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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

On the buses

The UK’s first ever atheist advertising campaign launches today, with official support from God Delusion author Professor Richard Dawkins. The campaign, which is also supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA), will feature adverts across London’s bendy buses (see mock-up below) with the slogan:

There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

The Atheist Bus Campaign began thanks to readers of the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” articles blog. Comedy writer Ariane Sherine wrote an article for it in June (and another today) about the Christian adverts running on London buses. The ads featured the address of a website that said non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity. Sherine suggested that atheists reading her article could each donate £5 to fund a reassuring counter-advert.

“Hundreds of readers offered to contribute to the proposed ad,” she tells us, “and after six weeks, 877 people had signed up to a Pledgebank page where they pledged to donate their £5.” Another 1,300 joined the campaign after Sherine’s follow-up piece on the Guardian site.

The campaign received a boost when the British Humanist Association undertook to administer donations for the campaign and Dawkins agreed to match all donations up to a maximum of £5,500, giving the groundbreaking campaign a total of £11,000 if the full amount is raised – enough for two sets of 30 buses carrying the atheist slogan across Westminster for four weeks.

CBS Outdoor, the bus advertising company, have said that they will run the ads in January if the money is raised.

Dawkins said, “Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned ‘respect’ and the right not to be ‘offended’, the right to brainwash children. Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.”

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the BHA, said, “We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air. If it raises a smile as well as making people think, so much the better.”

Ariane Sherine added, “I’m very pleased so many people are behind the atheist bus – though not actually behind the atheist bus: they’d get covered in exhaust fumes.”

Atheists (and archbishops, rabbis and imams, if they’re of a mind) can donate to the campaign here.

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