I have a short update on the atheist ad campaign running on Fort Worth buses. In my last post, I mentioned that a coalition of city pastors were furious over the ads and tried to organize a boycott. (Would it help to tell them that this is how atheists feel all the time? Probably not.)
The boycott appears to have gone nowhere fast, but something else did happen: another Christian group paid for vans displaying a religious message to follow the buses around town all day. Personally, I think this is hilarious. Do the Christians really have that much faith in the power of a two-second glimpse of an atheist message to change people’s minds? Maybe they’re imagining that the atheist bus emanates some kind of irresistible persuasive power, turning everyone it passes into a nonbeliever – but then the Christian van comes in its wake and changes them right back!
In reality, what they can’t seem to recognize is that the atheist ads aren’t intended to change minds in the spot. They’re aimed at people who are already atheists, or who are leaning that way, encouraging them to come out of the closet and to join local groups like DFWCOR. Surveys consistently show that there are far more atheists in America than most people realize; the goal of ad campaigns like this is to collect this low-hanging fruit. By contrast, it’s safe to assume that everyone who wants to join a Christian church has already done so. But if the Christians want to waste their money on foolish stunts like this, I say more power to them.
I’m also pleased because the ridiculous bus-stalking idea is only going to draw more publicity and attention to the atheists. As this article points out, DFWCOR only paid for ads to run on the sides of four buses, out of about 200 in the city. But the frenzied reaction from bigoted Christians has enormously multiplied the impact of the campaign and ensured that far more people have seen or heard about it than otherwise would have. So, again: Thanks, Christians!
Finally, it amuses me to note that, in response to the campaign, the transit authority decided to ban all religious and atheist advertising in the future. (According to this report from Friendly Atheist, one of the board members ranted about how messages like this shouldn’t be permitted in America.)
I’m not upset, exactly, but I’d be willing to bet that religious ads have run on these buses many times and no one ever complained. It was only when groups who aren’t in the majority want to exercise their equal rights that people get angry – as I mentioned in my original post, Dallas did the same thing to block the atheist ads from running. Still, as hypocritical as this is, I’m not bothered as long as the new policy is applied equally and fairly. Atheists have plenty of other places to advertise, and if that’s what it takes to make our government a little bit more secular, I’m happy about that too!