There’s Probably No God…

But there’s definitely no free speech in Halifax.

I’m sure the free-speech warriors of the right-wing Blogging Tories will be out in force loudly making known their objections this outrageous example of censorship and “political correctness” run amok. Or not.

Update: Ah yes, the old double-standard.

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82 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Religion

82 responses to “There’s Probably No God…

  1. counter-coulter

    I’m sure the free-speech warriors of the right-wing Blogging Tories will be out in force loudly making known their objections this outrageous example of “political correctness” run amok.

    Why? Did Dawkins draw a cartoon of Allah?

  2. catherine

    They considered “You can be good without God” to be too offensive??

  3. C-C: No, but I’m sure that would have gotten their attention. It seems they don’t take much interest in free speech unless demonizing Muslims or trashing the swarthy hordes about to destroy Western civilization is involved.

  4. Catherine — Yeah, go figure. What an preposterous assertion! Can you imagine… being moral without the benefit of the Holy Big Brother snooping on you all the time and threatening eternal Hellfire if you don’t behave.

  5. KC

    Red,

    “It seems they don’t take much interest in free speech unless demonizing Muslims or trashing the swarthy hordes about to destroy Western civilization is involved.”

    Thats not entirely true. They also jealously guard their right to trash atheists and gays as well.

    Not sure if you saw this: http://www.busstopbiblestudies.com/

    “Bus Stop Bible Studies has been posting Bible messages inside Toronto’s buses and subway cars (also on Burlington, ON and Calgary, AB transit systems) for a little over two-years. The messages, which include more than 300 different designs, have challenged and encouraged millions of transit riders. It is estimated that these displays have been viewed more than 150-million times.”

  6. Ha. Thanks for that. I’ve added an update to the link you provided.

    And yes, I did omit the valiant determination of right-wingers to stand up for the rights of Nazis, racists, and all manner of bigots and other such scumbags to freely spew their hatred in public.

    Which I’m not entirely in disagreement with on principle, but they do seem to be rather selective in who’s “free speech” rights they’ll go to bat for and get exercised about.

  7. Dick — Us free-speecher types also believe in property rights. Like most transit systems, Halifax Transit (H.T.) is a corporation, a private entity unto itself.

    Nice try. Halifax Metro Transit is owned an operated by the Halifax Regional Municipality. Ergo, it’s a public system owned and paid for by taxpayers, you silly twat.

  8. KC

    Hypocrisy seems to be endemic to political discourse. In defense of the “Bus Stop Bibles” folk though, at least they are prima facie consistent:

    “We knew it would only be a matter of time. Canadian Press has just announced that the Toronto based Freethought Association of Canada hopes to copycat England’s “THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD” campaign.

    Our position is that we strongly believe in freedom of expression and freedom of religion and commend the Supreme Court of Canada for the positive rulings they have made in this regard thus far”

  9. I have no problem with religious groups advertising their messages of “faith” etc., but it should cut both ways.

  10. Ti-Guy

    Oh, I was just about to explain that the wingnuts have to figure out a way of rationalising this as a non-State issue, but NAMBLA-Richard Evans sort of beat me to it. Except he overshot, and went the private property route, which is of course retarded, since public transit is pubic property.

  11. And to think he wanted to be a city councilor. Good grief, can you imagine and ignoramus like that in government? Sadly, he’d fit right in.

  12. You’re right, HT is run by the RM but the RM itself is incorporated, so my argument stands. Look it up if you need to. Thai-guy; Remember when you used to get kicked off the bus? How well did your public property argument go over then?

  13. You know what’s worse than being called a moron – a moron that is too moronic to know he’s a moron.

  14. Sorry – but meant to add – the ad says “probably” no God….not definately no God.

  15. It’s pretty ripe for Richard Evans to be calling people retards and morons. Talk about irony…

  16. Ti-Guy

    He’s an argument against mandatory, universal public education. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” writ large.

  17. Richard — That’s a bullshit argument and you know it. Or at least you should…

    Of course the municipality is “incorporated” (as a self-governing entity), but it’s owned and paid for by the public. It’s most certainly not the same thing as a private enterprise, an incorporated business or even a crown corporation (where at least there’s a pretense of some distance from public ownership), in which case your contention would be perfectly valid.

    Why not just admit that you’re wrong?

  18. Jay

    “Bus Stop Bible Studies has been posting Bible messages inside Toronto’s buses and subway cars (also on Burlington, ON and Calgary, AB transit systems) for a little over two-years.”

    So that’s who I have been cleaning up after.

    Whenever I get onto transit and see these pamphlets all over the place, I collect them and put them in the recycling bin. What a strain on the public service to have to pick up this religious litter. The cleaning bill should be sent to the losers who printed it. I also remove religious “notes” from magazine and newspaper boxes whenever I see them.

    Just doing my best to keep this city clean of litter both physical and mental.

    Where’s my GG award?

  19. Jay — I don’t mind their “literature” actually… it’s usually more amusing/intriguing/thought-provoking than other crappy advertising fodder that routinely floods our mailboxes.

  20. I came up with a solution to all the “literature” that shows up in my mailbox. I keep a bag of all the chinese restaurant and realtor handbills I get in the mail (in Vancouver that’s a lot) then whenever I get a Hickistani message from an MP in flatland, I fill up an envelope and send them a big envelope of menus – postage due.

    Never put your name on the return address. Keeps you off the database and they get to know what kind of Chinese food is available around Commercial Drive.

  21. Speaking as someone that has ridden these buses on a regular basis for nearly 40 years now I am more than a little disgusted with this decision. I have read more than a few religiously themed ads while sitting on the bus so it seems there is an uneven standard being applied here. Personally, I see nothing wrong with the ad that was rejected, because it is true. One does not need God to be a kind and decent human being and to do good things, that is a choice each of us makes by ourselves. Yes, religious teachings can be a source to inspire such but then so can secular philosophies and the concept of enlightened self interest. What is so wrong with wanting to make that point?

