Contra Mundum: Selling Atheism
by Matthew Flannagan
New Zealand motorists will have noticed a new genre of advertising billboards, those attempting to sell the concept that there is probably no God. These billboards are the collective efforts of the New Zealand Atheist Campaign, The Humanist Society and the New Zealand Association of Rationalist Humanists. Like all advertising campaigns, these billboards offer clever-sounding slogans, which are indicative of the philosophy of the seller – in this case three variants of popular ‘new-atheist’ arguments. Like any consumer, I want to read the product labeling a little deeper before I consider buying. So here I intend to unpack the slogans and take a look at the implicit reasoning behind each.
Each billboard has the tagline “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” My first thought on seeing this was that authors must find atheism psychologically liberating. We do not have to worry that there is a God and that means that we can enjoy ourselves but why would the existence of God be something to worry about? Is it the moral accountability that goes with it? If God exists then we might have to worry that He has seen what we have done in secret, and being free from this worry enables us to enjoy our lives. If this is so then prima facie this suggests that guilt is a major motivation behind, at least some peoples, atheism.
The tagline aside, let’s look at the three slogans currently affronting us as we navigate our cities. The billboard on Auckland’s Newton Rd states, “Good without God? Over One Million Kiwis Are. Source:2006 Census.”
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