Just Stop It With the Bus Signs!!!!

That’s it. I have had enough! Get out of my face ! Leave us sensible people alone!

Following the atheist bus slogans campaign last month, we now hear that there is going to be a theist counter-campaign by the Trinitarian Bible Society,  the Christian Party and the Russian Orthodox Church!!! It’s time to step in and ban the lot of them. It really has become a name-calling exercise.

You can’t persuade people to change beliefs with slogans! I think this has all gone far enough. It almost makes you welcome a  return to sexist, moronic advertising.


Filed under atheism, In the News

32 responses to “Just Stop It With the Bus Signs!!!!

  1. Arno

    “almost”? I’ll have to let you know that if a bus does not contain the image of at least one half-naked man, I am not getting on board, mister!
    Sexist and moronic advertisements for all!

    On a more serious note – yes, this is kinda getting out of hand. Social psychologists are happily mapping all the processes going on.

  2. The theist counter ads sound very enticing. I mean, “join The Christian Party and enjoy your life” speaks to me like all good advertising should. As does the option of going to a Russian Orthodox monastery to enjoy my life. I like the third ad the most, though – The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God – nothing gets the message through to me better than trite personal attacks (especially when they rely upon a logical error). Unfortunately, I do not think the message I get from that is the one they intended.

    For some reason, it reminds me of how there was a road safety campaign in Australia with bumper stickers that said “If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot.” A mate of mine just put the second half on his car.

    Bruce, are you sure that you can’t get people to change beliefs using slogans? What does the actual evidence for or against that claim look like?

  3. brucehood

    Konrad… advertising works and so I assume that slogans as part of an advertising campaign work.
    But I do not know of academic studies to show that a priori beliefs can be changed. So I guess I can’t say for certain but after our visit to the Noah’s Ark with Michael Shermer, no amount of reason and discussion was going to shift that believer’s mind! Maybe the hardcore believers are a different case. Maybe with full scale indoctrination and absence of dissent, slogans work… but I seriously doubt it.
    Still can’t be dogmatic…willing to look at the evidence.

  4. Reason and discussion couldn’t shift him but maybe a good advertising campaign with an attractive spokesperson could? 😉 Given that I work from a bounded rationality perspective, I would not be surprised. Nor would you, I suspect, Bruce. More seriously, I think dogmatism is quite fascinating from a theoretical point of view. It strikes me as a real life example of how people can fall into vicious circularity due to the lack of any foundational rationality to fall back upon. Luckily dogmatism about most matters tends to get weeded out. Religious beliefs, however, are irrelevant enough no to be so affacted.

  5. Ram Venkatararam

    Sexist, moronic advertising exists because it works.

    I think that if either side are serious about swaying public opinion they should use bus advertising in the way it was intended and “sell” their point of view more concretely.

    “I started believing in God and lost 10 lbs in one week. Thank you, God, my husband says I’ve never looked sexier.”


    “I used to believe in God but I gave that up and now my dandruff has completely cleared. I can wear black sweaters again and its all thanks to Atheism.”

  6. It is at times like these that I thank God/something secular that I have built an underground tunnel system from my house to all my favourite haunts so that I never have to see one of these ‘buses’. I hear from contacts that not only are they ridden with slogans, they are also full of people who don’t wash.

  7. See, this is my problem with overstated and aggressive atheism – it often incites more over-the-top behaviour from religious groups and only assists in deepening the divide.

    Surely those who are more attuned with rationality – i.e. working purely from evidence and balanced views – would be more interested in either:

    1. Moving *away* from religion and pseudoscience completely
    2. Laying sensible and reasonable foundations for debate, on rational terms

    All I see in these silly campaigns (like the ‘Out’ campaign, which is incredibly embarrassing) is at best employing the same tactics as their opposition, and at worst blind prejudice seeping into rationalism.

    (I didn’t realise how annoyed I was by the whole bus thing until this post, sorry to rant)

  8. Gus

    Yes, I entirely agree with Ram. Self-evidently slogans do help to change people’s beliefs about products, but do they change beliefs about belief?

    The trick must be to sell a particular religion, or the absence of one, as if it were a product with specific benefits – ‘the sizzle, not the sausage’ to coin the irritating advertising cliché.

    Which is, I suppose, exactly what various ‘holy’ books do – just in very overlong slogans for today’s TV-literate audiences.

    Mind you, ‘Believe in our God and you’ll get a room full of virgins in heaven’ seems to have proved to be a pretty compelling strapline for a certain demographic, whilst ‘Believe in our God and you’ll live forever’ seems to work surprisingly well on others.

