A Few Pictures from Ottawa and Calgary

Posted by Chris on April 12th, 2009

All 24 of our Ottawa ads have been posted and are now running around on the sides of OC Transpo buses. Here are a few photos that have been submitted.
DSC_2985 DSC_2981 ynot abusback DSC_7528 DSC_7525 DSC_7524 DSC_7520 DSC_7535 DSC_7518 IMG_4684 IMG_4685 IMG_4686 IMG_4687 IMG_4688 IMG_4689 IMG_4690 IMG_4691 IMG_4692 IMG_4693 HAO Atheist Bus Cake OC Transpo - Ottawa OC Transpo - Ottawa OC Transpo - Ottawa

And below are a few more images that were sent to us from Calgary.
Atheist Bus - Calgary Atheist Bus - Calgary

Right now we’re lacking images of both Calgary and Ottawa ads. If you happen to snap a photo of our ad and feel like sharing them, please email them to photos {at} atheistbus.ca. Thanks!

Jesus, A Brief Look at the Evidence.

Posted by Chris on April 11th, 2009

There may be some evidence claiming a Jesus existed and if he actually did exist, he most definitely isn’t the one that you’re probably thinking about. So let us go over the sources for the life of Jesus and see what we can come up with.

We will start with the Roman’s. They were meticulous for keeping records and in fact there are hundreds of surviving documents from the 1st century. Documents from historians, philosophers, religious thinkers, public officials, poets, and even private persons have been discovered all from the 1st century. How many of these sources made reference to Jesus? Zero. There were no birth records, no correspondences, no literary discussions, no personal reflections, nothing at all that mentioned a Jesus in any way at any time… you’d think there would be something, especially after the way Mel Gibson portrays Jesus in “Passion of the Christ”.

Finally at 112 C.E. Pliny the Younger, a Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus made mention of Jesus. He was concerned about the prosecution of Christians and mentioned that they were in a range of social classes and that they worshiped Jesus as a god, there was no reference to the life and teachings of him  or anything else.

The second, from a Roman historian named Suetonius who only mentions “Chrestus” aka “good one” once and this was a few years after Pliny. He made mention of riots among Jews in Rome during the reign of Claudius from 41-54 C.E.

The Third Roman reference was by Tacitus at 115 C.E. He mentions that emperor Nero blamed the Christians for fires he started and that he was executed by Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius but does not mention how Jesus lived, his teachings, etc.

There are no roman sources within the first 100 years after the supposed life and death of Jesus and finally the records that do show up are 79+ years after when some believe Jesus died. What evidence is there that he is anything like the Christians and other religions believe he is?

Based on Christian sources outside of the New Testament gospels, the apostle Paul mentions eight things about Jesus, the earliest letter is from 50 C.E. What Paul has said was that he was a Jew and born of a woman (Gal 4:4), that he ministered among Jews (Rom 15:7), had brothers (1Cor 9:5), last supper (1 Cor 11:23-25), possible betrayal (1 Cor 11:23 “handed over”), was crucified (1 Cor 2:2), and also had 12 disciples (1Cor 15:5). On top of that Paul hardly provides any information about Jesus teachings and in fact only mentions three things Jesus said. What Paul mentioned were the words of the last supper, that Jesus was against divorce, and a cryptic message that might mean people should pay their preacher. The rest is left to interpretation.

There are the New Testament non-Pauline letters of the four gospels but they cannot be used literally and they do not provide historians with an accurate synopsis of the life of Jesus. The New Testament gospels were written 35-75 years after Jesus and were not written by Jesus earliest followers. All four gospels are anonymous as well… meaning that no body actually knows who wrote them, also meaning that a Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John weren’t actually written by a Mathew, Mark, Luke, or John despite what most common-day church goers probably believe.  The four gospels are also inconsistent with each other and it is agreed among scholars that perspectives of each book have been affected and influenced by the writers own bias. Since written there have also been some additions added to the books that were not by the original authors.

