Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[Atheism] Probably

Posted by Lex Fear on February 15, 2009

I was really happy to see the atheist bus campaign get into full swing. God Bless those atheists, another medium for which they can use to rage against their parents.

I have purposefully held off from writing about it until now, after the dust has settled and things can be fully absorbed.

I’ll start by saying I also found myself disappointed by the weakness of the message. I would much preferred something more assertive, more disdainful of religion. Instead we get probably.

Funnily enough all sorts of speculation took place in the atheist blogosphere and fora as to why include the word. There were some rather feeble apologetics using such idioms as “intellectually honest”.

Since I had followed this saga from it’s inception and was following the commentary at The Friendly Atheist I thought I should help bring clarity to the perception of the ‘Christian response’ as well as information as to how probably got in there:

1) British Christians views on the signs range from ‘Meh’ to ‘Great! More opportunities to talk about God”.

The fact is the Christian religion is led by a man who was violently, brutally killed as a convicted criminal – Call it insane if you will but most genuine Christians see persecution in any form as a privelege and opportunity to stand with Christ and spread the gospel!

Through history, the church has done better in times of persecution and it will always.

2) There are a few who are weak in faith and perhaps new Christians, or they have lost their way and these will protest.. and when they do the media will always give them the microphone to broadcast their ignorance.

But so far the worst response I’ve heard from any Christian is that it’s silly. That’s it.

3) I personally wish that they had dropped the ‘probably’ and gone for something much stronger. I wish it DID say “THERE IS NO GOD”.. with it the slogan is very poor and really isn’t worthy to be considered an attack or something like that. (Also the excuse given to include “probably” has to be the weakest excuse I have ever heard- very stupid)

The proposer of this campaign – a Grauniad journalist – originally gave the reason that she had seen ‘probably’ used in another ad (see Carlsberg) and assumed it was for legal reasons. It’s not, it’s a nod to the British talent for understatement. Silly woman!

Must try harder.

Which was quickly refuted by a commenter called Aj:

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) advised her that “the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ makes it less likely to cause offence, and therefore be in breach of the Advertising Code.”

Lots of people are getting this wrong, so here’s a quote. Lots of atheists don’t believe “there is no god”, they can only agree with statements like “there is probably no god, although I and others prefer “almost certainly” as it’s more accurate.

He went on to include a quote from Ariane Sherine (from a later article).

There’s another reason I’m keen on the “probably”: it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist (or that anything doesn’t).

Oh dear, how intellectually dishonest. He left me no choice but to quote the original article by Sherine in response:

“After that, I Googled Carlsberg and found this marketing site, which suggests that using the word “probably” at the start of the ad saved Carlsberg from litigation.” – Ariane Sherine, Atheists – Gimme Five, 20/06/08

Long before the article you quoted. They’ve given all manner of excuses since then.

And the Carlsberg Ad:

http://www.brandrepublic.com/Campaign/News/472122/Scandinavia-Great-nordic-conquerors/

“According to Jakob Knudsen, Carlsberg’s international brand director: “The Scandinavian understated sense of humour is an integral part of the brand’s DNA. If you take other premium Scandinavian brands such as Bang & Olufsen, they won’t tell you they’re the best. Instead, they let the quality speak for itself.”

Only America would produce, “King of Beers” or “World’s Finest” and market their products as the biggest, best, favourite, fastest, greatest etc…

This advertising (up until recently perhaps) would never work in the UK, but picture 2 blokes in a pub, one declares “This is the best lager I’ve ever tasted!”, the other, being British is likely to respond “I don’t think so, I think I’ve tasted better.” But if the first was to casually mention “This is probably the best lager I’ve ever tasted” then the other may likely agree with him “Probably.”

Typical MSM journalist, gets her research from an internet forum rather than the source.

Oddly, no-one then seemed interesting in arguing the point with me and just ignored my second comment completely. Not what you would expect from intellectually honest people but there you go.

Here’s a great quote from Lib Dem MP, Martin Turner:

Imagine that you saw any of the following advertisements:
“The speed camera probably isn’t loaded”
“You probably won’t die in a car crash”
“You probably did turn off the gas”
Telling someone that something probably won’t happen doesn’t stop them worrying about it. Quite the contrary. And, if the millions of lottery ticket buyers are anything to go by, telling someone that something they very much hope for is unlikely to happen does nothing to stop them hoping.
If “there’s probably no God” is the strongest statement that, on reflection, atheists dare to make in public, then they have moved a long way from the certainties implied in their name.

But my favourite quote on worry has to this:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Jesus

As well as beating The Grauniad to the post by almost 2000 years, there’s something rather more elegant, meaningful and poetic than “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, don’t you think (if you are being intellectually honest)?

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3 Responses to “[Atheism] Probably”

  1. […] [Atheism] Probably « Abandon All Fear […]

  2. J Davies said

    Who says there is no God? I saw “God” in Waitrose over the weekend, well “god lager” any way… 🙂

  3. I disagree with you about the strength of the reaction you get if you say “There is no God”. I have been voraciously attacked by people who had started the conversation telling me that “I am attacking their way of life”, that I “have no right to tell them what to do” etc.

    It seems churlish to point out that I am not telling them anything of the sort — just questioning whether Gospels can be taken as… well, Gospel.

    This is an interesting piece:

    Seeing on Faith
    Religion might literally influence how you view the world. Scientists in the Netherlands compared Dutch Calvinists with Dutch atheists, looking for any effects potentially imposed on thinking by the neo-Calvinist concept of sphere sovereignty, which emphasizes that each sector of society has its own responsibilities and authorities. The researchers hypothesize that Calvinists might therefore not be as good as atheists at seeing the big picture. Participants were shown images of large rectangles or squares that each consisted of smaller rectangles or squares. In some tests, volunteers had to quickly identify the shapes of the smaller parts; in others, the larger wholes. The Calvinists scored slightly but significantly lower than atheists did in correctly identifying whole images. The investigators plan to study other religions for similar influences. See more in the November 12 PLoS ONE. —Charles Q. Choi

    Presumably I would not get a much better response from the ‘open-to-debate-until-you-say-something-I-don’t-like’ brigade if I referred them to that?

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