You can’t say “God doesn’t Exist”

A sight you won’t be seeing in Australia any time soon

Reuters

Author Richard Dawkins, who wrote The God Delusion, lends his support as the London bus atheism advertising campaign is launched. Photo: Reuters

Following on from the Labor Government’s recent splurge of some $140+ million of Australian taxpayers’ money to host the Catholic Church’s visit by the Pope in Sydney last year, it comes as some surprise that a group of individuals who wish to promote an atheist perspective – through a privately (ie non-government) funded advertising campaign have had their proposal rejected.

According to a report in the SMH, The Atheist Foundation of Australia was knocked back by Australia’s biggest outdoor advertising company, APN Outdoor, on its proposal for a nationwide campaign featuring atheist slogans.

The campaign – with slogans such as “Sleep in on Sunday mornings” and “Celebrate reason” – follows successful attempts by the British and American Humanist Associations to raise awareness for atheism in London and Washington.

APN Outdoor cited no reason for rejecting the $16,000 public transport campaign, and declined to comment.

“The intention was to demonstrate to the public that there is an alternative to religion that is rational, reasonable and worthy of thought,” said the president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, David Nicholls.

“It took three weeks for APN Outdoor to come to a decision, after they initially told me there’d be no problem. The final discussion by phone to an executive ended with an abrupt message that they were not going to take our business.”

APN Outdoor refused to comment on whether the company’s clients include religious organisations, but Mr Nicholls said buses in Adelaide had been adorned with religious messages such as John 3:16. He also approached bus advertisers in Hobart, with the same result.

“Australia is in desperate need of a human rights and equal opportunities act,” Mr Nicholls said.

“It’s clear that western Europe, the US and Britain have better laws than we do when it comes to … respecting freedom of speech.”

British atheists have been celebrating the appearance of flippant slogans on London buses this week but atheists in Australia have been barred from launching a similar advertising campaign on the nation’s public transport systems.

Associate Professor Carole Cusack, of the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, said most Australians were too apathetic about religion to be affected negatively by the campaign. “If religions can buy advertising space, then why not atheists?”

Friar Peter McGrath, of St Francis of Assisi Catholic parish in Paddington, agreed.

“The [atheists] should have a right to advertise. They should be able to say what they want.”

The atheists are taking their case to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board.

Advertisements

49 Responses

  1. I guess the problem is that those that want to discriminate (stopping the athiest ads) say that the ads will offend those that are religious, and that because the athiests do not believe in anything you cannot offend their beliefs?

  2. Our mere existence is offensive to some. Which I find totally ridiculous.

    – I’m not sh*tting in your cornflakes, go about your own business.

    You know what I mean?

  3. The atheists have the right to freedom of speech. Likewise, the advertising companies have the right to do business with whomever they choose. If they have made a calculated business decision to decline the $16,000 worth of business offered by the atheists, for fear that they might upset other (larger?) clients, then fair enough.

    For $16,000 the atheists can buy a second-hand truck with a billboard on the tray, and drive it around to their hearts’ content. Or start a blog.

  4. Tony

    Fair point. As you say, it was a business decision not discrimination.

  5. Has anyone here read the “God Delusion”?

  6. “it was a business decision not discrimination”

    Based on what though?

  7. Sisyphus Fragment

    I know exactly what you mean.

    I can accept that they have their beliefs (which I don’t agree with) but I accept that they are entitled to them.
    I can also understand why they have those beliefs. What seems to be the problem however is that they can’t understand why we atheists have our beliefs – it’s as if they can’t comprehend non-belief or other beliefs (and I’m not talking just about christianity here).

  8. Dawkins has written a number of books, the latest being The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing (which I haven’t read).

    For me The God Delusion was well argued but then again he was ‘preaching’ to the converted. The religious people claim that the book is rubbish.

    I also enjoyed A Devil’s Chaplain : Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love.

