Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Is It Acceptable To Label Buses As Atheists?

Now that it's 2009, the New Year Resolutions of 2008 no longer apply. So back to Richard Dawkins.

We begin with a quote from the man himself:

I think we should all wince when we hear a small child being labelled as belonging to some religion or another. Small children are too young to decide their views on the origins of the cosmos, of life and of morals. The very sound of the phrase 'Christian child' or 'Muslim child' should grate like fingernails on a blackboard.
(The God Delusion, page 338)

Let's assume he has a point here (not that I think he does; as has been well documented on these pages, I think he's a tube, but we'll leave that aside for now). This immediately begs the obvious question: why is it not ok to label a child a 'Sikh child', but it is perfectly acceptable to label buses as 'atheist'?

I think we should all wince when we hear a bus labelled as belonging to some religion or another. Buses are not generally asked for their opinions on the origins of the cosmos, of life, and of morals. The very sound of the phrase 'Atheist Bus' should grate like fingernails on a blackboard.

And so, I ask that every time the phrase 'Atheist Bus' is uttered in your presence in the coming days and weeks, that you wince, quite openly and as loudly as possible; if a blackboard is handy, please also scrape your fingernails down it.

If nothing else, do it for the buses.


Wandering Photographer said...

Well Herr Gudrun Braun of 10 Downing Street has his very own Ghost Bus ...

If we are to accept that even buses have their spiritual sides, then does this not pose a problem for the atheist bus? How does it reconcile itself with its ghostly cousin?

Joking aside, while I am no fan of Mr D, I think he does have a point about not labelling children according to their religion. Hundreds of thousands of our country men and women describe themselves as Roman Catholic or Protestant without any insight into what the label actually refers to. Labels that entrench a false division in our society.

Virtual Methodist said...

You just can't leave poor old richard alone... Shamelessly using his name to boost your hit rate... Me... I have to rely on a pair of Scottish Woolie Sock Puppets to hike mine... But anyway... I just love the fact that these "atheist" buses are really more "agnostic" asserting that there is "probably" no God... So not only are we pigeonholing these buses without their consent, we are doing so incorrectly!

whynotsmile said...

WP: to be honest, yes I can see ol' Ricky's point about labelling (although by the time I'd got to that point in the book I was so fed up I'd have disagreed if he'd said black was black, just to be awkward).

But, I think people will give themselves and other labels no matter what, and I also don't think the labels necessarily lead to division.

It's good to know there is a ghost bus though, and perhaps we should tell Richard Dawkins since he claims to be interested in any evidence of an afterlife.

VM: yes, I agree entirely, the buses will be having an identity crisis.

Sean said...

I agree. The bus like myself is agnostic and does not subscribe to any opinions regarding a deity.

Wandering Photographer said...

There is a significant difference between someone giving him or herself a label and a child being given a label by someone else.

As an adult I can form perceptions, conceptions and abstractions about myself and my environment. I can then choose labels that accurately describe those abstractions and concepts. The label reflects the reality. However, to impose a label on a child is to impose your view of reality on the child. The child then grows up with a significant part of their self identity imposed on them. There are then several routes open to the child as they grow into adults and use the one tool they have to make sense of the world around them - their mind. They can:
1. Abandon reason and accept what they have been told, preferring to pander to emotions and senses.
2. Embrace the potential of their minds to investigate their own nature, the nature of the world they live in and form their own concepts and abstractions, labelling them accordingly.

I would contend that most people do not embrace the potential of their minds and simply accept that what they have been told is true.

If a child is told from an early age that it is a stupid, fat, waste of time (all labels) - would this be seen as acceptable? What are the chances that the child will grow up with great difficulties arising, not from their own nature, but from this imposed labelling?

The point is that labelling children does affect them and that is why religious communities do label their children as Hindu, Sikh or Muslim. They want the children to be the way they want them to be.

A bus on the other hand is unchanged by whatever label is imposed.

Gilly said...

I do love the "probably"! They know they can't say "There is no God", because they simply do not know that. But we know there is! :)