Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Je-bus: Money well spent?

Traditionally, Evangelicalism hasn't done very well in Britain. In addition to having a fairly progressive state religion (The Church of England) Brits aren't generally programmed to go in for all that 'happy clappy' claptrap or join the 'praise Jesus!' crowd.

However, in recent years, that has been changing. The resurgence of the Evangelical cult in America has emboldened fundamentalist Christians in other countries, including England.

This campaign of disinformation is being fought on several fronts, including the teaching of Creationism in state schools (utterly despicable) and even a number of London buses emblazoned with Biblical quotes, such as: "When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)."

I find this troubling for several reasons - not least of which, because I'm pretty sure it's illegal (I worked in advertising for years and Britain's got some pretty strict rules about using religion in adverts.)

But the really objectionable bit is that these 'Je-buses' promote a link to a website which, when visited, warns people that: "You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his demonic spirits! (Matthew 25: 41)."

Now this is where it gets silly.

Guardian journalist Ariane Sherine (who I have developed a total crush on) was so enraged by these buses and their fire-and-brimstone messaging that she encouraged readers to donate money for a 'positive response' to the Evangelicals and their nonsense.

"If there are 4,680 atheists reading this," Sherine challenged in her column, "and we all contribute £5, it's possible that we can fund a much-needed atheist London bus ad with the slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life."

Sherine set up a 'Just Giving' account with a proposed target of £5,500 and - much to everybody's surprise - busted that target by an astonishing 2400%.

Richard Dawkins, the man behind the best-selling book 'The God Delusion' proudly launched the 'atheist bus' campaign, which rolled out on a whopping 800 buses nationwide, instead of just the original 30 Ariane Sherine had envisaged.

The campaign even went international, with buses in Spain and Washington D.C. running the slogan: "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake." The Australian advertising commission, funnily enough, rejected a similar atheist campaign.

Now, as somebody who has had it up to here with the misleading, offensive, bigoted, ignorant rubbish peddled by the mainstream Evangelicalism, you'd think I'd find the rise of the atheist buses to be heartwarming and affirming. However, I can't help but think they're an awful waste of money.

£135,000 was spent on the national "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life" campaign. God knows how much money was frittered away by the stupid Evangelicals on their original 'you're all going to hell' bus stickers in the first place.

That money could have gone to cancer research, finding a cure for AIDS or something else practical. Instead, we're using one of the most expensive, imprecise and immeasurable advertising mediums on the planet to fight an expensive war for the hearts and minds of a bunch of people who probably couldn't care less in the first place.

I do think the atheist bus campaign was a complete waste of time and money, but it's the Evangelicals I'm especially angry at. If they weren't so eager to reduce the Western world to a backwards, fundamentalist regime, (like the Taliban in the middle east) than all those well intentioned atheists, who donated money to counter that rubbish on those 'Je-buses', could have donated to much more worthwhile charities instead.


Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Brilliant post and I couldn't agree with you more.

Coffee Bean said...

That all just makes me sad. Very sad.

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him might have eternal life... John 3:16

The lake of fire is prepared for Satan and his demons, not people.

"Christians" that engage in this kind of hellfire and brimstone approach serve only to alienate people and keep them from the simple truth that God loves them. For all we know, they might be headed to the lake of fire themselves.

Max-e said...

I see that even the athiests cannot say for certain that God does not exist. If they were so certain they would have left out the word "probably".
On the balance of probabilities, I accept that God does exist....and I am enjoying life.
For the advocates of teaching only the "theory of evolution" in schools, remember it is only a theory.
Personally, I think that creation is more plausible.

Malcolm said...

We're pretty certain there is no god - but we're reasonable and rational and open to the possibility the we could be wrong - hence the "probably".
Making dogmatic absolute statements without the evidence to back them up we leave to the religionists....

"Atheism: it's not what you believe"


Roland Hulme said...

Hi Max-e!

Malcolm's right. Atheism is based on the theory that everything 'true' must be supported by facts and evidence. Since nobody can prove or disprove the existence of God, even atheists wouldn't be so arrogant as 'tell' other people that s/he definitely doesn't exist.

But, also, it was a requirement of British advertising standards! The Christian message was 'got around' by using a quote from the Bible. Sneaky buggers.

As for creationism - don't get me started. The reason evolution is a 'theory' is that there is evidence to support it (evolution is a 'theory' only in the same way that gravity is.)

Creationism, on the other hand, has NO evidence to support it (and quite a lot to disprove it) and therefore it is not a theory, but a philosophical belief.

That belongs in a religious studies class, not the science room.

Coffee Bean said...

