Atheists MUST stand up and be counted

Atheists MUST stand up and be counted March 6, 2011

AN idiotic decision by companies owning advertising space in railway stations to ban British Humanist Association census campaign posters has caused puzzlement and outrage among secularists.
The posters, designed to encourage non-religious people to tick the “None” box when asked “What is your religion?” had the slogan:

If you’re not religious, for God’s sake say so.

One of the BHA's posters that was deemed 'offensive'

But, according to the BHA, they were rejected by CBS Outdoors, who administer billboards in stations, for two reasons:
They were concerned that the use of the phrase ‘for God’s sake’ would cause widespread and serious offence and they also did not wish to take adverts relating to religion.
The advertising campaign on buses in London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff and Exeter has now been launched with a new slogan that reads:

Not religious? In this year’s census say so.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, said of the original slogan:

It was a little tongue-in-cheek, but in the same way that saying ‘bless you’ has no religious implication for many, ‘for God’s sake’ is used to express urgency and not to invoke a deity. This censorship of a legitimate advert is frustrating and ridiculous: the blasphemy laws in England have been abolished but we are seeing the same principle being enforced nonetheless.

Writing in the New Statesman, Helen Lewis Hasteley said:

Of course, as Andrew Copson points out, the campaign is not about dissuading ‘those who hold strong religious beliefs from holding them’, but rather ensuring that the census presents a more accurate picture of religiosity in Britain … The last census, with its leading ‘What is your religion?’ question, saw 71.8 percent of respondents say they were Christian, a figure that is contradicted by numerous other surveys on the country’s religious make-up. Yet the 71.8 percent figure is consistently invoked by policy makers to back up the increasing role for religious organisations in the provision of public services.

Hastely  added:

It seems a very odd decision. Pro-religious adverts, such as those for the Alpha course (a Christian programme), the Christian Party and the Trinitarian Bible Society, have recently appeared on public transport.  The Trinitarian adverts said ‘the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God’, Copson told me. That seems more offensive, if you want to look at it that way! It’s ridiculous.

Personally, I am rather pleased about the ban, because it has served to further publicise the very real importance of getting the figures right this time around.
The BHA points out here that there are real, practical problems with the use of skewed data.

Both central and local government use such data in resource allocation and for targeting equality initiatives. And the figure stating that around 72 percent of the population are ‘Christian’ has been used in a variety of ways, such as to justify the continuing presence of Bishops in the House of Lords, to justify the state-funding of faith schools (and their expansion), to justify and increase religious broadcasting and to exclude the voices of humanists in Parliament and elsewhere. The question is not fit for the purposes for which it was included, for the first time, in 2001.

A similar attempt to have non-believers properly represented in official statistics is also being made in Australia, where a Census is due to take place on August 9.
The Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA) is preparing for one of its biggest and most important projects. The AFA will be unveiling billboards across the nation in major cities stating:

Census 2011: Not religious now? Mark ‘No religion’ and take religion out of politics.

The AFA has also launched a new website designed to encourage individuals and families to think about the importance and impact of their answer to the Census question: “What is the person’s religion?”
AFA President David Nicholls said:

Data from the Census is used by parliamentarians and religious leaders to sway politics and social policy in favour of complying with religious tenets and ecclesiastical notions. In fact in many cases, it makes a situation where a decision that should rely on empirical evidence is overridden by religious demands.

The coming Census in Australia is an important chance to make sure your interests are met in decision making and funding and that views
you do not hold are not over-represented in the coming years. I encourage everyone to visit the website and make sure they are informed of the implications of their answers, and if you are not religious now to mark ‘No religion’ on August 9.

Hat tip: Adam Tjaavk

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  • JohnMWhite

    For god’s sake, these people are pathetic.

  • “And the figure stating that around 72% of the population are ‘Christian”
    It would be suprising in the extreme to believe that 72% of Britsh people are Chritsian. They may say and think they are but ask them the following question that I have asked many people who say they are Christian ….and watch the expression on their faces turn.
    A Christian is a person who believes that a god inseminate a Jewish women without benefit of sexual contact. The child born of this union grew to become a Jewish prophet who was later put to death by Crucifixion but is supposed to have risen from the dead and ascended to a heaven….and this man is said to have died for the sins of all people for all time.
    You must believe “in all of the above” to be a Chistian….and if you do not …”then you are not a Christian”….it is quite simple…..there is no half way measures in the Christian philosophy.
    Most who profess being Christian do it out of habit or fear of offense to family and friends….most are are nothing more than “spiritual”…but have not the guts to say they “do not believe”….and it is those intellectual cowards who skew the figures.

