It's Saturday morning and you're feeling great. Not much to do except relax with a good book, or perhaps meet some friends for coffee at your favourite local joint. A knock at the door, however, interrupts your daydream. It is the knock of someone with much experience knocking. You peer through the window and see two men in suits, small black Bibles in hand. "Oh Christ!" you mutter to yourself, probably without pun intended, as you frantically debate how best to deal with these religious door-to-door salesmen. Ignoring the knock will only delay the inevitable; they will not give up that easily. It's probably best to bite the bullet, answer the door and hopefully have them on their way as soon as possible.
This is a scenario many of us have experienced. Even if you've been fortunate enough to avoid these shameless proselytizers, you have undoubtedly seen their propaganda on signs, billboards, buses and elsewhere. Ranging from humorous to distasteful, they all have one thing in common: they are attempting to tell you what you should believe and how you should live your life.
The British Humanist Organization has had enough. They raised over $250,000 CDN for a campaign in which they have placed ads on buses throughout the United Kingdom proclaiming in all caps, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The campaign has been very successful and has spread to Spain, the United States, Italy and Germany. There is even a group in Toronto hoping to follow suit.
Surely this should be seen as a victory for all non-religious folk. Admittedly, this was my first reaction. Today, however, I humbly type this piece with repentance on my mind, for I have seen the light. I have been saved from the hypocrisy of my past ways. While this ad campaign may be refreshing in its originality, at its base it is no different than the religious advertisements I have already criticized. The atheist campaign, too, attempts to tell you what to believe and how to live your life. What's next? Atheists coming to your door, Dawkin's latest in hand, in an attempt to free you from your religious dogma?
This is a superfluous campaign designed to respond to something atheists find disagreeable, with something religious people will find disagreeable. While these new bus ads are pretty harmless-- especially when compared to some of the religious ones which threaten damnation-- and even uplifting, they are mimicking a strategy long criticized by the atheist community. The strategists seem to have adopted the old adage, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Instead, they should follow the adage that says two wrongs do not make a right.