    I suspect I understand why this decision was reached, this city is a very weird mix of progressiveness (Halifax is and has been known as one of the most gay tolerant cities in Canada for decades within the gay community for example) and conservativism (takes three generations before you aren’t seen as a come from away, treating Buddhists as some sort of loony cult initially when they came to settle here in the 70s, etc) and it is very easy to walk into a land mine without realizing it. That doesn’t make the decision any more correct though, it was a bad call, and I hope the publication of this decision ends up causing enough backlash to cause a change of mind at MT.

    As for the argument that MT and HRM are somehow not a publicly owned and operated organization and therefore private property considerations apply, male bovine excrement is all that is. To even advance such an argument is to demonstrate just how whacked out a person is by their ideological blinders, and that it should be Richard Evans that put forward such an argument only further underscores the basis for rational people to treat him and his thoughts with the contempt that it deserves. I can deal with conservatives that live in the real world, same as I can socialists that live in the real world, but those so lost to their own ideological delusions I hold in equal contempt regardless of where on the political spectrum they fall, indeed where and whatever spectrum of belief that is being applied be it secular, religious, political, social, whathaveyou in nature.

  22. Jamie — I love it when people counter-attack against the junk in their lives in creative ways…. Too bad that it doesn’t make more of a difference. If I was motivated and had some spare cash it would be fun to just print up some stickers that people could slap on their mailboxes telling the local rag to not deliver to that location. I believe they’re obligated to respect such instructions. But I’m too lazy and busy with other stuff to bother.

  23. Scotian — Well said as always. Richard was just hoping to score an easy slam-dunk against his mortal enemy Canadian Cynic, but as usual, he didn’t think through the argument he was attempting to make. Those ever-pesky facts got in the way of things… Again.

  24. As a practising Anglican I think this decision sucks. I agree that there is a double standard. If peoples’ faith is this fragile to begin with they need to just give it up. I’ll side with the United Church Of Canada and say “There probably is a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” People on both sides get way too uptight over these matters.

  25. Dan — I think reasonable, fair-minded people on both sides of the issue are in agreement here.

    It’s an unfortunate decision by Halifax Transit based on the natural impulse to take the path of least resistance. It could well be described as an act of preemptive cowardice.

  26. Gayle

    “You’re right, HT is run by the RM but the RM itself is incorporated, so my argument stands.”

    If you got legal advice on this, you might want to get a new lawyer.

  27. I don’t imagine any “legal advice” was involved in his rant…

    There’s a big difference between the two. Granted, had the H.T. been running a series of ads that said “God Is Good”, prior to being approached by the atheists, a case for discrimination could be made but that’s not what happened. There haven’t been any “God Is Good” ads. There haven’t been any “Kneel Before Allah!” ads. The discrimination argument falls just as flat as the censorship argument…

    Well, in fact there have been pro-Jesus/Christian ads on buses (maybe not in Halifax, but elsewhere). Which is fine… but equal time should be allowed for those with differing opinions who wish to promote them via paid advertising.

    So, contrary to Richard’s baseless assertion, by any measure, it is discriminatory and censorious.

    Will he correct, amend or withdraw his post lambasting “Canadian Cynic” and others as “retards” and “morons” etc. given that he’s clearly in the wrong here? Doubtful…

    And that’s why he should be ignored.

  28. Gayle

    I will ignore him.

    I will also say that this group may have a legitimate legal action here, based on their right to freedom of expression and to be treated equal before the law.

    They would have to hire lawyers though, so not sure if they think it would be worth the expense.

  29. Message for Jay,

    Bus Stop Bible Studies pays for advertising space on transit vehicles. We don’t leave litter anywhere. Must be someone else.

    Thanks for keeping Toronto clean anyway. ;>)

  30. “Bus Stop Bible Studies pays for advertising space on transit vehicles. We don’t leave litter anywhere. Must be someone else.”

    You create advertising, you create litter. Doesn’t matter how much you claim you don’t. If you distribute any print material you create litter or waste.

  31. It’s a really bad move. For everyone involved.

    First off, this message shouldn’t be that controversial. We know that people can behave morally without believing in God. The reason we know this is because many people do.

    I’ll admit that I find the argument that a God is necessary for an objective morality to be philosophically persuasive. It makes a lot of sense on paper.

    But it’s real world applications are an entirely different matter altogether. It doesn’t hold up under the scrutiny naturally applied by day-to-day life.

    If this ad is deemed too controversial — offensive? — by Halifax Metro Transit, it’s going to open wide the doors on what can and cannot be deemed too controversial for public space.

    I think the Humanist group should sue. There are principles at stake here that are more important than religion or atheism.

  32. PR — This notion that religion and faith in God is essential to moral decency is a HUGE canard in its defense. Certainly, the tenets of many religions (Judeo-Christian in our case) have formed the base of the moral codes generally accepted in our society, but so too have morals and ethical lessons drawn from many other sources.

    The objectively specious idea that religion and belief in a supernatural “higher power” is a necessity to “moral rectitude” is one of the last bastions of the faith-based crowd in defense of their otherwise ridiculously silly creeds and superstitious nonsense.

    As innocuous (and plainly obvious) as the statement by the Humanist group may seem at first glance, it’s actually a deeply cutting attack on one of the fundamental pillars supporting the absurd fiction about the necessary existence of a magical, omniscient (also dreadful and/or merciful depending on your particular sect) Sky God to specifically regulate every aspect of our behaviour that’s been institutionalized in the form of religion.

  33. Certainly, the tenets of many religions (Judeo-Christian in our case) have formed the base of the moral codes generally accepted in our society, but so too have morals and ethical lessons drawn from many other sources.

    Well, certainly, yes. But let’s also consider that the moral codes contained in the Judeo-Christian tradition themselves are often drawn from other sources.

    One of the great geniuses of Christianity has been the manner in which it accepted the ideas of various religious traditions that predate within its own.

    …A genius that was actually trumped by reconcilationist Islam. (I was personally pretty surprised that I’ve spent most my life thinking about religion in the same manner as a liberal Muslim.)

    The objectively specious idea that religion and belief in a supernatural “higher power” is a necessity to “moral rectitude” is one of the last bastions of the faith-based crowd in defense of their otherwise ridiculously silly creeds and superstitious nonsense.

