British MPs Try to Ban Atheist Bus Ads January 19, 2009

British MPs Try to Ban Atheist Bus Ads

The good news is that this doesn’t look like it will get very far.

The bad news is that this is actual legislation in Parliament. [Note: It’s not legislation. Sorry. It’s just a way of MPs to express their opinions. Thanks to those who pointed that out.]

Last week, MP Gregory Campbell put on the table this motion:

That this House notes the recent advertising campaign based on London buses, There’s Probably No God, the brainchild of the British Humanist Association; also notes the fact that the rationale behind it is that people can be less careful about their lifestyle choices and general approach to life’s consequences by discounting the likelihood of a Creator and an afterlife; and recommends to Christian groups considering alternative advertising approaches to There’s Probably No God to counter it with the simple addition of But What If There Is?

Shortly after that, another proposition was put up by MP Bob Spink:

That this House notes that posters with the slogan `There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life’, appear on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as on the London Underground; notes that this causes concern to Christian and Muslim people, many of whom feel embarrassed and uncomfortable travelling on public transport displaying such advertisements and would not wish to endorse the advertisements by using that public transport; regrets that the British Humanist Association backs the campaign; and calls on Ministers responsible for public transport and advertising media to investigate this matter and to seek to remove these religiously offensive and morally unhelpful advertisements.

Victoria’s Secret promotions, posters for Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and ads for pseudoscientific books like The Secret? Those are ok to have on buses. Suggest there may not be a God? That’s apparently horrendous, evil stuff that must be blocked from the public eye.


(Nullifidian‘s really mad about it.)

In any case, this episode just highlights why the atheist ads are so important.

We need to make people more conscious of the fact that religion tends to get a pass when it comes to criticism. Religious people don’t want to allow it, they don’t want to hear it, and they don’t want to be reminded that many people think their beliefs are absolutely absurd.

Bring on the opposition. If the atheist ads are taken down, the religious ads will have to come down, too. I just hope the British ad companies won’t cave to pressure like those in Italy did.

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  • Rat Bastard

    I BELIEVE IN SANTA CLAUS! {STAMP FEET, PUT FINGERS IN EARS AND CONTINUE}. …interesting…the lesser than symbol followed by the greater than symbol makes the comments in between disappear. must be ? will…heh heh heh. In that case, god is contained in the . WHICH IS { }. I loves bein’ a mathematician! For those of you who are NOT mathematicians, { } is the empty set, which means the referred item does not exist.

  • Rat Bastard

    That came out really badly. Blame the software.

  • Daniele

    On another sad note: the bus ad campaign in Italy has been refuted (because offensive to monotheistic believers) and will not take place.

    On an even more sad note: a cristian political party in Rome abusively put their ads reading “the good news is that god exists and atheists know it” all across the city.

    So now, not only atheist are stopped from legally put their ads on buses, but christians (a christian POLITICAL party!) are free to ILLEGALLY put their ads in our capital city!

    Yeah, I’m not the happiest person right now…


  • Jon

    “The bad news is that this is actual legislation in Parliament.”

    Panic ye not! It’s just an EDM which is a way of MPs expressing their opinions. It’s a long, long way from legislation and given that neither EDM is even up to 10 signatures it’s a snowball’s chance in an invented hot place of getting on the statute books.

  • geru

    Hm, I guess this is just a buch of that sciency logic stuff that Christians despise, but if someone really wanted to be the best believer and worshipper they can, wouldn’t it be useful to have some sorts of tests for your faith, now and then? Like Jesus in the desert, showing his faith by rejecting Satan?

    But noooo, seems like today’s Christians need remove everything that might even raise thoughts about their faith by banning them through legislation.

    I guess this is what separates science and democracy from religion, the two first actually care about what is true, the latter dogmatizes what is to be though of as truth by sheer brute force of popular opinion.

    “The more we agree, the closer we are to the truth. The less we disagree, the less there is a danger of straying off the path to the truth.”, seems to be the general idea of it.

  • Minor quibble, but I’m pretty sure that an ‘Early Day Motion’ (which is what these are) is not ‘actual legislation’.

  • The situation in Italy will, in the end, benefit the cause of Humanism. The action of allowing silly religious ads whilst censoring atheists is so starkly hypocritical the resulting publicity will result in an own goal for the Catholics.

    It may even be better to encounter this unfair opposition and take the opportunity to grab the moral high ground than to find that the ads were uncontested and therefore ignored by the press.

  • people can be less careful about their lifestyle choices and general approach to life’s consequences by discounting the likelihood of a Creator and an afterlife

    That’s so completely wrong it’s unbelievable. If anything atheists have to be more careful because we know this is the only chance we get. We’re here for a severely limited amount of time and have to make the most of it – you don’t get a chance to do anything about deathbed regrets, it’s now or never.

    It’s the religious who are allowed to screw things up for themselves and for others as they have the get-out-of-jail-free card that is an afterlife. Witness the religious right in America crowing for the desecration of Alaskan wilderness in the name of oil drilling. Their dedication to such causes derives directly from their “lifestyle choices and general approach to life’s consequences”.

  • mikespeir

    That’s what I came here to say, Cannonball. Now I don’t need to.

  • I think that this is really good news. Discussion of atheism has reached the second highest house in the land and it is being asked to legislate on a matter of free speech. Remember that we in England have no guarantee of free speech enshrined in a constitution only as part of the European Convention of Human Rights.

    Anyway it is an Early Day Motion and not legislation. This is really a way for an MP to voice an issue to make it public. What should now happen if they want to pursue it as law is that this matter goes before committee for investigation, they write up the law, amend it and it is then presented for discussion in the House of Commons. All discussions in the Commons are open to the public so the press will love any kind of drama raised by a forthright religionist.

