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The gods on the DC Buses

The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Kolbitar » 23 Dec 2008, 16:40

(Tried to get the following published as an op-ed in USA todays online religion section, but, sigh, was declined... just wondering what some of you might think)

The gods on the DC Buses

Buses in Washington DC will now carry the "humanist" slogan, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake." But what does that honestly mean? To me it's no different from asking, Why believe in goodness? Just be good for goodness sake. Or, Why believe in God? Just be good for God's sake. Nor can I consider that people who sing this song have seriously taken the music of goodness to heart; otherwise, I believe they would have discovered the desperate need to call upon a muse for divine help, for the art of morality and our inevitable failures to be good are, according to great men like St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, and C.S. Lewis, the very motive for seeking revelation from God. Moreover, I'd argue that part of "being good for goodness sake" involves believing in God for people's sake; humanists who were good for people's sake wouldn't slight their deepest convictions, and spurn the hope, which attends their faith. To me, the "humanist" slogan is an oxymoron, I see nothing fundamentally humane about it.

The very slogan itself, really, is an embarrassing tribute to its own authors. I'm sorry to say, it shows they either lack an awareness of, or refuse to acknowledge, the fact that God is not just a being religion holds exists, but philosophy does as well; that He's not only an object of faith, but of reason too; and, in either case, that it's traditionally posited that God is distinguished from all else by having no limitations, so that the slogan reading "a god" is confused from the start. There is and can only be one God, THE God; another "god" would have to be distinguished in some way, which would involve a limitation, thus would not BE God. In a country founded by Christians and deists, who believed in a basic idea of God, which served as the foundation of human ethics, is there, then, perhaps more to this inaccuracy than meets the eye? It's an ever-present temptation for those who want dramatically to alter the present to blur the past, even, I would think, if it starts with the most subtle propaganda (like inaccurate and uncharitable bus slogans).

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?" Apparently, Thomas Jefferson would seriously doubt that a nation "can be good for goodness sake", that is, if goodness is deprived of an eternal context, i.e., divorced from the notion of God. This philosophical deism of a Jefferson or a Franklin, however, is, in itself, practically dead, and only really survives into the present through living forms of Christianity (like Evangelical Protestant and Conservative Catholic Christianity). The rub for certain people is that these active forms of Christianity are, in large part, the primary forces behind things like saving traditional marriage, banning embryonic stem cell research, and attempting to overturn Roe v. Wade. In other words, belief in a God of "justice" and "wrath" currently translates politically, so that political reaction, I'd suggest, is what drives things like "humanist" bus ads.

I hear and read all of the time that people motivated by faith should keep their religion out of the political arena. To an extent I believe this principle is correct, but I think it helps to define that extent, which is really only to reclaim what I believe was understood by our founders, and by those in their succession, like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'd like to do this, to define that extent, with the help of one more quote from Jefferson, "A free people claim their rights as derived from the laws of nature." For many, that quote might understandably bring to mind the phrase in the Declaration of Independence reading, "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God", especially in light of Jefferson's earlier quote. But the point is that no one that I'm aware of wants to introduce articles of faith into the political arena -- no one, for instance, wants to force public schools to recite the Nicene Creed or, perhaps instead of fluoride, to take Holy Communion wine. Instead, the controversial issues rest, and should be discussed, at the level of "natural law"; that is, as subjects of reason, not faith. Whether or not one's reason is motivated by faith should be of nobody's concern, but that, I'm afraid, is what really angers people.