    As ever, I don’t object, as Bruce does, to the idea of advertising religion or atheism per-se, I just think the copywriting’s rubbish.

  9. i think people in general are getting tired of the totalitarian nature of religion.they will need to refine their “faith(s)” into a more user friendly god(s) to make any hard sells from bus ads! hehehe

  10. Arno

    Meanwhile in the Netherlands, it becomes clear that these signs aren’t such a bad idea afterall
    Seriously, the believers are going insane because this guy is willing to accept that the world isn’t created in six days, as a certain book claims.

  11. brucehood

    Arno.. this guy is rejecting “Young Earth” creationism. I honestly did not appreciate the difference until the Shermer visit but there is a whole tapestry of delusion. Apparently by rejecting crazy “young earth” creationism allows you to have “good old boys” creationism. As Rhett Butler would say,” Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

  12. Bruce, I think the benefit of the ads is to normalise atheism. It won’t changes anybody’s mind, but it will help to shift the place of atheism in public opinion to the mainstream. And that will help people who are already inclined to atheism or agnosticism to be more open about it.

  13. brucehood

    Probably true Tom, I guess I am just irritated by evangelicals on both sides. That must reflect my middle position, where I would hope most of us navigate to eventually.

  14. Well said Bruce.

    For me, atheism has been hijacked. I refer to myself as an atheist, because I don’t believe in any deities, don’t feel the need to have a supreme being to worship, blame or be ferarful of, and hence don’t subscribe to a particular religious creed.

    However, bizarrely, atheism is now being touted around as some sort of new religion – usually on some form of anti-christian ticket.

    As an atheist, I see myself as not being (froma religious perspective) anti- anything; it’s just that I’m not pro- anything either.

    I found the original bus ads refreshing and amusing, but if tit-for-tat retaliation is about to follow, then I’m with you….. enough!

  15. sorry…. ‘ferarful’.

    Sounds like someone with a mouthful of falafal trying to tell you what they’re eating.

  16. poietes

    Hello everyone.
    My, the times they are a changin’. Luckily, here in Norfolk, Virginia at least, I haven’t seen any buses with any kind of theist slogans, but if I had to, I would prefer that they were in the vein of Ram’s type:
    “Join the atheists, and we’ll give you a brand new toaster!”

    That being said, I have to agree with Bruce that no one is going to change his or her religion based on a slogan on a bus or on a train or on a boat or on a plane, Sam I am. It’s simply too complicated to think that it’s that simple.

    The atheist buses were nothing if not enlightening because they did help to bring another belief (non-belief?) system into the mainstream. However, no one is ever willing to leave well enough alone. Everyone wants their say, which is when I have to say, “No. you can’t have it. You’re being a boor. You’re boring me with your overwraught oneupsmanship, and you aren’t offering free toasters. So begone with you.”

    Let’s go back to putting half-naked bodies on our buses and call it a day. Then we can offend everyone. Shall we?

  17. Poietes, Bruce, others, the point was made by Tom – it was to get people to recognise that atheists are a normal part of society, just like women, blacks and homosexuals. Anyone who thinks that people will change their fundamental worldview on the basis of seeing an ad is fooling themselves, of course. But, by seeing the ads, people will become used to atheism as a live option. The big question for me is whether it makes sense to have such ads in the UK rather than the US. UK is largely a secular society, which generally refuses to make much of anyone’s beliefs concerning religion – an outcome with seems much more natural and, probably, desirable than an atheist society. At the same time, in the US atheists suffer discrimination at every step and are forced to hide their identity in much the same way that homosexuals used to be. Even living in a homogenously Catholic society (Poland) I do not feel anything like the antipathy towards my beliefs that I did while visiting the US.

  18. Gus

    I agree that advertising atheism will, at least, help to normalise the idea of non-belief. However, whilst my white middle-class liberal instinct used to be, like Bruce’s, that we should move towards a “…middle position, where I would hope most of us navigate to eventually.” – reading Sam Harris changed my mind. Apologies for this long quotation, however: “While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position…in light of all that we have (and have not) learned about the universe, it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and violence. The problem is that…religious moderation does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world – to say, for instance that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish – is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.”

  19. brucehood

    I disagree with Sam Harris, as I think he is attributing extremism motivated by political agendas as acts directed by religion as it has always been. The rhetoric of religion conveniently plays into the hands of those who seek to control the masses. Would atheism moderate that control? I doubt it.

