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My wife and I were watching the news tonight when the story played. Calgary Transit buses will soon sport the advert “There is probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” My only comment is that I would change “probably” to “almost certainly”. The former gives the waffling impression that atheists think that there is a slight, but real chance that there is. Calgary will be the second Canadian city (after Toronto) to publicly send out the message on transit vehicles, the first appearing in about two months from now. 

The story on tv included a sound bite from Terry Young, a pastor at Calgary First Alliance Church, who, while not agreeing with the message itself, has no problem with Freethought Calgary running the ads. He predicts are range of reactions: “You are going to have some people who will be offended by it and others who will acknowledge that that perspective is out there in the pluralistic world we live in.”

When Young indicated that he had no problem with the ads being run on Calgary buses, my wife said “Excellent!” in obvious surprise. 

Doesn’t that just say it all? We atheists expect to be disrespected. We expect the hue and cry of the pious over the expression of our disbelief in god, all the while patting themselves on the back at the latest witty church sign. We’re surprised, and pleasantly so, when a Christian speaks up and tells us,  “Hey, you have every right to express that viewpoint.” We both felt validated by Young’s acceptance that other people do not necessarily share the same belief set.

There are those who will be offended by the sign. I don’t see how, but history clearly says that this will be so. To these people, I have one thing to say. If you are so easily offended, how strong can your faith really be? Look at gay bashers. Their hatred for gays is usually an expression of self-loathing over their own latent homosexuality. I think there’s a parallel here.

Of course, not everyone is happy about this. Enter Catholic authority (to the music of the Empire Theme from Star Wars): 

Calgary Catholic Bishop Fred Henry said the ideal date to launch such a campaign would be April Fool’s Day.

“I don’t know what the norms Calgary Transit uses to accept advertising, but if the benchmark is that it should be non-offensive, I’m offended,” said Henry.

“This is insulting to us. The interfaith dialogue that goes on in this city is characterized by deep respect for all the individual players.”

Deep respect for all the individual players. Except atheists, apparently. Hey, Fred! Why is the Catholic Church in Canada essentially financially (and, let’s face it, ethically as well) bankrupt?

As for the advertising standard used, Fred, it isn’t your sensibilities (in point of fact, Fred, you offend me, but I still recognize and respect your right to express your form of voodoo):

Calgary Transit spokesman Ron Collins said as long as the content complies with the criteria set out by the Advertising Standards Canada agency, the ads would be permitted.

“We know not everyone is going to be accepting of this. We know we’re going to receive complaints, but it gets back to explaining to people the process of how they would meet the standards,” said Collins.

Choke on it, Fred.

Fred Henry is the same asshat the myopically believes that Gardasil vaccinations against HPV promotes promiscuity and feels that it is more important to maintain young women’s sexual purity than to decrease their risk of cancer. Look for his name in class action lawsuits in about 20 years.

Cliff Erasmus, chairman of the Center for Inquiry in Calgary, came off well, making the point that we do not get our morality from god, or even religion. This is one of the most common myths associated with religion. It is actually possible for atheists to be ethical. Imagine that!

“We need it here badly. I’m very happy to see that humanists, atheists and agnostics are feeling it’s safe to come out and talk about this,” said Erasmus.

“I really want to have a dialogue with the people of faith in this community and show them we’re not a bunch of hate-mongers. We’re all here to share this planet together.”

I hear ya, Cliff!



  1. It’s interesting how with catholics it becomes an issue that they are offended by an advertisement when it goes against their beliefs. How many tv commercials do you find offensive? Myself, quite a few… the stupid Nicorette ad where the lady flashes a couple in a fancy restaurant and takes his gum, for example. As much as I hate to say it, the fact that I find it offensively dumb is no reason to demand it be pulled of the air, however. These uptight catholics should realize that.

    How about all the things about the catholic church that offend me? Like the fact that they reinstated a bishop who is a holocaust denier? Not to mention their attempt to cover up sexual offenders among their clergy by reassigning them rather than acknowledging and fixing the problem. The fact that these acts are offensive to me is moot – however these are immoral and criminal acts that should be treated as such. A sign on a bus certainly seems trivial next to that.

    Pope Benny, go to hell.

    • shamelesslyatheist
    • Posted February 5, 2009 at 10:34 am
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    I’ve always said that the Vatican is an offensive organization. If the RC supports it, you can’t go far wrong to reject it. That asshat of a British bishop isn’t the only one doing that kind of thing lately, either. The pope himself attributes the Holocaust to Nazi paganism, rather than acknowledging that the source of anti-Semitism is also (and to be honest, I think it is only source) Christianity.

    I found out something interesting the other night at the monthly skeptics pub meeting. I was talking to Cliff and apparently about a third of the money that went into buying the bus ads in TO came from Calgary. I was quite surprised to hear this.

  2. Wow, that is surprising. Do you think Calgary is significantly more secular than Edmonton? It seems to me there are a lot of fundies up there. (And the fundies in rural Alberta go without saying.)

    • shamelesslyatheist
    • Posted February 5, 2009 at 10:56 am
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    I don’t know that there’s much of a difference between Calgary and Edmonton, but rural Alberta is really screwed up. I’ll know more about the bus thing tonight at the CFI Calgary meeting. I’m still on the core diet, damn it. I’ll have to avoid the beer.

  3. I haven’t been drinking at all lately, but I had a Sleeman honey brown lager last night and man, was it good!

    • shamelesslyatheist
    • Posted February 5, 2009 at 12:13 pm
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    I had two Bud lite’s the other night already. And a burger last night. Rhonda was tired of chicken-and-rice. While that’s bad, I’m still chugging away with the core diet. I’m trying to get back to 175 before we go to Hawaii in April. Only 5 more to go, so shouldn’t be a problem.

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