Friday, May 29, 2009

Go Indiana!

I spotted this little story in the American press yesterday here.

I am hard wired to subliminally latch onto the word "Indiana" since a coupe of year's back I spent a few years shuttling back and forth to Indianapolis because of work. I couldn't help but notice at the time how religious the society was there (at least compared to the UK) I must say it was quite a shock having previously only experienced US East & West coast life (which is much more like Europe). It struck me how insular the communities were and how the company I was working for seemed to be run entirely by a bunch of people who all went to the exact same church. Religion seemed so prominent in everyday working life; in fact I would go as far as to say that the religious "way of thinking" permeated the entire culture of the company, very solipsistic, they did raise money for charity now and again and they did help their local community and encourage others to do the same which was refreshing. Suffice to say not everyone I met was a rabid religious bigot, there were some very nice people there of course but it was not a culture that I felt comfortable with. I'm sure they thought I asked way too many questions and kept annoyingly pointing out what I thought were "obvious" rational flaws in their arguments; I was glad to cut ties with them as soon as I could.

Anyway, this story somewhat reinforces my perception of the place, the secular Alliance of Indiana University, in Bloomington attempted to emulate the London Atheist Bus campaign in Indiana by placing boards on the sides of buses but failed because the Indianapolis public transport system wouldn't run their campaign. Next they tried South Bend whose bus company kicked up a fuss, initially refusing; fortunately though that bus company had already run religious ad's and was shamed into relenting. You might be wondering at this stage what hateful anti-religious venom these Atheists wanted to publicise, what spiteful disrespect could cause such a kerfuffle? The message reads "You can be good without God", a simple fact, plain for anyone to see, how radical.

Anyway now the campaign has moved to Chicago, where fortunately there was much less fuss, now you can see the Atheist messages alongside ad's saying things like "Islam, got questions?" (well yes actually but that's a topic for another post)

All that's left to do is reflect on a zeitgeist changing in front of my very own eyes.


Lisa said...

It's interesting to see an update on the atheist bus campaign; Elizabeth blogged a bit about it before, but I wondered if it was still running.

Indiana University always seemed like a liberal, decent university (a friend did her undergrad there and another friend is a prof there) - it's probably the town locals that are typical midwest american christians.

Steve Borthwick said...

Lisa, I met some truly wonderful people whilst I was there and keep in touch with several of them to this day. I hate generalisations but I must say I never met a single person in 2 years who was open about being an Atheist or even an agnostic!

I spent a lot of time biting my lip, nodding and smiling, perhaps I should have been more strident like Dawkins ;-)