13-Year-Old Canadian Offended by Atheist Bus Ads

There are atheist bus ads currently running in Ottawa, Canada stating: “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Writing a letter in the Ottawa Citizen, 13-year-old Mallory Skinner can’t understand why anyone would want to publicly say such things:

Atheists don’t believe in any sort of God, and don’t follow any religion. I don’t have a problem with atheists, though I am Protestant, and I do believe God exists in some shape or form. I believe these people are entitled to have their own opinions.

But placing advertisements on OC Transpo buses, trying to convince others of the non-existence of God — that is a whole other issue.

The majority of the people in the world belong to a religion of some sort, and many, like myself, would be greatly offended by ads like this one. What would be the purpose of displaying ads on the public transit system? Are atheists so insecure as to try and gain approval from others, just to assure themselves that what they say is true?

I would greatly prefer if atheists, like any other belief system, would keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves, and leave the buses free for advertisements that would not offend so many people.

First of all, how awesome is it to see a young girl voicing her opinion in a newspaper? Good for her.

Secondly, Mallory has obviously never seen what her Christian churches do on a regular basis — TV shows, mission trips, street preachers, etc — you want to talk about publicly getting your message out there?

We atheists are finally finding our voice and letting it be heard in a variety of ways. More power to us. But it’s all in response to having religion shoved in our faces damn near everywhere we go.

Stan Blakey thinks Mallory is right on. He’s the sole member of the “Canadian Obsequious Deference Society” (CODS):

CODS believe we all should limit public expression of differing opinions on all subjects, not just religion. Political advertising is clearly as insulting, if not more so. The implication that they are wrong about their political views is not something Canadians should have to suffer.

All advertising and opinion should only be available on secure websites with age verification to protect the most vulnerable Canadians from any feelings of insecurity about their ability to form a sound opinion. Mallory, the CODS are with you.

I think the sarcasm may go over her head, but I’m amused nonetheless :)

(Thanks to Marla for the link!)

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Why do people think they have a right to never be offended? I am offended by religious tripe all the time. Should I be complaining and suing people?

  • http://yrif.org Joel

    Any satire that includes a sentence “this is satire” counts as automatic fail for me. (Which is too bad, because it could have been a good letter if he’d left that paragraph out.)

  • dfledermaus

    I think there’s something fishy about CODS…
    ;^)

    Of course, Mallory probably has seen what her Christian churches do on a regular basis, Hemant. It’s just human not to notice any parallels between something you are comfortable with and something you aren’t. That’s important to remember -especially if we want to regard ourselves as critical thinkers.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    I’ve got to give the kid a bit of a pass because she is 13. That she would write to a paper to voice her opinions is a point in her favor for being more aware of the world outside pop culture than your average 13 year old. I hope that awareness leads her to realize that some Christians are far more pushy with their beliefs than a simple bus ad and gets her thinking. It can be a bit of a shock to finally see that something you believe in acts in a way you find offensive in others.

  • Richard

    Does ‘offended’ actually mean anything here?

    “I’m offended” seems like code for “I want you to stop talking about this!” much more than “This is insulting!”

  • Brian C Posey

    I just can’t help but quote Stephen Fry on people being offended:

    Well, so fucking what?

    Listen to the clip here. It’s hilarious.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    She’s not offended in the slightest, really, is she? It’s all a pretense. There have been many church adverts on the busses for all the years I’ve been in Ottawa. Double-standards? I guess that makes her a 13yr old bigot. Nice.

  • Ashleigh

    That letter is incredibly well written for a 13 year old!

    However, that being said, even if she’s not away of public church campaigns, surely she’s had someone come to her door selling religion. THAT is way more offensive if you ask me.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I would greatly prefer if atheists, like any other belief system, would keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves, and leave the buses free for advertisements that would not offend so many people.

    Which planet does she live on?

  • Stephan Goodwin

    I would greatly prefer if atheists, like any other belief system, would keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves, and leave the buses free for advertisements that would not offend so many people.

    How cool would it be if this were true?

  • Aj

    Yep, that’s a little bigot. She has no problem with us having opinions, it’s just expressing them that’s the problem. She suggests that it’s not that theism can lead to rather dodgy ideas and action, it’s about our vanity that we care whether people have imaginary friends or not. Basically what these “offended” groups all seem to want is the supression of any voice that they disagree with.

    What she’s saying about “belief systems keeping their thoughts and opinions to themselves” is rubbish. She’s talking about nationalism, Christians can still make Christian children. Parents are guardians not dictators. Bad ideas shouldn’t be protected, going from one generation to the next without challenge.

    Promotion of atheist shouldn’t be a response to promotion of theism. Sure, some forms of promotion are invasive or coercive, and I’d outlaw some of them. I don’t care whether religion is shoved down throats or not, reason and skepticism should be promoted in the market place of ideas regardless of what they do until humanity enters a post-theist phase.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com Transplanted Lawyer

    She’s a kid. Give her credit for being able to write a coherent letter, and for having the maturity to concede that atheists are entitled to their beliefs.

    Given that she has enough brainpower to do that at thirteen, in time, she’ll realize that what she’s saying is “free speech for me but not for thee,” and the error of that sentiment. She’s already light-years ahead of Carrie Prejean.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The majority of the people in the world belong to a religion of some sort, and many, like myself, would be greatly offended by ads like this one.

