Another religious war has started. But it's not in some faraway country this time. This battle is taking place on Midwestern transit.
In May, the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign paid for two months of ad space on 25 Chicago buses, hoping to give a voice to atheists, agnostics and the non-religious. The group collected private donations to advertise the slogan, "In the Beginning, Man Created God."
"[W]e believe that religion enjoys an unofficial privileged status in this country," the Web site states. " [F]reedom of religion does not mean granting religion immunity from critical scrutiny. No one in the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign is denying people their right to believe what they want, but we have (or should have) the right to challenge those beliefs directly and without fear or shame."
The group's campaign, which is modeled after similar movements in Europe, has advertised another slogan—"You can be good without God"—successfully in Dallas, Denver and Philadelphia. Recently, the bus campaign won a federal lawsuit against the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation, which had rejected the group's proposal.
"Atheists, agnostics and secular humanists have a unique perspective on the topic that usually gets ignored in public discussion, and we'd like to make ourselves heard," Charlie Sitzes, a spokesman for the group, told the Chicago Tribune. "The ads aren't an attack on religious people but an affirmation of a different point of view."
But a South Side church has decided to fight fire with fire and is responding with an ad campaign of its own.
The New Life Covenant Oakwood Church has also bought ad space on 25 Chicago buses, which will bear the slogan "God is still God whether you believe it or not. ... Just believe."
"We wanted to represent our city and the Christian community," John Hannah, the church's pastor and host of a morning radio show on WGRB-AM (1390), told the Sun-Times. "I felt like the atheists, to come in and say there probably isn't a God, that's an attack against our faith. We wanted to be loud just as they were loud."
Hannah hopes other churches will pay for similar advertisements.
Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, puts the fear of God into grammar offenders.