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On the wrong side every time

Agh, today is painful. I’m a republican, atheist, anti-nationalist, and there’s a royal wedding going on, people sing god save the queen, and British flags are everywhere.

Which got me thinking: which of my political views are actually similar to those of more than 50% of the British population?

I believe in democracy and the rule of law, and a majority probably do too. A majority probably also oppose the death penalty. There should be a market economy, and few would argue for an alternative. But what else?

I’m an outspoken atheist, and I’m also determinedly against religious schools. I dislike the monarchy and would abolish it tomorrow if I could. I despise nationalism and have little tolerance for the concept of the nation state – politics needs to solve problems where the problems are, not according to backward notions of identity or statehood. I’m a federalist, and that applies to all levels – so at the same time more power to local authorities and more power to the EU and internationally too. I’m a vegetarian (logically should be vegan if it were practical), try to be green, cycle and take the train, dislike the motorcar and the plane. I don’t think what class you are should ever be remotely important. I believe in equality between men and women. I dislike the idea of marriage. I support proportional representation. I think speaking foreign languages is vital. I would increase development aid. Prison is to help people, not punish them. I am OK with more immigration to the UK.

Does more than 50% of the UK population agree with any of those things? I think not…

[UPDATE - 1600]
Seems my assumption on the death penalty was wrong, as Martin rather bluntly points out in the comments. So there’s another one where I don’t agree with the majority point of view.

[UPDATE - 7.5.2011]
Oh, and I don’t actually mind that much about Scottish independence either. They will still be in the EU, we’ll still trade with them freely, so what’s the problem? OK, oil negotiations might be hell, but seriously, does it matter?


Da ist wahrscheinlich ein gott (aber natürlich nur ein christliches gott)

As seen on the streets of Zürich - made with the bus slogan generator

As seen on the streets of Zürich (not) - made with the bus slogan generator

The Swiss referendum banning the construction of minarets has caused a load of hand-wringing. Why?

Of course it’s absolutely wrong to deny freedom of religious expression, and the outcome of the vote is wrong. I’m no fan of any religion but here the Voltaire quote seems apt: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

But to be remotely surprised or aghast or shocked that Switzerland would pass such a vote strikes me as utterly ludicrous. After all the SVP/UDC is the largest party and Switzerland, it’s been fiendishly hard to get Swiss citizenship for decades, and it even took the country until 2002 to join the UN. The country’s direct democracy is seldom a force for anything progressive, and indeed seems to be quite the opposite.

And while everyone is having a good old rant at the offense caused to muslims by this vote, equally have a look at the difficulties atheists have had in Switzerland to run an advertising campaign – see the report below from Swiss TV from 9 months ago, and look at the way atheist posters have been defaced. Basically if you’re not christian then you don’t count (which is what the bus slogan above alludes to).



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.


At least 31% of the people on board this bus are fools

Adapted Trinitarian Bus - Original Image CC / Flickr

Adapted Trinitarian Bus - Original Image CC / Flickr

Atheist buses are one thing, stating there’s probably no god. But how about the christian counter adverts now on the streets of London? The christian party adverts that are even a rip-off of the design of the atheist ads are rather inoffensive as far as I am concerned; imitation is the best form of flattery. However the ads that really annoy me are those from the trinitarian bible society that state “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” from Psalm 53.1 – you can see a picture of the original ad here.

Reflect on this a bit. Anyone that does not believe in god is a fool is the message they want to give, with the use of a quote to try to make it should less nasty. Don’t believe = fool. So let’s apply some stats to that. The best research that I can find is that between 31 and 44% of the UK population is atheist, agnostic or non-believer according to a 2005 academic study. So for the benefit of doubt I’ll take the lowest statistic and generate a slogan for a bus: “At least 31% of the people on board this bus are fools”. Now what would the ASA think of that slogan? Rather offensive don’t you think?

PLEASE NOTE: the opinions in this blog entry are those of Jon Worth alone and are NOT the opinions of BHA or anyone else involved in the atheist bus campaign.


First atheist buses on the streets of London

This makes me so, so, so happy! The atheist buses are on the streets of London.

Atheist Bus Photo - Jon Worth - you can use this photo if you attribute it to me - click link for a larger version

Atheist Bus Photo - Jon Worth - you can use this photo if you attribute it to me - click photo to access larger versions


The End of Faith

Some sort of deep scepticism about religion – not in terms of definition of whether God exists, but rather a concern about the institutions of religion – has been growing in my thoughts for some years. The book “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason” by Sam Harris hence appealed. Or the title did at least.
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