Atheist bus ads in Fort Worth, Texas, are spawning a religious controversy. Or it might be a freedom-of-speech controversy, or maybe it’s both. The controversy stems from the Fort Worth atheist bus ads that say “Millions of Americans are Good without God.”
The bus ads began appearing on December 1, 2010, and will appear through the end of the year. According to the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, which purchased the ads, the ad campaign “is designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god.”
The atheist ads have sparked outrage in some who feel that the timing-entering the Christmas season-is particularly offensive, and some groups are calling for boycotts of the buses. The Coalition says that the timing of the ads was coincidental, but they’re not apologizing, and they’re not going to remove the ads.
The Fort Worth Transportation Authority isn’t apologizing, either. Known as the T, the agency says it accepts advertising from all religious (or non religious) groups without discrimination.
From a personal standpoint, I believe in God, and I’m not threatened by knowing that other people don’t. I don’t try to push my belief on others, and I don’t want them to push theirs on me.
I do believe that what applies to one group should be applied to all groups. If the T accepts advertising from any religious denomination or group, then it must accept it from all, and that’s what it’s doing. As long as the rule is applied consistently and fairly, there isn’t a problem, and one shouldn’t be manufactured by those who don’t agree with, or like the ad.
Opposing groups are welcome to purchase ads promoting their message, and having done so, should be able to expect that message to be treated with respect, just as the atheist ads should be treated.
The atheist bus ads aren’t trying to get anyone to give up God, and they aren’t denigrating Christianity or any other religion. They simply state that some people are good without God.
How is this message any more offensive to a believer than advertisements about churches and church services are to an atheist or a follower of a different religion? Those ads are found on billboards, and arrive in mailboxes without causing furor. If the message isn’t for you, ignore it.
The more vocal the protests are against the Fort Worth atheist bus ads, the more attention those very ads receive, taking the message to a far larger audience than would ever have seen it otherwise. I’m a perfect example: I live near, but not in Fort Worth, and did not know about the ads before hearing about them on the local news.
The controversy over the Fort Worth bus ads is likely to continue as long as the atheist ads are in place. Like it or not, every community is made up of people of different faiths, and each has the same rights.
Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason
United Coalition of Reason
Star-Telegram, Atheist-themed ads appear on Fort Worth Buses, by Tim Madigan and Gordon Dickson, November 30, 2010
Fort Worth Transportation Authority