The book of Mathew was most likely written between 85-95 C.E, contains a unique birth narriative, adds to Mark’s passion narrative, and portrays Jesus as the new Moses. Mark was written between 70-75 C.E. and doesn’t contain any birth narrative nor any resurrection stories, he is portrayed in full human nature (has human emotions such as fear, anger, etc). Luke was approximately written around 85-95C.E. with a unique birth narrative, Jesus is portrayed as showing little or no emotions (remember book of Mark says he is more emotional), does not suffer during ‘the passion’. The gospel according to John was written aprox. 90-120 C.E., Jesus is portrayed as being in complete control, gives long speeches throughout (how could anyone remember the exact words ppl said so long after?) and the book of John also adds unique material that none of the other gospels share.

These sources provide almost no historical information about Jesus because the authors have interpreted Jesus’ life rather than reported it. There are also contradictions which make it very hard to determine anything conclusive when evidence is not in agreement. Contradictions include Mark claiming Jesus attempted to keep his identity a secret but John mentions Jesus making his identity very public, Mark says Jesus told parables so people would not understand while Matthew says it was so they would understand, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Jesus empty the Temple at the end of his ministry while John has him do so to begin his ministry.

There is virtually no actual evidence of miracles, dying and rising again, and all of the fairy tale superstition that many Christians and other religious folk believe. There is only theological interpretation and that cannot be used to reconstruct a biography of Jesus.

There is also alleged events that are shared between Jesus and another Egyptian mythological character named Horus. Such events include same ages of baptism, same fate of baptizers, same activities such as walking on water, cast out demons, healed sick, also died and resurrected. For a full range of comparisons click here.

Last year there was also an ancient tablet discovered that further adds fuel to fire the debate that the Jesus story was actually Jewish tradition. The tablet discovered speaks of a messiah called Simon who will rise from the dead after three days. Full story here.

So in sum, was there a Jesus? Maybe. Was he anything like modern mainstream Christian religions presuppose him to be? Definitely not, and most scholars will agree to that.

Happy Easter everybody.

Sources:

- Bronner, Ethan. “The New York Times Log In.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 6 July 2008. 11 Apr. 2009 <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/world/middleeast/06stone.html?_r=2&oref=slogin>.

- Michael, Tony. “Life of Jesus.” Christianity in Context – Life of Jesus Lecture. York University, Toronto. 22 Sept. 2008.

-Robinson, B.A. “Jesus’ and Horus’ life events, etc.” ReligiousTolerance.org by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 25 Apr. 2004. 11 Apr. 2009 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5b.htm>.

- Weaver, Mary Jo, and David Brakke. Introduction to Christianity. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2008.

Creationist Conservative MP Laughed at by Scientists

Posted by Chris on April 7th, 2009

To date 2009 has proven to be a bitter-sweet year. It was and is to be a year of ‘change’ as proclaimed President Obama, the first black President of the United States. It is the International Year of Astronomy to celebrate 400 years of science since Galileo and also the 200th birthday of Darwin. This year is also supposed to be a year of reform, a year where we shed our old ways of faulty banking methods that have led to a global economic recession, invest our future in environmentally friendly and sustainable industries, and learn, grow, and reform from our mistakes in the past.

But without even touching the global economic troubles, some people around the world have managed to screw things up even more than they already are. The United Nations has further damaged freedom of speech and human rights by passing anti-blasphemy resolutions (this will surely cause/continue the numerous deaths and lifetime jail sentences within Islamic states for anyone speaking/acting against Islam as interpreted by the state), Afghanistan has legalized marital rape after Canadians, Americans, Britons, and other countries around the world have invested billions into restoring and creating a democratic and free Afghanistan and have taken on hundreds of casualties, a few weeks ago Gary Goodyear, MP and Minster of Science and Technology has shown Canada that he doesn’t understand evolution, doesn’t know how it works, is probably a creationist, and doesn’t even support science. And now ‘Dr.’ James Lunney, Conservative MP has embarrassed Canadians in defence of creationism.

Recently he addressed parliament and said:

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Jesus Rides a Raptor

Mr. Speaker, recently we saw an attempt to ridicule the presumed beliefs of a member of this House and the belief of millions of Canadians in a creator. Certain individuals in the media and the scientific community have exposed their own arrogance and intolerance of beliefs contrary to their own. Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science. For science establishes fact through the study of things observable and reproducible. Since origins can neither be reproduced nor observed, they remain the realm of hypothesis.

