Thursday, January 29, 2009

Atheist ads it's about time...

You may have been hearing about the recent approval granted to the Toronto based Freethought Association of Canada to run ads on the Toronto transit system. These ads will say:
"There is probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life." These ads originated in Britain and so far the only out-cry received was a Christian bus driver who refused to drive his bus. Other European nations have had some criticism from various religious leaders, but overall the reaction has been small.
Here at home, Charles McVety the president of the Canada Christian College and the Canada Family Action Coalition put in his two cents in an interview, as reported by the Globe and Mail. Mr. McVety called the ads "attack ads" saying he was all for free speech "on the surface". Now I could not find anymore context for the interview and so I can only take these short sentences as Mr. McVety's opinion. I did look at the Canada Family Action Coalition's website and read their "Primary Principals" and found several statements to "attack" several of my values.
What I'd like to discuss though is the idea that doubt or questioning the existence of God, should not be regarded as a threat to one who does believe in God.
First of all, I can not see how this statement attacks anything or anyone. It does not say: "Christians are silly" or "God is a fairy tale" or "You are stupid if you believe in God." All it does is put out there for anyone who would like to ponder the question or who may have thought it in moments of doubt and was to ashamed or embarrassed to speak it out, that what they are questioning may be true. Realistically some people struggle with this question often, some think they have decided that they do not believe only to realize that when they actually pose the question out loud to themselves they aren't sure they know the answer and others never give it a passing thought. I remember my transition on this question vividly. I asked the question out loud and came to the realization that I did not believe in God. I believe in a universal spark, the essence of a life force, but I don't believe in God in any of the interpretations that religions offer. This was a pivotal moment in my spiritual path for many reasons but the most important one was that I ceased to look outside of myself for answers.
So this leads one to ask: What threatens Mr. McVety about this question?
Does he fear that those who follow Christian values and ideas blindly will in turn begin to think? I for one would see this as a bonus to his faith. Wouldn't a religious leader want followers that were sure. Wouldn't he want Christians to deal with their doubts and come through that with a renewed faith in God? Of course if one questions one may, as I did, decide that they in fact do not believe...but how does that threaten him if his beliefs are strong?
Unfortunately this brings one to the conclusion that Mr. McVety's beliefs are not only for himself, but for everyone. Which makes his statement about being "all for free speech on the surface" all the more disturbing. Because one has to conclude that he means that free speech is fine for his ideas but not for those of others.
The film Doubt makes some wonderful points about this idea. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a Catholic priest in the 1960's who gives a Sunday sermon about spiritual doubt. The point he makes is that one should not fear that doubt will lead one away from God, but have faith that you will find that he is with you in spite of it.
I know you may be saying, but aren't you the atheist pagan? And yes, I am. But in the interest of being non-judgemental and not to mention that I am not insecure in my own truths, I really want to encourage freedom of speech and I want to encourage organizations like the Freethought Association of Canada to continue to ask these questions. Far too many people secular or religious do not question their values and beliefs or their religious leader's values and beliefs. We all have a mind of our own for a reason. Just as one should not blindly spend in this consumer culture, one should not blindly follow a religion or spiritual path, just because so and so does, or that's what you were told to do. I would also like to point out that there are lots of Christian messages on billboards and signs, people handing out fliers at subway stations and trying to spread the word. It's about time that some other ideas were put out there for all to see and ponder. That is the beauty of this society and we should all be thankful to have it.

1 comment:

Celestite said...

Many religions are about followers and leaders and faith and blind obedience. Questioning, discussing and the worst heresy...accepting that someone else might be entitled to a different opinion is not to be tolerated.
There seems to be some sort of rule that in order to prove what you believe, you must prove that everyone else is wrong. Which is of course impossible.
This stuff makes my teeth hurt. I know what I believe, I can have an interesting discussion about the differences in what you believe and what I believe, but at the end of the day I don't really give a rat's ass about anybody else's opinion about what I believe.
I think that makes me unacceptable in some quarters. Fortunately.