Pharyngula

A poll, the herald of another bus campaign

New Zealand will be getting signs saying “there’s probably no god” slapped onto buses trundling about, and naturally, the newspapers want to hear what you think about that.

Is there a God?

Yes 37.2%

No 49.0%

I’m not sure 13.6%

I don’t know. I would have thought New Zealanders could do better than that. Maybe if I close my eyes and wish real hard, those numbers will change.

Comments

  1. #1 sam.murthy
    December 10, 2009

    PZ,

    A point that I have subscribed to over reading evolutionary psychology books is that religion is a successful meme because it convinces people to propagate it — Dawkins put it as something like the god meme is a virus of the brain. I understand the atheists’ contempt for religiosity, but are you not falling into the same sort of meme trap by spending so much energy to try to change people’s minds about faith?

    Dont think I should need to disclose my position to make an argument effectively, but I am actually indifferent to religion / god and am a regular reader of pharyngula.

    Regards, smurfy

  2. #2 daveau
    December 10, 2009

    If god did exist, s/he could always win these polls.

  3. #3 Fair Dinkum
    December 10, 2009

    I wonder if someone will lodge an official complaint in New Zealand? 326 did in Britain.
    Please no sniggering.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7818980.stm

    http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/news/news/2009/Atheist+bus+ad+campaign+not+in+breach+of+advertising+code.htm

    We didn’t have poll though.
    But we did do this…..

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/10/23/god_poll/

    Cheerio

  4. #4 jams.n.tones
    December 10, 2009

    I am so glad you’ve sent people over to this poll. It needed it. The comments section needs some smackdown as well… The believers’ comments are hideous and ALL THE SAME… do they not read through the comments section before vomiting their own thoughts into the internet?? Summary here: http://developinggeneticist.blogspot.com/2009/12/theres-probably-no-god.html

  5. #5 The Science Pundit
    December 10, 2009

    Yes

    1969 votes, 24.6%

    No

    5147 votes, 64.3%

    I’m not sure

    892 votes, 11.1%

    Total

    8008 votes

  6. #6 Kraid
    December 10, 2009

    I would have thought New Zealanders could do better than that.

    This is the birthplace of Ray Comfort we’re talking about.

  7. #7 llewelly
    December 10, 2009

    I still don’t get the point of that qualifier on the signs.

    It’s a concession to people who have a pedantic obsession with the fact that no entity can ever disproved with perfect certainty.

  8. #8 kopd
    December 10, 2009

    It’s a concession to people who have a pedantic obsession with the fact that no entity can ever disproved with perfect certainty.

    That’s only true for logically consistent entities which don’t make falsifiable predictions, though.

  9. #9 Thomathy
    December 10, 2009

    #22 ‘A point that I have subscribed to over reading evolutionary psychology books is that religion is a successful meme because it convinces people to propagate it — Dawkins put it as something like the god meme is a virus of the brain. I understand the atheists’ contempt for religiosity, but are you not falling into the same sort of meme trap by spending so much energy to try to change people’s minds about faith?’

    It’s odd that you ask, since you blatantly contradict yourself by saying, ‘but I am actually indifferent to religion / god.’

    But, whatever. I don’t think the meme analogy is any good. It actually is terrible and fraught with short-comings. Never mind that either.

    I don’t think there’s a chance of atheism (or faithlessness) being a successfully spread idea only because people are convinced to propagate it. That is, I don’t think it will be analogous to religiosity and it certainly isn’t to faith. It’s a bit more demanding of a person to have reasons to believe something than just faith. If religion is easily spread because it’s easy to convince people of it (and I’m not sure that it is considering the number of children whose simple questions have always been unsatisfactorily answered by religion), then irreligion is harder to spread because it requires more, critical thinking takes work. I just can’t imagine it falling into the same ‘meme trap’.

  10. #10 kelvin
    December 10, 2009

    We need some of those ads here in Toronto, Canada. Those bible ads on the public transit piss me off everytime I see’em.

  11. #11 raven
    December 10, 2009

    sam:

    A point that I have subscribed to over reading evolutionary psychology books is that religion is a successful meme because it convinces people to propagate it — Dawkins put it as something like the god meme is a virus of the brain. I understand the atheists’ contempt for religiosity, but are you not falling into the same sort of meme trap by spending so much energy to try to change people’s minds about faith?

    WTF??? Sam, there is so much wrong with your paragraph it is hard to even know where to start.

