Back on 20th June I posted a short entry about how an atheist ad on a bus would be a fun idea, after an initial Comment is Free article by Ariane Sherine. I made a mockup in Photoshop of how the bus might look, and made a pledge on Pledgebank to get people to commit to funding the idea.

It’s taken a little while, but now a whole series of atheist websites have joined the effort, posting about Ariane’s charming and original idea. An article in The Freethinker has even been taken up on Richard Dawkins’s website. We have some way to go before we manage to get enough cash together, but I’m starting to think this may be half viable after all.

14 Comments

  1. Drayman

    This about proof or disproof of God gets my goat. You can’t prove that unicorns, fairys, elves or pixies don’t exist. You can’t prove that there isn’t a yellow teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. Because you can’t prove that they do exist we must make the assumption that they don’t, otherwise we could spend our time until the cows come home inventing entities and insisting that unless you can prove that they don’t exist they must be true.

    Now Jo and Trooper Thompson, prove that God exists. Do that by first clearly defining your God. When we’ve agreed on the definition of God provide conclusive, testable evidence of his existance. To do this without resorting to metaphysics would be useful.

  2. Yes, thanks for adding the link… I’m currently in Canada and have not yet written a post about it!

  3. Sean,

    ‘The God Delusion, is that there is no evidence for any supernatural being, and as a result almost certainly no God.’

    Right here is the fundamental fallacy. I have no idea what you or he mean by ‘evidence’ in such a question, for the very reason I state above – there is no test. Tell me, what evidence would you or he accept?

    ‘He is as certain of this as anyone can be of anything and that is enough for me’

    This is a bizarre statement, if you don’t mind me saying. Suddenly it puts your own atheism into the category of received wisdom, handed down from the Great Seer. Your atheism begins to take on religious aspects.

    I gave the murderer of an abortionist (as paragon of Christian virtue) as an example of the ad hominem tone of the book. I am sure it is in there. As I don’t have the book to hand, I cannot supply you with a list of other instances. What he also does is pour his efforts into debunking ‘intelligent design’, for which he finds no evidence, and this for him allows an extrapolation to say that God doesn’t exist. So for him, his test is thus: ‘If ‘ID’ can be debunked, God cannot exist’ – but this is not science.

    ‘The leaders in these regions whip up the masses with an intolerance that only religion can foster. ‘

    I guess you’ve never seen Boca Juniors play River Plate.

    ‘on a purely scientific basis we must of course, state that we don’t know’

    That’s kind of my point.

  4. Hettie

    Why are atheists proselytizing?

  5. Trooper Thompson:

    What is illogical in what I said?

    “No matter how effective this attack is, it doesn’t have anything to do with God’s existence.”

    The whole premise of Dawkins arguments in (which Jo was commenting on earlier and you backed) -The God Delusion, is that there is no evidence for any supernatural being, and as a result almost certainly no God. He is as certain of this as anyone can be of anything and that is enough for me. He backs up his arguments, something that religious apologists never manage. All of his arguments are based on fact, not fantasy – please refute them – i would be genuinely interested to think i have it wrong.

    “As usual this will be met by a vast, empty silence. ”

    The vast empty silence (forgive the hyperbole), is what usually replaces the religious apologists assertions when attacking informed writing.

    You have fallen into the same trap you decry with Dawkins. I don’t recall the ‘abortionist’ argument in TGD so forgive me, but whatever it was – it’s only one argument in an entire book. Hardly a field of strawmen.

    Dawkins is right for blaming religion for causing wars. Of course not all wars. No war has been started in the cause of ‘no belief in God’ despite what the religionists reveal about Stalin or Hitler etc. I don’t think i need refute those claims here. Look at India-Pakistan-Kashmire, look at the quagmire of the Middle-East or the Balkans. I will freely admit that religion is not the only ingredient in all of these conflicts, but it is a catalyst, and a dangerous one. The leaders in these regions whip up the masses with an intolerance that only religion can foster.

    Where i disagree with you your contention that TGD attempts to definitively rule-out the existence of God. It does not and of course it cannot. What it can do, and does however, is highlight just how unlikely the whole concept is, and what damage it does. Also what damage apologists do in denying it’s harm.

    “There is no scientific test, which can state: If God exists, X will happen. If X does not happen, God cannot exist’. If there were such a test, then God’s existence could be the subject of scientific enquiry”

    Yet as RD as stated many times (and i think is probably in the book), a world with a supernatural, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-caring being, that can, and does, control all things, would be a vastly different physical place from what we see around us. That difference puts religion firmly in the territory of science. A world in which miracles can be done by a divine hand has obvious scientific ramifications.

    “Therefore a belief in God is irrational, as is a belief in no God. The only rational view would be to admit that we don’t know”

    I disagree here, whilst on a purely scientific basis we must of course, state that we don’t know. We do have reason to work with and we can look at the facts and we can look at the evidence, as we can for everything else we see around us and make an informed decision on whether we choose to accept as ‘fact’. No ‘leap’ of faith is required to deduce that the evidence just doesn’t back the claim. To paraphrase a great quote – (because i can’t remember it!) – fantastic claims require fantastic evidence. For me the evidence for belief in God, or gods or any supernatural influence, is simply non-existent. I have no desire to know your religious beliefs, but you are acting as an apologist for the religious.

    Thanks for the reply though.

    S

  6. Sean,

    “As usual this will be met by a vast, empty silence. ”

    What does this refer to? I have never, to my knowledge, been asked anything by you before, so I don’t know why you should expect no answer.

    What is illogical in what I said?

