Atheist bus campaign moves nearby

May 9, 2009 • 7:50 am

The Atheist Bus Campaign, which started in the UK (largely with the funding and inspiration of artist Ariane Sherine and lots of donors), has moved to other countries, and has now found its way to the US: Bloomington, Indiana to be precise.  Here’s a news report detailing the controversy over the slogan, which is “You can be good without God.”  That’s a pretty tame slogan compared to what they showed in the UK:  “There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  Nevertheless, the Bloomington plan is going to court since the bus company refused to display the slogan.  It’s strange because supposedly they reject only ads that are controversial, but I don’t see much that’s inherently controversial about “You can be good without God.”  It’s simply true. Yes, it may be inflammatory, but who can doubt that the statement is a palpable fact?

Lots of atheists are good (I’m one!!!).  The bus slogan is about as controversial as saying, “You can help people without God,”  or “you can donate money to charity without God.”

To learn about the secular sources of morality (and the idea that religion has impeded rather than enhanced moral progress), read Anthony Grayling’s superb popular book, What Is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live (2003).  Few books on philosophy are as accessible — or as enjoyable — to the average person.

Anyway, word is that the bus campaign is moving to Chicago. Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “Atheist bus campaign moves nearby

  1. The stooopid TV station has a poll on whether it should be allowed. I guess they do not understand the constitutional issue of free speech.

  2. I’d like to see some other ads that they’ve deemed “too controversial.” What
    if this were a gay rights group instead?

    And why do these governments think they have to enforce the imaginary “freedom from being offended” law?

  3. How about, “You can be good without being white”?
    The real question that needs to be addressed in the coverage is whether the city bus company has a policy of banning ALL religious or political advertisements. If that is the case then it is understandable that they would not allow this one.

  4. While I don’t agree with everything in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on metaethics, I find this statement at the end quite interesting:

    But what is it about morality that precludes it being fundamentally arbitrary? A good answer, I suspect, will lead one away from the idea that moral properties are merely there in the world to be found, wholly independent of our concerns and practices. But a good answer is needed. And a good answer is not provided simply by supplying, if one could, a consistent and coherent set of principles that successfully systematized particular moral judgments about acts, institutions, and characters. The challenge here is not simply to show that moral judgments can be seen to fit a pattern; the challenge is to show that the pattern they fit — the principle(s) to which they conform — work to explain and justify their importance.

    The idea that “the good is what God says is good” has inflicted a free floating morality on us where there is no answer to “why” questions. I suggest that we need to bring morality back to Earth and connect it to the concerns of leading a finite human life and not the life of an animal being trained with rewards and punishments from some master. In any such secular system, I also suggest that reason should be recognized as a virtue. Without it, we disconnect our lives from facts and reap the pain. With it, we have better decisions, ipods and trips to Mars.

    Frankly, if the New Atheism can’t counter constant religious attacks on reason and cannot offer a rational secular ethics, the movement will die; indeed, I’m surprised it has survived this long. We all saw the recent poll about religion in the U.S. and were pleased to see data showing a loosening of religious belief. But, what many people missed in the detail was that a very clear question was asked about belief in God and the answer showed that only 2.3% were atheist. This number has to start going up and soon.

  5. What Is Good?: The Search for the Best Way to Live (2003)

    ‘To classical Greeks, the acquisition of knowledge, the enjoyment of the senses, creativity and beauty were all aspects of life to strive for. Then came the volcanic declarations of St Paul and his fundamentalist ideas on sin and human nature.’

    This sounds a tad idealistic to me. Does Grayling mention that this pre-Christian secular morality supported paedophilia, torture, slavery and mass infanticide?.

    1. Don’t take my word for it. In his ‘History of Western Philosophy’, Bertrand Russell writes:

      ‘As a result of Christian dogma, the distinction between moral and other merits has become much sharper now than it was in Greek times. It is a merit in a man to be a great poet or composer but not a moral merit; we do not consider him more virtuous for possessing such attitudes or more likely to go to heaven. …….When we come to compare Artistole’s ethical tastes with our own, we find in the first place an acceptance of inequality which is repugnant to much modern sentiment. Not only is there no objection to slavery or to the superiority of husbands and fathers over wives and children, but its is held that what is best is essentially only for the few—proud men and philosophers. Most men are mainly means for the production of a few rulers and sages. Kant maintained that every human being is an end in himself and this may be taken as an expression of the view introduced by Christianity. There is in Aristotle a complete absence of what may be called benevolence or philanthropy.’

  6. Hi Jerry,

    Sherine is not an artist but a “comedy writer and journalist” (

    I have ‘Why Evo’ is True’ on loan from the library. I read it quickly once and am now going back through it to take notes. I’m enjoying it!

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