Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



Next, They'll Be Hunting Witches in Nova Scotia! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Reader Pascal Poirier tells us:

I am sure you are aware of the bus ads in London, UK.  In case you were not aware, we had recent developments in Halifax, NS, Canada, with the attempt by Humanist Canada to put the toned-down slogan "You can be good without God" on our buses.  It appears that this true statement was too controversial for the transit authorities.

This campaign was undoubtedly inspired by the currently successful bus-ad campaign in London, England, encouraged and supported by Richard Dawkins. Signs stating "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" are seen all over that city, though Dawkins had reservations about including the word, "probably" in the text...

Yes, the Metro Transit agency in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will not allow the "You can be good without God" advertisement to appear on its buses. The agency's very proper spokesperson said:

We're a public transit service first, and then we sell advertising on the side, and normally the standard procedure is we have a contracted agency who sells our advertising. If there's something that's viewed to be controversial, as part of our contract we get to see the messaging on it, and so they advise us if they think something's going to be controversial and then we review the message. If we feel it's going to be something that's going to upset a number of people, we don't choose to advertise it ... we don't wish to be controversial, any more controversial than we have to be.

Folks, I'm trying to think of anything that won't offend "a number of people." Personally, I'm offended by ads for churches, temples, and mosques, but I don't think that Metro Transit would tear off those advertisements to spare me the agony I'd have to undergo by riding in a bus so festooned, or just seeing them pass me in the street. The organization behind the intended-but-forbidden advertisement is Humanist Canada. They say on their website that they'd hoped to place the message in bus terminals and subway stations across Canada over the next few weeks. They quote their president Pat O'Brien:

Our ad has been shown to be acceptable to everyone else in the country... Some people like it, some don't. That's fine. It's all about getting the message out and getting the conversation going. We want people to know that belief in a god is not necessary to live a full, moral and happy life. Humanists embody this concept every day... It would be interesting to see what vegans think about the KFC ads. I mean, at what point do you stop offending people?

Good question! The "Good Without God" transit campaign was created to reach out to atheists, agnostics, skeptics and other non-believers. Humanist Canada, in common with other Humanist groups, is a non-profit charitable organization promoting ethics, rationality, critical thinking, dignity and equality for all persons.

We're getting there, slowly...

Trackback(0)
Comments (48)Add Comment
...
written by Rogue Medic, February 04, 2009
Maybe the motto of the transit authorities is God requires us to offend the secular. smilies/cry.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by MadScientist, February 04, 2009
The only thing worse than a homosexual is an atheist - and there's a special circle of hell reserved for homosexual atheists. That is the sort of "thinking" encouraged by numerous religions including absolutely all christian religions (oh, but they're peaceful loving religions - and those catholic priests really love the little kids). I would guess that the transit authority is run by religious people; why else would they be offended by that ad? The only people who could object are the people who believe absolutely everyone must be forced to believe in their particular sky fairy.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by Mikebo, February 04, 2009
Of course we have to be considerate about other people's feelings, but these days we seem to always be walking on eggshells over minor matters.
Even back (many moons ago) when I was still a practising Catholic, I don't think I would've been offended by what is an obvious truth.
Would we offend binge drinkers by putting up an ad saying "It's possible to have a good night out without getting blind drunk"?
So-called political correctness often seems to be more like political craziness.
I sometimes wonder if the people making these decisions about "sensitive" materials actually seek the opinions of the people they THINK will be offended to see if they really would take offence? (Oops, hope no American readers take "offense" at me for using the British spelling?!)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +13
...
written by BillyJoe, February 04, 2009
That Atheist Foundation of Australia tried to have the following slogan placed on the back off buses:

"Celebrate reason. Sleep in on Sunday".


It was rejected on the basis that it was likely to upset people. That was Nov last year. Last week they gave notice that they will try to force them to accept the advertisements on the basis that it is discriminatory not ot do so.

BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +14
...
written by TDjazz, February 04, 2009
There is definitely an inequality going on here. Many believers call for and even demand religious tolerance, but get egregiously intolerant when faced with an atheistic message.

It's called hypocrisy.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +24
...
written by BillyJoe, February 05, 2009
Many believers call for and even demand religious tolerance, but get egregiously intolerant when faced with an atheistic message.

Not in Australia.
For example, Greg Clarke the director of the centre for public Christianity was surprised that the ads were knocked back in a secular society like Australia and did not agree that they should have been.

BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +6
...
written by bosshog, February 05, 2009
The Transit Authority was probably afraid of offending God.

