Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pointless Speech

Well, I've gotta say: these anti-theist ad campaigns have really got me thinking.

You know the thing I'm talking about: began in Britain--on the sides of double-decker buses. The whole "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" business. No less person than Richard "Fossil" Dawkins provided the nihil obstat, declaring "This campaign ... will make people think--and thinking is anathema to religion." (Yeee-ouch!)

And now the campaign's made its way over here, thank Ford!

Because of the efforts of the Freethought Association of Canada, the Humanist Association of Canada, and atheistbus.ca a chink in Canada's theocratic armour has finally been found: God probably doesn't exist!

I don't know about you, by my mind has officially been blown.

I mean, it's so ingenious and yet so simple! Probably!

How is it that nobody has ever thought of this before? How is it that not a single person down the ages has dared to question the existence of God? How is it that, since time immemorial, there haven't been some men who believed and some who didn't? How is it, furthermore, that for those who weren't quite willing to commit either way, there wasn't something like a "wager" that people made; a "wager" that some non-existent historical personage devised--let's call him Pascal shall we, just for the sake of argument--that might explain their continuing belief in the face of so decisive a doubt: probably?

How is it that this debate isn't already very old, very tired, and very clichéd?

It's crazy, man!

But, alas!, for this completely original, emancipating and bewheeled message, the tight corner of ignorance is proving difficult to round: the zealots at Halifax's Metro Transit have refused permission to put the signs on the sides of their buses. This because, "if anytime we feel there's a message that could be controversial and upsetting to people, we don't necessarily sell the ads." Rendering the matter, needless to say, a freedom of speech issue:

That decision is upsetting to Pat O'Brien, president of the non-profit group [Humanist Canada] dedicated to the separation of church and state.

"It would be interesting to see what vegans think about the KFC ads. I mean, at what point do you stop offending people?" he said.

Hear, hear! (And don't doubt Humanist Canada's commitment to the cause of free speech.)

That the Humanist Association etc aren't actually being persecuted for their disbelief is beside the point; that theirs is, transparently, a boutique enthusiasm, as evinced by the painfully trite (and fallacious) terms of their slogan, is also beside the point. They are trying to start a debate, people! (or, as one member of atheistbus.ca delightfully puts it, they are trying to "spring up discussion in the public"), and no amount of actual debate--present or past--is going to stop them from repeating this line over and over and over again as though the question of debate was itself somehow the debate.

Inspiring stuff.

Worry is slated to be a distant memory in all major Canadian cities no later than mid-2009.

... And rumour has it that--in the name of disinterested public inquiry--the next mass transit ad campaign will deal with James Watson's (of DNA fame) conjecture that certain human being are inferior to others. The slogan, one assumes, will be something along the lines of "There's probably no racial equality. Now stop/start worrying and enjoy/fear for your life."

ADDENDUM: The United Church of Canada has proven me wrong! Ecce Disputatio! They have responded with an ad campaign of their own: "There's probably a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

I don't know about you, but I'll be spending some considerable time over the course of the next couple of days weighing the respective merits of this expansive and profound exchange.