers, and the other con artists selling us bogus solutions to imaginary problems. A little uncertainty, a little willingness to accept that deeper knowledge might change our minds, is a good thing.
But if Mr Warner really demands some kind of absolutist comment, I can oblige. I am utterly certain that no god-walloping, bible-thumping, jesus-humping, apologetics-babbling theological dingleberry has ever provided a single scrap of the kind of rational evidence for a god that would convince a rational human being of normal or better intelligence. All they have is fear and ignorance and conformity to prop up their absurdities. Better? Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite fit into a short slogan.
As far as the last part of the slogan…yes, I find it very reassuring that I am not reliant on the whims of some all-powerful cosmic tyrant. I’ve read the Bible, and his god is not a very nice anthropomorphic hallucination: murder, war, rape, threats of eternal torment, and micro-management of trivial aspects of human behavior seem to be his modi operandi. I am relieved that I am not under its thumb, although it is still worrisome that so many imagine that they are, and act as if this evil puppetmaster were pulling their strings.
The message of atheism is personal responsibility. You cannot blame your wickedness on a rebellious ancestor with an appetite for apples. You cannot say the devil made you do it. Your actions are not dictated by invisible deities whispering in your ear. Your actions have consequences, and they are your actions.
Oh, and what about Mr Warner’s choice of a title for his piece? It doesn’t make sense, and really isn’t even addressed by implication until the last paragraph.
One further observation by Ron Heather will strike a chord with many: “There would be no way buses would be able to drive around with an anti-Muslim message like that on the side mentioning Allah.” Christians have two millennia of martyrdom behind them. If atheists want to crusade and play with the big boys, are their convictions strong enough to brave a fatwah? Answers on the side of a bus…
Fatwah envy! Silly man: “Allah” just means “God”. The bus signs are denying the existence of any god, not just the Christian one, but also the Jewish god, the Muslim god, the Sikh god, the Norse god, the Roman god, any god you want to imagine. Muslims have the potential to be just as offended by that sign as Christians.
And please, the martyr act is really getting old. Christians have been the dominant religion of civilized western Europe since Constantine, in the fourth century. They have not been oppressed for 1700 of the 2000 years that Warner clasps as icons of victimhood.
Learn a little history, too. There was a brief period of time when Rome treated Christians and Jews hatefully, killing them and torturing them. The reason why is enlightening, however. Rome was openly pluralistic about religion, and throughout its history readily absorbed just about any belief into its pantheon, even building temples to strange gods. They did not dislike Christianity because they worshipped Jesus or had a god with a different name or celebrated a few different rituals — that was no problem. They were persecuted because they were aggressively monotheistic and rejected all the other gods, and would not participated in activities like emperor-worship, making their loyalty suspect.
The martyrs were atheists. They died because they were accused of disbelief.
It’s amusing when Christians define themselves by their history of martyrdom. Most of it was nonexistent, and they have been the agents of oppression for most of their history; and when it did occur, it was because they were stiff-necked and rebellious, and refused to bow down before other people’s gods. And now we see how these self-proclaimed victims respond to anyone else refusing to worship their superstitions, with hints that martyrdom for us would be a good thing, and wishful suggestions that someone else will do their dirty work for them. That way they can deny responsibility, and no doubt wash their hands afterwards, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see you to it.”
And they don’t even see the irony.
Maybe they need to read their Bibles with a little more attention to meaning.