In science, it is perfectly acceptable to make assumptions when we do not have all the facts, but it is never acceptable to forget our assumptions. Given the modern evidence unavailable to Darwin, advanced models of plate techtonics, polonium radiohalos, polystratic fossils, I am prepared to believe that Darwin would be willing to re-examine his assumptions.

The evolutionists may disagree, but neither can produce Darwin as a witness to prove his point. The evolutionists may genuinely see his ancestor in a monkey, but many modern scientists interpret the same evidence in favour of creation and a creator.

If it wasn’t bad enough that Canada became the laughing stalk of the world after Prime Minister Harper missed the G20 photo shoot with world leaders, all saying he was in the washroom and missed it (this made world news headlines I might add), now the scientific world is laughing at us. PZ Meyers, a biologist and associate Professor at University of Minnesota wrote on his blog “Of course, none of those other countries are entirely exempt from having dumbasses pontificating on science, so we can still occasionally take a cheap, desperate shot at some furrin’ loon.”

Larry Moran, Professor at the Department of Biochemistry at University of Toronto has responded by calling Lunney “a genuine kook” who has “made a fool of himself”. And rightfully so because clearly Lunney hasn’t a clue about evolution.

Thanks to PZ Meyers for posting resources to respond to some of Lunney’s errors about plate tectonics, polonium radiohalos, and polystratic fossils.

I’d like to add that even if Darwin rose from the grave and told us all that he no longer supported evolution and wanted to scrap his books, it wouldn’t matter because the overwhelming evidence that supports evolution continues to grow daily. Darwin’s idea gave way for future evolutionary research and understanding but had he not thought of it, we would have discovered evolutionary process without him.. he was merely the first one to hypothesize it. It’s no different then Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity, had he not ever lived then someone else eventually would have discovered it. So the creationist argument that we need Darwin is faulty.

I also want to add that we did not evolve from monkeys, monkeys and humans both share a common ancestor.

Finally, I prepared this little clip to show why creationism (called intelligent design in this clip) keeps failing. Please watch and enjoy. :) P.S. Lunney, political suicide?

More readings about this topic here:

Darwin would think again, Lunney tells House of Commons -- Canada.com
James Lunney v. Evolution -- Macleans.com
Not so smug now, are you, Canada? -- Scienceblogs.com
James Lunney: Creationist, Chiropractor, Conservative -- Sandwalk Blog
I’m a Believer -- Ottawa Citizen

—--

If you want to discuss evolution and creationism please take it to our forums at http://atheistbus.ca/forum. We have a special category just for evolution. Thanks.

God Heals Amputee, First Ever to be Recorded by Doctors

Posted by Chris on April 1st, 2009
let_the_earth_rejoice_bmug

Little Angie O'Plasty walks again for the first time in years after God heals her amputated legs.

April 1st: Well folks, it looks like we were wrong. There really is a God after all, or at least some ‘thing’ up there that heals and answers prayers. Young Angie O’Plasty was a documented amputee after a freak airplane accident that left her two legs less. Keyword being ‘was’ an amputee because yesterday morning she woke up to a very pleasant surprise, an itchy toe. Angie had miraculously discovered she had two full legs again.

“The night before we held a prayer service at our church and we all laid hands on Angie, we asked that God would show mercy on our child and heal her to finally prove that he really is a merciful and loving God” said Angie’s mother.

Young Angie lost her legs back in 2004 after a very bizarre incident that took place aboard a Boeing 747 heading from New York to Calgary. “She went to the on-board washroom during the flight and saw a bug crawling across the floor. Out of fright Angie jumped onto the toilet seat… and unfortunately slipped with both legs plunging into the toilet bowl. When she tried to pull her legs out, she couldn’t and by the time we landed it was too late, the circulation in both legs had been cut off for too long- both legs had to be amputated below her knee caps” explains Angie’s father.

Parody of campaign after recent miracle.

We’ve tried contacting the owner of whywontgodhealamputees.com to get his response but thus far have been unsuccessful. There have been unconfirmed sightings that the website owner has finally left his mothers basement and is spending the day in a synagogue.