    1. Because we can’t do everything, we should do nothing is a fallacy. In point of fact, xianity is dying in the USA all by itself. We just cheer it on and give it a little nudge once in a while.

    2. The religion meme isn’t all powerful. Prosperous, free societies shed it quite readily. No one misses it.

    3. There is not one religion meme. There are countless religion memes dueling it out for head space. Sometimes they duel it out in the real world with real weapons and rivers of blood flow. Some are much more malevolent than others. I can live with someone who claims to be a Deist. I have a hard time with a xian or moslem fundie fanatic who thinks all infidels should be killed including all the Fake Xians and Moslems.

    4. There are a lot of memes that push out the religion one. Science works, freedom is good, killing for god(s) is evil, who would jesus torture and kill is a silly question, being dumb, crazy, and fundie is a poor lifestyle choice, and on and on.

    I can see you have caught the “It’s hopeless so I’ll sit down and get drunk until I die” meme. Whatever, but the hangovers with that meme make it short lived for most normal adults.

  12. #12 eddie
    December 10, 2009

    I still don’t get the point of that qualifier on the signs.

    That’s why they tell you to stop worrying.

  13. #13 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 10, 2009

    Yes 3009 votes, 23.8%

    No 8234 votes, 65.2%

    I’m not sure 1391 votes, 11.0%

    Total 12634 votes

  14. #14 jsteemson
    December 10, 2009

    Yes! I’m glad this campaign has finally reached our shores. I’m more then a little bit proud to have an actual secular government, with overtly religious political parties not gaining even a toe-hold. We don’t have an official “separation” policy here, but we are a relatively enlightened electorate and don’t put up with religiously motivated twaddle. The last “christian” party got fewer votes then the size of their congregation…

    For example, the centre-right party currently in government has a gay minister in cabiner, we had a Rastafarian MP for a couple of terms and elected our first transexual MP a couple of elections ago.

    Incidentally, we also were the first in the world to give women the vote, and can honestly claim the best race-relations in a post-colonial country. *blatant self-promotion*

  15. #15 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 10, 2009

    *blatant self-promotion*

    Yes, Australia certainly seems like a nice place.

  16. #16 Smoggy Batzrubble OM4Jesus
    December 10, 2009

    Dear Brother/Sister Kraid @27

    Noo Zillund is indeed the birthplace of Brother Ray Cumfart. But he is not the only devout Christian missionary to the atheists that the Pacific’s triple star has produced. I, Smoggy Batzrubble, God’s missionary to the pharyngulean hordes am also a born and bred Noo Zillunder and I swear to you, upon my own Holy Brible, that I am going to mobilise the members of my Church of the Eternal Blow Job to protest this outrage.

    I’ve already written our Battle Hymn:

    Onward Christian Suckers,
    Do not shut your mouths,
    This filth we just won’t swallow,
    The bus is God’s own house.

    God’s greatness is upon our lips,
    The Holy Spirit comes,
    And we commune with Jesus,
    By munching on his buns.

    So keep your slogans off the bus,
    We don’t care if you’re right,
    God doesn’t want you happy,
    His bark reflects his bite.

    AMEN

  17. #17 spiralist
    December 10, 2009

    I’m just dissapointed that Australia knocked the bus campaign back. Bloody Kiwis. grumble grumble.

  18. #18 Alethios
    December 10, 2009

    Rather interesting discussion of whether this campaign is necessary over at one of our countries foremost left wing blogs.

    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/against-the-atheist-bus-campaign/#comments

    I’m against the authors position, but it is an interesting point.

  19. #19 Andreas Johansson
    December 11, 2009

    87% ‘No’ as of right now.

  20. #20 Dean Jones
    December 11, 2009

    Re: Kristian “The question was a bit problematic. They asked “Is there a god?” The obvious answer would be “I’m not sure” Whether you are a believer or atheist shouldn’t matter.

    A better formulation would have been “Do you THINK there is a god?” ”

    Actually, the question wasn’t “Is there a god?” it was “Is there a God?” – capital G.

    Personally I took that to reference the Judeo-Islamic-Christian deity, because they’re the ones who seem to think calling their god by an actual name is somehow insulting him (Allah means ‘The god’)…and the idea of THAT god is so patently absurd I feel confident in stating categorically that there is no God.

  21. #21 Richard Eis
    December 11, 2009

    -Maybe if I close my eyes and wish real hard, those numbers will change.-

    One ruby slippered (its my day off) flying monkey wish coming right up.

    and a miracle has occured. Congrats PZ, you just went and proved wishing works. James Randi is going to be awful mad at you.