    In Britain, Dawkins is regarded as a ‘Public Intellectual’. We have a few in Australia such as Robert Manne, Frank Brennan (a priest), Germain Greer, Guy Rundle, Phillip Adams, David Marr, Tim Flannery and a few others. Of course there are those who would like to think they qualify. Try Piers and the Bolta. Lol.

  9. *laugh* Piers & Bolt as “intellectuals”… oh, that is good!

    As for the actual subject matter – this is, in my mind, a situation where a “business decision” is being used to hide true prejudice.

    Like it or not, Australia is basically two thirds Christian (though actual Church attendance is roughly only 7-8% of the population). Like most “evangelical” religions (Christianity, Islam, Scientology, etc) – organized resistance is actively crushed where possible. The “Christian contingent” in my area at least classifies atheism as a social ill. Oh, and try to have any other religion taught in our public school system alongside “Christian Scripture” and see how far that gets you.

    Religion is simply one of the prejudices our country has “under the surface”. I get the feeling that society as a whole seems to bond when grouped “against” something rather than “for” something. I think the only reason we as a populace didn’t fall for the “Gloabl War on Terror” is because we’re usually “against” the government and “American Imperialism” (real or imagined) and so the PR had a steeper hill to climb.

    Though today is one of the days I despair at society… making me gloomier than usual *shrug*

  10. “Though today is one of the days I despair at society… making me gloomier than usual *shrug*”

    If it’s any consolation, Christians would have us believe that we’re ALL born sinners.

    So don’t feel like you’re being singled out…

    🙂

  11. “Has anyone here read the “God Delusion”?”joni

    I’m currently in the throes of finishing it, I read in my breaks at work which is a very disjointed way of digesting such material. I love it! it plucks all of my anti-religious strings & as mentioned above constructs a solid argument.
    Having said that, as previously mentioned, it is preaching to the converted & it’s unsurprising that enraptured delusionists (of the worshipping variety) would see it as (intellectually threatening) rubbish.

    When I ordered it I also got Mills’ “Atheist Universe” (a much “lighter” read) & Hitchens’ “God is not Great”(also entertaining). I’ve never read this genre before but I’ll be certainly reading much more in the future as it really does flesh out my personal worldview in a way that I find incredibly stimulating. It actually makes an individual think through the contradictions & origins of religion in a substantial way that doesn’t just collapse at the point of “Teh Bible/god says it is so, thus it must be so”.

    Great Post BTW, whodunnit?

  12. Friar Peter McGrath, of St Francis of Assisi Catholic parish in Paddington, agreed.

    “The [atheists] should have a right to advertise. They should be able to say what they want.”

    The story about the advertising being knocked back was in the news a month or so from memory (the litigation is new news) and the above quote remined me of a comment from a priest at the time which was along the lines of “I support the ad campaign – anything that makes people think about god is good”. That made sense to me and I guess that was pretty much the point of the ads.

    I’ll support HD’s comments about the post as well – good job.

    (is this the first dedicated religios thread on Blogocrats?)

  13. Great Post BTW, whodunnit?

    Modesty prevents me from admitting that it was me…

    🙂

    (with the overwhelming majority of it ripped off from the SMH).

  14. “is this the first dedicated religios thread on Blogocrats?”

    Not sure Dave. If it is. It’s long overdue.

    Agree with your views and that of Peter McGrath’s which I thought were refreshing and broadminded…

  15. Meh, Christianity (as it is defined in current times) comes from a history of control & oppression. Hell, the bible as we know it was “collated by committee” around 100AD by people wanting to control the spreding Christian “cult”.

    I guess religious oppression (which I classify this “No atheists allowed” meme as) gets to me more because I have actually studied Christianity (history & seminal subjects) more than alot of those that try to force it on me & my children.

  16. Had the Jehovahs Witnesses call last week, despite me having put up flag bunting all along the front of the house to stop cars pulling up. But no the Jehovahs pulled up and pushed aside the bunting with their car to get enough space to stop.

    Calmly got out and proceeded to the door and knocked. Meanwhile I paniced and fled to the back room and hid until the car left.

