Atheist bus ads banned in Halifax
As more and more cities in Canada continue to emulate the now-famed British atheist bus ad campaign, at least one Canadian city has put the brakes on it.
Humanist Canada has been blocked from putting ads on the side of Halifax buses.
In an admirable break from the tactic of simply copying the British campaign, the Halifax campaign was to carry a message that read, "You can be good without God".
"We're a public transit system first, and then we sell advertising," explained Halifax Metro Transit spokesperson Lori Patterson. "So, if anytime we feel there's a message that could be controversial and upsetting to people, we don't necessarily sell the ads."
Charles McVety, who described the ads as "attack ads" must be pleased.
But Halifax's intervention in this affair should have some consequences that McVety shouldn't be altogether pleased with.
As Paul Knoechel quips in the University of Alberta Gateway, these atheist groups have triggered responses from well-funded Church groups that have begun with Church ads, but may in time move up to bus ads of their own, and maybe even billboards.
Naturally, one would have to expect atheist groups to counter this with billboards of their own, and maybe even radio ads, to which the religious groups could counter radio and television ads.
As the attempts to trump one another in advertising escalate what eventually emerges is a sort of theist/atheist Cold War.
But with Halifax stepping in and refusing the atheist ads, this Cold War will likely inevitably move into the censorship realm as well. It will only be a matter of time until some Halifax-area atheist busybody will make use of the precedent this sets to insist that religious ads should likewise be banned.
After all, it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to imagine that religious advertising is controversial to atheists.
A poll released over this past summer indicates that up to 25% of Canadians don't believe in any god, Judeo-Christian or otherwise.
If the rationale of the Halifax decision is really not to use public resources to offend people, it should be worth the while to avoid offending 25% of the population.
Not to mention the fact that the message of these ads -- that religion isn't necessary for morality -- shouldn't be considered all that offensive to anyone.
While the argument that religion's provision of an objective sense of morality is philosophically persuasive, the real world applications of this idea are highly dubious. After all, many atheists behave in a manner that is no more or less moral -- by nearly any standard -- than anyone else.
If anything, the idea that religion is necessary for morality could rightly be considered offensive.
One can only wonder if Halifax Metro Transit would have given that message the red light.