Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Brief and Mild Panic Attack

I keep seeing these annoying license plates around:

Over the past few days I've probably seen 5 - so many that I started to worry that this was the new license plate design for Indiana. In fact, I spent most of the 40min. walk home fuming about having to put one on my car and debating about whether it would be worth paying the fee for an alternative. I mean, on the one hand, I don't want sentimental, superstitious crap I don't believe in plastered over my car. On the other, it feels a bit like paying a mugger for his "services" to hand over extra cash to keep the government from putting religious labels on your mandated plates.

The reason I was even thinking about this, actually, is because Kentucky had just such a scheme in place until very recently. Specialty plate sales SURGED after the "Mr. Smiley" plate became official.

Well, the good news is that the "In God We Trust" Indiana plate is optional. The bad news: it's also free. That is, even though it's a "specialty" plate, you don't have to pay the fee for it. I find that really obnoxious. Why should they charge us for the other specialty plates if they don't charge us to put superstitious religious crap on our license plate? Of course, the upside of not charging is that it means no money is paid to any religious organizations (apparently the other specialty plates involve a donation of some kind) - so they avoid any tricky First Amendment issues. But then, the downside of that is that it's probably here to stay since there will be no way for the ACLU to challenge it in court.

Personally, I don't understand why religious people need to plaster their beliefs on their cars anyway. I think about this at least twice - literally - every time I drive back to Indiana from North Carolina. The first time is because of a giant religious billboard just outside of Knoxville. It always gets me wondering what churches think they're accomplishing actually paying money for stuff like this. I mean - surely this is an instance where that old Woody Allen joke about not wanting to join any club that would have him as a member applies! What religion would actually want members who made life-changing decisions based on no independent evidence other than a billboard for cryin' out loud? Clearly no serious religion. (Of course, if it's an advertising campaign like any other, then...) And then, about 5 hours later, I pass another sign that a farmer in Indiana has put up by the highway with a Bible verse that says "You have a[sic] expiration date." Well, true enough. But again - it's self-contradictory to threaten people into joining your religion based on consequences. I mean, the whole argument here goes something like this: if you don't believe in God when you die, you'll just die, but if you do, you'll live on. Great - but how can that possibly be convincing to someone who doesn't believe in God? I mean, to take such a thing seriously, you'd pretty much have to already believe this deal was on the table - which presupposes you believe in God, etc. etc.

But alright, I'm rambling. Religion has never been for the terribly intelligent, so it's not like I'm shocked to find that religious people believe in self-contradictory stuff. I'm mostly just annoyed that now, in addition to not being able to buy beer on Sunday, I also have to sit in traffic fighting road rage behind people with obnoxious, government-sanctioned religious advertisements on their vehicles. Fan-fucking-tastic. Score another one for the cave man.

On the subject of stupid catch-phrase advocacy, though, I finally ran across the bumper sticker my whole life has been leading up to. It said "Catchy Phrases are not Persuasive."



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