Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Asked and Answered. Now Stop Worrying.

The British Humanist Association and Richard Dawkins are promoting non-belief by means of advertisements on British buses, a gesture that a self-described "highly opinionated right-wing atheist" labels "pointless" and more:

Do Dawkins and the other supporters of this advertising effort really think a simple statement on buses will gain converts to atheism? ... I'm not sure what the supporters of this campaign think they are getting for their money.
These are valid and fair questions. In fact, these questions are so valid and so fair that they are among the questions addressed on the BHA's frequently-asked-questions page for the campaign.

Here is the answer to the latter:
All the money used to pay for the ads came from the thousands of individual donors who have supported the campaign. One of the great things about the campaign is that the support came from the grass roots, demonstrated by these thousands of small donations from members for the public, and its origins with Ariane and Jon. No money has been diverted from other projects; indeed the heightened attention to humanism and atheism even helps further our other campaigns.
And here is the answer to the former:
It isn't [preaching], and was never intended to be an attack on religion or an attempt at "proselytising" for atheism. After all, an advert on a bus isn’t going to convert anyone, and whilst a few – but very few – commentators have seen it as "anti-religious", most have recognised it as a simple statement of non-religious beliefs.

The advertisements were designed as a response to particular hellfire-and-brimstone adverts; our slogan is an affirmation for people that it’s OK not to be religious; that if you are not religious, there is absolutely no reason to worry about that, and that one can lead a happy, enjoyable and rewarding life without religion. Of course most non-religious people recognise that the best way of leading a happy, enjoyable, positive and rewarding life is by working with, cooperating with, and supporting other people to do the same.
It's arguably reasonable to accept or reject these answers: perhaps there are grounds for believing the answers given are insincere, unreasonable, incomplete, poorly-worded, or what have you. But the questions have been forthrightly acknowledged and addressed.

Atheists who seek to form circular firing squads should spend at least a few minutes with the googles and do so properly. As a longstanding left-liberal Democrat, I know the ways of circular firing squads.

I like the campaign -- I see it as a non-confrontational and appropriate rebuttal to the routine threats of eternal damnation that pass for good manners in god-addled societies. It affirms that non-believers exist and are not scary; it helps to normalize non-belief.

Cf.

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