Why do we need an event that focuses on Islamophobia and religious discrimination when, as Alistair Campbell once famously remarked to Tony Blair, as a nation “We don’t do God”.
For a nation that doesn’t ‘do God’, reading or watching the news may suggest otherwise. A glance back at 2009 might remind you of a number of different stories that had a relevance to religion or belief:
The British National Party (BNP) run a European election campaign under the slogan “What would Jesus do?” culminating in them winning two seats in the European parliament after almost a decade of running openly anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim campaigns
Anjem Choudhury and his Islam4UK group campaigning against British troops returning from Afghanistan
I don’t normally reproduce articles in full from other sources but I came across this on the Guardian website and agreed with it entirely. Obviously it must have something to do with the author being another ‘C Allen’ (Charlotte rather than Chris). To read it in its original location, click here. If not, just read on:
Atheists: No God, just whining
Charlotte Allen, Friday 29th May 2009
I can’t stand atheists – but it’s not because they don’t believe in God. It’s because they’re crashing bores.
I have posted a number of articles about different advertising campaigns. From Stonewall’s ‘Some people are gay. Get over it“, through Islam is Peace’s ‘Proud to be a British Muslim. IslamIsPeace.org.uk‘, to Jesus Said’s ‘When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?‘.
The latter post related to an article on Guardian’s Comment is Free by Ariane Sherine entitled, ‘Atheists – Gimme Five’. Following a visit to a website that Jesus Said posters were advertising on London buses, Sherine was confronted with what she described as a discomforting message:
“You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)” (Matthew 25:41).
As she put it:
Lots to look forward to, then
Sherine concluded by suggesting that:
if there are 4,680 atheists reading this and we all contribute £5, it’s possible that we can fund a much-needed atheist London bus ad with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life”
Whether she got the £5 or not is irrelevant because the British Humanist Association (BHA) has today announced that it will be running this very campaign. Having originally set out to raise £5,500, they have raised approximately £36,000 and may extend the campaign by placing posters both inside and outside the buses at the same time as expanding the campaign to Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. It aims to have two sets of 30 buses carrying the slogan – “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” – for four weeks.
The atheist posters are supported by prominent evangelical atheist Professor Richard Dawkins who said:
Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children. Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.
Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the BHA, added:
We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air. If it raises a smile as well as making people think, so much the better.
Whether one agrees or not, and as asked in a previous post, should organisations and groups be able to make categorical statements and declarations when their message is subjectively (depending upon your own viewpoint and worldview) unproven and potentially even false?
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) may offer some clarity on this matter. In terms of non-broadcast advertising, its CAP Code states that:
7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.
7.2 Marketing communications must not omit, hide or provide in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner material information if that omission or presentation is likely to affect consumers’ decisions about whether and how to buy the advertised product, unless the information is obvious from the context…
Under this, it would appear that some ‘inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration…’ etc must be present in what amounts to oppositely competing claims from those such as the BHA and Jesus Said. Whether they in fact ‘affect consumers’ decisions about whether and how to buy the product…’ though remains open to question and I would guess, linked to matters of faith or indeed none.
However, in the CAP Code section 8.1, it says that:
Marketers may give a view about any matter, including the qualities or desirability of their products, provided it is clear that they are expressing their own opinion rather than stating a fact.
Because the BHA say that ‘there’s probably no God’ it would seem that their poster campaign meets the requirements of section 8.1 somewhat more so than the Jesus Said campaign does, where it states that ‘you will be condemned to everlasting separation from God’. The first clearly states an opinion, the second a matter of fact and so against the CAP Code.
Whether this means that either campaign are right, or that such campaigns should be allowed to run on buses continues to remain open to debate. So in the words of the BHA, stop worrying and enjoy your life: if you don’t like the campaigns or the messages they espouse, then don’t buy the product.
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk.
