Saturday, 17 January 2009

On The Non-Atheist Bus Driver

The Atheist Bus Campaign is superb; a great triumph for the secular cause.

However, I am concerned about some of the attitudes expressed about Ron Heather, the bus driver who does not want to drive such a bus. See story here.

I always flinch when I think a mob is forming, even if it is a mere cyber mob. This is especially the case where I share some of the views being expressed.

I guess this is usually an over-reaction, but it is an instinctive response which I am glad to have.

The bus driver is not a wedding registrar refusing to do a civil ceremony, nor is he a chemist refusing to dispense a morning-after pill. In those cases, the individual is refusing to the job they are actually paid for.

The bus driver does not wear a sandwich board. He does not post adverts on bill boards. He is not an advertising executive with an account. In fact, he is paid nothing for the adverts and I expect it does not feature in either his employment contract or job description.

He is simply paid to drive a bus. This is what he seems willing to do. The bus company and their employee seem to have reached a compromise where he can drive other buses. This is what I hope would happen with an atheist bus driver complaining of a Christian advert.

The advert is incidental to his job, not a central feature. Carrying the advert is not a job requirement.

The Atheist Bus Campaign should be a celebration, a positive signal. We should not be horrid to those who do not share our views.

This is simply not a case where such a person should be forced to be offended.

(Declaration of interest, I come from a family of professional drivers, including bus and taxi drivers!)


Acleron said...

So a vegetarian driver can choose to not drive buses with adverts for British beef? As all bus drivers know buses carry adverts and these adverts fund the company that pays his wages it's difficult to see that it isn't part of his job. What precisely is the difference between this case and a Muslim refusing to stack alcohol; drinks shelves in a store?

Derrik said...

I am an athiest and I totally agree with you. Bully pulpiting is distastful whoever is doing it.

Marc Draco said...

I'm not quite sure what the mob is saying, but as one of the (other) bloggers reporting on this case, I have a rather more trenchant attitude. The bloke refused to do his job - the job he is paid to do - for some vague ideology. At the very least he should be reprimanded and lose pay for whatever hours he refused. Let's not forget that someone else has to take up the slack that his ideological viewpoint created.

Crispian Jago said...

My gut reaction to this new s story was the same as Marc Draco’s, and I had little sympathy for the bus driver. However, after reading your post I had to reassess my thoughts on the topic. I certainly don’t to want to be a bullying and unsympathetic atheist. So I set my torch and pitchfork aside to mull it over some more. I don’t want the atheist bus campaign to deliberately cause offense to believers, and I think the slogan for the next wave of advertising should be seriously considered to make sure it is not overtly offensive. Many of the suggestions on Dawkins web site are completely unsuitable.

Although I don’t want to cause distress, or have an uncaring attitude towards this particular bus driver, or anyone else who finds the message insulting, I do think the problem lies in religions un-touchability. This is the problem often highlighted by Dawkins where he claims special non-contradictory privileges are afforded to religions. Perhaps, he’s right, perhaps religions have an inbuilt sensitivity that society respects for fear of upsetting its followers. We’ve already seen how a cartoon of a prophet can seed a complete and unnecessary overreaction. I personally have strong views on music and politics but am not distressed if others with different views flaunt or advertise those contradictory opinions. Furthermore I don’t believe I hope I wouldn't let such a difference of opinion affect the job I am paid to do. So on reflection, I’m sorry for any distress caused but I really I think religions need to start being a bit ore thick skinned.