Friday, January 30, 2009

Memo to Charles McVety: Fuckin' Relax

Canadian Christian Coalition leader overreacts to atheist bus ads

In the wake of an advertising campaign launched in Britain in which buses are carrying a pro-atheist message, atheists here in Canada have launched a similar campaign of their own.

In Toronto, the Freethought Association of Canada is set to release its own wave of "There's probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life" adverts on City of Toronto buses.

The Canadian Christian Coalition's Charles McVety (who leads the organization, along with a slew of other Christian-oriented groups) doesn't like it.

"They're attack ads," McVety complained, "saying we worry and saying that we are not happy. That is an offensive statement."

McVety's complaints are reminiscent of complaints by Britain's Stephen Green, who complained that the British ads violated advertising standards.

Fortunately, just as Green's reaction to the ads wasn't representative of the British response to them, nor is McVety's reaction to the Canadian campaign.

"If it evokes a discussion around religion and discussions around issues of faith, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's done respectfully," noted Neil MacCarthy, the Archiocese of Toronto.

In Britain, Theos, a Christian think tank actually donated a (very) modest sum of money to the British campaign.

There's a good reason why the response to these ads should not be, and fortunately has not been, as uniformly hostile as those of Charles McVety and Stephen Green: the ads themselves are extremely non-threatening.

The ads state that there is probably no God. They don't say anything for certain. If the ads asserted that the Bible is crap, as PZ Myers recently did, that would be one thing. That would actually qualify as an "attack ad" as McVety has tried to label these ads (although that alone wouldn't be enough reason to try to bar them from being run).

And while one may wonder about the irony of the Freethought Association of Canada running ads that at least seem to tell people what to think about God (that God "probably" doesn't exist), and running ads that so blatantly copy the British campaign, there's very little offensive about these ads.

Neil MacCarthy is right. These ads will serve a valuable purpose if they convince people to think about whether or not they believe God exists and, more importantly, why.

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