  17. Shane @16.

    That sounds like me!

    Whenever I see them approaching the house, I immediately panic and think “f**k, what do I d now?!” as I run from room to room looking for somewhere to hide, all the while forgetting the fact that it’s actually MY house….

  18. “Peter McGrath’s which I thought were refreshing and broadminded…”

    Definitely the stance of a reasonable, unfettered man who is confident enough in his own ideas not to be affronted by those with polar opposite ideas.
    I would suggest however that encouraging people to think about religion in a logical way (something I fully support) instead of a dogmatically faith based way would be counter productive to a religious recruiting drive.
    To me, the seed of religion is, almost entirely, planted by indoctrination in impressionable children without an alternative belief system; although I concede that it’s not always the case given those (few) who find it later in life or are “born again”.

    One of the points of Dawkin’s book that I found very interesting is the (in my view obvious) observation that people do not need religion to have well defined standards of morality & a basis for determining good & bad without religious fiat or theological convolutions.

  19. “Meanwhile I paniced and fled to the back room and hid until the car left.”

    LOL A former flat mate used to like to invite them in, give them a cuppa and then try to convert them to atheism. No hope of them converting him because they couldn’t get a word in.

  20. “Calmly got out and proceeded to the door and knocked. Meanwhile I paniced and fled to the back room and hid until the car left.”shane

    ROFLMAO!!!

    They’re predatory aren’t they!
    You remind me of life at the farm, a good 45min drive from any population centre.
    The JW’s pulled up at the road & walked in (to surprise us by stealth?). The driveway is very long & the first thing we knew about it was the sheepdogs attacking the “strangers” as they creeped toward us with our impending salvation in their hearts.
    The dogs don’t take too kindly to unknowns coming in on foot but are fine if you pull up in a car like a normal person, hehe.
    They didn’t hang around for long.

  21. “Whenever I see them approaching the house, I immediately panic and think “f**k, what do I d now?!” as I run from room to room looking for somewhere to hide, all the while forgetting the fact that it’s actually MY house….”reb

    As luck would have it, I have an abundance of highly offensive apparel to confront them with at my door. They tend to get the message pretty quick & I get the impression that they know my smile is a facade.

  22. I note that teh Atheists seem to have diluted their message…probably. Being agnostic on the matter at hand, I probably don’t have a problem with another systematised body of thought de facto organised around there probably not being a God or gods advertising their not a religion. I would probably dispute, however, that particular not a religion’s ambit claim over the entire body of rationality when in the hands of particular intellectual-zealots among its ranks. Having read Dawkins’ God Delusion quite closely, and discovered that its author isn’t entirely logical (qua intellectually honest) in many places, I was quite disappointed with that piece as a proffered centrepiece of Atheist Reason, although I did welcome its contribution to public debate. On precisely the matter at hand, I can’t see the particular claim with Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal getting anywhere at all, because it doesn’t seem to fall under any particular recognised head of discrimination. Even if those heads were expanded to include an absolute right to free speech, or speech for political purposes, and assuming that the decision was taken contrary to those purposes and not for commercial reasons, then there would be a conflict of cross-rights, which would be another debate yet to be had, but whose conclusion is still not logically and automatically decided in favour of the claimant. And that’s my two indulgence‘s worth on this thread.

  23. Legion

    I agree with the anti-discrimination thing. I believe an advertising medium (in this case the Outdoor advertising company) has the right to knock back advertising material on pretty much any grounds it sees fit.

    In other words, they are not compelled to “have to” accept advertising.

    To claim it is discriminatory would be a prettty difficult argument to prove I suspect.

  24. “I would probably dispute, however, that particular not a religion’s ambit claim over the entire body of rationality when in the hands of particular intellectual-zealots among its ranks. Having read Dawkins’ God Delusion quite closely, and discovered that its author isn’t entirely logical (qua intellectually honest) in many places”Legion

    I understand what you mean by “intellectual zealots” & take your point. I know that atheism can easily be considered to be arrogance, as it is a fundamental rejection of its opposite; still, I am in no doubt & therefore an atheist I suppose.