We’ve also noticed YouTube parodies popping up that seem to mock our atheist bus campaign now that scientists have confirmed Ms. O’Plasty’s miraculous healing. A parody has been created based on the widely used “Der Untergang” movie which in the past has been used to parody other events such as the Grand Theft Auto 4 Release on PC. See video to the right for clip about our campaign.

It is not known what will be the next move of the bus campaign now that young Angie O’Plasty’s legs have been healed by God but we are exploring our options. It was proposed that we use the money to spread the news about this incident but no decisions have been made on what do with the remaining donations.

Little Angie wanted to send a message to all our website viewers and we agreed to pass it along, she said “Happy April 1st everybody… don’t be fooled!”

Campaign Update

Posted by Chris on March 29th, 2009
Dundas Square

Mock-up image of Atheist Bus Ad at Dundas Square - Toronto

Hey everyone, here is an update on where we’re at with the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign, what’s coming up, and some news about a Calgary counter advert campaign.

Ottawa Atheist Bus Ads:

We’ve signed a contract and our production artwork has been submitted, the ads are scheduled to be posted on April 6th. There will be 24 King Size bus ads (the big ones on the sides of buses).

Next Step in Advertising:

We have a little bit of money left to advertise with, those who have any suggestions on the best way to spend it please post in the comments. I personally would like to either advertise quotes on the interiors of buses and subways or put a poster up on Dundas Square as seen in the mock-up picture I created to the right. Dundas Square has always seen religious groups advertising through word-of-mouth and fliers and just yesterday I saw a group attempting to convert passerby’ers to Islam. Maybe it’s time to spread a little bit of atheist love.

I also wanted to propose an idea similar to that of which the bus stop bible studies is already doing. During the CFI Ontario Annual General Meeting I proposed that we should be advertising educational quotes sponsored by donors. We would have a list of proposed quotes to advertise and donors would send us money for the advertisement and we’d handle the production and posting. We would also give the donor a choice to have his or her name listed on the advertisement as the sponsor. If you want to share your suggestions about this idea, please comment below.

Allah vs. God, What’s the Difference?

noallah

Allah by definition means God.

I’ve received at least a dozen emails asking why we are apparently picking on Christians with our advertisement (we aren’t picking on Christians btw), they would like us to advertise a message that opposes the Muslim and Islamic religion. So to anyone reading this and wondering why we don’t say ‘Allah’, here is the answer. Allah means God. Taken from godallah.com, “The word “Allah” is the perfect description of the “One God” of monotheism for Jews, Christians and Muslims“. From dictionary.com, “–noun Islam. the Supreme Being; God“. When we mention ‘God’ we are referring to all monotheistic and polytheistic gods of every religion. That’s probably why Imam Syed B. Soharwardy, a Muslim, has recently used $12,000 of credit with his own personal credit card to purchase and produce 8 advertisements for the sides of Calgary’s city transit buses.

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God Exists ads that began in Calgary on March 16th/09

Imam Syed Soharwardy Buys $12,000 of Ad Space With Personal Credit.

In Calgary a group titled “God Exists” has started advertising a message that says “God cares for everyone…. even those who say he doesn’t exist”. The ads were paid for by Imam Soharwardy with his own personal credit card.

According to CBC, Soharwardy has said “The message they are saying is that believing in God creates worries, that it takes away joy from people’s life, which is wrong. It is not true,” and that “Believing in God brings strength, especially in this economic crisis when millions of people face losing their jobs.”

To add a little bit of my own commentary as a response, I would say that believing in god ‘takes strength’ rather than ‘brings strength’ because it is always harder to believe in something/someone that doesn’t exist. And rather than clasping our hands in prayer during this time of economic crisis, we should be lending eachother a helping hand and doing what we can to help our follow man/woman out.