Indeed, it's religious motivation, I believe, that "humanist" reactionaries attempt to undermine through things like inaccurate and uncharitable bus slogans. To be sure, humanists have their own motives. The atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche knew that the death of belief in God would mean the rise of our own selfish motives as gods in His place. Humanist slogans, in that case, might ultimately and more accurately read, "Why believe in God? Trust in OUR gods for goodness sake."
The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato and Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before. --Chesterton

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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby moogdroog » 27 Dec 2008, 21:32

They sound like the kind of adverts currently running on London buses - 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life'. What disturbs me isn't the explicit attack on faith (c'mon - Christians are pretty used to this by now. Snore!) but the implicit encouragement for people to take the semantics of 'goodness' as 'something opposed to religion'. This kind of advertising seems to work in a 'nudge nudge, wink wink' propaganda kind of way to me: 'hey, you don't need to think about the philosophical, historical or linguistic semantics of this. You know, those God-botherers are only good because some bearded guy in the sky tells 'em to be, and they're scared they're gonna go to hell! Well, me and you, we're smarter than that!' I wonder if socially we are losing certain tools for logical/literary/philosophical thinking and analysis - how we discern meaning, context and implications, whether a thinking person of faith, a thinking agnostic or a thinking atheist.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Mornche Geddick » 03 Jan 2009, 10:39

WRT the DC buses, the words "be good for goodness sake" come from a popular song about Father Christmas.
He sees you when you're sleeping
And he knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake.
Interesting wording, coming from atheists!

As for the London buses, I shouldn't have objected to the words "there's probably no God". But "stop worrying and get on with your life" is very patronising. It reminds me of an advert a few years ago on the radio in North Wales. "You CAN stop dreaming. Start LIVING. Start YOUR OWN BUSINESS."

(The capitals don't indicate shouting but words spoken SLOWLY and CLEARLY.)
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Karen » 07 Jan 2009, 15:46

There was an article about these ads in today's NY Times:

January 7, 2009
London Journal
Atheists Send a Message, on 800 Buses

By SARAH LYALL

LONDON — The advertisement on the bus was fairly mild, just a passage from the Bible and the address of a Christian Web site. But when Ariane Sherine, a comedy writer, looked on the Web site in June, she was startled to learn that she and her nonbelieving friends were headed straight to hell, to “spend all eternity in torment.”

That’s a bit extreme, she thought, as well as hard to prove. “If I wanted to run a bus ad saying ‘Beware — there is a giant lion from London Zoo on the loose!’ or ‘The “bits” in orange juice aren’t orange but plastic — don’t drink them or you’ll die!’ I think I might be asked to show my working and back up my claims,” Ms. Sherine wrote in a commentary on the Web site of The Guardian.

And then she thought, how about putting some atheist messages on the bus, as a corrective to the religious ones?

And so were planted the seeds of the Atheist Bus Campaign, an effort to disseminate a godless message to the greater public. When the organizers announced the effort in October, they said they hoped to raise a modest $8,000 or so.

But something seized people’s imagination. Supported by the scientist and author Richard Dawkins, the philosopher A. C. Grayling and the British Humanist Association, among others, the campaign raised nearly $150,000 in four days. Now it has more than $200,000, and last Wednesday it unveiled its advertisements on 800 buses across Britain.

“There’s probably no God,” the advertisements say. “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Spotting one of the buses on display at a news conference in Kensington, passers-by were struck by the unusual message.

Not always positively. “I think it’s dreadful,” said Sandra Lafaire, 76, a tourist from Los Angeles, who said she believed in God and still enjoyed her life, thank you very much. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t like it in my face.”

But Sarah Hall, 28, a visitor from Australia, said she was happy to see such a robust example of freedom of speech. “Whatever floats your boat,” she said.

Inspired by the London campaign, the American Humanist Association started running bus advertisements in Washington in November, with a more muted message. “Why believe in a god?” the ads read, over a picture of a man in a Santa suit. “Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

Although Australian atheists were refused permission to place advertisements on buses saying, “Atheism: Sleep in on Sunday mornings,” the British effort has been striking in the lack of outrage it has generated. The Methodist Church, for instance, said it welcomed the campaign as a way to get people to talk about God.

Although Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England, Britain is a deeply secular country with a dwindling number of regular churchgoers, and with politicians who seem to go out of their way to play down their religious beliefs.

In 2003, when an interviewer asked Tony Blair, then the prime minister, about religion, his spokesman, Alastair Campbell, interjected, snapping, “We don’t do God.” After leaving office, Mr. Blair became a Roman Catholic.

