Atheists are taking it to the streets in Canada, with the Atheist Bus Campaign. Some people are outraged; the ads have been banned in Halifax, but accepted in Toronto and Calgary. For what it's worth, I was reminded of a quote from Philosophy for Dummies which claims that "Atheism is an urban phenomenon."
Personally, I think this bus ad campaign gives us an opportunity to discuss something more significant than the Maple Leafs losing yet another game. All too often we spend most of our social time talking about nothing that really matters. This discussion, I think, matters. And on this, it would seem that many atheists in Toronto agree with me, a Christian! In the FAQ section of their website, they give this as the reason for the bus ad campaign:
Through our ads we hope to spark conversations between believers and non-believers so that we may better understand each other and learn from one another.
That sounds reasonable to me. The ads have given me a couple opportunities to have a couple very brief conversations and I hope for more, so here I am blogging about it. Post a reply, let's dialogue.
Now some Christians are among those who are outraged about these atheist ads appearing on buses. I would encourage a more even response. Outrage over Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code only worked to make it more popular. Rage at schools reading Harry Potter books or more recently The Golden Compass books also seems misplaced. We can do better than "rage" as we respond to popular things happening around us, can't we?
A retired professor of Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, who now serves at my church as an associate priest came up with a counter-slogan to the bus ad as well as some advice:
"There probably is a God--so stop worrying, the world is not a runaway bus."
That's theologian David Reed's offering, when asked to give an alternative to the atheistic slogan that's been plastered on [buses] .... Like his slogan, the approach Reed recommends in responding to these ads is creative and non-polemical: “Don't get grouchy and defensive and reactionary; treat it much more lightly.”
I agree with him (the full article can be found here). The atheists sponsoring these bus ads want to spark conversations, not fireworks, so let's talk. Maybe we will find it helpful to better understand where they're coming from, and maybe then they too would like to hear where we're coming from. And maybe we can go there together on the TTC.
P.S. Does anybody remember the bus ad that was all over buses everywhere promoting Die Hard 4? Isn't it odd that it was never controversial? I even looked up John 6:27 before I fully clued in.