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Atheists’ right to advertise

Gott am Bahnhof, Köln - J. Worth

Gott am Bahnhof, Köln - J. Worth

One of the arguments that my German friends like to make against the Atheist Bus Campaign (and especially it’s German equivalent) is that ‘because there is no religious advertising on public transport in Germany atheists do not need to advertise’. This is the sort of reasoning why companies such as EVAG Essen declined the advertising.

So then what do I see when changing trains today at Köln Hbf? The pictured religious advertising right in the middle of the station! So much for there not being religious advertising that atheists are wholly within their rights to counter.

Germans also need to reflect a little about their vocabulary when it comes to atheists. I was introduced to someone (admittedly born and brought up in Baden-Württemberg) on Thursday who’s reaction to me – essentially a complete stranger – when someone said I was behind the atheist bus campaign was “das ist total schwachsinn” (“that is total bullshit”). Think about that for a moment. Am I going to go “that’s bullshit” to someone who I meet who is on the way to church? No I’m not, and it’s not socially acceptable to do so.


6 Comments

  • Ralf Grahn |

    Jon,

    You are right. For secular and democratic states (and the European Union), freedom of expression is one of the corner-stones.

    There are no justifiable causes to prohibit or to refuse atheist advertising or other modes of expression, just as churches and religious associations should be free to propagate their messages.

    Different ideas should be able to compete on an equal footing.

  • Elated |

    I personally always found atheism to be some form of “superlative” madness as it strikes me as even harder to prove there is no God at all. Man is not capable of self-definition whether it regards his / the universe’s origin or the very fact why/how he suffers from the illussion of being able to reason.

  • Carl Gardner |

    If that’s right then, since no one can prove the inexistence of any god, the only rational position would be to believe in them all – including the old Roman and Greek gods, Thor, Freya, Hanuman and Shiva, Allah and Jehovah – all at the same time. Plus the flying spaghetti monster of course – or do you think his absence can be absolutely proven? Unfortunately taking all religions seriously would involve offending against at least some of them, since you can’t believe in Islam’s Christology without being a Christian heretic, and vice versa. And the god of Judaism had a commandment, I think, against believing in all gods. Shame.

    You’ll always go wrong on the god question if you want absolute proof either way and adopt a position based on its absence. The point isn’t absolute proof: the point is what it is reasonable to believe given the evidence we have. Belief in any god is in my view unreasonable. Putting the lot of them in the dock, and ignoring their various cut-throat defences, I’d say they’re guilty beyond reasonable doubt of not being there.

  • Kerstin Fischer |

    Maybe the only rational position would indeed be to “believe in them all”, as Carl says. That is if one thinks that rationality is sufficient as a key to the world of spirituality. I personally found that my ratio has helped me as much in this realm as a fire-proof vest in deep-sea diving.

    I think the real divide here is maybe not between people who believe in some form of God and those who don’t, but maybe between fundamentalists (on both sides) and those willing to accept the existence of another (subjective) reality.

    Turning back to the god question, is it not conceivable that there is only one (what I call for lack of a better word:) “god existence” which by the very condition of being human we are but capable to perceive partially, and which could be very multiform in its entirety anyway? And that the differences existing and/or perceived to be existing between different religions do not actually stem from a difference in the source but a difference in perception, which is due to the different cultures forming the individual “recipients” therein?

    If we feel that we need a spiritual dimension, we should concentrate on the common heritage and what unites the world religions, rather than on what separates them. And if we find that we are not interested in this area, then why don’t we just drop the question and get on with whatever else we are interested in? Everyone has to decide for themselves what adds value to their lives. Is the disgruntled missionary zeal on both sides not better directed inwards?

    A last word by Anthony de Mello, Zen-buddhism-inspired Jesuit condemned by then-Cardinal Ratzinger and the Congregation: “May the peace of god unsettle you.”

So, what do you think ?