More recently, Nick Clegg, a member of Parliament and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, announced that he was an atheist. (He later downgraded himself to agnostic.)

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, alluded to a popular radio station when he joked that his religious belief was like “the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes.”

Still, since Sept. 11, 2001, religion has played an ever more important role in public discussions, said Mr. Dawkins, the best-selling author of “The God Delusion,” with the government increasingly seeking religious viewpoints and Anglican bishops still having the automatic right to sit in the House of Lords.

“Across Britain, we are used to being bombarded by religious interests,” he said, “not just Christians, but other religions as well, who seem to think that they have got a God-given right to propagandize.”

Next week, the Atheist Bus Campaign plans to place 1,000 advertisements in the subway system, featuring enthusiastic quotations from Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Douglas Adams and Katharine Hepburn.

An interesting element of the bus slogan is the word “probably,” which would seem to be more suited to an Agnostic Bus Campaign than to an atheist one. Mr. Dawkins, for one, argued that the word should not be there at all.

But the element of doubt was necessary to meet British advertising guidelines, said Tim Bleakley, managing director for sales and marketing at CBS Outdoor in London, which handles advertising for the bus system.

For religious people, advertisements saying there is no God “would have been misleading,” Mr. Bleakley said.

“So as not to fall foul of the code, you have to acknowledge that there is a gray area,” he said.

He said that potential ads were rejected all the time. “We wouldn’t, for example, run an ad for an action movie where the gun was pointing toward the commuter,” he said.

But Mr. Bleakley said he had no problem with the atheist bus ads. “We do have religious organizations that promote themselves,” he said. “If somebody doesn’t believe in religion, why wouldn’t we carry an ad that promotes the opposite view? To coin a phrase, it’s not for us to play God.”
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Lioba » 08 Jan 2009, 10:42

I simply cannot understand how I can advertise in favour of "nothing". If someone simply says: I do not believe in God,people will almost automatically ask- what do you believe instead of this? Which answer will be given- I do trust in science, I do hope that people will choose a honest lifestyle in the face of the absurdity of life and so on, it will always be a kind of believe or hope or longing. Can we really avoid "believing " at all?
About morals as " being good for goodness sake".Would it not be reasonable to take side with those who have the same interests as I have. In times of declining virtue and morality would a serious humanist not rather cooperate with believers who stand up for human values than deepening the gap and fighting them?
It looks to me as if some people willfully adulterate the picture of religion by limiting it to its lapses and conceil its positive aspects.For example some take the fights between Isreal and Palestine or the former civil war in northern Ireland and say- look that´s what we got from religion, the world would be a better place without that nonsense. But that is obviously wrong- wars are about political interests, land,natural resources and so on.Sometimes they take place between people of different religions or cultures, what might deepen the gap and make understanding more difficult. But as often we have war between people of the same race, culture and religion.It is so simple and obvious that I cannot believe an intelligent person doesn´t see this, so everybody who denunciates religion by such arguments is in my eyes someone who consciously lies.
Here in Germany I didn´t yet see such aggressive advertisements.But a few years ago their was an interesting case.
A big theater in Hamburg had "modernized " a play in such way, that really all religious groups felt insulted.Only the muslims protested openly, declaring that they saw some scenes not as an insult to their feelings or believes(what would have been a useful argument before a court of law) but as a straightforward offence against the person of the prophet Mohammed. The play was stopped with the argument of the danger of terroristic islamic actions, although most german muslims are turkish people who do not sympathise with the middle east groups of terrrorists.
Afterwards their were lots of lamenatons about the freedom of art sacrifised. I must confess, that the muslim reaction was in my eyes the bravest and most honest of all.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby MoogieCha » 06 Feb 2009, 06:41

Here in Vancouver, BC (Canada), we're getting the slogan "You can be good without God," or something to that effect. I have to admit my first reaction was a negative one. Afterall, in England the atheist bus campaign was dreamed up to counter to a Christian bus slogan. The humanists here, though, would be the instigators. :sad:

