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Atheist advertisements to appear on Bloomington buses

By Scott Tibbs, August 13, 2009

A few months ago, Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign won their legal battle with Bloomington Transit, when the bus system agreed to settle out of court and run the advertisements. This has generated a few letters to the editor and quite a bit of discussion on the local newspaper's Web site.

Bloomington Transit's argument is that company policy prohibits "controversial" advertisements. The problem with this argument is it gives BT carte blanche to refuse to run any advertisement, no matter the content or subject matter being addressed. "Controversial" is in the eye of the beholder and changes depending on the audience. Since Bloomington Transit is a tax-funded entity, BT's advertising policy is far too vague and probably would not have survived a court challenge.

While I disagree with the content of the advertisement, I support the IABC's right to purchase advertising from the public transportation company. Censorship is never constructive to discourse on any topic, whether it be political, social, historical, cultural or theological. What the IABC advertisement has done is open up an opportunity for discussion and Christians should take full advantage of that opportunity to "give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." (I Peter 3:15)

It is unfortunate that some Christians don't see it that way. A letter to the editor contends that it is "appalling that the city of Bloomington would allow the atheistic posting" on the Bloomington Transit buses and argues that the advertisement creates 'the impression that Bloomington is a community of bigotry, narrow-mindedness and insensitivity to Christian believers." The author of another letter to the editor in response to the ads claims he is "exercising my rights while I still can."

This is an overreaction. The statement that "you can be good without God" may be theologically false, but it is not openly hostile to Christians. If anything, a free-speech victory for an atheist group solidifies the foundation for Christians to exercise our own First Amendment rights. No one is being persecuted and there is no threat of persecution from this advertisement. I applaud the IABC for choosing a non-confrontational approach to their ad rather than the more "in your face" approach of some of the other groups that have purchased advertisements.

Is it possible to be good without God? Scripture clearly teaches that it is not possible. All men and women are wicked and are deserving of eternal damnation. Only through the completely unmerited grace of Jesus Christ do we have any hope to be redeemed from the punishment God has prepared for us. See the Scriptures below for doctrinal proof of the sinfulness and hopelessness of man without God.

  • There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. -- Romans 3:10-12
  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God -- Romans 3:23
  • The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? -- Jeremiah 17:9
  • Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned -- Romans 5:12
  • Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. -- Psalm 51:5
  • How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm? -- Job 25:4-6
  • And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. -- Mark 7:20-23
  • Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us. -- Ephesians 2:2-4

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