A more Christian slogan might have been "Go ahead and do it. God will forgive you - it's his job".
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +22
...
written by cwniles, February 05, 2009
I would think the Transit Authority was more afraid of offending some of those so called religious people that go to extremes such as vandalism and violence. The ones who think anything they do is acceptable since they have somehow determined it is God's will.

If I was involved with the Transit Authority management, that would be my biggest concern and when put in perspective, it's probably wiser of them not to put the innocent public transit riders at any more risk then they already are.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Cuddy Joe, February 05, 2009
Any Transit Authority is peopled by politicians. They wouldn't have decided about the slogan based on its merits, but on its potential to cause them grief in their jobs due to outcry by the far larger, better organized, and greatly more vocal religious groups. Their crime isn't religiosity, and I'd bet that in their secret hearts many of them might personally support the slogans. But its the standard laziness and self-preservation of all politicians that wins out. They take the easy path.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
Free speech indeed
written by CryoTank, February 05, 2009
All is well as long as we don't say (or even think?) something contrary to those who don't particularly care for free speech - of course they must be allowed to demonise atheists, agnostics, homosexuals etc. Then WE are the ones who have to back off, for sake of Political Correctness.
Classroom question: What's BS about that?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by yarro, February 05, 2009
Christian organisations have launched a counterattack on the London campaign: http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/8555

The Trinitarian Bible Society will opt for a text from Psalm 53.1 that says: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." This will feature on 100 buses.


So atheists are fools. I think that is offensive to all atheists and just goes to show how intolerant the bible and some christians can be.

We're getting there, slowly...

In a suprise move one of the leading Evangelicals in the Netherlands publicly regretted that he always told his audience and his children that Earth and life were created by god in six days.
Andries Knevel an influential christian who makes programmes for the EO (Evangelical Broadcast Organisation) now embraces the evolution theory. Last year he was defending his employers for editing out all references to the evolution theory in an David Attenborough documentary.
The EO responded by saying that they support mr Knevel in opening up an debate on the validity of the evolution theory!!

It's a small step, but we're getting there, slowly...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Trez, February 05, 2009
I know in the UK we have The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 that actually made it illegal to discriminate or refuse to provide a service on the grounds of someone's religion........or lack thereof.

Someone can't refuse to provide you with the same services as they provide to others on the grounds of religion. Causing some issue with the Christian Church who getting concerned about offering sacraments to same-sex couples.
There are a couple of cases going through at the moment (i.e. a relationship counsellor as was sacked because he refused to treat a same sex couple. He was Christian and found the idea of a same sex relationship repulsive).
The law could potentially give a lot of weight to the reason / atheist campaign where we require services from other companies (i.e. advertising)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by colin_young, February 05, 2009
IANAL, but I imagine the transit authority is a governmental agency, so there might be grounds to challenge this decision under 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/). It certainly seems like a clear-cut case of religious discrimination, unless they have a policy of rejecting all religious advertising. Not living in Canada any more, I don't really have a stake in it, and I don't know anyone in Halifax I know to be a humanist...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Ugh
written by legne, February 05, 2009
Since when was there ever a right to not be offended? I think this happens everywhere in the western world, "Free speech is cool as long as I'm not offended". You can't really do anything but facepalm. And perhaps burn a few churches.

though Dawkins had reservations about including the word, "probably" in the text...

You gotta love that man! smilies/cheesy.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
my god ate your god.
written by Raindoggy, February 05, 2009
"The Trinitarian Bible Society will opt for a text from Psalm 53.1 that says: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." This will feature on 100 buses. "
just print up a sticker that says "A wise man shouts it to the world." and stick it on everyone you see.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +10
...
written by tokoloshe, February 05, 2009
Modern day witch hunts are very alive in Africa. (The header of the article was slightly misleading). This is from this week's edition of our local area paper.