  20. Bluemoon

    Gus, I think it is far too simplistic to blame religion and religious zealots for the problems of violence and terrorism. These people will find any excuse for violence and the veil of religion is merely an excuse for their behaviour. Most if not all religions profess to being peaceful and understanding however terrorism and violence has been attributed to all during the course of history. Sam Harris has an agenda to his theory and it is too narrow. If there were no religions, people intent on terrorism or violence for their agenda would find a banner under which to fly their demands. The mere fact that they fly the banner of Christianity, Sikhism, Islam or whatever is only an excuse for their actions, they could equally be rabid atheists. I agree Bruce with the convenience of controlling the masses by way of inducing fear of one religion or the demands of another, it is the opium of the masses and those in control are the drug pushers.

  21. Bluemoon

    Ram, I like your advertising ideas have you ever considered a career in the industry? I have to confess I am wearing black sweaters with pride and thinking back, perhaps since I became comfortable with my lack of religious beliefs…… thank non-existent deity for their slimming effects!

  22. Gus

    I don’t disagree that atheism is unlikely to moderate violence. But that isn’t Harris’s argument…(and my selective quotation, inevitably, over-simplifies his point). As Bruce says: “The rhetoric of religion conveniently plays into the hands of those who seek to control the masses.” Ergo we should, at the least, do all we can to subvert, undermine and not be tolerant of the ignorant rhetoric of religion.

  23. If you want to see Theist counters to “unbelievers” just travel any stretch of highway in the United States. Constant reminders of Him. And sometimes Her. She is much more interesting.

  24. lol @ noseycow – as always, presenting a whole new debate in the comments 😀

  25. poietes

    I agree that if any country needs to learn more tolerance for atheists, it’s the U.S. That being said, I would have to point out that we are probably one of the most intolerant countries in the world when it comes to our Religion (cap R).

    Founded on the basis of religious freedom, our country has done a complete 180 swing. Living in the bible belt as I do, I can tell you, it’s incredible how people do not tolerate any kind of others.

    I know from personal experience as someone who is a pantheist that if your aren’t mainstream, then you don’t belong. But as I said earlier, the times, they are a changin’.

    In Kansas City of all places, a group of high school students got together to protest a supposed reverend who preaches hatred towards gays, and with the school administration’s support, a protest against this man of intolerance succeeded.

    There’s a new wave here. A new generation of people who are sick and tired of the old message of fear and intolerance. Unfortunately, it takes a while for the pendulum to swing back, but I’m hoping that the movement has started.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but a lot of this intolerance comes from 8 years of Bush going off and bombing people because they were different and trying to pass them off as the enemy for so long that they have come to hate us.

  26. <>

    Well stated, Bruce, and terribly true…or, at least, I agree with you.

  27. Gia

    The atheist bus campaign was started a) as a reaction to all of the religious ads that are CONSTANTLY on the buses and tubes in London b) by a comedienne. Dawkins and the Humanists got on board well after she set the idea into motion. In no way was it ‘aggressive atheism’.

    My favourite thing, however, was when that guy from Christian Voice said that the reason why he objected to the atheist ads was that atheists didn’t have any evidence that God didn’t exist.



    Hahahahahhahahhahahahahahahaha! Hahahahahhahahaha! Hahahahahahahha! Hahahahahhaa!


    Hahahahahahhahahaha! Hahahahhahaha!

    He’s talking about ‘evidence’!!! Ahhhhhhh… Gotta love them Christians. They do make you laugh sometimes.

  28. brucehood

    Hi Gia,

    Long time..

    Ah yes,. the fallacy of the negative proof. Even my nine-year-old understands this as she uses it to great effect to get her own way.

  29. Gus

    Quite. But (at the risk of droning on here) I appear to be in a minority by missing something here. Bruce, your position seems to be:

    1. There will probably always be violence and terrorism (but it makes sense to reduce it if we can).
    2. The rhetoric of religion conveniently plays into the hands of violent terrorists.
    3. We should therefore adopt ‘a middle position’ on the rhetoric of religion and not be too horrid about God on buses.

    What’s the leap of logic between 2 and 3 that I’ve missed?

  30. brucehood

    Hi Gus, 3 does not follow.
    I don’t want either on the buses. Did the atheist campaign serve to reduce the adverts? No, it has led to a greater religious backlash of advertising, and so on, and so on. That’s why I find the campaign irritating. However, it might remind the powers that be that maybe beliefs should be held in private and banned from public buses.

  31. Gus

    Well yes, but if we agree that there are various things – religious dogma, racism, nail bombs and so forth – that often play into the hands of violent terrorists we should surely do our utmost to protest against them, expose them as a bad idea or, at the very least, undermine their authority.

    The argument that violence would occur whether in the name of religion or not doesn’t, for me, present a reason for being tolerant of it.

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