    I’m not sure that I agree. Not with “ridiculously silly”, nor with the idea that it’s specious — at least according to the strictest sense of the word.

    I think of the recent MZ Myers/Kirk Durston religion debate/idiot fight in which Myers accused Durston of labelling all atheists as evil because he claimed that a subjective morality could simply be ignored.

    I felt that Myers missed the obvious argument in favour of sensationalism. I felt that Durston wasn’t labelling atheists as evil, but pointing out that the lack of an objective sense of morality presents a moral hazard.

    According to the argument, because atheists don’t believe in Godly retribution, they can consider themselves free to cast away their sense of subjective morality at will or convenience.

    We can’t deny that this is something that can happen. Thus the hazard is present.

    But we also know that, for the most part, this doesn’t happen. Thus, the hazard isn’t nearly as imminent as Durston’s argument would suggest that it is.

    To reiterate, the argument is sound on paper, and probably in many real-world applications. But overall, we know that most atheists don’t simply decide to ignore their sense of morality.

    Just like we know that many religious people do decide to ignore their sense of morality when it’s convenient for them.

  34. Gordon S

    I love how Dick Evans shows off his racist bona-fides by calling Ti-Guy ‘Thai-Guy’ in an insulting manner.

    Stay classy, Dick.

  35. Hey Red,

    How is this a free speech issue again? Umm….I do realize that it is important that the government remain as impartial as possible in religious affairs, but at the same time, I didn’t realize that we have a human right to have our advertisements run on the sides of buses.

    Certainly, there is a lot of opposition to this advert. But I would think that Dawkins and co. would almost be happier with that resistence, as evidence for their claims about religion.

    If the entire point of the ads is to make a point, then it’s probably been made. But until somebody raises a hate-speech complaint, or calls for either the arrest or the head of Richard Dawkins, then I’m afraid that this is much less of a free speech issue, and much more of an issue of two opposing worldviews starting to snipe at one another.

    That being said, it has to be said that….really? That’s considered too controversial? Personally, I think the ads are kind of funny.

  36. PR — But let’s also consider that the moral codes contained in the Judeo-Christian tradition themselves are often drawn from other sources.

    Yes, Christianity is nothing if not “syncretistic” — this largely explains its success in terms of being a popular belief system. It’s continuously assimilating ideas/traditions and whacky nonsense from other sources in a Borg-like fashion and the incorporating them into its own absurd dogma.

    I’m not sure that I agree. Not with “ridiculously silly”, nor with the idea that it’s specious — at least according to the strictest sense of the word…

    The silliness of religion as expressed in the delusional ramblings of Iron Age lunatics, now solemnly codified after numerous translations into dogmatic orthodoxy that’s reverently accepted as “THE TRUTH, THE LIGHT AND THE WAY” is plain as day and the arguments demonstrating it as such don’t bear repeating here. As for it being “specious”… well that’s a matter of opinion, I guess.

    According to the argument, because atheists don’t believe in Godly retribution, they can consider themselves free to cast away their sense of subjective morality at will or convenience.

    We can’t deny that this is something that can happen. Thus the hazard is present.

    Rubbish. Faithful Christians can be absolved of their mortal sins at any time through the process of confession and penance. According to your logic this frees them to do whatever their evil hearts desire in the meantime with the easy-out of washing their hands of the whole business and being forgiven provided they admit their guilt, affirm their faith and continue subscribing to the notion of redemption. If anything, the imagined “hazard” you refer to is more present in this case than with secular humanists that are accountable only to themselves and others that they affect with their bad behaviour have no hope of being “redeemed” through facile acts of submission to the divine will of higher power.

  37. Walker — With all due respect, I think you are willfully misstating the issue for comic effect. No, we don’t have “human right to have our advertisements run on the sides of buses” but we do have a right to express our opinions in a public venue in a free and fair manner. If McDonald’s can urge you to consume a disgusting “Angus Burger,” then why can’t humanists politely suggest that it’s possible to be a good person without God?

  38. Red – alright, you got me, that was a bit dressed up for comic effect.

    We do have a right to express our opinions – I have absolutely no disagreement with you there. But just because we have the right to speak, does not mean that we have the right to be heard.

    Admittedly, this would be a much different story if this were a privately owned bussing company, in which case, they would be free to run whichever advertising that they liked. McDonalds can run whatever ads that they like, with as much misinformation as they like, for that matter. But how far can a transit bus go? ( unless in this case, the Halifax line is privately owned, I could be wrong about that ).

    But let’s consider this for a moment. How far does the public spaces argument go? Does that mean that all religious idealogies deserve equal space? Let’s assume that the flying spaghetti monster does indeed have a religious following – does that mean that we’ll be seeing a flying spaghetti monster advert? ( Hey, wasn’t Dawkins the one who came up with the FSM? That’d be a good ad ). Or perhaps an advert for a radical and subverted form of Islam? Or for those disgusting ‘God hates fags’ people?

    Does this apply to political idealogies as well? Does that apply to disgusting political idealogies, such as neo-nazism?

    I’m not in any way equating athiesm with neo-nazism or radical religion, I’m just saying – if all people have a right to express their opinions in public spaces, how far are we willing to go for consistency? I suppose I wouldn’t really have a problem with it, if we were to go so far as to allow all of these people and organizations adspace, but I’m sure that I’m probably the minority in that respect.

    We should all be free to express our opinions, but that doesn’t mean that everybody has to accomodate us.

  39. “McDonalds can run whatever ads that they like, with as much misinformation as they like”

    That’s actually untrue. Any advertiser within Canada is required to create advertising that meets a certain standard of quality or the ad will not be aired. True McDonald’s has a tendency to play fast and easy with this but no worse than many companies. If McDonald’s was to run as much misinformation as they like, they would run into all sorts of lawsuits and problems. McDonald’s history in the UK is a perfect example of this.

    The problem with misinformation is that it creates incredible problems for your brand integrity not to mention the potential lawsuits. Labels like Angus and 100% Canadian Beef unfortunately are registered trademarks that come with fine print. If the print is there then there is no misinformation.

