Saturday, January 31, 2009

Faith on the side of a bus

United Church advertisement turns London slogan on its head in bid to provoke debate

31st January 2009

A provocative and highly controversial religious ad set to debut today is being welcomed by church groups who say it encourages open discussion about the validity of God.

In response to a popular British billboard that will appear soon on the TTC, the United Church of Canada has launched the ad in today's Globe and Mail.

The original ad, featured on buses in the U.K., declared: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

The United Church plays off the London campaign, with a key change: "There's probably a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."


"The United Church is always interested in talking about these things," said Dr. Keith Howard. "We hope we can posture some debate between folks that say there is a God and folks that say there isn't. We want to get a conversation going."

Howard said motivation for paying homage to the British ad came from a lack of connection with Canadians between age 30 and 45.

"We realized we don't have a relationship with a lot of people in that demographic," he said. "That group sees religion as kind of being arrogant and unwilling to listen. We want to tell them we're here to listen."

Other church leaders have not responded to the much-hyped ad, but they encouraged religious debate.

"We don't necessarily agree with the content of the message," said Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.

"But if we can invoke a respectful discussion and reflection of people's beliefs, we support that."

Waiting to see how the newspaper ad will play, Howard said he hasn't yet decided if he will go the way of the original slogan and pursue ad space on the TTC.

The London ad has been approved by the transit system, TTC spokesman Brad Ross said, and is likely to be on display in vehicles and subway stations in the next few weeks.

"I think it's a good idea," commuter Brandon Aarsma told the Sun yesterday when asked outside the Dundas subway station. "If somebody sees the ad and says, 'Oh, that's nuts' and I overhear them, I'm going to talk to them about it."