Fun With Qualifiers

A little whimsy by Richard Wade

When the British atheist bus ad campaign came out, some people were puzzled about the qualifier “probably” on the banner. There were those who complained it weakened the statement as if it was hedging. Others said it was included for intellectual honesty. Still others said it was put there to avoid breaking laws about unprovable claims in advertising. (How many religious ads make unprovable claims?)

Whatever the reason, I started to wonder what it would be like if that kind of punctilious speech caught on:

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About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • http://failingtheinsidertest.blogspot.com/ Jeffrey

    Richard Dawkins did write a chapter with the title “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God.” The truly amazing part would be such honesty from Christians.

  • http://cannonballjones.wordpress.com/ Cannonball Jones

    I love the “Jesus probably saves” sign, reminds me of an old crank who used to hang around George Square, the hub of the arts faculty at the University of Edinburgh. I’d have loved to see his signs altered to say “Sex before marriage possibly equals hell after death, I’m just not certain.”

    Still can’t wait to read the ASA’s ruling on the legality of the claim, it’s really going to stir up a hornet’s nest…

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    OK, these are quite funny. The point remains though that the “probably” is intellectually honest given that it is impossible to disprove the existence of God….or prove the existence of God.

    You can’t put God into a test tube and you can’t keep him out of one as the saying goes.

  • http://www.bagnecaude.blogspot.com Enrico

    This is probably very funny!

  • http://omega-geek.blogspot.com Spook

    These have a significant chance of being amusing!

    One nitpick :
    Hoverfrog wrote

    given that it is impossible to disprove the existence of God

    It also isn’t needed; the people making the claim that there is a God carry all of the burden here. Nobody needs to “disprove” a damn thing.

  • http://blocraison.blogspot.com Paul Fidalgo

    These are great. This whole idea of hedging on the finer point of god-existence (binary yes/no or wading into statistical probabilities)seems to have a lot of people on both sides very engaged. Here was my take a little while back.

  • SarahH

    This is very likely to induce laughter!

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Spook, not really. The burden of proof lies with the claimant. If a Christian says that God is real then the burden of proof is on them. If I say that God is just made up nonsense then the burden of proof is on me. In making a claim I have a responsibility to back it up. “Probably” is a good response to the claim that there is a God because it leaves the burden of proof on the claimant to make their case just as “I don’t belief that is true” is merely stating that the evidence and argument presented is unconvincing.

  • Joanna

    Those “revisions” are very funny.

    Either God behaves within reason or God is incomprehensible to the human mind.

    The tendency is that Christians patiently wait for revelation. Most are perfectly content to believe God is not bound to human concepts…God transcends all human understanding, right?? I remember hearing that in church. The mindset becomes: Trust. Have Faith. Don’t try to think about this TOOO much. Questioning will get you nowhere…or possibly will get you to the gates of hell. Who wants to risk THAT?

  • almostchristian

    lolz. Hemant should rename himself to the Friendly Enough Atheist

  • DSimon

    I found the “God Quite Possibly Loves You” one rather endearing.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    I want that bumper sticker.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    “For God, in all likelihood, so loved the world, that we think he gave his only begotten son, that whoever has a fair degree of confidence in him should probably not perish, but have a reasonably good chance at eternal life.”

    This is really funny. Thanks.

    And a slight tangent: I once saw a graffito scrawled on a bus shelter ad for AIDS medication. It was an insane denialist rant about how AIDS drugs are poison and a conspiracy by the drug companies… followed by the words, “I think.”

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    You left out a couple qualifiers. Here you go:

    “For God, in all likelihood, so loved the world, that we think he gave one of his begotten sons (almost definitely the only one), that most of the people who have a fair degree of confidence in him should probably not perish, but have a reasonably good chance at a pretty long life.”

  • http://resurrectiondebate.blogspot.com Steven Carr

    Bank with Bank of A****ca – your money is probably safe.

    Go to college and spend a fortune on getting a degree – you will probably get a job.

    Play Russiann Roulette – you will probably live.

  • Luther Weeks

    Except that Probably is too too strong when it comes to religion:

    There is probably is no god, but there is the slightest possibility there is some god, and hardly worth mentioning but perhaps if there is such an improbable god then there is an infinitesimal chance that god cares about you and even less that god loves you.

    Its even less probable that such a god had a son by a virgin named Mary. Actually in the very unlikely event the man claiming to be his son existed, then what do you think is the most likely cause of his birth and the reason his mother would say that it “must be a virgin birth, Joe…remember than night you were out with the boys and drank a bit too much..you must have forgotten what I told you about hearing from god”?

    PS: Yes Virginia, there is a flying spaghetti monster, it lives in the stomachs of little girls like you.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I think we can make this even better, Derek.

    “For God — almost certainly the God we worship, but possibly also some other God or gods — in all likelihood, so loved the world (which most likely encompasses the entire universe but may also just cover this particular planet), that we think he gave one of his begotten sons (almost definitely the only one), that most of the people who have a fair degree of confidence in him should probably not perish, but have a reasonably good chance at a pretty long life.

    “We think.”

  • MH

    This post was a hoot. The Agnostic’s prayer by Roger Zelazny is along these lines and is pretty funny too.

    An online copy is at the URL:

    http://www.gregroelofs.com/humor/zelazny_agnostic.html

  • Mriana

    :lol: These are very much funny. Thanks for the laughs, Hemant. :)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Richard, these were great!!! I really liked the last one with Jesus sayign “I’m like 98% sure that I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. :D

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    “For God — almost certainly the God we worship, but possibly also some other God or gods, one of whom we are relatively sure must exist in some frame of reality, not necessarily physical — in all likelihood, so loved the world (which most likely encompasses the entire universe but may also just cover this particular planet), that we think he gave one of his begotten sons (almost definitely the only one), that most of the people who have a fair degree of confidence in him (or perhaps just do what he says—nebulous though that provision may be, and whether in concert with, or in lieu of, said confidence) should probably not perish, but have a reasonably good chance at a pretty long life in some form of afterlife whose quality is believed to exceed that of the current one, and which may reside in some alternate plane of existence.”

    “We think.”

    “This offer void if a God or gods do not exist, or in the event that a god exists but is evil in nature, punishes blind faith, or changes his/her mind (all of which are distinct possibilities).”

    Am I getting carried away yet?

  • http://jesusandmo.net author

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