    If you have a problem with McDonald’s ads (and I do especially with that horrid Dad crying one) feel free to write the Advertising Standards Canada at http://www.adstandards.com/en/. Please write about the Dad crying one. I don’t want to be the only one to complain

  40. jsrothwell – really? I didn’t know that. Thanks for letting me know. I’m not sure if the libertarian in me likes that, but I suppose it makes sense. I’m sure if McDonalds could get away with false advertising, they probably would.

    I’ll have to check out that dad crying advert. I don’t think I’ve seen that one, yet.

  41. mikmik

    I love the ads with seductive womens, cleavage and moist lips, because they don’t go against the bible preachings, do they?
    Ads that are omniscient on TV?

    ‘Ten commands are all we need.’
    Hilarious! guess cruelty and kidnapping are thus allowed.

    These are a few of my favourite things – Bush43.

  42. walker,

    crazy isn’t it. The whole advertising standards came out of the advertising industry mostly to prevent any self regulating snafus. It probably arose of less noble reasons of ass-covering more than what they claim but if it makes my life easier then I’m for it.

    I’ve always been puzzled by the libertarian concept of regulation. I can understand the resistance to government regulations on an individual’s rights but when some proponents start to rail on things such as electrical regulation or my favourite one ever the Australian regulation of energy saving lightbulbs I have a very hard time agreeing. “First they regulate lightbulbs then your life” just made me want to hand over the tinfoil for their had. Its just too much of a jump for me to see how electrical regulations that keep me from having dodgy wiring are going to create a police state overnight.

    I do find the concept of left leaning libertarianism very very interesting.

  43. Gayle

    “I do realize that it is important that the government remain as impartial as possible in religious affairs, but at the same time, I didn’t realize that we have a human right to have our advertisements run on the sides of buses.”

    Actually, you have a right to not be discriminated against because of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

    If the transit system allows religious messages, arguably they must allow anti-religious messages.

  44. jsrothwell – Yeah, advertising standards are pretty much necessary. Unless some organization were willing to undertake the task of being a sort of official advertising watchdog, but that’s a pretty exhausting process for the consumer.

    I tend to lean towards privatization as a preference, because I tend to think that the private sector has more of a vested interest in progress. More money to be made that way.

    But yeah, when it comes to things like industrial standards, I think there needs to be some sort of regulation, preferably by government. In other words, I tend to lean towards letting the private sector run free until it starts to do something criminal, not just morally ambiguous. So something like faulty wiring should be pointed out and corrected. I dunno if I would be in favor of harsh penalties for things like shoddy wire-work, but there should be some way for clients to get that sort of thing fixed, if the people that originally did the job are being difficult about correcting their mistakes.

    To me, I suppose it’s always a balance between what we’re willing to allow the government to run for us, and what we’re willing to trade in exchange, as far as higher taxation and restrictions go.

  45. Gayle – yes, but like I said, how far are we willing to go for proportion? How extreme are we going to allow advertising to go? Dawkins and co.’s adverts aren’t particularly extreme, and they should probably have been allowed, but if we say that everyone has a right to have the government display their religious messages, how extremely left or right on the spectrum are we going to be willing to go?

    Personally, I think that such things should stay out of the public sector entirely. Exactly because they bring about such problems.

  46. turning down revenue in this economy. hmm.

    KEvron

  47. Gayle

    Walker – it really has nothing to do with how far “we are prepared to go”, nor does it have anything to do with being right or left.

    It is part of our constitution. “We” have very little to do with it.

  48. Walker — But just because we have the right to speak, does not mean that we have the right to be heard.

    I’m having some difficulty processing this aphorism. On a superficial level it sounds clever, but it really makes no sense at all. I don’t think any one is arguing that there’s a “right to be heard” that necessarily follows from freedom of expression.

  49. Red – But you are arguing that there is a right to be heard. You are saying that just because Dawkins and co. have an opinion about religion, that means that Halifax Transit has to accomodate said opinion.

    They aren’t saying that Dawkins and co. can’t say what they’re saying. Nobody’s saying that Dawkins and co. can’t buy a billboard, or take out a contract with a private bussing or taxi company, or whathaveyou. If that was the case, then this would be a very strong freedom of speech issue. If the very government was saying what can and cannot be said about religion, then I would agree with you wholeheartedly that this is a very grave freedom of speech issue.

    But:

    There is a service being provided – the advertising on the side of the bus – and part of running that service is to decide who gets advertised and who doesn’t. I don’t know that just because I want to run an ad on the side of the bus, that I can. That would seem a bit far-fetched, and the potential for abuse of that system too great. ( But I could be woefully ignorant of the way that public sector bus advertising works, in which case I stand to be corrected ).

    If one religious advertisement is given, like for a church or something, then it follows that Dawkins and co.’s advert should probably be run as well. It’s an impartiality issue, not a free speech issue. Again, nobody is saying that Dawkins and co. cannot say what they are saying. Just that their every word is not going to be accomodated by the public sector. Now, if adverts by the local pastor were accomodated by the public sector, then they would also have to allow Dawkins and co. to advertise as well, due to the public sector’s need to be impartial in religious matters.

    As I said earlier, it would probably be best if the bus line simply refused to sell advertising to any kind of religious/counter-religious group. That would seem to be the best answer, as it would solve the problem of impartiality.

    And again, if this were a matter of a sort of public billboard, free to anyone who wants to put up a sign, and an athiest group’s advert was taken down, or that group was told that they couldn’t put up their ad, then yes, there would be a big problem. If that is what is happening, then we are in agreement, Red. There is a problem. But if the advertising is being sold, then that means that the buslines can decide which advertising they are going to display, and in the interests of impartiality, it would probably be best if they refrained from displaying religious or counter-religious advertising altogether.

    Gayle – likewise.

  50. Gayle

    Walker, you seem to be missing the point.

    I am saying that allowing one religious viewpoint to advertise on public transit and then denying another because it is deemed “offensive” violates the right to be free from discrimination. That is a totally separate issue from freedom of speech.

    This is advertising that is being sold by a publicly owned entity. It is therefore governed by the Charter of Rights.

  51. Ah – that being said, this decision by the busline of Halifax does display an impartiality about religion that needs to be talked about.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t anything wrong with this situation. Just that I don’t think this is a free speech issue.

