A Simple Atheist Bus Ad Gets Lots of Publicity

The New York City Atheists have had this ad running on Manhattan buses for the past month:

bus-poster

I love the ad because if you get offended by it, then really, you’re the problem.

The publicity continues with Clyde Haberman‘s article in The New York Times:

The message, in white lettering on a sky-blue background, is nonconfrontational by design. It doesn’t attack religion or say there is no God. It simply says: “You don’t have to believe in God to be a moral or ethical person.” Hard to gainsay that thought. Most of us know nonbelievers who are pillars of rectitude. We also know pious types who are as honest as a Siberian winter’s day is long.

… the poor economy has been something of a blessing for the nonbelievers. “We probably could not have gotten this poster program in New York City if the financial times were very good,” said Mr. Bronstein, who is 70 and retired from I.B.M. “But people are looking for business.”

The article also highlights the most important part of the worldwide atheist bus campaign: It’s not about tearing down religion. It’s about showing closeted atheists that they are not alone. It’s about getting atheists to be open and proud of their non-belief in a god.

Let’s keep the ads coming.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    That was a pretty fair article in the NY Times. Presented our point of view simply: it’s not about bashing religion, it’s about informing other atheists they aren’t alone.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Equally “You don’t have to be a moral or ethical person to believe in God”.

    Probably not as constructive though.

  • bill

    Yeah I much prefer that ad to “there probably is no god so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Just less confrontational and I think “you don’t have to believe in god to be a moral or ethical person” may do more to stimulate thought in theists than an averse reaction to “there probably is no god.”

  • http://lyonlegal.blogspot.com/ Vincent

    This probably should have its own post but I’m going to put it here anyway.

    There’s a facebook poll up on whether or not god exists.

    The comments, oh, the stupid, it hurts. :(

    facebook polls (sorry I don’t think I can link directly, but just search for “god” on the page listing the polls)

  • the Shaggy

    Bill, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I also think that claiming that the ads are to not tear into religion, but show atheists they aren’t alone becomes hypocritical when you put up ads attacking people’s belief in gods directly. I know I’ve had this discussion on these comments before.

    Well done, NYC atheists! Keep’em coming :-)

  • http://www.wayofthemind.org/ Pedro Timóteo

    Small nitpick: I’d much have preferred “believe in a god”, instead of “believe in god”. The latter suggests that believing in a particular god — the Judeo-Christian one — is the default position.

    But, otherwise, it’s a great slogan — and, as Hemant says, if you get offended by it, then it’s you who has a problem… and even many theists will hopefully agree with this.

  • Jason R

    One factually inaccurate book and this billboard. What other proof do you need?
    - God

  • Anonymous

    It’s about getting atheists to be open and proud of their non-belief in a god.

    What would that accomplish? Turning atheists into media whores like Al Sharpton?

    Open? Maybe. But what for?

    Proud? Maybe. Should an atheist be more proud, or less proud, for not believing in astrology?

    Perhaps pride is misplaced here. Not being a conformist clone isn’t like winning the Nobel Prize or getting a purple heart.

    When you grow out of the high school clique mentality, you stop doing things just for the sake of being the center of attention.

  • http://nutsandreasonsblogspot.com quedula

    xxx

  • Thefremen

    Actually, Anonymous, it’s pretty important to be visible and heard b/c if politicians aren’t aware of a voting demographic you will have absolutely no voice in the country you live in. IE: Sotomayor would NEVER be confirmed if polis didn’t realize they need Hispanics to vote for them.

  • http://theanswers42.blogspot.com Margaret Nelson

    I’m all for atheist banners and billboards, but I prefer them to be grammatically and semantically correct. “Ethical” can apply to an action or principle, while “moral” can describe a person or character. They aren’t synonyms, so “and” isn’t appropriate, nor is an “either or” choice. In this context, “ethical” is superfluous. “You don’t have to believe in a god to be good,” would have been best.

  • http://nutsandreasonsblogspot.com quedula

    Can a person be moral without behaving ethically?

