Atheist bus ads - do you find them offensive? Why?

There have been a number of atheist bus ad campaigns over the past year or so - some have been strongly condemned by churches or theist groups.

It’s sometimes hard to accurately gauge public sentiment by reading newspaper articles. The people journalists choose to quote aren’t necessarily representative of society as a whole.

With that in mind, I thought I’d ask here: which of the slogans in the poll (which I’m about to post) do you find offensive? More importantly, can you say why you find them offensive?

I’m most curious about the last one, “Don’t Believe In God? You Are Not Alone.” It appeared in a campaign in Des Moines, and was quickly pulled from buses due to complaints before being reinstated. AFAICT, all the slogan really says is that atheists exist; why would this one especially be considered offensive in any way whatsoever?

Also, if you do take offense to these ads, what do you think is the most appropriate response? Most opposing voices I’ve heard have called for the ads’ removal. However, when the “there’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” ads appeared in Toronto, the United Church came out with ads with their own counter-slogan: “there’s probably a god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

What way do you think is best to respond to these ads?

I don’t find them offensive however the one with “you can be good without God” I find a little misleading. It makes it seem like all Christians (or people who believe in God) are always good and that we believe that all who don’t believe in God are always bad. This of course is not true, at least not for me. I am, admittedly, as big a sinner as anyone and I have met a lot of very moral people who do not believe in God or a god. True I have met some “bad” apples as well but I know of people who call themselves Christian who leave me wondering.

God bless you

I’m not an atheist…the first ad I hope isn’t true, and I think that the second two ads are both true (you can be good without God, and basically that atheists exist). I don’t find any of them offensive.

Irritating? Yes. Confrontational? Sure. Belligerent? I think so. Productive? Unlikely. True? A little yes, a little no.

Offensive? Never even occurred to me. Free speech means cocky idiots get to say silly things in bus ads. If we can’t counter them, then that’s our problem, not the cocky idiots’.

Usually I’m the first to make fun of the UCC, but it sounds like their Toronto division hit upon exactly the right reply. Well-played. They have earned a lol this day.

The best way to respond to the ads is (1) apologetic argument, and (2) imitating Christ in every aspect of our lives, thereby giving witness to Christian joy.

If they are on city run buses that are in whole or part subsidized by a dime of taxpayer money then they should be removed, unless the city allows an equal amout of ad space to be purchased by each religous creed or sect. If the city only allows atheist ads then they are discriminating against all other forms of religon and that is wrong. If it is a private run bus system or billboard, then there really is nothing that can or should be done.

As to offensiveness of the message, I don’t find them offensive, any more than I would a billboard advertising another religons beliefs. I feel sorry for the people who spent money to buy the ad space. How empty life must be without the hope of some sort of salvation or greater purpose.

In every case I’ve heard of, the bus companies allowed ads from religious groups as well. Most, probably all, of the transit services get some sort of public subsidy. Some are directly run by government, others are run by private operators under contract.

I’ve never heard of anyone allowing the atheist ads but prohibiting ads from religious groups. There have been several cases where the opposite was true, though: bus companies run ads from religious groups, but refuse to run the atheist ads. Until just recently, this was the situation in Halifax, for instance.

See… I’m not sure I agree with that idea. I think that even private companies have certain obligations when they offer services to the public. Just as Denny’s can’t legally refuse to serve black people (as in the case that made the news a few years back), I don’t think that a bus or billboard company should be able to discriminate on the basis of religion.

On the contrary - speaking for myself, I think that the knowledge that this is the only life I have and that if I don’t make the most of it, I won’t get any other helps to embue my life with more purpose than it would otherwise have… kind of like how the game to decide the championship has more meaning than any of the many games in the regular season.

But we’re getting a bit off-topic.

I thought this referred to a similar set of advertisements in London recently. I’m not bothered; in a free country, people can deny or affirm any deity they like, however ridiculous. Just as long as they don’t expect those with different ideas from them to subsidise their beliefs or unbeliefs.

You mean in the way that religion is subsidized?

People with beliefs, who wish to spread them, should be solely responsible for doing so. I realise there are practical difficulties in this position - but why should those who reject a belief, theistic or atheistic or “other”, have to pay for it ? I think the State should be neutral, and should allow beliefs & expressions of these that are not contrary to the common good. So if Hindus want to build a temple, or Muslims a mosque, let them - provided this does not harm atheists or Baptists or Lutherans living near by: let Muslims, and not Baptists, pay for mosques. If they lack the cash - no mosque. Likewise for atheists - let them propagandise all they wish, as long as those who reject atheism are not expected to stump up for the atheist propaganda.

i thought

“There’s* probably *no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

was the more offensive one…cuz it kinda eludes to, if you believe in God, or if there is one, that, you cant enjoy your life…like, were trying to hold people down or something…

‘You can be good without god’…doesnt really offend me…i think its kinda arrogant…but…not offensive…

and what would i say in response…i’d tell the person, even if the odds are 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000- should you take that chance? considering that 100 years your lifespan is NOTHING compared to ETERNITY?

Probably not :slight_smile:

I would find the first two bus ads offensive.

Before going further, I don’t mean offensive as in getting all riled up or emotionally upset or angry … instead, I mean that to me the ads are either intellectually offensive or can be considered insulting.

  1. “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

I would agree with Charlotte408. The implication of this first bus ad is that people who believe in God can’t enjoy life.

  1. “You can be good without god.”

