Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Society Isn't Battles

Today in London and elsewhere, an advertising campaign is running on city buses. The ads are catchy, with Atheist slogans that I would put in the "mildly harmful" section, and not the "completely benign" one. They aren't bad, certainly, and they are at most slightly offensive, but I cannot really say that I'm a fan.

The ad campaign is a response to a previous ad campaign which ran on British buses, linking to a website which discussed Jesus, hellfire, and how non-believers are destined for it. The sources I've found online don't actually say what the bus ads contained (beyond the URL), and so I'm inclined to think that this is more confrontational than it needs to be.

And it's a tricky little thing - I'm all for the acceptance of Atheism, and since I self-identify as agnostic it's not hard for me to agree with their emphasis on being kind to people and living in this world. Those are good things, integral to my understanding of the world. And I'm certainly not in favor of advertising campaigns who go around screaming "Hellfire!" at folk. That's rude, and while it can be motivated by an intense concerning for the spiritual well-being of an individual, it comes across as the opposite of affirming inherent worth and dignity.

But I'm not sure the ad campaign being reacted to was an unpleasant as envisioned, and while I think the Atheist statements are pretty positivistic in intent, it is choir-preaching to say "I don't think there is a God, and I don't need that". It won't convert the uninitiated, and while it may lead more people begrudgingly to tolerance, it doesn't build towards acceptance, which I think is key.

Perhaps I'm over-reacting, and feel free to tell me you think so in the comments. I just - I don't think any side needs to go around claiming exclusive moral superiority, and I don't think that all the denialist and combative elements of Atheism help their cause. The whole thing just strikes me as rather petty.

Edit: saw a new term today, and it hit what I've been trying to get at for a while. Post-Partisan


Nora said...

I don't think the point was to win converts, I think the point was to put out the message to atheists in the community that they're not the only ones out there. Or that was the general idea I got, anyway. I liked them.

Kelsey Atherton said...


I thought they were okay, but I think they alienate more than help.
"I don't need God to be good" would have worked better for me than "There probably isn't God, so lets be good anyway". As things go, it was fairly benign.