Soharwardy has it wrong when he said that beliving in god doesn’t create worries. I’ll share with you a personal anecdote from my childhood when my friend and I went to see a church play. When I was 11 years old and at the time a Pentecostal Christian, the church I attended allowed a travelling Christian show to perform. The title of the performance was “Heaven’s Gates and Hells Flames”. The play was about various people of Christian faith and non believers- it showcased the last minutes of their lives. After each person died they appeared at the gates of heaven. Those who believed in the Christian God and Jesus were permitted to enter heaven and those who weren’t were dragged into hell after a group of demons and ‘Lucifer’ appeared. There was loud music, demonic voices, and sound effects used that were accompanied by lighting and fog machines to try and amplify the experience of hell. After my friend watched this, he told my family that he ‘gave his heart to Jesus twice’ just to be safe because he was so scared that he would go to hell. Looking back at this I feel great sadness for any child that is subjected to such mental torture and abuse. The fact is that religion does bring fear and worry into many peoples lives and so Sohwardy is wrong. I can’t imagine why anyone would want God to exist after reading the bible or the Qur’an (visit evilbible.com to see what I’m talking about).

Listen Up TV Viewers, Welcome

Posted by Chris on March 22nd, 2009

To all of you that learned of our campaign through Listen Up TV and decided to check out our website, welcome to the Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign! To everyone else that hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about, Listen Up TV is a television program exploring news and current affairs from a Christian worldview. Today they aired a show about us on Global TV that can also be viewed on their website.

There are a few things I wanted to address that Lorna Dueck (Listen Up TV Host) mentioned during the show but first please take note that their broadcast is fairly slanted towards a Christian perspective and doesn’t really give a fair and equal opportunity for both Atheist and Christian viewpoints. Justin and myself spent 15-20 minutes each in-front of a camera with ListenUp but unfortunately our parts were edited and cut to a small 2-3 minutes. The show in total lasted 23 minutes 25 seconds. Despite our parts being cut short, I am grateful that they gave us an opportunity to speak with them.

During Answering Atheism Lorna spoke with David Harrison and later Dave Schmelzer, both about their religious experiences and how they went from Atheist to Christian. The two discussions revolved around experience and reason. Experience is referenced as their encounter with prayer and crying out to or asking a supposed god for help and guidance. According to them, ‘god’ responded.  A website called god Is Imaginary lists 50 proofs that god is not real and the first proof is simply asking people to try praying, I encourage you to read through it for yourself and possibly test out the first proof. Try asking God why he never heals amputees and then take a look at whywontgodhealamputees.com. Dave S. and David H. both prayed and coincidentally had some sort of result that could be explained away without a divinity.

Response to LUT’s The Wrap which discusses ’3 Reasons/Tests to Believe in God’

Response to Listen Up TV's "The Wrap"

Response to Listen Up TV's "The Wrap"

First Test according to Lorna: “the test of reason – everything has to have a starting point, it’s the law of thermodynamics. All matter has a beginning, and if it began, it has to have a cause. Science and theology relate to that. The test of reason for belief in God is not afraid to explain origin, irreducible complexity, and cause

There are three laws of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics is that energy is never created or destroyed, it only changes form. For example: the energy used during the combustion phase of a four-stroke engine is not lost, it simply is changes form. A large portion of that energy is turned into heat, kinetic energy, and some turned into sound, but none of that energy is ever lost- it simply changes form. The second law simplified states: “It is impossible for a process to have as its sole result the transfer of heat from a cooler body to a hotter one”(About.com). The third law implies that it is impossible to cool down a system all the way to exactly absolute zero.
Apparently this is the test of reason to find God. It somehow implies a beginning and an end, doesn’t sound like it to me though.

But lets give Lorna a break, let’s suppose that everything has a beginning and an end, after all she is taking Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) five argument for the existence of God and compressing it into a dozen words. Aquinas basically argued that everything is the result of a cause before it, for example a billiard ball is moved by a cue, you move the cue, and there is a chain of movements before that leads up to that movement, or, every action is a reaction from an action before it. Aquinas believed that there was a first mover, something that originally set motion to the chain of events in our universe. He calls this first mover God. Unfortunately for Aquinas and other Christians that follow this school of thought, no one could ever prove how the first mover related to Christian theology or any theology. In other words, ‘so what’ if there was a first mover because there is nothing to imply that the first mover was the Christian god or a god of any other religion. For all we know the first mover could have been a bunch of fairies moving things, or the first mover could have moved the universe and then dropped dead. There is no evidence at all to support a first mover as the Christian god, and if there was a first movement, there’s no evidence to support it was any god of any type.