I've found three bizarre newspaper items this week. I'll scan the other two and send them to Randi - may be out of place under this story, but not out of place on this website. All shoo ins for the whatstheharm.net too.




report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by tokoloshe, February 05, 2009
Cropped, because we're talking about buses, not witches. Here's the full story if anyone is interested.

http://i571.photobucket.com/al...witch2.jpg
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Cuddy Joe, February 05, 2009
@yarro, re: Buses and slogans....... Sometimes the best way to show a given person or group are hateful, hypocritical, etc., is not by dint of our arguments, but by merely letting them speak, in this case via a slogan pasted on a bus. The religous slogan defining as 'fools' anyone who doesn't believe as they do could be a very useful tool, a graphic demonstration, of the Trinitarian Bible Society's innate hypocrisy.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by yarro, February 05, 2009
@Cuddy Joe: My thoughts exactly!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by MadScientist, February 05, 2009
@yarro:

That's an interesting slogan for a bus; the truth is "the fool believes there is a god", but of course the aim of religions is to scare people into believing and subsequently depriving them of their hard-earned money all in the pretense of saving their "soul" (whatever that is), so of course the bible and any fundamentalist literature (eww... don't we have a more suitable word than 'literautre') always drones on about how "everyone knows there's a god" and "only idiots would say there's no god". No successful religion could possibly be based on telling the truth - they must by nature tell their own perverse version of "The Truth"; it really is comical how they are absolutely terrified of people discovering truth.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by redwench, February 05, 2009
Freedom of speech applies to everyone, or at least should. Humanists have the right to put any polite message in an ad, and so do religious groups. Personally, I think dueling messages is a good thing. There is nothing wrong with having religious convictions, provided they are arrived at after careful consideration of one's options. Options which can be presented through advertising, perhaps?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Kuroyume, February 05, 2009
It's not that the truth needs discovering. It is that their skewed version of reality has been indoctrinated and then reinforced repeatedly by authority figures, community, family, and so on. People have a hard time 'accepting' that this is all there is and you'd better make the best of it. Part fear and part hope in things unknowable.

As Drew Barrymore said it on last night's Tonight Show, "We're only on this planet for so long and I wanna try every color." She was talking about hair color but you get the gist. It was funny as I was thinking something similar a bit early in the day - about the brevity of our existence, not hair coloring. Notice that those who believe that some part of a human continues on after death can be cavalier about taking lives. "They've gone on to a better place." No. No, they haven't. They've gone. End of statement.

Humanity would do so much better if we could just get past this snag - that we have a soul, chakras, qi, or some other force or spiritual facet that is immortal or everlasting. It would make us more compassionate, force us to view the march to war and act of murder more skeptically and stringently. We might come to realize that each individual is a unique being with this one chance of existence. And that might lead to a better world. 'Imagine' that.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by cblount, February 05, 2009
I think that unfortunately, as many have mentioned, the humanistic/agnostic/atheist group is one that is viewed as small, non-threatening, and largely insignificant by most governmental entities when compared with the many large, litigious, and, at times, violent religious groups.

In response to Trez who mentioned the counselor who was fired for not providing couples therapy, I have to say that I think this is somewhat different and depends entirely on how the counselor stated their beliefs. I work as a therapist and there are some clients I would not work with, for instance eating disorders. I have nothing but empathy for those with eating disorders, but it is not a specialty of mine and I wouldn't want to put them at risk. Less altruistically, I wouldn't have worked with the couple unless no other counselor was available because I can't stand couples therapy, no matter what sexuality. Couples therapy is exhausting, my hat's off to those who are able to do it (well).

By that same token, I would rather the counselor tell a couple he couldn't treat them rather than undermine their relationship due to his or her own beliefs, however misguided. I am relieved that the couple did not receive therapy from that person. While advertising is meant in large part to be open to all, as is counseling, there is and needs to be some discretion allowed by the provider of that service. Where I think the bus issue differs is that it is a governmental institution, and therefore should offer equal opportunity advertising.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by brokensun, February 05, 2009
I find it only mildly amusing that both extremes in this arguement seem to share the same notion of what the word "God" means. Joseph Campbell, anyone?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Kuroyume, February 05, 2009
We (mainly the skeptics) take the current notion as 'the one being who cannot be explained or examined but seemingly has effect in the universe beyond which science can study'. Is there another variation that has relevance here at all?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Update and more info
written by Genie, February 05, 2009
Long time reader but never bothered to sign up till now... guess this gave me the push.

Bit more details for those interested. Note that Halifax is very progressive in many respects but has small very vocal and powerful groups that ensure things stay stuck in the past (which includes many of our high ranking officials).

Turns out even now there are bus ads up stating "The vaginas are coming" with details about the Vagina monalogues presentation in smaller print below. The humanist website (http://atheistbus.ca/) also came up with an interesting headline "Halifax Joins Vatican-Dominated Italy as Only Jurisdictions in Western World to Refuse Atheist Ads".

