By Steve Hignett
Steve Hignett is a member of the Skeptic's Society, a group that promotes science, literacy and critical thinking. He is also a member of the James Randi Educational Foundation, an educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscience and the supernatural. He unapologetically questions everything.
There are many positive reasons for using Public Transportation, environmental responsibility, financial savings on gas, insurance, parking etc. and Starting April 11 in BC, healthy religious conversation. Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna are the first cities in British Columbia that will be running ads from the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign. The ads, which began in London in early 2009, read "There's probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life." These ads will hopefully promote honest dialogue between the believers and non believers, and should serve as a way for those atheists among us who still feel shameful about their beliefs to realize that they are not alone in their thoughts. And considering that the Atheist Bus Campaign is now a global phenomenon with ads running in countries as diverse as Russia, Sweden and Spain, hopefully such people now know that there are like minded people among them in the crowd.
Religion is a touchy subject for many people and there are those who may be offended by this campaign, or see it as some sort of an attack on their most heartfelt beliefs, claiming that such a display has no place in a public setting, however a quick glance around various other public areas throughout Canada reveal that religious ideas are snuck in quite regularly to everyday life. For example:
-The Royal Anthem of Canada since 1980 is "god save the Queen"
-The Official English version of Canada's National Anthem was changed in 1968 by a joint committee of MPs and Senators to include "god keep our land glorious and free"
-All Canadian coins have the words "D.G. Regina", short for "Dei Gratia Regina" struck to the right of the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, Latin for "By the grace of god, queen"
I'm sure that there are many atheists among us who are offended by these inclusions. While personally I don't appreciate having a reference to a god on my currency, or either of Canada's Anthems, I simply choose to ignore the writing on the coin, and omit singing the word god during the playing of any Anthem. If there are people who are offended by the bus ad, the simple answer of course would be to look away, as I do each time I use change at the store. Failing that, I would gently suggest removing a quarter from your pocket, reading the Latin that is struck in each one and gaining comfort in knowing that the coin will very likely outlast the "offensive" ad by decades.
As I have stated in previous articles on this blog, I celebrate the fact that we are all free to our own beliefs however diverse they may be. I hope sincerely that the atheist bus ads will generate conversations between the believers and the non believers and do another small part to bridge the wide gap between us.