Deny the Atheist Bus Ads, Says Christian

When you write a letter-to-the-editor, it helps to know what you’re talking about.

Robin Smith, a resident of Bloomington, IN, is a Christian who doesn’t like the notion that an atheist bus ad may have been seen in her town. (Bloomington Transit rejected the ad which stated “You Can Be Good Without God.”)

I agree with Bloomington Transit’s decision to not display the message, “You Can Be Good Without God.” Even though I strongly disagree with the statement, I feel that advertising this one slogan only gives one point of view. If Bloomington Transit gives in to this message, then by all fairness, they should post messages with the opposing view such as “Jesus Saves.”

This has nothing to do with point of view. It’s an all or nothing issue. If ads about religion are allowed (including the atheist one), then they all must be allowed. It no ads about religion are allowed, fine. I get that. The problem arises when religious ads are allowed, but the atheist ad is not.

If the transit system accepted all ads, then Christians would have a right to that, too. And like the atheists, they’d have to pay for it. Just because you see one point of view doesn’t mean the other side must be shown automatically.

Another problem: Robin’s suggestion for the “opposing” point of view is “Jesus Saves” — as if that and atheism are the only two points on the spectrum. Obviously, there are plenty of other options.

And Robin disagrees with the statement? That means she believe you can’t be good without a god. Really? Not a single atheist is good?

I dare her to go to a meeting of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University and explain to all the members why they are not good people. I’m sure they’d love to hear what she has to say.

In addition, Indiana has license plates which read “In God We Trust.” By Robin’s logic, atheists should automatically be able to get license plates of their own. Hell, by her logic, we ought to see both sides of the issue on the same place. Maybe we can insert the word “DON’T” between “We” and “Trust.”

What a poorly written letter.

  • Andrew

    God Don’t Trust?

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com arkonbey

    Grammar Police:

    Maybe we can insert the word “DON’T” between “God” and “Trust.”

    Did you mean:

    Maybe we can insert the word “DON’T” between “We” and “Trust.”

    Sorry. Can’t help myslef ;)

  • SarahH

    We’ve heard the argument on the forums here before that you can’t be good without God, and that the “good” that non-believers do is actually tied to God’s presence in the world.

    So he gets credit for it, whether we believe in him or not. 0_o

  • Luther

    How about:

    In some god(s) some of us trust some of the time.

    Or:

    You can be good without god, and possibly even if you believe in god.

    (I would have said “possibly even with god” but that would assume there were a god or gods.)

  • Reginald Selkirk

    If ads about religion are allowed (including the atheist one), then they all must be allowed.

    Are they? In all the articles and opinion pieces about the Indiana bus ads, I have yet to see this clearly addressed.

  • Sackbut

    We’ve heard the argument on the forums here before that you can’t be good without God, and that the “good” that non-believers do is actually tied to God’s presence in the world.

    In fairness, yes, I think that’s the point, not that atheists can’t be good. I think the ad should be interpreted as saying you can be good without believing in God, but that’s not what it says. For a believer, it might be similar to a sign that says you can fall to the ground without gravity.

    Such a viewpoint, though, ignores the meaning of the sentiment “you can’t be good without God,” which is supposed to be parodied in the atheist message. I’d interpret that message to mean belief in God is necessary for truly doing good, a point that is aptly disputed by the atheist message.

    Where I think the letter writer misses the mark is primarily this bit:

    If Bloomington Transit gives in to this message, then by all fairness, they should post messages with the opposing view such as “Jesus Saves.”

    First of all, Transit would not be posting the atheist message. Transit would be allowing an atheist organization to post the atheist message. Just like Transit is not messages extolling the virtues of some school, but is rather allowing the school administrators to post such a message (an advertisement) regarding the school.

    Second of all, I have little doubt that Transit has allowed advertisements with religious messages to be posted. There is no reason Transit would need to seek out such advertisements just because the atheist organization’s ads are displayed. If some religious organization wishes to display ads, they can submit them. In the school advertisement example, Transit has no obligation to seek out opposing opinions about the school; same thing here.

  • TXatheist

    Hemant, you have to understand the logic xianity teaches sometimes. We all fall short of the glory of god and are sinners. She’s not putting herself above us but thinks all humans are not good. I could be wrong on this but I’m pretty sure that is her reasoning.

  • Dustin

    A Pepsi ad next to every Coke ad!

  • http://www.whoaskedmike.com Mike Ryan

    Why exactly do atheists feel the need to advertise their point of view anyway? The entire concept of God is absurd, but if believing in fairy tales gives solace to weak minds then who am I to try and take that from them? I have been an open atheist since I was 7 (41 now). I have never understood atheists who are constantly on the attack against believers. It seems almost as though some have elevated atheism to the status of a religion.

  • Matthew

    For the truly ignorant creotard, it is true to say that THEY cannot be good without their sky fairy watching over them. They honestly can’t believe how anyone can not do bad things without the thought police hanging around watching every neuron and every action.

