Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true.
– Letter 1, The Screwtape Letters
Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine you’re a member of an interest group in Britain — or a pressure group, in British usage. Your group has launched a campaign of advertisements on articulated buses (or bendy buses, in British usage) to tell your fellow citizens that, despite what most of them think, belief in God interferes with enjoying life:
The atheist posters are the idea of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and have been supported by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins.
. . . The complete slogan reads: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
. . . Professor Dawkins said: “Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride — automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.
“Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side.
“This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think — and thinking is anathema to religion.”
This is vintage Dawkins charm, to be sure: I’m right, and if you believe in God you’re most likely an idiot who brainwashes children to be similar idiots.
Now imagine that you’re part of another group responding to the British Humanist Association’s PR campaign. Here’s what group spokesman Stephen Green says:
. . . “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.
“I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti.
“People don’t like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don’t like it.”
Which organization does the BBC identify as a pressure group? Which group escapes the ideological use of adjectives?