    Why would this offend you? Does your 13 year old brain blow a fuse to realize that there are people in the world who don’t think exactly like you? Do you throw a tantrum when you see an ad for the competitor of your favorite brand of soda?

  • Larry Huffman

    You know…when someone claims to be offended by what someone else says…especially if the statement is true or has evidence behind it…it is ok for us to look the person in the eye and say “So what?” or “I don’t care.”

    And…is it really that good that a 13 year old is getting active like this? She is just parroting her pastor or parents. She is acting on her indoctrination. So actually, it is sad that someone so young is so fully in the camp of the ignorant that she would know to feign offense at something like this.

    And…this is not any kind of amazing letter for a 13 year old to write. Not at all. The only thing remarkable is that she is using the skill to express the ignorance given her by her parents.

    If she actually did write it. That is not below the religious either.

  • Shane

    Do you know what I find offensive?
    Annoying brainwashed children.

  • M

    I have to agree with her that religious groups tend to keep their opinions pretty much to themselves and don’t go much out of their way to proselytize in these parts… At least, that’s my experience too, having lived in two major Canadian cities. So I can see where she’s coming from with this “respect the truce” argument, even if I don’t agree with it.

  • Miko

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, but why exactly do we assume that a 13-year-old trying to make a medical decision for himself is brainwashed by his parents, but that a 13-year-old writing a letter to the editor concerning atheism is expressing her own opinion?

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Maybe she should have followed her own advice and kept her religious opinions to herself?

  • http://jewmanist.com Rose

    I do commend her for being so well-written, miles ahead of most 13 year-olds.
    Noadi Says:

    I hope that awareness leads her to realize that some Christians are far more pushy with their beliefs than a simple bus ad and gets her thinking.

    I hope so, too. She does seem to be not far off from the right path. She’s young and impressionable, but it is possible that she will understand her hypocritical statement in due time. FSM knows, I said some really dumb things at 13, too.

  • anonymouse

    If only religious people WOULD keep their opinions to themselves as stated as fact in that letter. Unfortunately, even our car washes here talk about how I’m going to hell on their marquee.

    Good for her for writing the letter, though.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Wow, some of the responses here sure make atheists look petty and small-minded. Yes, there’s a thirteen year old girl somewhere who believes something incorrect. I’m glad our collective brainpower is strong enough to demolish the arguments of this little girl and her outrageously evil letter to the editor. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to turn our attention to even more formidable and dangerous threats to our freedom, such as beauty pageant contestants.

  • http://maxhavok.blogspot.com Jason

    Next I’ll be reading articles submitted by 5 year olds saying that the older kids on the sbus who have since stopped believing in Santa is “offensive”.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Are atheists so insecure as to try and gain approval from others, just to assure themselves that what they say is true?

    The ads neither seek approval from others or attempt to garner assurance for anybody. But it’s obvious whose insecurities are being tweaked.

  • http://www.firmfamilytree.com Marvin

    Totally honest and sincere question here — Isn’t atheism a “religion” placing human reason in the ultimate authoritative position?

  • Brooks

    Totally honest and sincere question here — Isn’t atheism a “religion” placing human reason in the ultimate authoritative position?

    Atheism is merely the disbelief in gods. It has nothing to do with whether or not the person who disbelieves is reasonable or not. And does anyone else find it condescending when someone says “I think people should have free speech, but they should say what I want them to instead”?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Totally honest and sincere question here — Isn’t atheism a “religion” placing human reason in the ultimate authoritative position?

    Totally honest and sincere answer: no. Atheism is lack of belief in god(s).

    Atheism is certainly compatible with the belief that the natural world in which we live, which we can perceive and measure, is all there is, and that there is no supernatural world at all. This would be called “Materialism” or “naturalism.”

    Atheism is certainly compatible with the elevation of human reason as the best way to live our lives and form our beliefs and values, which would probably best be called “rationalism.”

    Atheism is also compatible with the elevation of earthly human needs over fanciful religious notions that earthly well-being should be secondary to our disposition in an imagined afterlife, which would probably be termed “humanism.”

    Atheism is also compatible with elevation of pleasure-seeking as the most important thing in life. This would be called “hedonism.” (Note: pleasure-seeking does not have to be entirely selfish. Helping other people is actually enjoyable.)

    Atheism is also compatible with the believe that ultimately, nothing we do matters because there is no afterlife to sit around and gloat about it all. This might be a form of “nihilism.”

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Vic

    “I believe these people are entitled to have their own opinions…I would greatly prefer if atheists, like any other belief system, would keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves…”

    It sounds like she’s well on the road to bigotry. Won’t be long now. You can have your opinion, just shut up and get to the back of the bus. There is nothing that anyone can say that is guaranteed not to offend another person. The best anyone can do is try not to be a whole sale jerk. But, if religious groups can advertise (and they do) than non-religious groups can advertise (we’re starting to).

    They “any other belief system” statement might signify that she is for the cessation of all religious advertising as well, but she is calling out atheists in specific, so it is hardly an unbiased letter.

  • http://www.the-mariner.net PilotMal

    Not only do I feel like a moron for sharing the same first name as this kid, but also sharing the same country of residence.

    That was blunt. But meh. I’m sick of people getting annoyed when Atheists take the same approach to things as hardcore-religious groups do.


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