As for irreducible complexity.. that argument was debunked and disproved years ago. Michael J. Behe couldn’t ever get the scientific community to support his argument about the eye, flagellum, and mousetrap all being a complex system that would fail if one part was removed. In sum, Behe said that these complex systems would fail if a single part was removed, the removed part would render the systems useless and unable to have evolved from earlier simpler systems. His theory was largely debunked during the Kitzmiller v. Dover case when Intelligent Design was ruled out of Dover county school system.  Watch Dr. Kenneth Miller debunk irreducible complexity on YouTube here.

Second Test according to Lorna: “Test of experience, we know we experience an innate sense of right and wrong, a sense of universal moral law. Why is love the highest law of this moral code? Where does that experience originate from?

The answer is in the words evolution and empathy and I highly recommend you read this four page PDF on “The Evolution of Empathy” from Berkley University. In this document Frans B. M. de Waal shows us how our evolutionary history suggests a deep-rooted  propensity for feelings of emotions of others.

Third Test according to Lorna: “Take the test of practice. Is belief in God and what that requires, something a person can actually consistently live with? People do practice christian doctrines in error, that explains past religious wars [...] but when Christian truth is applied correctly, does it past the test of practice. Can you live with it, day in and day out. In a way that brings you joy, peace, and improves who you are?

Is practice of Christianity really what we want? Godisimaginary.com has created a great YouTube video titled “The Bible Is Repulsive“, it explains how according to the Bible we should be stoned and put to death if we work on the Sabbath day, that non-believing towns and inhabitants should be destroyed, and a few other shocking details about the bible that most Christians don’t know about simply because they haven’t read the bible all the way through. EvilBible.com is also a great resource to show all the horrible parts in the bible that are often overlooked. Belief in God is something we can consistently live without and there’s a popular saying that that “[...]good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things — that takes religion.” — Steven Weinberg Nobel Prize in Physics (thanks to Galen for the comment giving me the correct quote).

Campaigns Around the World

Posted by Chris on March 20th, 2009
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Anti-Atheist ad in America will no longer have free reign as American atheists start their own 'probably no god' campaign.

The Atheist Bus Campaign has been spreading like wildfire ever since it’s arrival in the United Kingdom. Below is a list of campaigns around the world for those interested in following their developments  (list borrowed from the UK Campaign):

  1. Bus humaniste (français) / Canada – the Association Humaniste de Québec is running ads on buses in Montréal.
  2. United Kingdom Campaign - where it all began, the original Atheist Bus Campaign with buses in dozens of cities across the UK.
  3. Bus Kampagne / Germany – the campaign to put buses on the streets in Germany (Köln, München, Berlin) is now online. Site visitors can choose their slogan and make online donations. Berlin and München transport authorities do not want the ads it seems, but the guys are determined to find alternatives.
  4. Uskotamon bussikampanja / Finland – the campaign for atheist buses on the streets of Helsinki. €3500 donated so far. News in English here.
  5. Atheïstische Reklamecampagne / Netherlands – a huge atheist advert on the side of the A4 motorway near Schipol airport.
  6. Atheist Bus / Switzerland (DE | FR | IT) – local bus firms are resisting the advertisements, but this might also result in bans on religious advertising. Paypal donations are possible.
  7. Atheist trams / Croatia – ads appeared for 1 day on trams in Zagreb but were removed after complaints. Freedom of speech in a formerly communist country? News in Croatian here, Google translation from Slovenian here.
  8. Campagna Bus / Italy – despite some legal issues with the bus company the campaign continues in Italy, with €30000 raised so far.
  9. Bus ateo / Spain – buses in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga with slogans in Spanish and Catalan.
  10. Atheist Foundation / Australia – a one-off bus after other ads were not permitted. Latest news here.
  11. Indiana Atheist bus Campaign / USA – a new campaign for buses in Bloomington, Indiana
  12. Why Believe in a God / USA – bus campaign in Washington, and also a new campaign in Seattle.

Quick Update About Ottawa + Video

Posted by Chris on March 17th, 2009

We are working closely with the advertising agency that manages OC Transpo’s ad space. Within the next couple of days our contract should be finalized. If all goes well, Ottawa will be seeing our pretty pink, red, and orange banners next week.

