By David Waters
The only redeeming thing about Fort Worth Transportation Authority’s decision to ban religious ads on city buses was the lead on Gordon Dickson’s story about it in the Star-Telegram.
“The end is near for religious advertisements on Fort Worth buses,” Dickson wrote, striking just the right tone.
Sometimes you have to wonder if the end is near for all of us. Children around the world are dying by the thousands from preventable disease, impoverishment and war and what are we obsessing over?
It all started in London two years ago, when the British Humanist Association paid to put this message on buses there: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
Christian groups responded with their own busboards: “There definitely is a God; so join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.”; “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”; and “There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life.”
Wasn’t this a Monty Python episode?
The frivolity moved across the pond to Washington. The American Humanist Association bought $40,000 worth of space on 200 Washington D.C. Metro buses for this ad: “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”
Not wanting to be left behind, the Center for Family Development, a Catholic-based nonprofit in Maryland, countered with a few ads with this message: “Why Believe? Because I created you and I love you, for goodness’ sake.”
Then things got ugly. Atheists, humanists and freethinkers launched similar offensives in Italy. Australia, Ireland, Spain and America, and were met with various levels of Christian resistance:
The Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) tried to buy bus ads in Genoa that read: “La cattiva notizia è che Dio non esiste. Quella buona è che non ne hai bisogno”. Translation: “The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that you don’t need him”.
Catholics objected and an Italian organization regulating the billboards responded with some bad news, rejecting the ad on grounds it may “offend the moral, civic and religious convictions of the public.”
The Detroit Coalition of Reason paid to put this ad on 12 city buses: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” Disbelieving believers, or maybe just pranksters, tore off the ‘Don’t’ on three signs. Atheist bus ads and billboards also have been vandalized in Tampa, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Iowa.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason bought bus ads that read: “Millions of people are Good without God.”
A religious group hired a billboard truck to drive behind those buses with these messages: “I still love you — God” and “2.1 Billion People are Good With God.”
Then, someone bought a religious ad to appear on the city buses. The atheist message was on the side panel; the religious message was on a rear panel. It read: “What is there really is a God?”
If there really is a God, let’s hope he has a great sense of humor and infinite patience.
When it comes to expressions of religious dissent, bus ads are preferable to bullets or bombs. But do believers or nonbelievers really think that a slogan on the side of a bus would persuade anyone to believe or not believe in God?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was on the side of a city bus.
The Fort Worth transit board wisely decided to end the war of words by banning religious ads on buses.
Thank God or goodness, the ban won’t prohibit Texas Christian University from buying bus ads for its undefeated football team.
In Texas, everyone believes in football.