  22. #22 Rorschach
    December 11, 2009

    Don’t like the “probably is not” either.

    Better have made it “very unlikely there is”, with reference to the unlikeliness of leprechauns, teapots in space and elfs, or something.
    Suspect the current one flies over most people’s heads, too nice, not confronting enough.

  23. #23 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawnScD7LWA0CRBZYptYkGrjILPVVRYDSGZU
    December 11, 2009

    When I checked the NZ Atheist Bus site this morning they had 800NZD up in donations. That’s about 45USD or 3 chickens, a goat and a piglet in the South Pacific. It’s now up to 12,000NZD 12 hours later. Great stuff. See you in Melbourne!
    Stewpid MT login wont work

  24. #24 Quasarsphere
    December 11, 2009

    While it is true that NZ is the birthplace of Ray Comfort, when I gleefully related this wonderful news to a great many friends and acquaintances, those who asked “who the fuck is Ray Comfort?” vastly outnumbered those who asked “who the fuck is Richard Dawkins?”

    Nobody gives a shit about Comfort here.

  25. #25 Andyman
    December 11, 2009

    I agree with Quasar – personally I never heard of Ray Discomfort till I met Pharyngula.
    There is also a discussion on one of the NZ tv channel websites.

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Atheist-bus-message—encouraging-conversation-or-hatred-/tabid/1153/articleID/133701/cat/991/Default.aspx

    The posting on there may actually surprise you.

  26. #26 PZ Myers
    December 11, 2009

    James Randi is going to be awful mad at you.

    Does this mean I win the million dollars?

  27. #27 Richard Eis
    December 11, 2009

    Does this mean I win the million dollars?

    Did you fill in the prerequisite form with notary signatures?

    Well, looks like Randi is safe once again. Yay bureaucracy.

  28. #28 toth
    December 11, 2009

    We just need to get Jemaine and Bret to endorse it, and we’ll be set.

  29. #29 William
    December 11, 2009

    Update

    Is there a God?
    Yes
    18898 votes, 26.8%

    No
    49588 votes, 70.2%

    I’m not sure
    2115 votes, 3.0%

    Total 70601 votes

  30. #30 Kamaka
    December 11, 2009

    and can honestly claim the best race-relations in a post-colonial country.

    Hmmm…some M?ori I’ve spoken with would tend to disagree

  31. #31 SNAFU
    December 11, 2009

    The Yes vote is surging back, last night it was down around 11% and the No vote was slightly over 89%.

    Is the poll being unpharyngulated?

    Go No!

  32. #32 Squirel52
    December 11, 2009

    After only 30 hours we trounced the $10,000 mark, and are nearly at $15K :D
    I think the “probably no god” is an important exercise in intellectual honesty – the god-nuts claim complete certainty in the absense of any evidence. We, of course, would argue that complete lack of evidence is a really good reason to *not* believe but to claim complete certainty would be supremely arrogant. The whole point of this campaign is to encourage the belief that living your life on the assumption that sky-daddy is watching you and judging you is not only daft, but damaging. “Probably” does that just as well as “definitely”, but leaves the god-bothers without a single leg to stand on when they try to take us down

  33. #33 Squirel52
    December 11, 2009

    Also, i just found my favourite god-botherer comment with the article:

    “A.D. #330 10:47 am Dec 11 2009

    THERE IS A GOD. SO STOP YOUR CLOSE MINDEDNESS AND MAKE SOME INVESTIGATIONS.”

    Absolute statement of supreme knowledge impervious to any rational argument, “stop being closed minded”.
    Do they not even see the irony of their statement?!

  34. #34 Kamaka
    December 11, 2009

    Squirel52 @ 53,

    Your post makes sense to me from a logistical point of view and more power to you if you have something to do with the billboards.

    We, of course, would argue that complete lack of evidence is a really good reason to *not* believe but to claim complete certainty would be supremely arrogant.

    The claim of complete certainty is owned by the preachers and their gullible flocks. There is no arrogance in calling bullshit on stuff that is obviously made up…heaven, hell, angels, devils, the shit is supremely preposterous. But, yes, I get it, let’s take it easy on the fools.

    My billboard campaign would never fly:

    GOD Nothing more than an infinite regress.