Here is an interesting site dealing with the laws of thermodynamics:

The second law of thermodynamics deals with things being left to themselves tending toward chaos, not order.

Looking to science for all proof is a philosophical belief as well. There are, as yet, too many unanswered questions for it not to be so.

We do see evolution/adaptation within species... but, those species are always those species. There are similarities between primates and humans. There are also vast differences.

No one knows what caused the "Big Bang." There is no "missing link."

Belief in evolution and belief in creationism are both philosophical.

Roland Hulme said...

The difference between science and religion is that science is both provable AND disprovable.

If new evidence came to light that DISPROVED evolution, the 'theory' would be dead, kaput.

Because creationism can't be proven, it also can't be disproven, making it utterly worthless by any rational standards of the study of science, history or biology.

I'm not sure where you're coming rom with the law of thermodynamics.

My favorite one is that the universe is currently expanding, following the big bang. Inevitably, that expansion will cease, before turning to contraction. Then the universe will squish into a single 'thing,' which will be under so much pressure, it will have another 'big bang' and the universe sets out expanding again.

Through that theory, the universe has a consistent mass, density and energy value. It wasn't 'created.' It simply exists.

The concept of a 'beginning' and an 'end' is purely a human one.

And there ARE many missing links and they're being discovered all the time. The idea of a half-man, half-monkey fossil 'proving' that mankind evolved from animals doesn't exist - that's not how evolution works. Instead we have countless fossils of countless ancestors each showing a gradual development and evolution. These fossils exist - and more are being discovered all the time.

Coffee Bean said...

The point I was tring to make is that there is an undeniable order to things. Just looking at how our eyes work is fascinating. Maybe thermodynamics isn't a good way to point that out... it just seems that when things are left to themselves they tend to become more disordered rather than ordered. If that makes any sense.

You know I wasn't raised in a religious home... I absolutely loved biology. To me it was so obvious that we have a creator. I just cannot accept that all of this happened with no purpose or plan. It wasn't about having been raised to believe that. I just saw it.

Malcolm said...

@ Coffee
Referring to the 2nd law of thermodynamics is a standard creationist attempt to 'prove' that all the evidence for evolution that we observe around us does not really exist. It stems from a misunderstanding of the 2nd law...

The argument usually goes like this
The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals, and multicellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.

This argument derives from a misunderstanding of the Second Law. If it were valid, mineral crystals and snowflakes would also be impossible, because they, too, are complex structures that form spontaneously from disordered parts.

The Second Law actually states that the total entropy of a closed system (one that no energy or matter leaves or enters) cannot decrease. Entropy is a physical concept often casually described as disorder, but it differs significantly from the conversational use of the word.

More important, however, the Second Law permits parts of a system to decrease in entropy as long as other parts experience an offsetting increase. Thus, our planet as a whole can grow more complex because the sun pours heat and light onto it, and the greater entropy associated with the sun's nuclear fusion more than rebalances the scales. Simple organisms can fuel their rise toward complexity by consuming other forms of life and nonliving materials.

Answer quoted from

If you want to use scientific sounding arguments for your religion it's worth reading the whole Sci Am article - it answers many of the misunderstandings non-scientists often make.

Atheism : a non prophet organization


Malcolm said...

@coffee again
you said The point I was tring to make is that there is an undeniable order to things. Just looking at how our eyes work is fascinating.

Absolutely. Eyes are truly wonderful. But that in itself is not an argument for the existence or non-existence of a creative force.

The evolutionary pathway from a simple patch of light sensitive cells to the complexity of the mammalian or cephalopod eye has been well mapped out, and examples of each intermediate stage abound in the living world today.

For a beautifully lucid explanation of the type of processes involved in the development of the eye I recommend Dawkins' book "climbing mount improbable".

Coffee Bean said...

Hi Malcolm,

I'm in a rush and have a full day ahead of me... I just wanted to take a few minutes to respond.

I believe in God. I believe we were created. I don't know how He did it. I'm not one of those that demands that others believe in a literal 6 day Creation because I can see why people question it. It's one of those areas where I've had to accept that, for now, I don't know the answer. I do get some heat for this from other evangelicals. I just can't not look at everything.

You are right that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is often used by creationists and in the way you said. I have never taken a physics class so I have no real knowledge of those laws or how they work exactly. It has occurred to me that when things are left to themselves, like in the Jungle, that the whole life cycle, ecosystems,and survival of the fittest continue.

You stated in another comment:

"We're pretty certain there is no god - but we're reasonable and rational and open to the possibility the we could be wrong."