I guess I should have also stated that this is the same city political system that got in hot water about screening employees with polygraphs and asking such questionable questions as if they ever had sex with animals. After serious outrage and a review by the police chief, fire chief, and the mayor they decided that they would change some of the questions but they would continue to use the polygraphs despite all the evidence showing they are usesless as screening tools.

Now if anyone happens to be reading this and live in HRM lets try and overturn all this insanity. I am also open to any suggestions for how to deal with this from anyone who has had to fight similar battles. I am fighting an uphill battle with even the mayor of the city agreeing with the ad being banned.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Added comment
written by Genie, February 05, 2009
Forgot to add...

Yes the transit authority is a public agency.

They were kind enough to offer to run a toned down ad. No one can really figure out how you could tone down the ad anymore then what it is...

As for the human rights complaints... unfortuantly our human rights commisions have been on power trips in Canada for several years now. One human rights commision out west even tried to supress a journalists right to publish an article (provocative but factual) in a national magazine because it offended some people.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
The Australian Case
written by BillyJoe, February 05, 2009
The Australian Atheist Foundation originally submitted the following advertisement to be placed at the back of buses:

'Atheism - because there is no credible evidence'

This was then changed to:

Celebrate reason. Sleep in on Sunday mornings.


Also it was not a public authority that refused to carry the advertisements, but the largest outdoor advertising company in Australia, APN Outdoor. It is this company who is being taken to court for descrimination.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Rogue Medic, February 05, 2009
I guess I should have also stated that this is the same city political system that got in hot water about screening employees with polygraphs and asking such questionable questions as if they ever had sex with animals.


If you don't have sex with animals, perhaps inanimate objects, abstinence, . . . ?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Rogue Medic, February 05, 2009
For a bus slogan, not exactly toned down, but . . .


My God can beat up your God; And my God doesn't even exist!

smilies/wink.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +6
New bus ad
written by rosie, February 05, 2009
I suggest jumping on the Trinitarian Bible Society's bandwagon. If the next round of atheist ads were to say
"The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. And he's right."
then the TBS's abbreviated message would only serve to reinforce it.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
...
written by mikekoz68, February 05, 2009
This makes me embarrassed to be a Canadian, wish there was something I could do? an angry e-mail/ letter?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Willy K, February 05, 2009
Maybe have a bus ad that draws in the relig-o-nuts and whacks them as they're smiling their smug little smiles?

"Those fools from thousands of years ago believed in a thousand gods...
Those fools from hundreds of years ago believed in hundreds of gods...
These days many of us believe in only one god...
999 gods down...
One to go."
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +6
Dawkinesque version
written by BillyJoe, February 05, 2009
Of the thousand different gods that god-believers believe in, most believe in only one god. Atheists are not much different. They believe in just one less.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Contact info
written by Genie, February 06, 2009
Guess I should have made it more explicit in my previous comments that I was the one who sent the email into James, just so there is no confusion.

In response to mikekoz68 here is some contact info for those interested.

Metro Transit Communication officer: patterl@halifax.ca
HRM mayor: kellyp@halifax.ca
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Ray Comfort
written by AndyD, February 06, 2009
On a related note, Ray Comfort's latest post on his blog shows a billboard which he has apparently put up in response to atheist billboards. It carries a photo of Darwin with the word "Atheist" in large text and Ray's favourite line "someone who believes that nothing made everything".

Of course, the billboard he shows by the highway is a poor Photoshop mock-up, not a real billboard!!!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
The mayor responds...
written by Genie, February 06, 2009
Our mayor of HRM responded to a letter I wrote to him regarding this issue and how they do not censor other ads from various groups including religious groups. All I got back was the template answer. See below.

Thank you for writing and for your interest in this issue. Below I havecited the policy guidelines that are being followed by Metro Transit.

"I have advised everyone that we have a process through which ourcontracted agency books ads. If any potential ad message is deemed to be possibly controversial, they advise the transit system. The messag ewhich was submitted by Humanist Canada and was turned down was "You Can be good without God. (They are free to submit another message). We area public transit system first, and sell advertising secondly. As amunicipal service, we will turn down anything which we know will be too controversial or upsetting to taxpayers. This campaign was already known to be controversial in Britain.It states in our contract that the contractor agrees that the advertising which is placed on the buses and at the Ferry Terminalswill meet acceptable community standards of good taste , quality and appearance . Furthermore, the contractor agrees that the ads will not be considered discriminatory, or objectionable to any race creed or moral standard. Lori Patterson Manager Public Affairs Metro Transit"