  35. #35 Sarah
    December 11, 2009

    The lack of solid evidence does some discredit to the notion of God existing,but merely the lack of evidence cannot prove with certainty that God is non-existent. Simply because there is no tangible evidence as of yet does not mean that none will be found in the future. From a logical perspective, God is highly improbable, but not impossible, either. If we were to apporach life thinking that because something is “improbable” that it will never happen, we would never make any progress, and the development of science itself would have never occured.
    Therefore the only logical answer to a poll such as this would be “I don’t know.” How can anyone claim with any amount of certainty anything else?

    The close-mindedness talked about earlier in this discussion applies to believers of both sorts – if you choose to decide that God does or doesn’t exist without substantial evidence than how can you dare to say that your claim is anything more than personal opinion?

  36. #36 John Morales
    December 11, 2009

    Sarah:

    The lack of solid evidence does some discredit to the notion of God existing,but merely the lack of evidence cannot prove with certainty that God is non-existent.

    Replace ‘God’ with anything mythological (e.g. Thor, Santa Claus, Cthulhu, Sirens, Leprechauns) in the above quote and it’s every bit as compelling.

    Does that tell you anything about your argument? ;)

  37. #37 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 11, 2009

    but merely the lack of evidence cannot prove with certainty that God is non-existent. Simply because there is no tangible evidence as of yet does not mean that none will be found in the future. From a logical perspective, God is highly improbable, but not impossible, either.

    Yep, but in order to make things parsimonious, the default position is that dog doesn’t exist. Therefore, physical evidence is required so that the existence of dog is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Just like a man is supposedly innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of doubt in a court of law. Do you have that evidence, or just blather?

  38. #38 Sarah
    December 12, 2009

    In order to make things parsimonious, the default position is that dog doesn’t exist.

    What you say may be good enough for most people, but for me, the ‘default position’ you speak of is still based on assumptions. Also:

    Just like a man is supposedly innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt in a court of law.

    That can go two ways; how about God being innocent until proven guilty? Although there is no solid evidence, and you no doubt believe the bible and everything else is extremely fictitious, I haven’t seen or read anything yet to convince me on solid, empirical evidence that these things are lies. Of course I don’t have evidence proving he is; otherwise I wouldn’t say that “I don’t know” whether God exists. I’m pretty sure if I had solid evidence I’d be saying “yes he does”

  39. #39 Janine, She Wolf Of Pharyngula, OM
    December 12, 2009

    Sarah, the mistake you are making is the assumption that the creator god is the god you worship. There are many thousands of gods to worship, how do you know that your’s is the right one. This is not a fifty-fifty propasition. Do not assume that all of those gods are automatically your’s.

  40. #40 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 12, 2009

    Sarah,

    That can go two ways; how about God being innocent until proven guilty? Although there is no solid evidence, and you no doubt believe the bible and everything else is extremely fictitious, I haven’t seen or read anything yet to convince me on solid, empirical evidence that these things are lies.

    Let’s assume in arguendo that your god exists and is well described in the Bible. Accordingly, we discover Ol’ Yahweh is is a really nasty, petulant bully with the emotional maturity of a spoiled six year old. In Exodus various plagues are inflicted on Egypt because Pharaoh’s heart was hardened towards Moses. Why was Pharaoh’s heart hardened? Because Yahweh made it so. Innocent Egyptians suffered because Yahweh was playing silly games.

    There are lots of other examples where Yahweh fucked over people just because he could. For instance, at one point the Prophet Elisha was wandering around and got insulted by a bunch of boys for being bald. “He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.” (2 Kings 2:24 NIV). I can hear Elisha whining: “Lord, those kids are being snotty to me, time to do some smiting.” Yahweh sure taught those brats a lesson. That was probably the last time those 42 children were ever rude to Elisha.

    Your “loving, benevolent” god is an asshole. It doesn’t say much for you that you feel the need to worship a sadistic bully.

  41. #41 Sarah
    December 12, 2009

    I think saying “I don’t know” whether God exists kind of points out that I don’t worship any God. I don’t know which one is the right one, or if there is a right one, or if there is nothing. I don’t make any assumptions because I admit that I know nothing.
    As far as believing in a God of any sort goes, I don’t see why people are so quick to shoot it down; ignorance is bliss. If people want to believe then why not let them? It doesn’t do any harm except give people hope and direction to believe in a God.

  42. #42 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 12, 2009

    If people want to believe then why not let them? It doesn’t do any harm except give people hope and direction to believe in a God.

    If all they wanted to do was believe and let the rest of us go our separate ways we’d have no problem with the goddists. Unfortunately, certain goddists want the rest of us to comply with various parts of their superstition.\

    There are folks out there who not only believe in creationism but insist that the rest of us believe as well. There are a bunch of homophobic priests and pastors who want to deny gays and lesbians basic rights because “God thinks taking it up the ass is icky!” The Pope, who’s a professional virgin, lies about condoms and AIDS because he thinks God thinks condoms are sinful.

