JUST IN: The Fort Worth Transportation Authority banned religious or atheist advertisements on city buses, which means the latter group won this battle. While the atheists will have to take down their ads from the buses, the religious van will go on.
It may be the season. It may be the times. It may be that those who don’t care far outnumber those who do. It may be a number of things but one thing it is not: a meaningful fight.
It used to be a factor only for lands laying beyond the Hudson River. Armies of increasingly belligerent believers fighting growing hordes of dismissive rationalists over who should own a stake on that trivial but potentially explosive question: what’s your religion? A quiz that has been fading from pretty much any contemporary social contract, from marriage to employment, since at least the founding of this nation.
They, the Fathers, knew a thing or two about it, when making sure church should be kept apart from state. But their memo is still to reach these battling soldiers. And the Pilgrims lesson hasn’t helped them much either: despite having fled religious intolerance, their own sense of professed faith was far from an open-minded concept.
We should be so lucky not to have to reinvent the wheel by pointing to the mindless of fighting over who’s the best god. Since the demoralizing question (how many more will need to die on this quest?) was already anticipated and cleverly disarmed of any meaning (it’s either, what’s this life comparing to the real one, or that children’s tale of the 72 virgins), we’re forced to do it over and over again.
As for the atheists, who had kept a prudent restrain in the face of the organized religious hierarchy (or simply for fear of dismemberment and bonfires), they seem to have decided for a more upfront approach. Not so much in the business of recruiting, theirs seems to be a strategy of gentle persuasion, which nevertheless, remains effective to instill a least the seeds of a doubt or two in the heart of the meek.
Thus, while religion lost the monopoly of proselytism, openly exercised by both sides now, to rationality was entrusted the burden of proof. It’s all a natural consequence of the human favorite pastime, of course, that of preaching on each one the upside of not being the other. But reason is what’s bound to be severely shortchanged in the process.
For those of us who don’t have a hound in this run, it’s all about bells and whistles and whoever dons the brighter armor generally takes the holiday cake.
Since this is shopping season, and a big one at that, everything is up for grabs, including whether yours is a play or a prayer book. No way of knowing who’s winning this game this time around.
In New York, there’s exactly one billboard about a godless season, against at least one Christmas ad in every block. In Fort Worth, after atheists plastered their message on urban buses, a religious organization hired a van to follow them around. Fine, let vehicles argue and go to battle, for all we care.
Because, really, we don’t.