After thinking about it, though, I've come to hope that some good discussion will come of this and that those of us who are Christians won't shy away from them. I can see my colleagues saying things like, "I don't believe in God, and I do good things." Which will raise the question whether doing good things makes one "good." And if my friends say, "Yes," then I'd have to ask if the opposite were true: does committing one sin then make you a sinner? :wink:

I'd started a poll in Christian Fellowship on this topic (not having seen this thread), and have had 2 or 3 good responses, particularly on the idea of "good." Lewis had a lot to say on the matter in Mere Christianity.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Bluegoat » 07 Feb 2009, 13:09

Yes, in Halifax they tried to put these in the buses as well. However, the bus company has rejected them, which caused a very small argument. But I find the idea of agnostic missionaries quite funny and fascinating.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby hammurabi2000 » 07 Feb 2009, 14:44

Interesting that some people want to spend their money on such advertising.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby MoogieCha » 08 Feb 2009, 06:25

Update: the transit company here in Vancouver has decided against the humanist ad campaign! I'm actually really surprised!

Here's part of what it said on their website:

"Ad Declined Pursuant to Advertising Policy

The BC Humanist Association has submitted creative material and an advertising order to have the material displayed on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system to Lamar Advertising, the company that markets transit advertising space for TransLink.
The message on the creative material is, “You can be good without God.”

TransLink has reviewed this material and determined that it does not meet the criteria set out in its Advertising Policy for advertisements on the public transit system. For example, the Advertising Policy contains the following limitation:

No advertisement will be accepted which promotes or opposes a specific theology or religious ethic, point of view, policy or action.

As such, the organization has been informed that its advertising order cannot be accepted."

(Sorry, John, I posted this quote on another post but dunno how to erase it.)
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby john » 08 Feb 2009, 15:03

MoogieCha wrote:(Sorry, John, I posted this quote on another post but dunno how to erase it.)


You hit the EDIT button and erase it? :wink:
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Lioba » 09 Feb 2009, 11:12

In Great Britain there is a reaction on this kind of advertisements by the Catholic church.for example their is a poster quoting one of the slogans-There is probably no god- so stop worrying and enjoy your life and showing a picture of Mother Teresas work- meant as a contradiction to the slogan.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Bluegoat » 10 Feb 2009, 19:41

Lioba wrote:In Great Britain there is a reaction on this kind of advertisements by the Catholic church.for example their is a poster quoting one of the slogans-There is probably no god- so stop worrying and enjoy your life and showing a picture of Mother Teresas work- meant as a contradiction to the slogan.


That's quite a good response.

If I recall correctly Mother Teresa wrote that she never felt God directly in her life, that she didn't have a mystical or intuitive feeling of his presence. Which perhaps makes her an especially appropriate person for such an advertisement.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby moogdroog » 10 Feb 2009, 20:16

Lioba wrote:In Great Britain there is a reaction on this kind of advertisements by the Catholic church.for example their is a poster quoting one of the slogans-There is probably no god- so stop worrying and enjoy your life and showing a picture of Mother Teresas work- meant as a contradiction to the slogan.


I've not seen this in any of the UK newspapers, or if it is, it has been buried! Not that I'm doubting what you say at all - although it seems to indicate a bias in media reporting, perhaps :D - do you have any links? I'm Googling it now.
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby Lioba » 10 Feb 2009, 20:20

@bluegoat:
You might be right bluegoat, in the post-mortem publications of her personal thoughts she revealed a lot of inner fights and troubles- that makes her work even more precious and authentic.

@moogdroog- found it in a catholic german forum

http://www.kreuzgang.org/viewtopic.php? ... 42#p253542
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Re: The gods on the DC Buses

Postby john » 19 Feb 2009, 16:14

http://www.metronews.ca/ottawa/local/article/184222

FTA: “When statements are said that God probably does not exist, this is an implied statement of hatred towards all those who do believe that God exists.”
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