I would say this second bus ad offends against Truth. In that, without God, you can’t be anything at all. As far as goodness, I would say that since God is the source of all good, even an atheist, when he or she is good, is good because of God.

  1. “Don’t Believe In God? You Are Not Alone.”

People were offended by this third bus ad? Maybe there’s something I’m missing. Maybe this last one is more offensive to people who are more peer-pressure or social-group oriented than I am.

~~ the phoenix

I found the first one moderately offensive (or annoying or irritating or whatever we want to call it). The tone of it rubbed me the wrong way. The other two just seemed like simple statements of fact.

But that’s not to say that I think the first one should be removed. The best remedy for offensive speech is more speech.

I have no objection to free speech. I’m not offended that it’s legal to run these ads. However, the illogic of the whole thing offends me as an insult to my intelligence.
The first slogan implies that 1) if there is probably a God, one will worry, 2) if there is probably a God no one can enjoy living, 3) if there is probably no God, people will not worry, and 4) if there is probably no God, people will enjoy living. I see no reason to believe these premises. Instead, since experiencing many forms of evidence for God, I have had fewer worries and enjoyed life on a level I hadn’t been able to since I was a small child, even as I matured into a deeper appreciation of life.
The second seems like an attempt to redefine God as a “motivator” to “be good”, whatever that even means. Actually, without God there would be nothing at all. Without a belief in God, a person can attempt to find out or invent a definition of “good” and then can try to “be good” by his or her own standards, as I know many who do. It usually doesn’t work out. Of course, believing in God is a big part of fulfilling our responsibility as thinking beings, so in fact without a belief in God some parts of “goodness” will inevitably be absent, but of course a person can try to be “good” without believing in God. Indeed that’s the main message of the mass media already. Most of us have tried.
The final one is an absurdity; everyone knows not everyone believes in God. If one’s only impressions of the world come from major mass entertainment and news sources, one would think there hadn’t been a religious believer since 1959, and someone thought that slogan was needed in this day and age. :hmmm: If this series of events is missing something, perhaps it’s a full description of the ads? Were they accompanied by images of respected people, implying that the people shown in the messages were atheists? If so, was it true in every case? I know many intelligent, respected people are widely cited as atheists who objected to that description themselves, some being agnostics, others believers in God, so perhaps the objections to the ads were to some false implication in them. That’s all I can think of.

I see tons of religious billboards and ads down here in Texas, and they don’t offend me. Why? Becuase I don’t think that my religion is the only ‘one true way’ to heaven. So, if people don’t believe in the divine, cool… have at it. You believe in a god that will fry you in the afterlife… that’s cool, too.

Whether a transit line is publicly or privately run, you still have to PAY to have an ad run. Pay the same rate as everyone else, and you’re in business…

IMHO, only religious hubris would make any of these offensive.

I would say I’m slightly “put off” by the dismissal of millions of people’s belief in God implied in the first slogan, but the latter two are not offensive - just wrong IMHO.

“There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” (Probably?.. how comforting is that?)

“You can be good without God.” (Of course you can be good without God. All have free will. But what point is there to being good if there is no God?)

“Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” (Another true statement. There are many atheists bu numerosity does not make an opinion right. If atheists believed so they would be theists.)


I find the first comment offensive, my reason being that when this first came out (in England) the world was in full recession mode so I thought it rather insensitive for an ad to say “there’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. People are obviously going to worry whether God exists or not, and the fact of the matter is that believing and trusting in God gives respite and comfort in times of crisis. The second is not so much offensive as dangerous, in that, being good becomes subjective rather than objective.

No I am not offended. I try to be slow to take offense.

I am, however, curious as to what the objective is for running these ads. It seems strange to me.

Hmm. I always took the message to be aimed at people who were already worrying - mainly people who cling to a religion they no longer believe in because they’re afraid to let go.

I figured people would approach it like other ads: there used to be a series of ads on the Toronto subways for a debt counseling service that read (IIRC) “You may not need to declare bankruptcy. Let us help you manage your debt.” As someone who wasn’t considering bankruptcy and didn’t have seemingly unmanageable debt, I’d just kinda dismiss the ads as not applicable to me; I wouldn’t take offense at the idea that the ad was telling me I couldn’t manage my money.

I would’ve assumed the same principle would’ve applied with the atheist ads, but I guess there are a lot of people who don’t see them that way.

Yeah… the word “probably” in there kinda weakens the message. From what I’ve heard, the slogan was originally going to be “there’s no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, but the campaign organizers decided that softening it with the addition of “probably” would make it sound less arrogant… or something like that.

As for whether that chance is worth taking, though, I think it entirely depends on the characteristics of the god the person has decided probably does not exist. If the Muslims are right, then maybe all the Christians will be damned for their belief in the Trinity and they’ll end up worse off than the atheists. And if the Mormons are right, we’ll all go to Heaven regardless. :wink:

Sitting on the bus quietly praying the rosary! He who leads… leads by example. No amount of advertising will ever make a person Atheist or Religious. :smiley:

From G.K. Chesterton: the apostle of common sense By Dale Ahlquist (pg 132):

When the millionaire owning the store is criticized, it is by his customers. When he is handsomely complimented, it is by himself… proclaimed from the house-tops… in a voice loud enough to drown out any remarks made by the public.

There is a word for this. The word is “advertising”.

Not only do I not find any of them offensive, but I enjoy being reminded that I live in a country that guarantees freedom of speech for all its citizens. :thumbsup:

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