  52. Oops – sorry Gayle.

    You’re right, this is an issue of discrimination. I have no arguments with you there. If the government buslines are running one viewpoint, then they, very arguably, have to provide a counter-viewpoint. To deny athiests the ability to rebut ads that are religious does not hold to the impartiality that government needs to hold to in its seperation from the church.

    So we don’t really disagree there. I just don’t think that just because any one of us has a viewpoint, that it has to be published by public sector paid-advertising service.

  53. by *a* public sector paid-advertising service

  54. One thing please, it is Metro Transit, not Halifax Transit, it is very disconcerting for me to see you all talking about something that does not go by that name. If one wants to get formal I suppose you could call it HRM Metro Transit, but there is no such thing as Halifax Transit, and by using caps for it you all are giving it a false name. Sorry, I’m just finding it a bit like fingernails down a blackboard because it is such a familar name for me, indeed I use old transfers as bookmarks. Sorry to be a grouch about it.

  55. RT, I am on side with you on this–frankly, I think that it is ridiculous that pro-life ads can appear on transit, and religious groups, and ads for high class prostitution services can appear, but THIS gets turned down?

    As Kevron said, “turning down revenue in this economy?”

    One small quibble: in your comment at 2:50 pm, you said that Christians can confess and get absolution and basically the sin is done and gone, but that is not true for Catholics at least.

    The confession and absolution do not stick if you commit the sin thinking that you can simply confess later and get away with it. And if you ever commit the sin again, it’s like groundhog day all over again, as if you never got forgiveness the first time.

    Seriously, if you believe in this, and why confess a sin if you don’t, then you get away with nothing. There is no free lunch.

    Feel free to slam religion for what it is guilty of…..just not the misperceptions the media spreads!

  56. Walker — But you are arguing that there is a right to be heard. You are saying that just because Dawkins and co. have an opinion about religion, that means that Halifax Transit has to accomodate said opinion.

    I’m afraid that your sophistry is missing the point. Halifax Transit is exercising their discretion in a manner that’s clearly unfair and moreover isn’t even based on facts, but rather is predicated on an anticipated reaction that’s wholly imagined. It’s indefensible.

    They aren’t saying that Dawkins and co. can’t say what they’re saying. Nobody’s saying that Dawkins and co. can’t buy a billboard…” And so on.

    This delightful bit of intellectually dishonest misdirection is the standard argument used to gloss over incidents of censorship.

    There is a service being provided – the advertising on the side of the bus – and part of running that service is to decide who gets advertised and who doesn’t… etc.

    Advertising standards are generally well understood and voluntarily adhered to for obvious reasons of self-interest, if nothing else. Advertisers are also mindful of “community standards” and these are likewise respected. It’s not really the business of the transit authority to determine what is or isn’t acceptable in this regard unless the advertising in question is clearly offensive and/or illegal. To use the example cited in the article, if one was a passionate vegan, ads promoting the consumption of meat products may well be highly offensive. Where do you draw the line?

    It’s an impartiality issue, not a free speech issue. Again, nobody is saying that Dawkins and co. cannot say what they are saying. Just that their every word is not going to be accomodated by the public sector.

    More useless sophistry. It’s difficult to understand why you seem stuck on this notion that it’s perfectly okay to shut down one venue for the expression of an opinion provided there are hypothetical alternatives available.

    As I said earlier, it would probably be best if the bus line simply refused to sell advertising to any kind of religious/counter-religious group. That would seem to be the best answer, as it would solve the problem of impartiality.

    No. This would not be a good outcome of the situation at all. If groups have a message to convey and money to spend, then they should be allowed to use the medium of the transit service to promote it. Everyone benefits in this situation. The transit authority gets money for the ads, the groups advertising get their message out and the public is challenged to either consider the message or ignore it if they so choose. Who is the loser here?

    By contrast, simply withdrawing and refusing to sell ads to any “religious” group (or other advocacy group) is a negative all the way around. The transit company receives no money, the groups can’t get their message out in the way they want and the public is stuck with ads for the standard assortment of consumer crap from the usual corporate suspects.

  57. Aurelia — I have to confess (no pun intended) to not fully understanding the nuances of the Catholic faith. I was under the impression that the admission of sin in good faith (together with the appropriate penance of course) was sufficient ground for immediate absolution and ultimate redemption.

  58. Red – I am in no way defending this decision. Where do you get that impression? I have expressly said that this decision constitutes a breach of public sector impartiality in matters of church separation from the state.

    How would this apply to vegans? The last time I checked, there was no separation of meat from state.

    And I’ll explain it one more time. It’s not that anybody is saying that these athiests cannot say what they are saying. Nobody is infringing upon their freedom to actually speak. If I apply for an ad, that does not mean that I will recieve that ad-space, and I’m fine with that.

    Personally, I don’t give a shit which ads are chosen for Metro Transit ( thanks Scotian ) buses, no matter what the political or religious/non-religious message. It could be the local church, it could be Richard Dawkins himself, it could be the Westboro baptists, or it could be the local skinheads operating out of some basement. I don’t care. But I do respect Metro Transit’s ability to make their own decisions about their own damn advertising – so long as they respect the idea of government impartiality in religious affairs, and they keep the microphone away from certain religious/non-religous, and political factions.

    They have obviously failed to do so in this case, and I agree that there is a problem here. But I do not believe that it is a freedom of speech issue, as you obviously do.

    I get what you’re saying, and I agree to an extent, but there are countless alternatives to metro transit advertising. Do you want me to list the various private sector advertisers available? Do you want me to list the countless campuses with billboards available? Seriously? Metro Transit is the only venue that you can think of? All the others are mere hypotheticals?

    Come on, man…

  59. Scotian — One thing please, it is Metro Transit, not Halifax Transit, it is very disconcerting for me to see you all talking about something that does not go by that name.

    I referred to it as Halifax Metro Transit in my comment at 8:32.

    I suspect this line of discussion is pretty much exhausted now, but henceforward I’ll call it HMT.

    p.s. Our service out here is B.C. Transit, but you can call it “the bus company” or anything else that strikes your fancy.