    Because they lack imagination and are unable to appreciate how everyone’s experience of the world differs from theirs, they automatically transfer their weakness of mind onto everyone else.

    I suppose we should be thankful that they believe so strongly, otherwise they’d all be out there stealing, stabbing and raping children?

  • Eliza

    The comments at the site Hemant linked, where the letter is posted, are interesting.

    The rest of her letter helps gives some back story as to why she’s SO very offended by the ad-which-hasn’t-even-run:

    Many times in our attempts to be “politically correct,” we stamp out the very rights of people who are Christians and silence their voices. This is truly the injustice.

    Running a humanist/atheist bus ad = stamping out Christians’ rights & silencing their voices??? Get a life!

  • Eliza

    Here are some other suggestions for “opposing” views:

    We can be good without god.

    Don’t worry, there’s hope! You can be good, even if you’re religious. ;-)

    You can be good if you’re Jewish, Buddhist, Jain, Hindu, Bahai, Moslem, Christian, or have any other beliefs.

    Jesus says, you can be good without god. Matthew 25. (Hmm, except that one might cause Robin to pop a gasket.)

  • littlejohn

    My experience with many xians is that one literally cannot be good without god. Being good, to them, has nothing to do with behavior. Being good is simply a matter of believing in god. Their argument is nonsense, of course, but it is internally consistent.
    I wonder how they’d react to a pro-Zeus ad.

  • http://rubyleigh.blogspot.com Ruby Leigh

    I believe the “Christian Arguement” would go something along the lines of Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God”… which suggests that no one is “good” without God. The core of Christian belief is that we are all naturally “human” and therefore incapable and need a God to do better or be “good”.

    SO the crux of the disagreement is different definitions for “good”.

    Back in my fundamentalist days I think I told my entire German classroom they were “evil” (I’ve mellowed out). Needless to say, I didn’t actually think they were diabolical in nature, I saw everyone that was human this way – including myself.

    All this to say – whether or not Robin (or anyone for that matter) is in agreement with the statement or not is immaterial to whether or not it should be displayed. Personally, I like potency of the statement.

  • http://rubyleigh.blogspot.com Ruby Leigh

    Jesus says, you can be good without god. Matthew 25.

    Eliza – Can you be more specific?

  • Matto the Hun

    Well Robin Smith is nothing more than a stupid cow. Really if the bus has an ad that says one thing it is obligated to have an ad that shows an opposing point of view?

    So if they run a coke ad does this mean that they have to run an ad for pepsi? What if pepsi is not interested in running a bus ad. Is the transit authority obligated to run it for free just to make certain the opposing view is out there?

    What if there was an add telling kids to say no to drugs. Must there be another ad telling them to do meth till their teeth fall out?

    How about an ad telling kids to abstain from sex? I guess there would be an obligation to run an ad telling kids to go nuts and have wild orgies.

    The real problem rotten people like Ms. Smith have is they have their religious view point ingrained in our culture with no challenged. She’s a damn lying hypocrite. Now that there are atheist bus ads people like her are forced to contend with the reality that some folks have an opposing point of view and they do not like it. They have been very comfortable having things their way and only their way for a long time. This is evidence that they have no interest in honest discourse.

    Like Eliza mentions above. When some one else has an opposing view they scream persecution… while they go about the business of persecuting anyone opposed to their screwed up world view.

    Ms. Smith and her lot can take a long walk off a short pier.

  • Matthew

    Like Eliza mentions above. When some one else has an opposing view they scream persecution… while they go about the business of persecuting anyone opposed to their screwed up world view.

    This is especially true among christians. Even though they are in the massive majority in the US, they will take any opportunity to be like their zombie leader and scream persecution. Like my dead grandmother that has fond memories of the war when “everyone was nicer to each other and pulled together”, I firmly believe that most christians would be happier in the minority. It fulfills their need to be “persecuted”, and allows them to identify better with the aforementioned zombie.

  • Matto the Hun

    Jesus says, you can be good without god. Matthew 25. (Hmm, except that one might cause Robin to pop a gasket.)

    Anything that makes the Robins of the world pop a gasket is well worth it ;)

  • http://shoktheagnostic.blogspot.com Schoch

    yeah my favorite bus ads have nothing to do with religion … i prefer the ones that just show a beach scene and a bottle of corona … now that is a worthy bus ad to me

  • Alan E.

    There have been a lot of Islam bus ads here in San Francisco. One of their slogans is “Full submission to God.”

  • http://andrea-thenerd.xanga.com The Nerd

    Before I moved to St. Louis a few months ago, I lived in Indiana. I was offended that they only give “God” as an option, not “Allah” or any of the other numerous deities, on the license plates. But then the thought struck me that the regular Indiana plate was in fact godless. Now whenever I see a regular plate, I am delighted to know that person was offered God and declined.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Maybe we can insert the word “DON’T” between “We” and “Trust.”