  • http://theanswers42.blogspot.com Margaret Nelson

    I think someone might describe his or herself as “moral” because he or she conforms to a standard of behaviour, such as the sort of sexually-repressed, prescriptive notion of correct behaviour promoted by the “moral majority”, that I wouldn’t regard that as ethical because it has negative consequences.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, Anonymous, it’s pretty important to be visible and heard b/c if politicians aren’t aware of a voting demographic you will have absolutely no voice in the country you live in.

    This assumes that atheists are 1. numerous enough to make a political difference (kinda doubtful) and 2. can be “mobilized” to do anything as a group.

    Freethinkers are notoriously difficult to get to think the same way, which shouldn’t be surprising when you think about it.

    The last I checked, the “Nones” tend to go their own way and do what they want, and don’t do things just because some self-appointed leaders tells them to do things or think they should.

    And atheists are only some small fraction of the Nones. Maybe atheists can be “herded” better than “Nones” in general, but I’d put my chips on them being as difficult to “herd” or even more difficult to herd than “Nones” in general.

    On top of that, as I said, I doubt that atheists (even including agnostics, which outnumber us) are numerous enough to make any difference politically.

    Until that changes, there is no point trying to “mobilize” them for anything, and even if their numbers become large enough some day, it’s still an open question if they have the temperment to do things just because someone else says do this “because I said so.”

    What I’m getting at is that to convince atheists to do anything as a whole, you have to give them some reason, or some incentive, for doing what you want them to do. Think: What’s in it for me? I don’t think any good reason, or any incentive, exists. Nothing is in it for them.

    Atheists aren’t going to do things just because some “leader” insists. Atheists aren’t to “Dear Leader” as Catholics are to the Pope. And in the US, Catholics don’t even take the Pope’s demands very seriously, either.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Anonymous:

    While you have some good points, you forget that sometimes even us shamefully materialist atheists break out of the steroetype and do something because it’s the right thing to do.

    But I must admit, your epithet “Dear Leader” [obvious reference to Kim Jong-Il] calls into question your motive. Why else the slander?

  • Anonymous

    Thumpalumpacus, I used “Dear Leader” to emphasize how unlikely it is to get atheists to follow some “celebrity” or cult figure. The rational atheists, at least, know better.

    As for my motive, it’s simple. I’m opposed to any movement that tells a certain class of people that they should all think or act the same way, whether an ethnic class, religious class, gender class, and so on. In other words, I believe in free thought, and so follow the maxim “to each his own.” Do what you want to do, not what someone tells you to do.

  • Todd Quam

    Anonymous says, “you forget that sometimes even us shamefully materialist atheists break out of the steroetype and do something because it’s the right thing to do.”

    The “right thing to do”?? If there is no God and we are all here by some collision of particles in space billions of years ago, what is “right”? There can be no right thing to do for we are all an accident and nothing we say or do matters one bit. You are born, you live, you die.

  • Aj

    Todd Quam,

    There can be no right thing to do for we are all an accident and nothing we say or do matters one bit.

    Oh no, people don’t have an imaginary friend to tell them what to do, descending into nihilism without the rigorously deluded ourselves and children with god nonsense. Since religion is created by man all your rules are man made, thus what you mistakenly consider “what is right” comes from the same place as where atheists consider “what is right”. Atheists don’t need an imaginary friend to project their values and ethics onto, to give a false sense of authority, and excuse for not thinking rationally, critically, and logically about “what is right”.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Todd:

    The “right thing to do”?? If there is no God and we are all here by some collision of particles in space billions of years ago, what is “right”? There can be no right thing to do for we are all an accident and nothing we say or do matters one bit. You are born, you live, you die.

    It was I and not Anonymous — either one — who made that comment and I stand by it. Apply the principles of Utilitarianism ["the greatest good for the greatest number"] and see whatcha come up with.

    On a rational level, this can be defined as:

    1)the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness;
    2)and the right to be left alone.

    The right thing to do would be to defend these principles in your own life, defend them for others when able to do so, and to not abrogate these rights in others.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion; I might be wrong.

    That’s a mighty thin caricature of atheism you wield, by the way. You seem to’ve bought the Christian “without god there is no morality” argument.