Friday, February 27, 2009

I Write Emails

So you've probably all heard about these buses displaying the advertisement "There's probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life." I believe there are some here in the States, but the only website I was able to find on a cursory Google search was that of the British Humanist Society.

Anyway, on my morning commute today, the hosts of the radio station I've been listening to lately discussed an anecdote in which one of these buses broke down just outside the garage due to battery problems. They drew the conclusion that God had smote the bus in order to hush up the message, and they were largely approving of this interpretation.

So I wrote an email to them, the body of which I've reproduced here.

Dear Ashley and Brad,

I missed the first part of your discussion regarding the anecdote in which a bus carrying the advertisement "There's probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life" broke down due to battery trouble. The battery trouble was ascribed to divine intervention; I believe the phrase was "God 1, atheists 0."

I must politely disagree about the miraculous nature of this breakdown. Assuming for the moment that it actually occurred, there seemed to be nothing supernatural about it. The problem was quickly diagnosed, and the bus is presumably now back on its route. There is nothing about a battery problem that would induce anyone to remove advertisements from the side of the bus, and indeed no one stated that it had been removed.

Also, given that this was not the only bus to display this particular ad, but it was the only one to break down, this incidence is almost certainly ascribable to independent mechanical error. If God had wanted to stop that bus, He would have had to consider stopping it permanently, rather than delaying it by a few minutes or hours while a part is swapped out.

I do enjoy your morning show on my commute, but I found this assumption that God caused a minor and quickly repaired fault in one bus out of the whole fleet displaying the same message to be casting God as a petty and ineffectual deity. Which is more likely to offend his follows, the statement that he "probably" doesn't exist, or the statement that he's petty and largely impotent?

Thank you for your consideration of my email. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.


Tom Williams

On reflection, I probably shouldn't have included that rhetorical question about which is more offensive, but oh well. At least I didn't go all fatwah-envy on them.

Comments are welcome!

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