  • Anonymous

    Very nice piece from the Penman & Sommerlad column in The Mirror
    Religious attack on British Humanist Association census posters

  • Albie

    The Leicester secular society are running the campaign as well, the story in the local rag caused some debate on the comments page:

  • Newspaniard

    Just shows that as with the BBC, CBS Outdoors and similar organizations are run by religious looneys.

  • Broga

    @Newspaniard: Bit off topic this, but what the BBC regards as acceptible is instructive. I caught a few minutes of the SUNDAY programme and the interviews were about persuading “young people” to return to the C.of E. One method was to get them to get in touch with the “living god.” No tips on how to do that or even what it means. Another was to discover the good news, truth of the gospels blah, blah….. I would have thought that was risky territory for them as the bible contains so many contradictions, violence, demands from an unpredicatable and murderous tyrant god that they might discover more to repel than to attract.
    Rowan Williams thought people needed to ensure that their faith “matured” with them into old age. I don’t know what that means either.
    The name of the game is to encourage the flock to assume that behind the verbiage there is something of substance. What they don’t want is for them, with any objectivity, to examine the reality of the poisonous “truth” in their bible which they are being conned into accepting. Far from examining their faith or their bible the main pitch, in an obvious attempt at deflection, was to laud efforts on human rights, Third World Aid and the environment. You don’t need their faith to do this.
    I had a last thought of how vapid and mind numbingly boring all this is compared to the verve and fireworks that are available in a host of readable and informative atheist books.

  • Har Davids

    In the ‘old’ days it was hell and damnation for all, and now it’s concern about ‘for God’s sake’ causing offence!! Being an atheist, I consider myself a bit smarter than most believers, and their whining about ‘god’ is an offence to our species. We’re smarter than most of the animals on this planet and shouldn’t be wasting our time with invisible ass-holes, making us behave just like him.

  • elainek123

    That was my reaction when I heard this on the news that thank god for the publicity. I am spreading the word but I suppose I had better leave the words ‘for god’s sake’ out unless I end up in prison.

  • Stuart H.

    Maybe they should have said ‘For FCUK’s sake’ instead.

  • ZombieHunter

    In the train station round the corner for my house there’s an ad with the slogan “time is running out” and the date May 21st 2011 on it and a website address, it’s all about how jesus is coming back in may and all that crap, they have them in queen street station in glasgow as well.
    so if train stations can advertise the end of the world then why can’t they advertise humanist viewpoints as well??

  • Broga

    @ZombieHunter: The reason is that the end of the world stuff is clearly from a bunch of religious nutters: good for a laugh but no harm done except to those who believe it. The humanist viewpoint is dangerous because if that penetrates then people begin to think. And if you want a supine, docile people make sure they do not think, do not disturb them with unsettling ideas. For this reason the BBC excercises a censorship, that would do credit to Stalin, of any mention of secular, atheist or humanist views on its dreary hours of religious drivel every Sunday.
    Thought for the Day, an affront to any radio station with claims to freedom of thought, continues to be preserved, untouched, in all its banality. It is open to people of faith no matter how bigotted and ridiculous their views.

  • Off topic, I can’t access the NSS web page at the moment, leave alone what the papers say there.
    Seems to be ads instead
    anyone know what gives?

  • Pete H

    @ Broga
    “The name of the game is to encourage the flock to assume that behind the verbiage there is something of substance.”

  • Pete H

    @ David B
    That’s the sort of page that appears when someone neglects to pay their domain rental and their agreement expires, I think.
    If like me you have some years-old links in your favourites, click a few and you’ll probably see a few pages like that.
    I expect someone from the NSS will get the payment sorted tomorrow and the page will be back up.
    As long as nobody hijacks the domain tonight, that is.