Peter Kelly
Mayor
Halifax Regional Municipality
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
...
written by BillyJoe, February 06, 2009
One response to that is to make it clear that the ads placed by religious groups upset us. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Another response is to submit an ad that does not contain a negative mention of god or religion. Or, in fact, a positive statement about atheism. In stead of "You Can be good without God", perhaps: "Atheist are good people, just like you and me"! They might even think it was submitted by a christian organisation. smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Adverts on Buses
written by Joslin, February 06, 2009
Going off the point slightly about the adverts on the buses, "There probably isn't a God etc.," but staying on the point of seemingly offensive adverts on buses. My grandfather was a bill poster for a bus company in Swansea, south Wales, UK. I remember him telling me that there was a huge furore in the local bus company because an advertisement was posted on the side of the buses which depicted a cartoon chararacer up a ladder in a sweet shop. Behind the character was a cartoon old lady saying: "I see you have ginger nuts (a type of biscuit.) The cartoon man up the ladder (who has ginger hair) is saying: "On no don't tell me the patch has came off my trousers." He has a big colourful patch on his trousers. Get the joke! This probably seems irrelevant to the discussion about the advert about there not being a God. Except that my grandfather told me, this was many years ago,there was a huge fuss about the advert being obscene. Evey bus in Swansea with the advert on was grounded and my grandfather worked double shifts for a week getting the adverts taken off. My point: the things that seem to upset public morals are pretty trivial.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Genie, February 07, 2009
Thank you for the interesting suggestion of an ad BillyJoe. Although I think the last half of the message may need a bit of refining. Unfortuantly I do not have any better ideas myself, I just find that it does not flow as well as it could. However, I did mention your suggestion on the atheit bus canadian webpage in the hope that they might consider it as an alternative.

I have to say that if they refuse to put up an ad that says atheists are or can be good people they would have an even bigger backlash then they already do. smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by BillyJoe, February 07, 2009
Genie,

Thanks, but let's just hope they don't take this rejection lying down. Nothing I have seen is any where near as antagonistic as saying that atheist are fools (for not believing in god).
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by pxatkins, February 09, 2009
What short memories. There are people in this world who will happily blow up a bus and all who sail in her for sporting such an ad. Which of you would risk that for a jape?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -3
...
written by Rogue Medic, February 09, 2009
pxatkins,

What short memories. There are people in this world who will happily blow up a bus and all who sail in her for sporting such an ad. Which of you would risk that for a jape?


You're claiming that the bus being blown up is the fault of the person putting the ad on the bus, rather than the murderous terrorist?

Better to surrender to terror, because What if they actually hurt someone? smilies/angry.gif

Those Nazis/Stalinists/Maoists really weren't all that bad. They just got bad press. Go along to get along.smilies/cry.gif

We should oppose this appeasement, in spite of the cost.

Whatever the cost to oppose it, it is small compared to the cost to give in.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by pxatkins, February 10, 2009
Rogue MEdic ... Try reading what's actually there, and don't leap to such extremes. If the cost of opposing religious bus ads is the lives of innocents, I say let them advertise. It's not as important as you make it out to be. It's just annoying.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by Rogue Medic, February 10, 2009
pxatkins,

I did read what you wrote.

You jumped to the extreme of terrorists blowing up a bus, not me.

You are the one suggesting that, because you think it is possible that some murderer might be offended, nobody should say anything that might be offensive to anybody who might threaten violence - even if there is no threat. What if?

This what about the terrorists thinking is abhorrent.

You are encouraging terrorist threats, by claiming that everyone should avoid being offensive, because What if? Terrorists need to be opposed, not coddled.

I repeat: Whatever the cost to oppose it, it is small compared to the cost to give in.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
pxatkins: please write whats actually there.
written by BillyJoe, February 10, 2009
pxatkins,

I'm trying to reconcile your two posts:
In thhe first you appear to be talking about atheist ads:

What short memories. There are people in this world who will happily blow up a bus and all who sail in her for sporting such an ad. Which of you would risk that for a jape?

In the second you are clearly talking about religious ads:

Rogue MEdic ... Try reading what's actually there, and don't leap to such extremes. If the cost of opposing religious bus ads is the lives of innocents, I say let them advertise. It's not as important as you make it out to be. It's just annoying.

So, what exactly ARE you trying to say?

BJ

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by pxatkins, February 12, 2009
I won't be spending any more time on this. None so blind, etc.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
...
written by BillyJoe, February 12, 2009
Oh, I see, you can't reconcile them either. Nevermind then.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy