Monday, October 27, 2008

There is probably no god. Now start flinging poo.

There's a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad new advertising campaign in England that emblazons the slogan "there's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" on the sides of buses -- where innocent children, old people, self-styled vicars of Christ, and supercilious Muslims can see it! Please someone fan Geoffrey Alderman before he succumbs to the vapors:

My relationship with God is an intensely personal matter, unrelated to any physical attribute or manifestation. ... So an attack on my religious faith must, of necessity, embody an attack on my personality, and whilst I am probably thick-skinned enough to withstand such an attack, others may be much more vulnerable. That is why all proselytising is dangerous. It is – or can easily become – a species of psychological warfare. That is no joke.
Let's review: god-belief is an intensely personal matter unrelated to any physical attribute or manifestation with the possible exception of a slogan on the side of a bus, which constitutes a grave attack on the believer's personality. Neat!

Alderman's sturdy analysis continues:
"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." This strikes me as extremely irresponsible, since there is – alas – plenty in life to worry about. "Become an atheist and stop worrying" – which is what the advert amounts to – is a foolish maxim, immature and inherently dishonest. What the atheists are promising is "heaven on earth" – something they can't deliver and I suspect know they can't deliver.
I suspect they know they can't deliver that, which is a very good guess of why they didn't promise it. At all. But for what it's worth, I do agree that "stop worrying" is, as stated, a poor and inadequate life philosophy. This may explain why it is a slogan written on some buses in England, not a full-blown theory of the human condition. It bears a family resemblance to such well-worn commonplaces as "loosen up," "lighten up," "settle down," "take a chill pill," "cool it," "take it easy," and many others, all of them widely known and used in English-speaking circles, and almost never evaluated as comprehensive normative systems.

Another version of this commonplace was first published in 1611:
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
Consider your personality attacked.

(H/T Norm Geras)


Mike said...

dale, I like your idea of flinging poo. Just think of the sense of adventure added to every trip outside!

On another subject, did you get a chance to see that list I found of reasons not to run a marathon? Based on that you really should be dead.

Dale said...

Mike, I saw that! I started to comment on your post on it and then changed my mind and turned it into my own post on it. (I did give you a H/T!)

Mike said...

ah,there it is.....I didn't scroll down far enough. my apologies.

Laura said...

It's wasted advertising space, because of course if one believes, one is merely offended; if one doesn't believe it's merely preaching to the choir, and if one is on the fence, a bus ad isn't going to elicit the "I knew it! Now I can start enjoying life." response.

The well-worn commonplace that irks me the most is the very patronizing "Relaaaaaaaax."

Paul said...

Numerous atheists have told me their conclusion that no deity exists felt immensely liberating to them when they first reached it. Because so many have told me that, I wonder if the experience is fairly common, and whether the buss ads were inspired by it.

Dale said...

Laura, I see your point -- I think it is extremely unlikely to change anyone's mind. But in agreement with Paul's comment, I think it's a small step toward reassuring people that their doubts about god don't make them crazy or alone. It's a small step toward normalizing unbelief -- making it a part of the usual background noise of contending ideas, not a freakish outlier.