  43. #43 SC OM
    December 12, 2009

    It doesn’t do any harm except give people hope and direction to believe in a God.

    This is curious. So if a compass gave people “direction” to drive off cliffs it would be useful and harmless? You wouldn’t want it recalled?

  44. #44 negentropyeater
    December 12, 2009

    @sarah,
    Do you really need examples of how people can do a lot of harm (to others and themselves) for a bit of hope and direction, whether it comes from religion or a political ideology ?

  45. #45 Walton
    December 12, 2009

    Sarah,

    I think saying “I don’t know” whether God exists kind of points out that I don’t worship any God. I don’t know which one is the right one, or if there is a right one, or if there is nothing. I don’t make any assumptions because I admit that I know nothing.

    True – which is why, stricto sensu, I’m an agnostic. But I would also quote Marcus Aurelius:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    He sums it up well. Of course it’s possible that there might be a god or gods; you’re correct that we can’t positively prove the contrary. But we also can’t disprove the existence of fairies or leprechauns; does this mean that we should live our lives on the assumption that these things exist?

    For most atheists, atheism doesn’t mean “a cast-iron belief that there cannot possibly be a god.” That’s a straw-man version of atheism. If someone showed me evidence that the Judeo-Christian God, or any other god or gods, actually exists, then I would gladly convert in a heartbeat.

    As far as believing in a God of any sort goes, I don’t see why people are so quick to shoot it down; ignorance is bliss. If people want to believe then why not let them? It doesn’t do any harm except give people hope and direction to believe in a God.

    I agree with this up to a point; I see no reason to go around trying to “convert” people to atheism. If other people want to believe in gods, and it makes them happy, it’s not for me to prevent them doing so.

    At the same time, I believe that truth is important, and I’m honest and open about my lack of belief. I also believe it’s important for non-theists (and theists, for that matter) to campaign actively for secular government and for the separation of church and state; this benefits people of all religious persuasions, since it prevents the majority imposing their preferred sectarian views on the minority.

  46. #46 echidna
    December 12, 2009

    Oh Sarah,
    you are being disingenuous.

    Although there is no solid evidence, and you no doubt believe the bible and everything else is extremely fictitious, I haven’t seen or read anything yet to convince me on solid, empirical evidence that these things are lies.

    The bible contains many assertions that are not true. One absolutely crucial one:
    There was no one standing in front of Jesus who was still alive at the second coming.

    The solid and empirical evidence you seek is that the world did not end 1900 years ago.

  47. #47 Sarah
    December 12, 2009

    Do you really need examples of how people can do a lot of harm (to others and themselves) for a bit of hope and direction, whether it comes from religion or a political ideology?

    There are a lot of people in the world who tend to misinterpret things.
    For example, war games on Xbox or PS3′s – just because some people get the wrong idea of a game and may turn out to hurt/kill other people, does it mean that the game is at fault?
    I have no doubt there are people who take things too far, but usually there are many other things that contribute to a person causing wrong.
    For the majority of people, religion is a way of continuing to live their lives in the best way possible. Whether religious or not, everyone must have their own way of dealing with life’s problems. Some people choose to do it through believing in a God. If it works for them then why destroy it?

  48. #48 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    December 12, 2009

    Some people choose to do it through believing in a God. If it works for them then why destroy it?

    It’s irrational, which is never a help, since their imaginary deity doesn’t exist. Period. End of story.

  49. #49 'Tis Himself, OM
    December 12, 2009

    Sarah #68

    I have no doubt there are people who take things too far, but usually there are many other things that contribute to a person causing wrong.

    I’m trying to decide if you’re naive, disingenuous, or a troll.

    In my post #63 I gave several examples of people “who take things too far.” You’re blithely waving these away.

    The Mormon and Catholic Churches are actively involved in a campaign to deny civil rights to gays and lesbians. Large numbers of fundamentalists are working hard to have superstition taught in public schools in place of science. A Catholic archbishop would prefer a nine year old rape victim die in childbirth than have an abortion. The justifications for these actions are religious.

    For the majority of people, religion is a way of continuing to live their lives in the best way possible.

    As I said before, if they want to believe but don’t inflict their beliefs on the rest of us then there’s no problem. It’s when they insist that we follow their beliefs even though we don’t believe that we complain.