Saturday, January 31, 2009

On bigotry and buses

Canadian atheists are launching a transit campaign like the one started in Britain and copied in Spain and the United States. Buses will carry advertising suggesting that there is probably no God, so just enjoy the life we have now. In short, stop fussing about the supposed one in the hereafter. The point of the adverts is to simply cause people to think about the concept of God and any religious notions they may harbour. It is also to give more prominence to atheism, a creed which has been kept in the closet or under the stairs for centuries.

Christians are bewildered by what they see as “in your face” efforts by atheists, their organizations (yes, they do have organizations – I’ll bet you didn’t know that) and their prominent spokespeople to let the world know they exist and that they have something to say. Christians have never before been faced with organized atheism in a liberal-democracy.

But true to form, the instant reaction of Christian spokespeople is to resort to censorship, since burning heretics at the stake is no longer fashionable (damn!), as reported in the Globe and Mail.

Upon hearing that the Toronto Transit Commission had approved the atheist ads, Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, which fought against the legalization of same-sex marriages, said his group has not decided whether it will formally complain about the ads once they appear.

"On the surface, I'm all for free speech. ... However, though, these are attack ads," Dr. McVety, president of Canada Christian College in Toronto, said in an interview yesterday.

"These ads are not saying what the atheists believe, they are attacking what other people believe," he said. "And if you look at the dictionary definition for ... bigot, that's exactly what it is, to be intolerant of someone else's belief system."

There is no doubt that Mr. McVety will complain to the TTC, notwithstanding his "thinking about it" posture. Naturally, if Mr. McVety can make the case for bigotry, then he may succeed in causing the TTC to review and rescind its decision.

These ads state exactly what atheists believe if one adopts the position of the world’s best known atheist, Richard Dawkins, author of The God Deception. He says that there is a possibility that God exists, but that the probability that there is a God is very low. Furthermore, if bigotry is attacking a belief rather than a person who holds that belief, then McVety is guilty of exactly the same thing he is complaining about.

It is perfectly reasonable to attack a belief, but it is not reasonable to attack a person simply because he or she holds a certain belief. Everybody is entitled to believe any old nonsense they want and to express their views about beliefs.

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