12 December 2008

Atheism on the bus

As an atheist I've never felt much inclination to proselytize. It has simply never mattered much to me what people's spiritual beliefs are. How they behave, how they treat other people, has always seemed rather more important. In fact, I've always thought that there really shouldn't be an ism in atheism. Ism seems to suggest a practice, a set of beliefs, a dogma, a guiding book like the Bible or The Communist Manifesto, but atheism just means one simple, little fact -- you don't believe in a god. Period. Nothing to make a fuss about.

Recently, however, some atheists have been making quite a fuss. Prominent thinkers such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have written books that trashed God and religion generally while becoming bestsellers. Although I've sometimes wondered if it's really worth the effort, I have to admit religion continues, as it always has, to cause great mischief in the world. Hitchens et al. have a valid point to make.

We were reminded of that point during the recent American presidential election when oppressive Christianity saturated the proceedings like a fog. Not only did the candidates have to constantly trot out their Christian credentials but Obama had to defend himself against accusations -- yes, accusations! -- of being a Muslim. A black man can now run for president, but an atheist ... forget it. (Does this make atheism the new black?)

So I was delighted by an advertising campaign underway in Washington DC conducted by the American Humanist Society. Inspired by a similar project in Great Britain, they are putting up posters in city buses carrying the slogan "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake." My sentiments exactly. The campaign has a lighthearted flavour about it that I like. Stating your message with creativity and wit without bashing the other guys is an approach I appreciate. So keep on truckin', American Humanist Society, and a merry Xmas to you.


  1. right on and thanks for posting it, Merry ho-ho to you too.

  2. Gay is the new black. Atheist is the new gay.

    Or so I've been told. There's a demotivational poster to that effect.