    I’d be especially interested to learn which parts of the book are”qua intellectually honest”, as I said I’ve not completed it yet & read it in an unwholesome broken manner in a lunchroom.
    I only inquire because I have a great respect for your considered opinions.

  25. My opinion..one can read all one wants to. You won’t know until you get there.

  26. BT @ 15,

    Your comment raised a question. Does the Bible actually mention that the God wanted it written? Not any of the “it is the word of God” but you’d think that God would have been quoted if he said that it should exist.

  27. Shane if it’s any consolation I ended up with a long line of Seventh Day Adventurers (hubby’s name for them), the reason being that She Who Can Talk the Leg Off a Wooden Chair aka younger daughter was home when they called (I was out).

    They are lovely lovely people, but I think that I frightened them off when I told them about my father’s pre-deceasement experiences.

    Hubby’s usual response is: Sorry, we’re Catholic.

    [hubby was brought up a Catholic but hasn’t seen the inside of a church for 20 years with the exception of a wedding where he physically attached himself to a lamp-post when I tried to drag him inside in order to take photos of the bride].

  28. joni,

    It might have been in the dead sea scrolls!?!

  29. Joni,

    Actually, no. God did not command the bible be written, only that the people follow “His” commandments and follow “His” teachings.

    This would be difficult (at least in the Old Testament) without keeping it written down, however, as “He” had quite alot of laws & teachings. If you have a Bible on the bookshelf, take a quick look through Leviticus, Exodus, & Deuteronomy. The “direct” teachings of Christ in the New Testament are quite a bit simpler but (like most religious teachings) they were “enhanced” by his disciples.

    The bible, as it is today, was actually alot of separate holy books (each “Book” of the bible was actually a separate physical book) that were collectively decided to be “canon” (i.e. correct to God’s teachings) by a number of influential Christian teachers over a hundred years after the supposed death & resurrection of Christ. Interestingly enough, whilst there is general agreement on around 66 of these books, the individual denominations (Catholicism, Protestant, Orthodox, etc) have over ten books which some consider true teachings and others consider them forgeries with false teachings. For added irony, there are “canon” books in the Bible that reference books not included in the Bible!

    In my mind, when men (of “earthly” power) are deciding what is from God & what is not – how can you trust it?

  30. Another book to try is” What should I believe?”, by Dorothy Rowe – it covers why some of us need to believe in God.
    She’s an interesting woman. There was a repeat of a Philip Adams interview with her recently on RN.
    If anyone is curious about her background etc check her website.

    I’ve loved the idea of the bus campaign since it was first mooted.
    Being told that you’ll burn in hell if you don’t believe is pretty offputting and personally I’ve found that the anger of those who insist you should follow “their” line when their religion is often a “crutch” is pretty disturbing and destructive of relationships.

  31. BT @ 29

    Thanks for the answer. 🙂

  32. 24. Toiletboss

    If you are still reading it, I shalln’t poison the well (further), HD. You need to form your own impressions of Dawkins’ polemic..

    ——————
    On practical and direct topical matters, to my mind, simply saying that the Atheist Foundation can buy their own bus, or that signage companies have a perfect right of first approval and last refusal on the basis that they offer to treat and do not offer, may not acount for marketshare and market power. In that sense, there may be an analogical quasi-public commercial argument for a BHP-esque bus/signage company positively to share its rail infrastructure with a Fortescue-esque Atheist Club.

  33. 32. Legion,

    In that sense, there may be an analogical quasi-public commercial argument for a BHP-esque bus/signage company positively to share its rail infrastructure with a Fortescue-esque Atheist Club.

    The difference here being that “BHP had an agreement with Western Australia’s state government to provide haulage services at a commercial rate”.

    http://www.railpage.com.au/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=4855

    Presumably the outdoor advertising company had no such agreement.

  34. <i….may not acount for marketshare and market power.