  60. Walker — I am in no way defending this decision.

    No, to the contrary, in fact you are. Perhaps not intentionally or deliberately, but by providing all sorts of rationalizations and justifications for the decision taken by HMT you are in effect defending their position.

    How would this apply to vegans? The last time I checked, there was no separation of meat from state.

    It applies in terms of the way HMT has effected its discretion in determining what is (or may conceivably be) “offensive” to the public… which is the rationale for their decision to not allow the advertising by this humanist group in this instance. HMT is assuming that a certain segment of the public will find the proposition that you can be “Good without God” to be “offensive” and therefore they barred the ad from being displayed. So what I’m suggesting is that there may well be a segment of the public that finds many corporate messages similarly “offensive” for whatever reason.

    …there are countless alternatives to metro transit advertising. Do you want me to list the various private sector advertisers available? Do you want me to list the countless campuses with billboards available?

    Yes, of course there are alternatives, but you’re obdurately missing the point.

    First of all, this is a public corporation and therefore it has an inherent obligation to be more “inclusive” in terms of what kinds of advertising it will accept in terms of reflecting the opinions of the community at large.

    Secondly, this is a ridiculous and completely illogical argument. The fact that there are many other conceivable venues for advertising in no way at all negates or even mitigates the fact that an act of censorship has occurred with respect to the particular venue under consideration. And I won’t even bother raising the suggestion that such a decision casts a certain “chill” over the decision-making of other advertising venues that further reinforces the bogus notion of the message being dangerous, scary, potentially offensive, threatening, etc., thereby further marginalizing the group advancing the idea that morality can be safely detached from superstitious God worship without consequence.

  61. Re: Halifax Transit. I have just written to the mayor of Halifax, pointing out the error of their ways.

    The charter is quite clear on the matter (in my humble opinion) and the Supreme Court has made some commendable decisions in upholding religious freedoms and freedom of speech.

    You can check out many of these rulings at http://www.busstopbiblestudies.com/what/religious-advertising.php The Court also applies the Oaks Test in determining these issues which is one of the most ‘reasonable’ pieces of jurisprudence I have come across.

    So long as one does not criticize someone for their beliefs, or ridicule other belief systems, one should be free to express an opinion and not have someone else take offense, especially when no offense is intended.

  62. Dave — Good for you. Please let me know if/when you receive a response from the Mayor’s office.

  63. Red – in regards to veganism, I think we’re both right. You’re right in that the ‘offensive’ argument doesn’t work at all, and I agree with you in that. And I feel that I’m right, because the decision to not include the athiest ad was wrong, and because offense has very little to do with whether the ad should or should not have been run. So, unless I were to legitimize the ‘offensive’ justification for not running the ad, the offense caused to vegans by any kind of ad has very little to do with anything at all.

    I don’t wish to repeat myself any more, so I’ll only say this a final time.

    If, as you say, the decisions of a group of people, public or private, to not promote certain advertisements, constitutes censorship, then that completely invalidates the ability of the public sector to make any such decisions whatsoever. We’ve already determined that the ‘offensive’ argument is bogus. So if we are talking about pure, unadulterated, unfiltered, and unrestricted access to advertising, then no decisions whatsover can be made about what is advertised or what isn’t – no matter how odious or disgusting those views may be, and no matter how offensive those viewpoints might be to countless people.

    That does not seem to be either impartial, or tolerant on the government’s part, and it is a victory that is not needed for the freedom to speak, considering that simply letting someone make a choice about their own advertising space in no way infringes upon anybody’s ability to ultimately say something.

    Once more, the logic used in Metro Transit’s decision was faulty, and if such things as the separation of church and state and impartiality are going to be continued in Halifax’s public sector, the decision should be reconsidered.

    The athiests are not being told that they cannot advertise.

    They are not being told that they cannot say what they are saying, or that they cannot couch their terms even more extremely.

    They are not being fined or jailed for their words.

    They are not suffering at all for their words.

    They aren’t even being told that they can’t ever again apply for Metro Transit advertising.

    All that happened was that Metro Transit decided, on faulty logic, that they wouldn’t run the athiest advertisement.

    If that were the greatest threat to freedom of speech in the Western world, then I would consider us lucky as a whole.

  64. It was a pretty innocuous message really. Which makes all of the hoo-ha about it seem rather silly.

  65. I’m with you on that one. Like I said, I actually think it’s kind of funny. I hope the decision is re-thought, and the athiests are able to have their sign put up on the Metro Buses, or at least that their advertising campaign goes well.

  66. Faithful Christians can be absolved of their mortal sins at any time through the process of confession and penance. According to your logic this frees them to do whatever their evil hearts desire in the meantime with the easy-out of washing their hands of the whole business and being forgiven provided they admit their guilt, affirm their faith and continue subscribing to the notion of redemption.

    That depends entirely upon the specific denomination of which you speak.

    Even then, the confession and repentance must be sincere, or else the penance means nothing.

    Now if you aren’t a Catholic, the only person who can grant absolution for any sin is God himself. Once again, there’s only one way to achieve this: through solemn repentance, prior to and after death.

    Provided that you believe in God in the conventional sense.

    If anything, the imagined “hazard” you refer to is more present in this case than with secular humanists that are accountable only to themselves and others that they affect with their bad behaviour have no hope of being “redeemed” through facile acts of submission to the divine will of higher power.

    But, as Durston would argue, if there’s no ultimate consequence for unrepented acts of immorality, then there’s no real need for redemption.

    The argument is that, provided that God exists, people have someone to answer to after death.

    In the absence of that perceived constraint, there’s a great deal of room for moral flexibility.

    Consider the case of an act perpetrated against someone unable to defend themselves, or someone for whom one’s peers will hold little sympathy.

    Someone who legitimately believes in a retributive God and understands that what they’re doing is wrong at least has that much to answer to. Someone who has no sense of objective morality doesn’t even necessarily have even themselves to answer to — if they decide that their sense of morality is something they simply made up, they must also realize that they can simply make something else up.

    But the hazard is evidently present, even if most atheists clearly don’t fall victim to it.