    The Commons is made up of representatives of the people so we have all religions and none openly working in Parliament. There is no reason for them to hide their faith either because we have no separation clause in our non-existent constitution. It should raise a lot of publicity.

    Even if it gets through the Commons the House of Lords will almost certainly reject it on the grounds that it breeches the right to free speech in European Law. Add the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury sits in the Lords and is welcoming of the posters to encourage dialogue and debate and the law is doomed.

    Our system is not the simplest and any errors are entirely mine.

  • geru

    As Cannonball said, doesn’t it just encourage immoral behavior if someone has the belief that someone else will always vouch for them, no matter what.

    As I guess was the case with our favorite Evangelist-Christian/YEC-Gone-Criminal Kent Hovind. The Wikipedia entry on Hovind’s sentencing quotes Hovind making the following comment on his sentence:

    “If it’s just money the IRS wants, there are thousands of people out there who will help pay the money they want so I can go back out there and preach.

    Doesn’t that just perfectly symbolize the whole problem of the Christian mindset?

    “Why should I feel bad or change my behavior, when there’s always someone else who’ll bear the guilt and the consequences for me? See, he’s taking all the blame, so stop hassling me, this no longer concerns me in no way.”

    This really is the Christian moral code in practice, which is pretty much the opposite of the common moral principles we have established in western democracies. And still they claim this is supposed to be the root of all morality in western societies…

  • PrimeNumbers

    Yes, in a way good news. It shows the campaign is working. But the negative emotions the campaign should stir up are not because of the sign, but from the religion you have. It’s the religion that makes you feel guilty. It’s the sign that says you don’t have to feel that way. Clever.

  • Gribblethemunchkin

    Well said Hoverfrog.

    And look who it is making themselves look silly. A UKIP member and a DUC member.

    For those in the US, the UKIP has one member of parliament (Bob Spink) and is pretty much a nativist, right wing, anti euro party. As a measure of their mood, take note that Robert Kilroy-Silk (he of the awful Jerry Springer-esque show) was one of their leading lights at one point.

    As for the DUC, it was founded by an insane priest named Ian Paisley, a conspiracy theorist, bigot, racist and generally nasty character. It has very strong links with various prostetant churches, particularly in Northern Ireland (where it is the largest political party) especially that of Ian Paisley. Not too long ago they made themselves look silly when they admitted that teaching creationism and intelligent design did not conflict with their education plans, this after one of their MPs wanted to ensure that children that gave religious based (i.e. wrong) answers in exams were not penalized for them.

    Its vaguely re-assuring that the only two to have mentioned it so far are both from parties with less than glowing reputations. Hopefully this will only serve to make them look sillier than they already are.

    I do think a quick letter to both MPs and my own is in order though. Can’t really rant on a blog about it if i’m not willing to let them know directly.

  • The unfriendly theist

    Since atheism has been the cause of more crimes against humanity in its short history than religions have in their long history, I find the moral high ground taken by atheists both laughable and nauseating.

    ‘Rat Bastard’- it was not the software, it was your brain that was the problem.

    geru refers to that well known academic discipline ‘sciency logic stuff’. Well, what he says, if it was intended as some form of informal logical argument, fails. Of course, if it is intended as the ramblings of a scramble brained atheist, then I suppose it succeeds, in that it confirms the originator’s brain scrambled state.

    News for ‘Gribblethebrainless’ – Ian Paisley is not a priest. He hates priests.

    As a piece of marketing the atheist buses are hilarious. So, all those crimes were committed by people who were not even sure that God does not exist. So, why, then, did they murder tens of millions of people?

  • Beowulff

    Some clueless git wrote:

    and recommends to Christian groups considering alternative advertising approaches to There’s Probably No God to counter it with the simple addition of But What If There Is?

    ah, good old Pascal’s Wager. These people are hilarious. Why am I not laughing though?

  • Justin jm

    calls on Ministers responsible for public transport and advertising media to investigate this matter and to seek to remove these religiously offensive and morally unhelpful advertisements.

    Ain’t it ironic how these same Christians accuse us of “attempting to silence the public expression of religion?”

  • SarahH

    It’s really unfathomable how someone could read “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life!” as” You may now embark on that violent crime spree, because a belief in God is no longer stopping you!”

    People who need religious beliefs to control their behavior to the extent that they would otherwise be committing criminal acts are dangerous, period. At any given time, the right sermon or dream or voice in their head could convince them that they should go ahead and murder someone for religious reasons anyway.

    Bus ads encouraging people to relax and drop the religious guilt are helping to cheer people up during a pretty miserable time, and they certainly aren’t any more “offensive” than various religious ads. When government starts worrying about the delicate sensibilities of the masses instead of what’s just and lawful, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

  • Paul R

    I have written to my MP (and I encourage any Brit to do the same about this, requesting that understands how atheists feel seeing religious messages, and that he ensures that freedoms of speech and religion are not curtailed.

    P.S. I know I’m a bit behind, I’m just catching up on my RSS feeds. 🙂

  • That Guy

    It actually sends kind of a bad message about Atheists IMHO. For example there’s likely no way to posit a useful probabilistic statement about the truth of a few specific modalities of theism that I can think of and this statement seems to attack the general case which would mean doing that for ALL theistic systems.

    So what does this say? The atheists who posted this are either aware of this or unaware. If they are aware they they are not above manipulating people to get them to question their beliefs. If they are unaware well…it means they are ignorant and while that isn’t up there with the slack-jawed, gun-toting theists you see on the news and such it isn’t much of an shining example of reason and introspection either.

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