I think that both belief in God and belief in evolution require a certain level of faith. For me, it requires more faith than I've got to believe that everything is just some sort of cosmic happening. When I tried not to believe (and I was not raised in a home that had an opinion one way or the other) I couldn't. There has to be a purpose. My life has to have a purpose. I can't really explain it... There is so much to life that is beyond me. There is so much pain and suffering. I just cannot live in the absence of hope.

Malcolm said...

hey Coffee,

I think that both belief in God and belief in evolution require a certain level of faith.

We need to be clear about what we're talking about here. When I talk about evolution I am only talking about the change in genetic makeup of populations over time. The Theory of Evolution has absolutely nothing to say about the origin of the universe, the origin of life or the existence of a god or gods.

Evolution happens. Faith - believing something without evidence - is not necessary. The evidence and explanations for that evidence are so solid that the Theory of Evolution is about as likely to be overturned as the theory that the earth goes round the sun.

If you choose to believe that the process was started by a god, or is somehow managed by one - that is your choice. To me that seems to be an unnecessary complication.

For me, it requires more faith than I've got to believe that everything is just some sort of cosmic happening.

That's 'the argument from personal incredulity' :) Just because you can't believe it doesn't mean it's not true.

I don't claim to know how the universe came into being. But any being that could create something as astounding and complex as the universe must itself be even more astounding and complex.

And however unlikely it may be that something as complex as the universe should just exist, the spontaneous coming into existence of an even more complex being with the power to create such a universe is obviously even more unlikely.

Max-e said...

Roland and Malcolm this is a debate that no one can win, because either you believe or you don't.
I just want to add that by definition, atheism is the "theory or belief that God does not exist". What you guys are talking of sounds more like agnosticism.
I don't need proof, because my belief is based on faith.

Evolution and creation are not incompatible. I have read and listened to enough scientists on the subject to see the connection. Evolution would take a lot more faith to believe in than creation.

Gravity, on earth anyway, is more than a theory it is a reality.

Malcolm said...

Hi Max-e

I am an atheist. I believe there is no conscious, supernatural force or being responsible for creating the universe. I am also aware of the futility of trying to alter other peoples beliefs in this area so I shy away from the more confrontational approaches often found on the web. That may explain why I come across as agnostic - it avoids some of the more futile exchanges...

I don't need proof, because my belief is based on faith.

Wheras I don't need faith to believe that evolution happens because of all the evidence that we have.

Evolution and creation are not incompatible.
That depends on what you mean by 'creation'

The evidence for evolution and the timescales involved is completely incompatible with the belief in a literal "6 day creation" interpretation of the bible.

However I would agree that accepting that evolution happens is not incompatible with believing in a god who created the universe and the world and started the process off - many people do both.

Evolution would take a lot more faith to believe in than creation.
I disagree. Believing that evolution happens requires no more faith than believing the earth is round - just a willingness to accept the evidence.

Believing in a creator means accepting something huge on very little evidence at all.

Gravity, on earth anyway, is more than a theory it is a reality.

As is the fact that species change over time - evolution happens. Whether you believe the process is purely natural or guided by an unseen hand is up to you. But to deny that it happens at all in the face of all the evidence available one would need to be delusional or willfully ignorant.

Roland Hulme said...

"Evolution would take a lot more faith to believe in than creation."

How, exactly? Faith, by it's very definition, is belief in the absence of proof. Because there is evidence supporting evolution, and none supporting creationism, creationism must be taken on 'faith' while evolution is a legitimate scientific theory.

Gravity, on earth anyway, is more than a theory it is a reality.

You don't seem to understand the concept of a 'theory.'

A theory is dependent on a fixed end result. We know that gravity exists - we see it and feel it every day - but we only have 'theories' as to why gravity does what it does.

Likewise, we KNOW that animals have developed and become more complex over millenia, yet all share fundamental developmental similarities. Evolution is the explanation for why that has happened, based on the evidence.

To understand the concept of a theory, look at this sentence:

""I have a theory on how the burglars escaped," said Detective Cole.""

The fact that the burglars have escaped is a fact. How they escaped is left open to theories.

""I theorize that the burglars have escaped" said Detective Cole."

In that scenario, the burglars are absent, so the detective has to come up with a theory of where they might be.

Again, it's based on a REALITY, in this case, that the burglars are not at the crime scene.

It's exactly the same with gravity and evolution. We know that gravity happens and we know that evolution took place. We theorize how and why.

Coffee Bean said...

Hey Guys,

I should have said both intelligent-creation and non-intelligent creation require faith for the origin or beginning of the creation. Assuming the fact or state of having been created...

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