Last Sunday – Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar – I saw a small group of Christians, numbering no more than abot 10, undertaking a procession around a church just outside Dudley town centre. Following behind their vicar, who was carrying a large cross, the group were carrying large palm leaves as part of a reinactment of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
Similarly on Good Friday, I saw 5 vicars followed by a handful of Christians marching through Darlaston town centre carrying a large cross. Later that day, I was also told that in Stourbridge town centre an outdoor Christian service was held and a crowd of about 50 people had taken part.
Apart from this and the appallingly acted BBC mini-series, ‘The Passion’ (which feels remarkably like the BBC’s ‘Robin Hood’ but with New Testament figures being involved), it raised the question: where did Easter go?
As the most important Christian festival, Easter as a religious or spiritual event or celebration seems to have completely disappeared. Despite the anti-Sunday trading lobby having claimed a minor victory some years ago by ensuring that shops were unable to trade on Easter Sunday, Easter seems to exist only as another consumer festival: Cadburys Creme Eggs on sale from Boxing Day, various 2 for £5 Easter egg offers, plus some ‘buy one get one free’ packs of hot cross buns. Elsewhere a variety of sale offers from Currys, Comet and PC World are matched by ‘Home Events’ at M&S and BHS in an attempt to ensure that all consumer desires are met. Given that I myself visited the Merry Hill Shopping Centre and Ikea on Good Friday and by default, was contributing to Easter’s demise, I was determined to find something more religious about Easter than bumping into a handful of Christians who were ‘making an effort’.
As such, I looked on the BBC News website to see what ‘religious’ references there were. Noticing that an ‘In Pictures: Good Friday’ feature was highlighted, I felt slightly reassured. Showing images of how Christians celebrate Good Friday around the world – Germany, Ecuador, Philippines, Spain, USA, Brazil and Israel – I quickly realised that there was nothing about the UK. Even under ‘Easter Recipes’, the ‘traditional’ recipes featured were from Sweden and Norway.
A search on the BBC website for ‘Easter’ therefore offers little in the way of anything even slightly religious. Easter news included three references to the bad weather, one to ferry services being cancelled, and another to how busy UK airports might be. In addition, a further three articles were about an Easter campaign against gun crime, how mounted Police were being used as part of a ‘crackdown on alcohol-related crime’ and how in north Devon, Police were targeting ‘yob culture’ over the Easter weekend. When shopping is taken out of the equation, it would seem that today’s Easter celebrations reflect many of our cultural preoccupations: weather, holidays, drinking and anti-social behaviour. Nowhere though was there any apparent religiosity or even reference to the crucifixion, unsurprisingly not even in the story about the 30 kilogram handmade chocolate egg that is currently on sale at a London luxury department store with a price tag of £500.
Two tenuous references were however apparent. The first was from the BBC website and referred to the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, who condemned ‘immoral’ money lenders that encourage “people to borrow more money than they could afford”. The second was in the Guardian and was written by Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney, who was considering the Christian-ness of George W. Bush, someone he described as the most powerful Christian in the world: “Throughout his time in office, the President has frequently been photographed in front of the cross. Yet as his support for torture demonstrates, he has understood little of its meaning”. Despite their respective efforts, I doubt whether many more than a handful of Christians taking part in sporadic Easter ‘events’ were even bothered let alone listening.
Easter then as a significant and important religious festival seems to have disappeared in today’s Britain. Replaced by a consumer-driven date on the calendar, Easter’s gradual disappearance reminded me of a classic line from The Simpsons. Whilst watching television sometime oin the near fututre, Marge turns to Homer and says: ““You know, Fox turned into a hard core porn channel so gradually I didn’t even notice”. For me, Easter turned into a hard core consumer event so gradually that neither I nor indeed anyone else even noticed…!!!
In reflecting upon how we got to this point, it is worth revisiting the Archbishop of Wales’ Christmas sermon from last year. Reflecting on ‘atheistic fundamentalism’ as he put it, Morgan argued that an increasingly aggressive atheistic (secular? capitalist? consumer?) society was driving religion in all its forms out of the mainstream and into the realm of the superstitious and irrational nonsense. As he put it: “All of this is what I would call the new ‘fundamentalism’ of our age. It allows no room for disagreement, for doubt, for debate, for discussion”.
