Now, there are a lot of bumper stickers out there, funny, political, all kinds, and I enjoy looking at them when I’m driving. Every once in a while, I see once that makes me think, or gives me a good laugh, but a few years ago, I saw one that has taken up more of my personal processing time than any other. Because I have absolutely no idea what it could possibly mean. Actually, I had come to the conclusion that I must have read it wrong or made the whole thing up, at least until I saw the same bumper sticker just last week.
The bumper sticker: “Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God.”
So I’m thinking, “But it does, doesn’t it?”
Seriously, doesn’t it? I think I take an extremely broad-minded perspective on religious matters, and nothing anywhere in this post has anything to do with value judgments on various religious viewpoints. I’ve known many theists and many atheists whom I respect greatly on spiritual matters; my complaint is on another plane, I’m just talking about what words mean. Is there any interpretation under which that bumper stickers makes a lick of sense?
What’s so frustrating is that this is a near miss to so many interesting and thought-provoking bumper stickers. Such as the following.
- Just because I don’t believe in your God doesn’t mean I’m an atheist.
- Just because I’m not a monotheist doesn’t mean I’m an atheist.
- Just because I’m agnostic doesn’t mean I don’t believe in something.
- Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I don’t have a religion.
- Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I don’t have spirituality.
- Just because I’m pagan doesn’t mean I’m an atheist.
And so on. Those are all at least a little bit interesting, and they all make a certain kind of sense.
It’s been suggested to me that maybe the person just misunderstood the word “atheist”, maybe took it to mean “agnostic”. But I find this unsatisfying. If you make something your slogan, I think it’s understood you accept responsibility for knowing what the words mean.
After seeing the second instance of the sticker, I did come up with one possible interpretation: “Just because I call myself an ‘atheist’ doesn’t mean I mean it.” And I have known people who proudly call themselves atheists as part of their image, but when the chips are down, when pushed to the breaking point, they fall back on prayer or Scripture or pleading for help from anything divine that might hear. And all this means is that they aren’t very honest with themselves about what they think and believe. But you’d think that if a person had such an epiphany about himself, he’d work to change it, not advertise it on a bumper sticker.
Or maybe the whole thing is an elaborate scheme to mess with my head. That’s as plausible as anything.
Every once in a while someone asks me what I do with all the accordions. I don’t have an adequately humorous response worked out.