Below is a video that discusses the dispute with Ottawa City Council, OC Transpo, and our advertisement disapproval and then approval. The interview is with David Burton, the Director of Humanist Association of Ottawa.

The song below is at the end of the video above. It is by Paul LeClair and was created as part of the protest against the OC Transpo’s attempt to censor our ad. To listen to the full version please visit his website.


Freethought and Free Speech Prevail in Ottawa

Posted by Seanna on March 12th, 2009

25 supporters of freethought and free speech turned out to the morning protest before the council meeting, and about 12 were in the chambers later in the afternoon when the vote took place. The protesters, representing the Humanist Assocation of Ottawa and the Freethought Association of Canada all had matching T-shirts, with the bus ad on the front, and on the back was a list of cities where atheist bus ads have run, with the heading “Atheist bus world tour”.

City Councilor Alex Cullen (also chair of the Transit Committee) spoke eloquently and passionately in defense of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, citing the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms. Cullen emphasized that the right to freedom of speech must also apply to people with whom we disagree.

Councilor Marianne Wilkinson repeated her opposition to the ads, saying that she found them offensive to her Christian faith. She also re-iterated her comment that the ads were only rejected because they did not meet the previously stated policies and guidelines, saying that the FAC had been informed of this, but we had refused to comply. (The guidelines state that religious ads are only permitted if they refer to a specific event, and include time and location information; however, there are numerous examples of religious ads that do not meet this requirement – see http://atheistbusottawa.wordpress.com/examples-of-religious-ads-on-ottawa-buses/.)

One councilor took exception to the light-hearted spirit of our ad, likening it to a youthful prank (rather odd, since the assembled group of atheists sported more than a few gray hairs among the bunch of us). Mayor Larry O’Brien almost seemed about to vote in favour of allowing the ads, saying that it had been a topic of discussion at the Ottawa Inter-faith Council (which O’Brien chairs), and that “to a soul” all the faith leaders were in support of the ads, many even considering that there would be a positive effect of increased dialogue and attention to religious ideas. However, in the end, he said that he felt bound to uphold the city’s policies and therefore would vote against allowing the ads.

It is interesting to note that several councilors were willing to spend $10-20k of taxpayers’ money to fight a legal battle that the city solicitor said they would be almost sure to lose.

In the end, the rollcall vote had us nervously counting on our fingers, but the decision was in our favour, 13 to 7.

Approval Received in Ottawa!

Posted by Chris on March 11th, 2009

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Despite receiving some opposition from various Councilors at Ottawa City Hall to delay the vote, our advertisement today received approval! Councilor Cullen made a very good case to support our advertisement and the city’s legal council had informed him that if we challenged their decision through the courts, they most definitely would have lost and wasted tax payers money with needless legal costs. Councilor Cullen, I applaud your great effort and I think you did an excellent job.

But even in our success I have to say that I am a little disappointed by the reaction of a few Ottawa councilors. Some of them didn’t seem to understand how hypocritical OC Transpo’s response to deny our ad really was. The few that opposed our ad kept citing that religious advertisements were permitted only “[...]if the information is designed to promote a specific meeting, gathering or event and the location, date and time of said event”. Contrast this policy to their approval of the Anglican Church, United Church of Canada, Alpha Course, and Bus Stop Bible Study ads that did not advertise a meeting, gathering, or event but rather some type of religious doctrine or school of thought.

Councilor Bob Monette mentioned that our ad was created to be funny, implying that we are running some sort of media stunt or joke. Let me tell you that this is not a media stunt, advertising a message that doesn’t agree with mainstream religion doesn’t warrant such a claim to say we are trying to be “funny”. We think it is very serious that people try to impose their beliefs on others without any credible evidence to support their claims, and it is even more serious that they try to impose their beliefs on children before a child can develop and become their own person and formulate their own world view. Somehow religion can make extreme and extraordinary claims, preach all sorts of ideologies, quote a book and claim it is true in its entirety and that people should live by it despite its scriptures of racism, hate, sexism, and murder and still these groups remain tax exempt. This is not funny, and it is not funny asking people not to worry about that, put it all aside, and just go ahead and enjoy their lives.

All that being said, congratulations Ottawa!


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