The Archbishop’s point here is important because whilst it would seem that Christian festivals and beliefs are being eradicated from British society without much care, cause or consternation, those same atheists/ secularists/ consumerists/ capitalists will eventusally want to do the same with all religions. For Muslims, this is especially important because it provides some insight into why Muslims and Islam are so regularly being attacked and derided without any apparent reason. As the Archbishop concluded, such ongoing virulent attacks on religion and religious communities are highly dangerous because they refuse to allow any contrary viewpoint to be heard. In doing so, this affects the public perception of religion and religious communities where they are increasingly seen to be a ‘problem’ and even more so, an unnnecessary problem for society as a whole.
So whilst the final toll might have been rung for this religious festival, it certainly won’t be the last on the hit-list. Easter RIP.
A follow-up to this post can be found here.
An entirely and unashamedly biased list of my most annoying people of 2007…
A man who condemns religion and almost any belief that doesn’t match his own. Self-righteous to the extreme, arrogant, bigoted and rude, Dawkins demands everybody accept his own form of rampant atheism in a way that any religious person doing the same for their particular belief would be roundly attacked and criticised by him. Hypocritical, nasty and insidious !!! The worrying thing for me though is that you can buy his books in ASDA – what next, Richard Dawkins’ ‘I Hate God’ on the Richard & Judy book-club reading list…???
Despite being from Bermondsey (pause for a moment of fanciful reminiscing), Jade Goody epitomises the fact that in today’s society, far too many people are famous for doing, being or achieving nothing. 2007 saw her being particularly annoying when invited to go into this year’s ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother house she then decided that it would be a vote winner to call Shilpa Shetty ‘Mrs Poppadom’ or something as equally hilarious. Add into this category Jo from S Club 7 (wow) and Danielle Lloyd (who I remotely liked because of her association with Teddy Sheringham who was himself a Millwall legend).
After laughing at Boris being an eccentric, upper class twat, the novelty of Mr Johnson quickly runs out. Let’s hope he goes back to ‘Have I Got News For You’ and abandons all political aspirations (although I have a sneaky feeling he might soon become the Mayor of London).
‘Anarchic’ art in the form of a diamond encrusted human skull that then sold for far too many millions of dollars (called – anarchically – ‘For the Love of God’). Sad thing though is that Hirst was one of the consortia that brought the ‘work of art’…I bet there were hundreds of others that wanted it though.
Not for the fact that we all knew that England weren’t going to qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships but because he fended his reign as England boss by being the ONLY football manager EVER to have stood on the touchline with an umbrella up. I guess that he wanted to make sure that his hair looked good for the inevitable press conference afterwards.
Leon from X Factor
Nothing against him as an individual but against what he stands for…bland, unsurprising, faceless ‘pap’ music and the death of the race for the Christmas number 1. Could have been worse, the masses could have put Rhydian at number 1 had the phone rigging of ‘reality’ tv not decided that Leon was more saleable.
Why? Cynical, senseless and unwanted – enough said
Epitomising the depths of voyeurism that has become ‘celebrity culture’ of late, Britney hit the headlines for irrationally shaving her head. Following this, her hit ‘Gimme More’ (hmmm, guess what she wanted more of – so subtle Britney, brilliant !!!) was her biggest since ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’. Oh dear.
Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP
For having a ‘relationship’ with one of the Cheeky Girls (add into this section ANYONE who has had a ‘relationship’ with one of the Cheeky Girls)
Congratulations on finding a new job Mr Gore but enough is now enough. No doubt some multinational will pay you handsomely to inform the masses about how ‘eco-friendly’ they now are. A wolf in sheep’s clothing – beware.
And finally, all those people who are annoying in any year just for being who they are…Bono, Sting, David Beckham, Lindsay Lohan, David Cameron, George W Bush, Tony Blair, Richard Branson, Tracey Emin, Martin Amis, Jeremy Clarkson, Frank Lampard, Paris Hilton, Kerry Katona…the list goes on