Their value lies in making people aware that there are people who don’t have religious beliefs. These people are human, deserving of respect and rights. They are a normal part of a healthy pluralist society. And their existence and rights are often ignored. We saw this with the NZ Statement on Religious diversity.
The adverts also represent a component of that open discussion in the public square that some religious people claim to support. Provided that discussion is respectful and open this can only be a good thing.
Joining the discussion
So, many supporters of the atheist bus adverts have welcome the decision of Christian groups to join the discussion with their own adverts.
But you have to wonder about the reaction of some Christian groups to the Des Moines, Iowa, bus ads (see Churches sponsor signs opposing atheist outreach). Initial plans for the “atheist” ads were put on hold in August when the bus company withdrew the ads because of complaints from Christians. Then a driver for the company refused to drive buses with the ads and was suspended. This provoked a Christian demonstration against the company.
However, the adverts finally went ahead and the protesting Christians decided that the best way of protesting was to place their own ads. That seemed to be a sensible reaction, at last. Joining the discussion instead of trying top stop it.
But what are they choosing for their advert? How do they respond to the freethinkers slogan “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”
A quote from the bible – “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.'”
By the way – there is a group organising atheist bus adverts in New Zealand. I am looking forward to these – and the reaction. Surely NZ Christians are more sensible than those in Des Moines, Iowa.