  • Thoreau

    Albie – I’ve been chipping in on the Leicester Mercury page as I reside in that part of the world but to be honest it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
    Especially fun were comments from people actually surprised that things in the public domain were open for debate by the public and some twat who was horrified that people thought it was ‘allowed’ to ridicule christians. Cue several comments about this being just peachy, etc. Satire is the best antidote as there is a real poisonous whiff about many of the posts there. Genuine nasty bastards who are low on brain power. I probably walk past them in town a few times each month. Good grief. One twat from this thread actually savaged a man in another story, who wanted to run for mayor to promote education in the city, as having a ‘huge ego’ (low self-esteem anyone?). Educashun = bad. God = gud. How the fuck do these cretins even manage to turn their computers on?
    My most recent contribution, ridiculing the ‘I deserve special treatment and how dare you expect me to justify myself’ brigade was met with:
    “Well, I am sure The Pope is vastly more intelligent than you….”
    Ha! Well that proves there is a God then. Job done. It continued thus:
    “…so we who believe in God are in good company. Isaac Newton and Einstein also believed in God and Tony Blair.”
    Predictably someone with half a brain picked up on the shoddy grammar and it turned into a comment about the reality, or otherwise, of Tony Blair.
    That news story had a few openly racist comments on their from people arguing the Christianity angle which were taken down during the night yesterday – Albie, it was the gimp that is ‘Roy’.
    I ripped the piss out of him, ‘natch. ; )
    *Normal service is now resumed as this is kind of less interesting if you’re not local. Apologies*

  • Albie

    I had another look this morning hoping ‘Tony’ had responded to my previous comments. He had but just to repeat what he’d said twice before and by the time he asserted that ‘Jesus Christ is a record of history’ and started talking about miracles I knew it was time to give up and despair for humanity before carrying on with my day.
    Roy, J and hmmmm’s insight has been invaluable as ever.
    I particularly enjoyed the pope comment! What more proof do you need?

  • tony e

    We really should get some t-shirts made up with the slogan ‘May 22nd 2012 – better luck next year!

  • chrsbol

    I see on the news that the forms are being sent out now and an option to fill it in online will be available. When your questionnaire reference arrives that is.

  • The Woggler

    For Odin’s sake, if you don’t believe in Huitzilopochtli, say so!

  • Broga

    @tony e: Nice one. Great idea for the tee shirt.
    I watched the programme by Professor Brian Cox about the Cosmos and intriguing as it was I spotted a couple of errors.
    1. The Professor didn’t mention god once and seems to think the universe came into existence close to 14 billion years ago. Big mistake there, Brian, all bible students know it started in 4004 BC.
    2. The next mistake was about the Arrow of Time – splendid explanation involving entropy – and why and how it cannot move backwards. Sorry, Brian, god can make anything do whatever god wants – forwards, backwards, sideways.
    And, as a clicher, I heard the whole of Thought for the Day this morning. This was all about space and mentioned Professor Cox’s programme. The final couple of sentences, after the usual banalites and repetitions, was that the cosmos and views of the Earth were wonderful examples of god’s creation. Of course, they are. Professor Cox just forgot.

  • remigius

    Is it OK if I sit down to be counted?
    It’s me knees.

  • barriejohn

    Broga: He’s a great communicator (Prof. Cox, of course, not the religiot!). I really liked his thought right at the end of the programme that without entropy there would be no such thing as time. I’d never realized that before, but it’s so obvious now! Christians are very big on entropy, as it is their ultimate “proof” of Creation, in that the universe (ie our universe) is like a massive clock which “God” wound up many years ago, and which is gradually unwinding now. If it is unwinding, then there must have been a giant hand to wind it up in the first place! Cox sees a universe which will eventually become completely homogeneous and featureless, where time will not exist – and I thought to myself: “So THAT’S what eternity will really be like”!!

  • barriejohn

    Wonders of the Universe will be shown again on Tuesday evening, or you can watch here:

  • chrsbol

    I watched the “Cox” show and as usual he put it over simply (I need that) but The Poke has seized upon it and it’s worth a look.

  • Adam Tjaavk

    Yet more posters!
    Science, Reason & Critical Thinking

  • Broga

    @barriejohn: I enjoyed Brian Cox’s programme from the first minute. He communicates the abstruse so clearly and without talking down to the audience. The numbers of stars, galaxies, time scales and description of the vast energy was mind blowing. My wife asked me what I thought a fundamentalist christian would make of a programme like this. So much there, based on science, that they would reject or find offensive. Maybe they just don’t watch this kind of programme.
    Betrand Russell once said that when he became depressed he looked at the stars, pondered the vastness, and that put his problems in perspective.

  • Stonyground

    Albie & Thoreau, I popped over to the Leicester Mercury and took a look at the comments that you referred to. There certainly is some industrial strength stupidity on display there. Some are doing a great Job of representing Christians as ignorant buffoons who don’t know how to spell or punctuate and have difficulty with those words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
    We have had the old ‘evolution is just random chance’ and a reference to finding the missing link from someone unaware that so many intermediate hominid fossils have now been found that the link has not been missing now for decades.