    You misquote me. I didn’t say a light breeze could knock down Dawkins’ arguments. I said that a light breeze could knock down the strawmen that he erects and then knocks down himself. For instance, he makes great play of the case of one man who murdered an abortionist, as if this is the archetypal Christian. However, as the vast majority of Christians don’t go around murdering abortionists, the characterisation is a strawman, the same as if atheism is equated with the crimes of Mao Zedong and Stalin. He also blames religion for starting wars, but most wars are not religious in nature. There was no religious divide between Pompey and Caesar, for instance, or Richard III and Henry Tudor. In any case, no matter how erroneous religion may be, it doesn’t disprove God’s existence, which is a separate matter.

    “Do you make any sense? How can disbelief in something that has no evidence be irrational – do you recognize irony here?”

    Again, you misrepresent what I said, which was to quote you, in saying that Dawkins concedes that God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved. This is not the same as saying there is no evidence for God’s existence, it is rather the acknowledgement that there is no falsifiability that can be applied to the question. There is no scientific test, which can state: If God exists, X will happen. If X does not happen, God cannot exist’. If there were such a test, then God’s existence could be the subject of scientific enquiry. But as such a test does not exist, the matter cannot be dealt with through a rational process. Thus it is outside the scope of reason, and therefore a belief in God is irrational, as is a belief in no God. The only rational view would be to admit that we don’t know.

    In any case, I’m not a religious person, and my beliefs are private. I see no point in trying to convince you of anything, except to consider that Reason cannot, by itself, establish its validity. It requires a leap of faith.

  7. Trooper Thompson:
    What utter illogical nonsense. If a light breeze could knock-down Dawkins’ arguments lets have your points, it should be easy. As usual this will be met by a vast, empty silence.

    “If he concedes the (obvious) point that God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved, then what is the point he is making? His disbelief is as irrational (i.e. outside reason) as my belief.”
    Do you make any sense? How can disbelief in something that has no evidence be irrational – do you recognize irony here? Do religious people actually have any arguments based on the real-world because i am yet to hear any? Feel free to believe in what ever safety-blanket in the sky you want to, but if you are going to argue that something is wrong, prove your point.

  8. Jo is right. Dawkins’ ‘Delusion’ is no more than a succession of moth-eaten strawmen, which a light breeze could knock down. The book is an attack on organised religion. No matter how effective this attack is, it doesn’t have anything to do with God’s existence.

    If he concedes the (obvious) point that God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved, then what is the point he is making? His disbelief is as irrational (i.e. outside reason) as my belief.

    It doesn’t bother me if atheists get an advert on a bus, it seems funny though, almost like atheists feel the need to come together as a community.

  9. Thanks Sean for your view.
    Gosh, I never thought I’d find myself looking like the voice of the establishment. I’m an ordinary person, not a spiritual leader.
    But if you knew me you’d know I have done exactly the thinking for myself that you recommend. When I (slightly to my surprise) concluded after several years of searching that the balance for me was in favour of God, I had to make a choice and move on from there. Try reading Alistair McGrath who was an atheist and is now a theologian – he can explain with an eloquence I clearly lack.
    I know it’s never popular when you think freely and then find there is something in the thing you were questioning after all, but it doesn’t mean you haven’t done the thinking!
    But enough about me. I rather suspect though that Jon’s blog is not the place for testimonies although I’m interested in what caused you all to conclude that you think there is no God.
    As I said I wish the campaign well, although I hope you will understand under the circumstances if my fiver goes to Tearfund instead.

    By the way, Jimmy Carr’s best joke? “I used to have an invisible friend. Then I grew up and stopped believing in God”.

  10. Jo, how can you call yourself a freethinker and then waffle on about religion, surely the very definition of an oxymoron. Dawkins is a light in the dark – if only more people could think for themselves, you should try it. Dawkins has often said that God’s existance cannot be proved or disproved, but you can be fairly sure if you take the time to think about it – as he has, and you have not.

  11. You’ve hit the nail on the head – Dawkins sets out a definition of God in those terms but then misses the point of each and other concepts like free will (in other words I have strong reservations over the quality of his argument). I also think his conclusions on science slide into polemic – if anything followed logically his argument would lead to a conclusion that God’s existence cannot be proved or disproved i.e. agnosticism, not atheism. Happy to engage on this in my own blog rather than waste Jon’s space 🙂

  12. Jo said “I wouldn’t believe in the God he portrays.”

    As a matter of interest, which bit of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator of the universe that Dawkins portrays do you not believe in?

  13. You must be horrified that Dawkins is linked to the campaign!
    While the “Blind Watchmaker” is interesting (“blind, pitiless indifference” is a phrase to chill the soul of any believer whose god is only used as a comfort blanket), the laughable “The God Delusion” is as near as a declaration of atheism as a faith position rather than the logical, sensible thing he pretends as any I’ve seen (memes, anyone?) Plus building a false god, saying it’s pathetic and then knocking it down is not really engaging with believers on what they actually believe. I wouldn’t believe in the God he portrays.
    But I digress. You know well I’d rather trust Jesus than Dawkins and it’s not a position I came to lightly either, as a freethinker.
    If atheism in the bus campaign is about freethinking and (let’s face it) evangelism of an atheistic worldview, then steering well clear of Dawkins has got to be key. But the need for money to spread the word leads to uncomfortable allies in all sides on what has to be the most important thing people will ever decide on in their lives.
    I wish the campaign well, and note simply that anything that gets people talking about faith issues is a good thing from my perspective too!

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