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Atheist ad campaign in Greater Sudbury reaches out to non-believers

It took three weeks and a careful choice of words, but Sudbury's fledgling atheist group has received approval for an ad campaign on a Sudbury Transit Bus.
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An ad from the Sudbury branch of the Centre For Inquiry, a secular group getting started in the city, can be seen on one Sudbury Transit bus. Supplied photo.
It took three weeks and a careful choice of words, but Sudbury's fledgling atheist group has received approval for an ad campaign on a Sudbury Transit Bus.

The ad, which states, 'Don't believe in God? You are not alone,' can be seen for a month on one of the city's transit 60 buses starting Jan. 13. Spencer Lucas, who heads the local branch of the Centre For Inquiry (CFI) Canada, said it took three weeks to get the ad approved.

Atheist-themed ads have been rejected in other cities – Vancouver, for example – and pro-Christian bus ads have caused controversy. Last year, a conservative Christian group voluntarily pulled an ad in Toronto that said, “Does God care that I'm Gay?' and included links to a website that said God hates homosexuality, but not gay people.

Lucas said the Sudbury ad doesn't seek to convert anyone to their way of thinking, and instead takes the 'preaching to the choir' approach.

“We had seven or eight (ads) we could choose from, and we picked the one with the most benign wording,” Lucas said Thursday. “We're not trying to mock religion or anything like that, but reach out to like-minded individuals.”

The CFI's Sudbury branch was formerly a humanist group, which is a global secular movement that rejects the idea that there are divine answers to human questions. Lucas said CFI is a broader organization that includes skeptics, atheists and agnostics. They currently have about 40 members in Sudbury, as well as 100 likes on Facebook.

Considering the ad is funded by money raised at pass-the-hat functions, Lucas said one bus for one month is all they could afford. But their goal is inform people who may feel the same way that they're not alone, and the media coverage they hope to generate will help them get their message out.

The ad campaign will be formally launched at a 2 p.m. news conference Monday, where Lucas will be joined by CFI Canada founder Justin Trottier in the foyer of Tom Davies Square.

“Though a lifelong atheist, I'm fascinated by what others believe,” said Spencer, in the release announcing the campaign. “With the effort of our volunteers, supported by a robust national organization, we'll grow our local community and engage in meaningful discussion with those of different worldviews.”

A free public event will be held later in the day, starting at 6:30 at the Living With Lakes Centre at Laurentian University. Trottier will give an overview of the organization, with an emphasis on CFI's campaign to end public funding for Ontario's separate school system.

Darren MacDonald

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