  • Marcus

    There’s a word for what CBS Outdoors is doing – it’s called censorship. Wonder if there’s a box on the census that asks what kind of society we think we’re living in? Based on this article, a democracy is hardly the right answer.

  • Daz

    The way that the missing link thing goes is that every time an intermediary is found, it creates an extra gap for them to shout about. (Insert another dot into this line …… and re-count the gaps between dots, and you’ll see what I mean.) What gets me is the dishonesty involved. There have to be some who know damn well that they’re ignoring or skewing real evidence, yet they go ahead and do it anyway.

  • Thoreau

    Ah the missing link thing. I overlooked it as I was chortling over a comment from someone who claims evolution is bunkum… because there are still apes around. Why haven’t they evolved then, eh? Proof God exists!11!!1
    It’s true, atheists must stand up and be counted. Every single last one is one in the ey for this sort of stupidity. Gimps who cannot find their own arsehole with both hands and a torch have unelected representatives shaping the laws we all live by – on the grounds that they’re just right and that’s all there is to say on it and we’re not to pry into why this may be so.

  • NeoWolfe

    dogon said:
    “You must believe “in all of the above” to be a Chistian”
    Then seemingly contradicts himself:
    “Most who profess being Christian do it out of habit or fear of offense to family and friends”
    I do get your point, in spades, that a huge crossection of christianity are members of a convenient social networking club. But, if you read between your lines, you are saying that the only real christians are the extreme fundies. But, my question to you would be, what do freethinkers have to offer them if they make the break with their social network, when I, a person who hates organized religion, is called a “troll” in this forum?
    HarD said:
    ” We’re smarter than most of the animals on this planet and shouldn’t be wasting our time with invisible ass-holes, making us behave just like him.”
    I believe that convincing evidence has been presented that we are THE smartest animal on the planet. Ignorant as we seem. But, no god is making us behave in any way. We individually decide whether or not to adopt as belief that which conveniently alleviates our fear of uncertainty and the inevitability of death.
    Broga said:
    “The reason is that the end of the world stuff is clearly from a bunch of religious nutters: good for a laugh but no harm done except to those who believe it.”
    Well, I have not adopted it as a belief, but, I can conceive of it happening. Religious nuts trying to fulfill the prophecy. Nukes in large population centers, and I try to be optimistic, but, Pakistan really worries me. The “nutters” as you call them may believe that humanity is eternal, I do not. I think that the combination of our intellectual creativity, our skill at war, and our innate stupidity may end our species in extinction. Nature will not mourn us.

  • Daz

    “But, if you read between your lines, you are saying that the only real christians are the extreme fundies.”
    Nope, all that dogon pointed out as central to christian belief was the virgin birth, crucifiction and resurrection of JC. All requisite for even the mildest christian belief.

  • barriejohn

    Strangely enough, people on Planet Phillips still think that it is Christians who are being forced into hiding in this country!

  • The Woggler

    I note that ‘No Religion’ is the first tickbox on the form. Hopefully most of those with no affiliation will see that and not bother with looking at the rest.

  • Pete H

    Interesting article on the NSS site (now working again, by the way) suggests that at least some evangelicals are starting to realise that these court cases and claims of persecution are actually counter-productive:

  • The religious nuts simply can’t stand the fact that their numbers aren’t as high as they claim, or the possibility that a census might uncover that fact. They really fear losing the institutionalized perks that help them maintain their power. Apparently their god isn’t all that if they need all of this earthly nonsense to perpetuate his twaddle.

  • NeoWolfe

    Daz said:
    “Nope, all that dogon pointed out as central to christian belief was the virgin birth, crucifiction and resurrection of JC. All requisite for even the mildest christian belief.”
    The point of that post, which I wonder if you really read, or just searched for a statement out of context with which you could disagree, was that many christians don’t really believe, but belong to a church to be part of a social network. But, you have become a part of the question I asked, and you didn’t answer. Quoting my same post:
    “But, my question to you would be, what do freethinkers have to offer them if they make the break with their social network, when I, a person who hates organized religion, is called a “troll” in this forum?”
    Are you really going to make them feel like they are part of the family, or are you going to chastise them when they offer an opinion that isn’t purist atheist? I have already learned that answer. And I am a freethinker. How would you treat a real searcher? My guess is you would not even recognize one.