Update on Fort Worth Bus Ads

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!

Millions of Americans Are Good Without God

Take that, atheists!

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!

New on the Guardian: Beyond Debating God’s Existence
Atlas Shrugged: Bring Me a New Black Guy
Weekend Coffee: March 28
A Christian vs. an Atheist: On God and Government, Part 11
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://www.blind-mind.com Andrew A.

    So much silly rage over the mere existence of Atheists. And still some atheists seem convinced that we’re being too offensive…

  • http://politicalgames.posterous.com themann1086

    I’d also say that the ads are targeted towards believers who have been brainwashed into believing that you can’t be good without God. In my view it’s the most important effect: mainstreaming atheism as a socially “acceptable” position.

  • Richard P.

    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.

    I am amazed this doesn’t bother many people. The TA basically said your first amendment rights are to much of an inconvenience to allow, so we will take those rights away. I could see if they said advertising is to much hassle so we will stop. How is it okay to just shut up complete demographic groups in a society that claims it as a their basic human right?
    It is also bizarre that the christians would rather strip their rights away rather than having opposing opinions allowed the same freedom.

    I once heard a remark;
    Don’t do what you can’t undo, until you know what you can’t do, once you have done it.

    I do not think the churches thought this one through very well.

    America your are a rather bizarre at times.

  • colluvial

    I still love you. -God

    So, it was God that ran the Christian ad? It doesn’t look like a quote from the Bible. It looks more like someone has a sock puppet named God, potentially in violation of the third commandment, the one about “taking His name in vain”.

    Christians should probably keep to themselves because every time they expose their fantasy for all to see it makes them look like Trekkies. Unfortunately, they’re Trekkies who think that Vulcans and Klingons are real.

  • paradoctor

    I find that combination of ads sweet in a sad way. It’s like this conversation between young adult, leaving home, and parent: “I’ll be good without you.” “I still love you.” Awww! They grow up so quickly, don’t they?

    Of course you can criticize. That parent doesn’t exist; and there’s a sharpness within that word ‘still’.

  • paradoctor

    Also compare: “Millions of Americans are good without God”. “2.1 billion people are good with God.” Pepsi or Coke?

    Wait a minute… which 2.1 billion people? And what of the 3.9 billion others?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Oh come now, paradoctor, that’s obvious – the 2.1 billion Christians. They’re the only people in the world who believe in God, after all, and of course all of them are good.

  • Darth Cynic

    That is truly priceless, a reaction that is so over the top so as to be seen as retaliating against the vicious and vile plots of people who don’t believe as they do. It is as hilarious as it is pathetic, they couldn’t make known their insecurity in their own beliefs any more starkly than if they had hung a neon sign over their church doors proclaiming as much.

  • javaman

    how cool would it be for the big white bus to fight the blue truck and beat the shit out of it ! It would be like transformers ! Hey man get off my ass !

  • Dan

    @ richard p: in the US, commercial speech has very limited first amendment protections, so there is essentially no “right” to speech being violated by the decision. But atheists will always find some medium willing to sell them ad space.

  • jane hay

    “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary.”
    Brendan Behan

    The more attention they call to the ads, the more people will read them. All to the good.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I agree with comment #4 – pretending to speak for God is blasphemy.

    Remember this the next time a “liberal” Christian tries to tell you that God’s thoughts and will are inscrutable: most religious people claim to know just exactly what God wants (i.e. exactly what they themselves want).

  • Mothman

    It’s funny that the Christian ad says 2.1 billion people are good with God when according to Christianity, humans aren’t supposed to be able to be good at all. Only saved.

  • archimedez

    “I still love you. –God”

    When we attempted to contact God to confirm the quote attributed to him on the van ad, his people informed us that he was not available for comment.

  • Gingerbaker

    “…Atheists have plenty of other places to advertise,…”

    Not so sure about that.

    Atheists have been unable to purchase advertising on numerous occasions because the advertising agencies are privately held and can refuse whatever ads they want. Public secular entities should offer unrestricted advertising for atheists, and should perhaps be required to do so. Since the private sector is not required to offer services to atheists, public sector agents like the Fort Worth transportation agency, by restricting religious expression for all, effectively relegate religious expression to all BUT atheists.

  • Rieux

    It’s funny that the Christian ad says 2.1 billion people are good with God when according to Christianity, humans aren’t supposed to be able to be good at all. Only saved.

    That’s a good point. If I were defending the truck’s wording, I think I’d claim that they meant “people are good” in the modern colloquial meaning of “I’m good”—as in, I’m comfortable, set, happy with my current status, etc. (“Need me to refill your coffee?” “No, I’m good.”) The line is somewhat funnier in that interpretation.

    Then, it’s a little telling that the truck-funders disregard the billions of people in the world who are neither Christians nor atheists. (As Ebonmuse notes, 2.1 billion is clearly a citation of the number of Christians on the planet—not the number of theists, which is substantially larger.) Exactly what are we to think is the relationship between (1) the billions of Muslims/Hindus/religious Jews/Zoroastrians/etc. in the world, (2) goodness, and (3) God, hm?

  • heliobates

    So, if the 2.1 billion people includes the millions convicted of crimes and incarcerated, then how are all of them “good”? Or is it “2.1 billion good + several tens of millions not good but better than those damn a-they-usts?” Or do the apologists just write this off as a rounding error?

    I wish we could trust a single thing they say, but even if an apologist only regurgitates population data, I still check for my wallet.

  • Jim Baerg

    There’s an interesting comment on atheist billboards here:

    I particularly like the last of his suggestions for an alternate billboard.

  • Kev

    Their motivations are A) They can’t STAND that some people contradict their key beliefs, and B) Since their belief is fear-based, they feel intensely prompted to outdo each other in kissing the sky-daddy’s ass.

  • staceyjw

    So, if they clan all the xtians on earth, can we claim all the Chinese, who are mostly non theist? LOL.

    This has to be the FUNNIEST thing Ive seen in quite some time. WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY and GAS for the xtians. how much did it cost to hire someone to follow around a bus, in a truck, with a single driver (no passengers), just to rebut an ad?

    I say THANKS fundies, you got us more attention than we would have EVER had otherwise, and you lodged foolish to boot.

  • Rick Pikul

    The real question with the advertising rule change is: “How long until they change it back?” And we all know that it’s going to be a when, not an if, and it would not surprise me if certain groups get informed in advance.

    I would be tempted to start working on having a ready fund to buy another set of ads when that happens.

  • anaughtymouse

    Talk about taking His name in Van…
    in van..
    I kill me.

    There will still be some who believe in god(s) just as there are now some who believe in all manner of ancient superstitions. (Santa, easter bunny, Apollo, jesus, the tooth fairy alah, etc…)
    most of them will be children….
    The adults will learn to keep these beliefs to themselves and may even come to regard them with a touch of shame. This is the future of faith.

  • Rollingforest

    It is true that private companies can decide not to run your ads. But the transit authority is funded by tax money isn’t it? That would make it a government agency. Government agencies have to follow the first amendment. So isn’t banning certain types of advertisements a violation of the Constitution?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    It’s quite possible that a blanket restriction on religious and/or atheist ads wouldn’t hold up in court, if anyone wanted to challenge it. (Courts have ruled, for example, that public schools can’t ban Bible clubs but allow other kinds of extracurricular activities.) It’s probably just that no one has gone to the effort.

  • Luis

    You know, that is waste of money (the van). But that is hilarious anyway.