Angry About Atheist Ads

First of all, read this editorial from a thirteen-year-old girl from a villiage about twenty miles from Ottawa. She’s articulate, appropriate with her emotion, and demonstrates enough maturity of understanding that others have and are entitled to a point of view different than herself. In that sense, she’s already light years ahead of a lot of adults, so good for her.

What motivated this bright young lady to write her local newspaper was the shock of seeing an advertisement on the municipal bus saying “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.” As a Protestant Christian, she felt offended by this:

I certainly would not like it if anyone insults my religion, telling me that my beliefs were wasting my time, and tried to convince me that they were right and I was wrong.

The majority of the people in the world belong to a religion of some sort, and many, like myself, would be greatly offended by ads like this one. What would be the purpose of displaying ads on the public transit system? Are atheists so insecure as to try and gain approval from others, just to assure themselves that what they say is true?

I would greatly prefer if atheists, like any other belief system, would keep their thoughts and opinions to themselves, and leave the buses free for advertisements that would not offend so many people.

While this opinion is articulated by a very young lady, I suspect that it is shared by a large number of religious people (not just Christians although in this case she happens to be one) when they see nonbelievers publicly state that they reject religion.

Clearly, she fails to understand that religious people do exactly what she’s complaining about, all the time. They call it “evangelizing.” Atheists are supposed to tolerate evangelists, we’re supposed to support their right to evangelize and respect their beliefs, no matter how much we disagree with them.

Living in a society where there is a right of free speech means that from time to time, you’re going to encounter opinions and statements with which you disagree; your sole remedy is your own ability to articulate a different point of view.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. It means freedom from the government punishing you for what you say. (This fact appears lost on some fans of Carrie Prejean.) So too with freedom of religion — if you worship a tortilla chip, chances are good that someone is going to tell you that your theology is misguided. More to the point, you do not have a right to stop them from saying that worshiping a tortilla chip is silly, even if you are offended by that statement.

My big question is, how do you get someone like this to undertstand that “free speech for me, but not for thee,” is the opposite of what freedom of speech is really about?

Hat tip to Hemant Mehta.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.