    It’s like the case of a subway station — most of them don’t have handrails. There’s a hazard that a person could fall or be pushed in front of a train. This rarely happens, but the hazard is still there.

  67. “the hazard is evidently present, even if most atheists clearly don’t fall victim to it.”

    case in point.

    KEvron

  68. Patrick, I beat you to that. And no, it’s not just Catholics. Eastern Orthodox as well, Anglicans, and various others follow it.

    Just sayin’

  69. “The confession and absolution do not stick if you commit the sin thinking that you can simply confess later and get away with it.”

    stick with whom?

    KEvron

  70. PR — Someone who legitimately believes in a retributive God and understands that what they’re doing is wrong at least has that much to answer to. Someone who has no sense of objective morality doesn’t even necessarily have even themselves to answer to — if they decide that their sense of morality is something they simply made up, they must also realize that they can simply make something else up.

    Well, thank goodness “believers” never simply make things up in order to justify their actions (or inactions).

    Sorry, but the aforementioned statement is a pack of nonsense. And there’s a word for “Someone who has no sense of objective morality” — sociopath. I don’t thing that a fictional “God” can provide anything that could be described as “objective” by any measure.

    Also, what’s your standard for the “legitimacy” of belief? I could go on… There’s a whole lot of things that are just plain wrong about what you wrote there, or at least are highly dubious.

  71. “And there’s a word for ‘Someone who has no sense of objective morality’ — sociopath.”

    a moral code is derived from empathy.

    KEvron

  72. Precisely.

    Do unto others…

    The “Golden Rule” and the sum of Dharma, etc. It all comes down to empathy.

  73. Sorry, but the aforementioned statement is a pack of nonsense. And there’s a word for “Someone who has no sense of objective morality” — sociopath. I don’t thing that a fictional “God” can provide anything that could be described as “objective” by any measure.

    If that’s the case, then there are far more sociopaths wandering about than the diagnostic tools for identifying them would suggest.

    A sociopath doesn’t simply believe morality is subjective — a sociopath lacks any sense of morality at all, and doesn’t understand what society expects of them vis a vis norms and mores. They act on their whims impulsively, and feel no guilt for their actions.

    But let’s face it: there are numerous issues on which nearly anyone’s morality can be considered subjective.

    Such as: is it wrong to kill? A great many people would insist that objectively, it’s morally wrong to kill. Then ask them if it’s morally wrong to kill a child murderer and the answer becomes infinitely more complex.

    Does this mean that everyone who doesn’t agree that it’s morally wrong, from an objective point of view, to kill a child murderer is a sociopath?

    I’d be very careful before making an argument like that.

    Also, what’s your standard for the “legitimacy” of belief? I could go on… There’s a whole lot of things that are just plain wrong about what you wrote there, or at least are highly dubious.

    A person could ask the same thing of yourself.

    Insisting that a moral code is simply derived from empathy is not a wise argument. For one thing, empathy is not an inherent trait. It’s a learned trait, and a person can be conditioned by any number of factors to feel empathy or not feel empathy for a person.

    Here’s an interesting example: research on schoolyard bullying indicates that many people not involved in the bullying fail to intervene because they fail to empathize with the victim.

    Case studies have provided strong support for the theory that these people become conditioned to believe that the person being bullied somehow deserves their treatment. Often, they attribute that treatment to moral or personal failure, and thus they feel a lack of empathy for that individual.

    Is schoolyard bullying any less immoral if the people committing those acts, and the people witnessing those acts feel no empathy for the victim?

    I’d be very careful before making an argument like that.

  74. Not to mention that there’s no reason to expect that the golden rule will hold the same sway over people so powerful that the things they do cannot be done to them.

  75. PR — If that’s the case, then there are far more sociopaths wandering about than the diagnostic tools for identifying them would suggest.

    There could well be. I happen to think there are a lot of damaged and potentially psychotic people just “wandering about” that could implode at any given time.

    A sociopath doesn’t simply believe morality is subjective — a sociopath lacks any sense of morality at all, and doesn’t understand what society expects of them vis a vis norms and mores. They act on their whims impulsively, and feel no guilt for their actions.

    Yes, I believe that’s what I was alluding to by saying they’re unhinged from any “objective standard of morality” (to use your own term of reference)…

    But let’s face it: there are numerous issues on which nearly anyone’s morality can be considered subjective.

    Of course there is a subjective element to morality. But this objective/subjective dichotomy is something that you’ve introduced into the argument for no apparent reason. Not that it isn’t an interesting consideration, but it’s a non-sequitur to the matter at hand.

    Such as: is it wrong to kill? A great many people would insist that objectively, it’s morally wrong to kill. Then ask them if it’s morally wrong to kill a child murderer and the answer becomes infinitely more complex.

    Not really. It’s possible to insist on a “zero-tolerance” policy when it comes to killing irrespective of circumstance (as much as that sucks). Personally speaking, I don’t have any qualms about imposing the death penalty in certain cases. I’m not terribly hung up on the concept of “life” in and of itself. By the way, your employment of the word “objectively” is highly problematic here.

    Does this mean that everyone who doesn’t agree that it’s morally wrong, from an objective point of view, to kill a child murderer is a sociopath?

    Again there’s the ridiculous problem with the word “objective” in the context of a “point of view” which is quite obviously contradictory. As for the disposition of a child-murdering sociopath, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over such an individual being discretely terminated.

    A person could ask the same thing of yourself.

    Had I posed the question in the first place, yes, they could.

    Insisting that a moral code is simply derived from empathy is not a wise argument.

    Note to Jesus: Patrick has “issues” with the most essential pillar of your entire moral code.

    For one thing, empathy is not an inherent trait. It’s a learned trait, and a person can be conditioned by any number of factors to feel empathy or not feel empathy for a person.

    Well, this is a dubious contention at best (there is evidence that “empathy” is a self-serving evolutionary imperative — see Dawkins’ rebuttals to critiques of The Selfish Gene for example ), but let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re correct. Are you suggesting that “morality” isn’t a “learned trait”? Apparently not, because you said that people’s feelings “can be conditioned by any number of factors”… So how then is our acquired moral compass any different in terms of being a “learned trait” and how does that correlate your notion of “objectivity”?

