Tuesday, January 20, 2009

John Bunyan on the 238

For a long while, I will concede, I had decided the atheist bus campaign - you know the one, There's Probably No God – was unworthy of attention. The slogan was feeble (albeit at the insistence of the Advertising Standards Authority), trite and unlikely to provoke much in the way of thought or debate. The outraged whining by certain Christian groups, who have no problem with Biblical slogans on buses, was beyond pathetic. Another one to file under the heading of "You're Offended? So what?"

But the recent news that a driver had refused to drive a bus with the slogan collided with my consciousness with another piece of news and, amazingly, it actually did provoke thought. The other thing you see, was a string of old television programmes being remade - Minder, the Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin etc etc etc.

It occurred to me that the atheist buses would be the ideal hook on which to hang a remake of the On the Buses. Admittedly, a plot line in which the Reg Varney character was a Bible-basher with an extremely thin skin would not make for a very funny programme (quite in keeping with the spirit of the original I should add. I only know one person who finds that show funny, he is quite insane).

But why not aspire to that rarest of things, a superior remake. We'd have to reverse the real-life situation somewhat. We could make Butler a secular everyman - the embodiment of the independent minded man, striving for the right to live and think as he sees best. Opposed to this would be the petty authoritarianism and self aggrandising nature of the religious authorities, as embodied by Blakey, who is constantly trying to bring him back under control. Okay, it would be something of an allegory but Christians have always liked those.

We could even bring the thing bang up to date by transforming poor, frowsty Olive into a convert to the puritanical, hijab-wearing form of Islam. (Offensive? Only if done properly. Besides, as I already said, there's far too much taking of offence already).



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