December 27, 2010
VANESSA SANTILLI
THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

TORONTO — The new ad campaign from the atheist group behind last year’s “there’s probably no God” campaign suggests that Christ and Allah have the same credibility as UFOs, Big Foot, psychics, Zeus and homeopathy.

“Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence,” reads the new campaign poster set to run on TTC vehicles.

While the ads are still pending approval, they are expected to make their debut on streetcars in January, said Justin Trottier, national executive director of the Centre for Inquiry, the group behind the campaign.

If all goes according to plan, Trottier said the ads would then run in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal.

“Broadening our focus from just God, we’ll now call for skepticism and rational inquiry into any conceivable extraordinary claim,” said Trottier.

But the intent of the ads is not to offend, he said. “The intent is to get people to join us in a conversation. They’re meant to spark debate.”

Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Toronto Archdiocese, said it’s important the dialogue created is one of respect between believers and non-believers.

“We live in a multicultural, multi-faith city and we need to be respectful of those who don’t necessarily agree with us,” said MacCarthy. “But it doesn’t mean we have to agree with the content of the ads or this particular approach.”

The best advertisement for faith in the city is the work that’s being done by faith communities, said MacCarthy.

“And that’s not a billboard — that’s our hospitals, our schools, our social services, our churches, people of faith who live and work in this city.

A DIFFERENT CITY

“If you took a look at the city of Toronto and you didn’t have the involvement of, not just Catholic organizations, but people of faith, our city would be very different.”

Friar Richard Riccioli, pastor at Toronto’s St. Bonaventure Parish, said he doesn’t see the campaign being an effective means of opening up discussion. “It’s just words on a bus,” he said.

“There’s so much happening in our community that is evidence of faith and of God’s presence,” he said.

“Talk is cheap,” Riccioli said. “We’re too busy putting our faith into action to worry about head games.”