Thursday, December 2, 2010

I have no faith in this campaign

Adrants posted this item from an article on headlined, "Christ meets Big Foot: more irreverent atheist ads to hit Canadian cities":

All I can say is, "Jesus Christ, guys!"

The organization behind the campaign, which will hit Toronto streets after Xmas, had this to say:

"I'd love it if everyone saw the ads and know the point of the campaign is to emphasize not the kind of knee-jerk debunking to anything suspicious but that we're interested in a genuine debate, a conversation about so-called extraordinary claims. We're not here to mock people who believe in these claims."

Let me change my response to, "JESUS TAP-DANCING CHRIST ON A CRACKER!!!"

I was raised going to church. I stopped going to church. I changed from liberal Christian to agnostic (in the true sense of the word) while still respecting the role progressive Christian beliefs can play in filling a void in many people's lives.

I hate fundamentalism of any stripe and I despise totalitarianism, sexism, oppression, regression and hate perpetrated in the name of religion. But as an unbeliever, I also recognize those things as human flaws. If there are no Gods, then it's important to understand why people would want to do those things to each other.

I won't wax philosophical any more here, except to say that I find this campaign provocative in all the wrong ways. It's like one of those sarcastic trolls you see online who make nasty jokes for their own amusement — or at most, a small circle of like-minded douchebags. Talk about preaching to the choir.

But there was some salvation here, and it came from the very people the group was trying to offend: a church.

This isn't just any church. It's the largest Protestant congregation in Canada. And unlike its literalist and fatalist counterparts (especially in the U.S.!) The United Church of Canada is not treating the ad as a declaration of culture war, but lovingly providing a broader perspective.

Rev. Bruce Gregersen, UCC general council officer:

"Conversation is welcome and invitational to all people to think about the meaning of faith. It's a fair question that goes to the heart of what you count as proof. There are millions of people who have sense of the mysterious . . . deeper within our spirits...

"Our perspective is that Christ is able to stand in that kind of situation and not be ridiculed. Our belief about Christ is much bigger than anything related to Zeus, or psychics or homeopathy, so in that sense it's trivializing the nature of faith. On the other hand, it's not enough that I'd want to raise issues."

In fact, the UCC is all about questioning and discussing things. They've even made it part of their sect brand with Wondercafe, an open community for thought-provoking discussion. And one which was launched with ads like these:

(See the whole campaign at Osocio)

This was my church, and to some degree still is. Perhaps you can understand now why I am not as "angry with God" as the Centre for Inquiry.


  1. I admire your pragmatism and the ability to not be 100% sure about the existence of god. But, I have to point out that term "progressive christian beliefs" irks me. It seems to me that it's nothing more than embracing what you like about your religion and discarding what you don't. One cannot simply ignore the merit of certain tenets because it doesn't fill their current world view.

    The campaign seems a bit dubious. I can respect the Centre for Inquiry and UCC/Wondercafe for instigating discussion and providing a forum for it. But, if they're being intellectually honest about it, how can they not arrive at a conclusion that would make the organization's existence a meaningless one?

  2. There's nothing wrong with being a cafeteria Christian, Andrew. Since all religious tenets are man-made, then every person has the right and ability to remake them however they want.

    And I want to clarify be beliefs: It's not that I'm unsure. I don't believe in the supernatural. But I also don't believe that everything can be known through rational thought. For me, it's about accepting the limitations of our own minds.

  3. You're right, there isn't anything wrong with that. As in, you're completely free to believe in whatever you want. Just as I'm free to be critical of it, using rational thought.

    I don't know if it's possible that everything can be known through rational thought. But that's the thing; rational thought is the only framework we have to work within, limited or otherwise. How is it possible to know what defines 'limitations of our own minds' when we cannot possibly see what, if anything, is beyond that?

    Are you suggesting that there exists other planes of consciousness?

  4. Just altered states of consciousness. :)