Thank God for Atheists.
My buddy Rick Kaulbars posted a reference to a letter he submitted to the editor of the Ottawa Metro in the “Shameless Self-Promotion” section of the Ottawa Comedy Resource, a great frequently-posted-to site dedicated to the Ottawa comedy scene. I proceeded to get into a debate with Rick that soon spiralled into something not befitting that section of the site. You can read how far we got to by clicking HERE. Since I couldn’t stop thinking about this entire issue and my side of the debate, I decided to post my argument where it is most appropriate. On my own damn website.
There’s a new ad campaign that is making the rounds of controversy in the UK and is soon to join us over here. A collection of bus ads will soon say words akin to, and I am paraphrasing here, “There is no God, so you might as well treat each other nicely anyway.”
Well, here we go.
If they removed the first five words, I’d be all over this ad campaign. “You might as well treat each other nicely” is something I could be all over. As the message stands now, however, it’s as calculating as Jerry Falwell’s tax accountants. Out comes a campaign with the argument that this is a rallying cry for the Atheists put upon by the belligerently devout among us. The “eye-for-an-eye” tactic irony of large media being used to put an atheist viewpoint out there aside, an interesting thing has occurred. It now makes me think, “Dear Atheists. Remember when you were able to feel superior to those religious types who bothered people with billboards, bumper stickers and signs spreading messages like “Jesus is Lord” and the like? Or the little Jesus fish on the back of cars? Remember that smugness you had? Well, it’s gone now. In one fell swoop, you’ve just lowered yourself to your enemy’s level.”
I hate this campaign, and not because I agree or disagree with the questioning of the existence of God the ad takes. Those are your opinions and you are welcome to them. Not for me to judge. I think this campaign is amateurish, simple and immature and shows a true lack of professionalism that can be found in the advertising craft by trying to create a tempest in an already tired tea cup. Why no throw in the words “Hey, Fucktards” at the beginner to really get the controversy juices flowing? It was designed to create a hullabaloo and it most certainly has. Bravo. But now, very intentionally, the campaign creators have now rattled the cage of the very beast they were hoping to quiet. The best way to remove a hornet’s nest probably doesn’t involve throwing rocks at it. And this riles me further as I have fallen into the trap myself by commenting on it and I feel cheap and manipulated in the process. But knowing that I’ve already succumbed, I’ll proceed with my argument anyway.
Atheists may feel proud about this achievement of hoisting their own provocative signage, but they have gone the wrong way. It’s similar to when women gained the right to go topless in the summer in Toronto because their male counterparts were able to.
We should have done the decent thing and made men cover up their chests regardless of the heat. Everyone would be hot, yes, but everyone would also be covered up. Now whenever I’m walking through the Beach area of town, I’ve got to deal with Big Jimmy’s man-tits all day whose walk-and-flop torso I’ve not seen the likes of since last year’s Dyke March.
There’s no possible good for this aside from generating inflammatory reaction. I disagree as much with a bus ad that says “Jesus saves.” as I do one saying “No one saves. That includes you too, Toskala.”. By airing this opinion in a public forum, they now have become guilty of the same ardent belief publication that they have long rallied against.
There is an argument that says this campaign would be considered more racist and taken more seriously if the ads singled out Allah or Buddha specifically, but the arguments boil down to the same thing. Why air your personal ideas publically? And yes, I get the irony that I’m saying this in a blog, by you’re choosing to read this and not having it thrust into your line of sight, so stick it.
You may agree with the ad. You may find it offensive. I don’t care. To be honest the only way that I should know your personal religious beliefs is if I ask you personally, or see you in a clutch of people like me digging on the same thing. Or are dressed like a Hassiic Jew. That look makes a statement, and to be honest, those guys wear that look well. Very smooth. Also note that very few people wear turbans recreationally.
In the same manner that the papers in western Canada ran column inches about Darren Frost, (the comic that was so “nasty” he got things thrown at him), the intent is to cause needless bother. These ads will hit the side of our busses and will garner the same reaction from me that an ad saying “Go Mormon!” would: “Whose beliefs do they think they’re going to change?” Neither side is going to convert the other. Your personal beliefs are that. Personal. Others have made them public to the extent that they become recruitment dries, and we all know who I’m talking about when I say that. Yes, I’m looking at you Spaghetti Monster people. Stop phoning me for donations or asking me to join your Sunday curling league.
In short, to use the vernacular of the non-theist: For the love of No One, quit ramming your non-beliefs down my throat.