    That was my thought legion, as well as being in the business of censorship or suppression of free speech. After all, isn’t the atheists money the same colour as that of the religious organisations?
    isn’t there an argument for equality?

    I have to disagree with joni at #1

    …and that because the athiests do not believe in anything you cannot offend their beliefs?

    Atheists believe in many things, have values, morals and ethics, they just don’t believe in a god.

  35. Ann @ 30

    Thanks for the heads up – I’ll look it up.

  36. 33. Tony of South Yarra

    I was thinking more in terms of the general notion of a national interest in competition expressed through the Competition Policy Reform Act of 1995 as also pursued in those claims.

    A rehearsal of the 2nd reading of that Bill, here: BHP Billiton Iron Ore Pty Ltd v National Competition Council

    “A new legal regime will be created which facilitates businesses obtaining access to the services of certain essential infrastructure facilities.” “The bill inserts a new Part into the [TPA], to establish a legal regime to facilitate third parties obtaining access to the services of certain essential facilities of national significance. The notion underlying the regime is that access to certain facilities with natural monopoly characteristics, such as electricity grids or gas pipelines, is needed to encourage competition in related markets, such as electricity generation or gas production. Access to such facilities can be achieved if a person seeking access is successful in having the service ‘declared’ and then negotiates access with the service provider.”

    Taking further liberties in drawing a loose conceptual parallel, I’d begin with an implied Constitutional right to freedom of political expression; I’d suggest that freedom of political expression is in the national interest, and that competition in the marketplace of ideas is an important aspect of a well-functioning liberal democracy; I’d follow that up by suggesting that denial of access to a monopoly on signage frustrates that freedom and that secondary marketplace.

  37. I’ve loved the idea of the bus campaign since it was first mooted.

    Me too Ann, allows a little bit of solidarity to a lot of people who may feel that their view is somehow ‘illegitimate’ or against society. I guess the organisers didn’t think it would be so hard in Australia to even have their voice heard. Supports the need for a bill of rights IMO.

    Be good if we had a Richard Dawkins or PZ Myers of Pharyngula– type figure here – is there a good public voice for atheism here?

  38. 36. Legion

    I’d suggest that freedom of political expression is in the national interest, and that competition in the marketplace of ideas is an important aspect of a well-functioning liberal democracy

    I could not agree more.

    I’d follow that up by suggesting that denial of access to a monopoly on signage frustrates that freedom and that secondary marketplace.

    It is highly unlikely that any one company has a monopoly on “signage”, although one company could have exclusive rights to public transport signage in a particular city.

    The ‘denial of free speech’ claim is a particularly weak one in this case. Nobody is denying the atheists the right to advertise their opinion, only the opportunity to do it in a particular way.

    My own concern in this matter is not about free speech at all, but about the right of a private business to manage its day-to-day operations as it sees fit.

  39. 38. Tony of South Yarra

    Indeed…the situation of cross rights…a putative right to expression through a medium owned by a corporation and interfacing with a public via licensing and a raft of laws which enliven that corporation and its commercial activities versus a right to corporate autonomy…neither absolute, neither limitless in a contested and contestable public-private divide. Discuss.

  40. 29. B.Tolputt… | January 9, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    The bible, as it is today, was actually alot of separate holy books (each “Book” of the bible was actually a separate physical book) that were collectively decided to be “canon” (i.e. correct to God’s teachings) by a number of influential Christian teachers over a hundred years after the supposed death & resurrection of Christ. Interestingly enough, whilst there is general agreement on around 66 of these books, the individual denominations (Catholicism, Protestant, Orthodox, etc) have over ten books which some consider true teachings and others consider them forgeries with false teachings. For added irony, there are “canon” books in the Bible that reference books not included in the Bible!

    Oh goodie a religious thread. I haven’t got my teeth into one of these for a long while.

    It’s worse than that BT. The original scriptures were hundreds if not thousands of scrolls, most of which the nomads who found them burnt for firewood on the freezing nights in the desert.

