Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another One (Does Not) Ride the Bus

Charles Taylor derides Atheist Bus ads

Charles Taylor has something to say about the bus ad campaign currently being conducted by Canadian atheists.

He isn't impressed by them.

In Britain's Philosophy Now magazine, Taylor weighed in on the Richard Dawkins-promoted campaign, describing them as "hilariously funny" (certainly about as monotonous a statement as has ever been uttered).

"Putting things on buses, as though that's going to make people somehow change their view about God, the universe, the meaning of life and so on," Taylor chuckled. "A bus slogan! It's not likely to trigger something very fundamental in anybody."

Taylor is only the most recent -- and certainly one of the more prominent -- thinkers to recognize the common vestiges of religion in modern atheism.

"This new phenomena is puzzling — atheists that want to spread the 'gospel,' and are sometimes very angry," Taylor mused.

"I think it may be rather like the response of certain bishops to Darwin in the 19th century," he continued. "The bishops had a sense that the world was going in a certain direction — more and more conversion, and so on — and then they find they're suddenly upset in their expectation and they get very rattled and very angry."

"Similarly, we're seeing this now among the secularizing intelligentsia — liberals who felt that the world was going in a certain direction, that it was all going according to plan — and then when it seems not to be, they get rattled. So you get these rather pathetic phenomena."

"I'm kind of flattered that he would comment on our bus campaign — though he's not terribly sympathetic," mused Center for Inquiry Executive Director Justin Trottier. "But I think he misses the point on a number of fronts. The point of the campaign was not a response to rising religiosity, it's an affirmation of the rising number of unbelievers. Unbelievers have never been organized to the extent that they are now -- whether they call themselves atheists or humanists or freethinkers ... The movement for science, reason and secularism has never had these numbers."

Of course, if the campaign were really solely directed at announcing the emergence of increasing numbers of atheists one would think a slogan like "We don't believe in God. Deal with it," would be a much better way of doing this.

As opposed to "There's probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life" -- a message that, as Charles McVety complained (but all too hysterically) clearly intends to attribute a sort of perpetual anxiety to religion that the ads suggested people should reject.

That isn't a mere affirmation of these beliefs, as Trottier insists -- it's a promotion of the beliefs espoused in the ad.

Of course, if Canadian society is prepared to tolerate the ongoing proselytizing from mainstream, theistic religions, there is no reason in the world why fundamentalist atheists shouldn't be allowed to proselytize as well.

One merely wishes they would be honest about it.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

DeFaithed - "The atheist bus: Menticide on wheels"

Jeff Olson - "Atheist bus ads 'pathetic:' Philosopher"

Walker Morrow - "What is the role of criticism in religion?">


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