    Yep! You’re all right. Not sure how I made that mistake :)

    It’s fixed.

  • Epistaxis

    And like the atheists, they’d have to pay for it.

    But then they’d have to give their money to the godless socialist institution of public transit. Obviously it makes more sense their way: atheists should have to pay, Christians are entitled to a freebie, and no one else needs to be considered.

  • Matto the Hun

    @ The Nerd

    Now whenever I see a regular plate, I am delighted to know that person was offered God and declined.

    That’s a really cool perspective :D

  • Justin jm

    Obviously it makes more sense their way: atheists should have to pay, Christians are entitled to a freebie, and no one else needs to be considered.

    I noted that Smith said nothing about payment for the Christian response ad.

    Also, at the end of Smith’s piece, she says that atheists can have ads, but not on public transport, thus contradicting what she’d been saying.

  • http://www.shadowcircus.com Dave Haaz-Baroque

    Why exactly do atheists feel the need to advertise their point of view anyway? …I have never understood atheists who are constantly on the attack against believers.

    Good question, albeit one that’s been addressed in a number of other places in the past.

    A few points to make on this: the statement ‘You can be good without God’ isn’t in any way an attack on believers. There’s absolutely nothing offensive, combative or rude in that statement whatsoever, despite the wailing and gnashing by people like Robin Smith.

    Now, as two why non-believers need to advertise their point of view to begin with… I can thing of some good reasons.

    I can’t speak for other countries, but in America there is a definite stigma in how people in our nation view non-believers. Non-believers are assumed to be less moral, to be nihilistic and un-American and a million other nightmarish adjectives that you can think of.

    Because of this it’s important for people to be able to speak up and identify as non-believers. People are far less likely to demonize a fringe population if they know somebody who’s a part of it. People need to know that non-believers don’t just consist of Richard Dawkins, or even a bunch of people sitting around in atheist forums grumbling about religion.

    People need to know that non-believers include their children, their neighbors, the nice guy in your office that wrote you a get-well card when you broke your ankle, the lady who heads the latch key program in their neighborhood; people need to know that non-believers are just like them, and want many of the same basic things out of life.

    Things like the atheist bus ads really do help with this sort of thing. No, they won’t convert believers into non-believers, but I don’t think that’s actually the point. I think that the point is that it may help non-believers to know that they aren’t alone in their non-belief, and that it’s okay that they look at religion a little bit differently than those around them.

    Is it preaching to the choir? Absolutely. But sometimes the choir needs a bit of encouragement, too.

    (Forgive me for using church imagery, but the metaphor applies.)

  • stephanie

    Isn’t the opposing point of view “You can be good with God”?
    I dunno if I believe that sentiment but I’d be fine seeing it on the side of a bus…

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    I live in Indiana, and I have the regular, secular, godless plate. So there.

  • T. Mackiewicz

    Or in the words of F’n Slayer how about getting us some license plates that say “In God We Mistrust”?

  • matt

    wow what a post lol

    only one quick comment

    promotion of atheism or religion in any form never works, well unless you also fall for some of the crazy commercials seen on tv or the tv evangelists

  • http://www.myspace.com/staticmartyr Tim D.

    If Bloomington Transit gives in to this message, then by all fairness, they should post messages with the opposing view such as “Jesus Saves.”

    Hmm….that sounds familiar….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine

    Yeah, that was it! That bill that all the Christians are scared of. You know, the one that’s supposed to “quash the voices of Christian talk radio and conservative media efforts?”

    Yeah, that one.

  • Andrew C.

    Man, the IDS really sucks when everybody is away for the summer.

    I vow, that if I manage to get a column this fall, I will dedicate at least one column to atheism.

  • Eliza

    @Ruby Leigh: I was referring to Matthew 25:31-46, “the sheep and the goats”, in which the Jesus character foretells that those who have helped the needy & downtrodden will have eternal life (presumably a good thing, aka “heaven”), whereas “the righteous” who have not helped those in need will “go to eternal punishment” (presumably a bad thing, aka “hell”).

    It’s usually used as an argument for “works” as being important in Christianity (to get to heaven), since it clearly states that righteousness (= faith alone? good personal “morals”?) is not enough. In contrast to other parts of the New Testament, where faith alone is the key. Go figger.

    A reasonable reading of Matthew 25:31-46 finds the implication that those helping the needy were doing so without regard to god/belief/rewards. Though if you squint at a different angle as you read it, you could instead conclude that those helping the needy were doing so because they saw Jesus in the people they helped. (Somebody should teach god how to give a clear set of instructions.) ;-)

    But, really, to tick Robin off I bet all we’d need would be a one-liner somehow linking Jesus and “good” atheists – ! (Even if many atheists would object…sorry, guys.)

  • Jen

    I really enjoy the idea that anytime Coke puts up an ad, Pepsi is allowed to spray paint “Not true” underneath it.


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