Proselytising graffiti


This is the graffiti on the steel walkway over my local station. It’s been there, repeated at intervals, since I started using the station almost two years ago. The message also comes with a great flourescent tag of Jesus’s face.

There don’t seem to be many proselytising believers in my area – although I did get approached by a couple of Mormons recently, and there used to be an amazing gospel choir practising near us on Sunday mornings.

Cults work on offering acceptance and love to people who don’t feel accepted and loved. The lost, the weak, the lonely and incoherent – this is the core market for Scientology and the SWP. Alternative therapists working for Kids Company, the charity for traumatised children, realised early on that their sessions had to be flexible. Founder Camila Batmanghelidjh:

It’s when the children are lying down that you see the cigarette burns, the belt marks. The massage therapists have to be prepared for this. And we tend to keep the appointments quite loose. If a child starts speaking or needs to fall asleep, we don’t want to interrupt that. Many of them use it as an impromptu therapy session and for most of them it’s their first experience of kind touch.

This is why the faithful find such rewarding work in prisons and on the narrow corridors of closed psychiatric wards. ‘To hug someone, and to be hugged, now and again, in return: this is important,’ said Jonathan Coe, but kindness is more than important: it is a vital human need. People will pay anything, do anything, believe anything, sell their mortal soul, to be shown kindness, and acceptance, and love.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were some sort of secular alternative. And I don’t mean using these techniques to recruit people into the British Humanist Association. I mean that the religious movements have hit on something that us foghorn-voiced New Atheists (thanks Madeleine) have completely missed.

People need to be shown kindness. People need to be affirmed and loved. People need to be told they are special. The real sickness of Western civilisation is that whenever people are told these vital and necessary things, there is always a rider – a tithe to pay, a dogma to adopt, something to be signed away.

How about: a campaign, something along the lines of the atheist bus, but also reminding people that a human being is an amazing thing to be, that everyone deserves happiness and love and pleasure and other human goodnesses, and that it’s not necessary to be religious or even spiritual to get them.

Slogans more than welcome.


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