I, for one, find the Harbor Hopper ads very offensive

Just when I really start to like Halifax again, it goes and does something goofy like reject the Atheist Bus ads. (Full disclosure: I donated to the Atheist Bus campaign in Canada.)

A ‘Without God’ ad has proven too controversial for Halifax transit.

Humanist Canada wanted to place ads on Metro Transit buses with the slogan, “You can be good without God.”

But officials with the transit authority deemed that too controversial.

“We’re a public transit system first, and then we sell advertising,” Lori Patterson, spokewoman for Metro Transit, told CBC News on Monday.

“So, if anytime we feel there’s a message that could be controversial and upsetting to people, we don’t necessarily sell the ads.”

First of all, that reasoning is absurd. Virtually every ad could be offensive to someone. If one gives Ms. Patterson the benefit of the doubt and assumes she means “upsetting to the majority of people,” it becomes hard to reconcile the fact that they’ve granted ad space to the anti-abortion organization Birthright, as reported on the Atheist Bus website.

Second, not only is the actual message less inflammatory than the “There’s probably no god…” ads to run in Toronto, it’s completely benign! How can you possibly argue with the statement “You can be good without God.”, let alone find it upsetting? Can, people, can. The ads don’t say you will be better without god, they just state the fact that people who don’t believe in gods are capable of being good.

I’m confident this response — which seems much more like a knee-jerk than a reasoned reaction — is so baseless and silly that, despite how conservative Nova Scotia can be sometimes, will ultimately be reversed. I’m also hopeful that Vancouver will avoid embarrassing themselves in this way.

So far the best response to the ads I’ve heard about is what the United Church of Canada is planning: ads that say “There probably is a God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Hurrah! Instead of trying to silence a contrary argument, they made their own counter-ad, and with a sly wink as well. Well played, UCC. (More full disclosure: I was raised United, and while I’ve been an atheist for many years, my parents remain very active in their church.)

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