For the love of God ...
Calgary Transit right to take atheist bus adsBy MICHAEL PLATT
A lightning bolt from above? Not so much.
When it comes to atheist advertising on the side of buses, officials with Calgary Transit appear far more concerned about the wrath of the Calgarians than they are the vengeance of an angry deity.
You can't blame them.
In recent years, advertising in general has become more crass, sexual and risque, but there are still limits -- sacred cows, so to speak, where billboard and banner renters have feared to tread.
As necklines plunged and entendres grew more risque, there were still places advertisers wouldn't go, religion being one.
God was sacred -- but no longer. Calgary Transit confirmed last week that an ad campaign by the Toronto-based Freethought Association of Canada has been approved for transit property, bringing the atheist agenda to a bus stop near you.
Assuming the eastern atheists follow through, the sides of a handful of city buses will read: "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
If the slogan sounds familiar, it should be: Atheists like being provocative, but not original, and the identical message has been used by unrelated anti-god groups in Britain, Spain and the U.S.
Why? They claim it's to encourage dialogue with the God-fearing masses, and to prove atheists aren't the satanic minions of soulless hedonism the atheists assume religious people assume them to be.
The thing is, most religious folk view atheists as misguided, not evil, and so far, the bus advertisements have only served to infuriate those who believe in a supreme being.
If the goal really is dialogue, the ads are a dismal failure -- but products and advertisements fail all the time, so there's nothing new there.
But there is a difference: People who don't like the latest soft drink aren't going to blame Calgary Transit for allowing the bottling company to plaster its ads on buses.
Fundamental God-fearing Calgarians, on the other hand, are likely to blame Calgary Transit for allowing a blasphemous billboard.
The Bishop of Calgary's Catholic Church has even suggested his flock blast transit bosses with emails and calls, expressing their offence over the atheist slogan.
"I'm offended," said Bishop Fred Henry.
And that's the difference for Calgary Transit -- allowing ads for questionable products isn't the same as allowing ads which question faith.
It's daring of Calgary Transit to say yes -- but is it wrong?
Not at all. They did exactly the right thing, in judging the advertising against standards for obscenity, intolerance and hate, and giving the atheists the green light.
Everything is offensive to someone -- fast food ads offend vegans, Mac ads offend PC users -- but so long as the image and slogan aren't obscene or hateful, Calgary Transit shouldn't stand in the way.
As spokesman Ron Collins said, "We're not in the business of censorship," and amen to that. But ...
And it's a "but" the pro-atheist contingent may not like, but Transit also has to ensure those on the other side get the same treatment, and a forum to air their views.
Bishop Henry told the Sun he'd like the right to run ads promoting the Catholic faith, be they pro-life slogans or messages promoting the traditional definition of marriage.
"Give me equal rights as a Catholic, give me equal time," said Henry.
And he should have that right, even if anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage billboards bother those who believe in pro-choice and legal unions between same-sex couples.
After all, fair's fair.
For years, non-Christians put up with bumper-stickers proclaiming the virtues of Jesus, until a few years back, when some clever soul took the Christian fish symbol, slapped legs on it, and created a satirical bumper slogan promoting Charles Darwin.
Maybe the atheist bus campaign is the balance needed for a city full of religious billboards -- but advertising is a game of cash, and the non-believers must accept a counter campaign, if deep-pocketed God supporters step up.
In the middle sits Calgary Transit, doing the right thing by taking money from anyone willing to pay for an ad, without making judgment.
Leave that to God -- or not. Whatever the case may be.