    Here’s an interesting example: research on schoolyard bullying indicates that many people not involved in the bullying fail to intervene because they fail to empathize with the victim.

    I’m not sure what this is meant to prove or how it’s applicable to the broader concept of empathy. I’ll accept your version of this “research” at face value, but so what? Is this meant to invalidate the innate connection and natural compulsion than many people feel to help others in various ways?

    Case studies have provided strong support for the theory that these people become conditioned to believe that the person being bullied somehow deserves their treatment. Often, they attribute that treatment to moral or personal failure, and thus they feel a lack of empathy for that individual.

    More mysterious “case studies”… Well, perhaps this is so, but here’s the rub Patrick — it undermines your argument. Because the “conditioning” in your example is clearly a “learned trait” that works in direct opposition to subvert the natural empathetic impulse.

    Is schoolyard bullying any less immoral if the people committing those acts, and the people witnessing those acts feel no empathy for the victim?

    Hmmm. I always have problems with hypothetical double-negatives. Any “less immoral” than what?

  76. There could well be. I happen to think there are a lot of damaged and potentially psychotic people just “wandering about” that could implode at any given time.

    But according to the standard that you risk setting here, the vast majority of people in nearly any society would qualify as sociopathic.

    Most people recognize morality as complex and often contradictory. That recognition doesn’t make them sociopathic.

    Yes, I believe that’s what I was alluding to by saying they’re unhinged from any “objective standard of morality” (to use your own term of reference)…

    Right. They would be unhinged from this. But there’s a difference between not being able to comprehend publicly-shared morals and disagreement about the nuances of those particular morals.

    Just like there’s a stark difference between immorality and amorality, right?

    Of course there is a subjective element to morality. But this objective/subjective dichotomy is something that you’ve introduced into the argument for no apparent reason. Not that it isn’t an interesting consideration, but it’s a non-sequitur to the matter at hand.

    There very much is a purpose to the introduction of this idea into this conversation.

    You and I would like to agree that killing is objectively considered immoral, and should be even if you don’t believe in a father figure wagging his finger at you from the next life saying “do it and I’ll fucking spank you”.

    But there are some situations in which many of those same people would agree that someone has committed an act so foul that his afterlife appointment with God should be bumped up a bit.

    The point that I’m really trying ot make here is that this is the position someone starts with even if someone purports to believe in objective morality, even as enforced by some othernatural force.

    Now imagine if someone only has their own conscience to answer to. A person unworried about otherworldly retribution could find themselves to be extremely flexible on this.

    I think you also overlook an important aspect of this conversation — if it can be agreed that not believing in an otherwordly retributive God can lead to a flexible sense of morality, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it does.

    It’s to the credit of the many, many people who refuse the opportunity to be amoral that they don’t.

    Again there’s the ridiculous problem with the word “objective” in the context of a “point of view” which is quite obviously contradictory. As for the disposition of a child-murdering sociopath, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over such an individual being discretely terminated.

    But the question is: would you lose any sleep if you had done the same thing yourself? Or if you could have prevented their death and done nothing?

    Note to Jesus: Patrick has “issues” with the most essential pillar of your entire moral code.

    The most essential pillar of Jesus’ moral code wasn’t simply empathy, but charity of spirit.

    And just like empathy, charitableness is a behaviour that is conditioned and learned — like any other behaviour.

    Well, this is a dubious contention at best (there is evidence that “empathy” is a self-serving evolutionary imperative — see Dawkins’ rebuttals to critiques of The Selfish Gene for example ), but let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re correct. Are you suggesting that “morality” isn’t a “learned trait”? Apparently not, because you said that people’s feelings “can be conditioned by any number of factors”… So how then is our acquired moral compass any different in terms of being a “learned trait” and how does that correlate your notion of “objectivity”?

    No, I’ve been suggesting all along that morality is a learned trait. Religion teaches morality, and teaches us that its moral code is objecive — handed down from God.

    The clear difference being that religion teaches a moral code that it tells us is objective.

    Beyond that, Dawkins’ explanation of empathy as a primal objective is incomplete. For one thing, it relies on the situational perception that empathetic behaviour will be reciprocated with either future empathetic behaviour, or with some kind of reward that will help us in some way.

    If a person views someone as having nothing to offer them, there’s no reason to expect any primal urge toward empathy to engage.

    More mysterious “case studies”… Well, perhaps this is so, but here’s the rub Patrick — it undermines your argument. Because the “conditioning” in your example is clearly a “learned trait” that works in direct opposition to subvert the natural empathetic impulse.

    Last but not least, I think you may be misunderstanding the principle of conditioning. Conditioning is a natural process, in which our brains essentially learn pursuit or avoidance behaviours.

    Our brains are conditioned to associate the hotplate on the stove with pain, so we avoid it. Our brains are conditioned to associate sex with pleasure, so we pursue it.

    It’s a natural process, integral to the operation of our nervous system.

  77. “Our brains are conditioned to associate the hotplate on the stove with pain, so we avoid it. Our brains are conditioned to associate sex with pleasure, so we pursue it.”

    so are the brains of dogs. point?

    KEvron

  78. PR — I’m not risking any standard… just saying that someone without any moral compass whatsoever can fairly be described as a sociopath. Of course such matters are complex and frequently contradictory — I never said that they weren’t or suggested people who think otherwise are necessarily sociopaths.

    You and I would like to agree that killing is objectively considered immoral, and should be even if you don’t believe in a father figure…

    No. I don’t actually agree with that. In fact, I believe I said that I’m not really all that attached to the sanctity of “life” per se (to quote myself: “I’m not terribly hung up on the concept of ‘life’ in and of itself.”), that I question the notion of “objectivity” in this regard, and that don’t have much of a problem with killing when it’s circumstantially justifiable. So how you can say that is a bit of a mystery to me.

    Anyway… On and on it could go parsing your comments, but unfortunately, I just don’t have the time at the moment. I’d very much enjoy discussing this (or other nettlesome subjects) with you in future when I’ve got some more free time.

  79. OMG!!! You’re all fucking mental. Even you Patrick… Walker is the only sane one in the bunch…

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