    Of the many that survived many were rejected only because they didn’t conform to the tenets that had grown up in a mostly the male dominated dogma of the times. For instance some of those scriptures attributed a greater and more important role for women as being God’s will, but these were stuck down. Some of the tomes that did not conform were destroyed, others were locked away (and are still hidden to this day) whilst many were rewritten to change their meaning.

    Good example is that in a religious museum in Israel there is an authenticated page from one of the scriptures, very old and faded, yet in the margin next to one paragraph a Greek word has been inserted to replace a crossed out word in the paragraph. That one alteration obviously made by someone other than the author changes the entire meaning of that paragraph and thus the context of the meaning. Yet to this day that paragraph is written in the Bible as it was altered and is quoted from the pulpits as the “Word of God”, especially by evangelicals preachers. So I gather God had an approved proof reader?

    Another good example that completely alters what had been unquestionable Bible tenet for centuries now is the recent discovery in the desert of the scripture of Judas. This scripture raises a whole lot of moral dilemmas for the Christian religion, which is why it has been dismissed out of hand.

  41. My theory is that I’ll find out when I get there.

  42. Theist: believes there is a god(s).
    Atheist: believes there is no god.
    Agnostic: has no belief either way.

    Those who say they know there is a god(s) are arrogant and beyond rational discussion. George W. and many others know that god speaks directly to them and has chosen them for some task. That’s beyond arrogance.

    Interesting that our theist PM is an evidence-based politician. Some kind of paradox?

  43. Well said Kevin.

    Maybe he’s a “theist sceptic?”

  44. Guilty as charged, Kevin.

    On God, I am a gnostic panentheist. On whether saying “God doesn’t exist” is a fair or foul thing to do and to propagate as a meme, I’m essentially agnostic, but am inclined to say it is fair for a couple of reasons: a) God will continue to exist as the Creator and Sustainer either way, and all material and immaterial transformations in that sustained Creation are still part and parcel of that holism; and b) free choice is a positive good in matters of individual conscience, and more choice only expands the ambit of that freedom. Nevertheless, I’ll consider myself beyond rational discussion and exempt myself forthwith from further irrational explication on either of those (even if I do think reason b is fertile ground for discussion wrt certain tenets within Western liberal tradition, and wrt the contested terrains within humanism between secular Humanism and religious humanisms). 😉

    On Kevin Rudd, the idea that scientism/empiricism and religiosity are diametrically opposed only holds for particular kinds of fundamentalists in either camp; and the free will, God-given reason, and Living Word things may demand that best decisions and practices be made best on the basis of best evidences about an Earthly world (which notionally IS the reflection of God) as it is, not as id(e)ology(ies) might have it.

  45. This really is a disgrace. Does anyone know how the legal situation with the Tasmanian case? Metro is government owned so there is more legal avenues than against APN.

    Is the case actually going ahead?

  46. A disgrace in what sense Greg?

    I certainly think that trying to sweep the “message” under the carpet is what I’d expect from the existing paradigm in which religion is handled with kidgloves.
    To me, the proposed message for the bus(es) is more stimulating than confronting & I can’t see a legitimate reason (apart from not wanting to spook the flock) for it not to be displayed for monetary gain.

  47. Sunday Sunrise had a great interview with the woman who came up with the idea for the atheist bus ad campaign.

    She said they originally had the idea to raise money for 200 buses as that’s about as much interest as she thought they would garner. They got swamped and were able to cover every bus in the UK.

    Well worth listening to if Seven stream media for that interview.

  48. Yeah I heard that too Adrian.

    I think her original aim was to raise 5000 pounds but ended with a figure of 150,000 pounds!

  49. Ah, so the impetus is out there!
    I can’t help feeling that there are a multitude of atheists among us, they just don’t come together as a collective & don’t have a need to strive for credibility by mouthing off about their beliefs, or lack thereof…myself excluded of course, given my incessant antireligious mouthing off.

    Many people are fed up with the contrivances of organised religion.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: