Atheists Run Ads Saying God ‘Probably’ Doesn’t Exist
October 23, 2008 - 4:47 AMIn what humanists are calling a victory over religion, buses in the British capital will soon carry advertisements for atheism.
The British Humanist Association said this week that an Internet fundraising campaign had raised more than enough money for the sides of 30 London buses to display the disparaging signs in January.
“There’s probably no God,” the signs will read. “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
Ariane Sherine of the Atheist Bus Campaign said Wednesday that she had been inspired early in the summer by bus advertisements put up by a Christian group with quotations from the Bible.
Disturbed by the ads, she wrote an article in the Guardian newspaper suggesting that people donate around $8 apiece for bus ads touting atheism.
After the Atheist Bus Campaign was launched earlier this week, with financial support from prominent scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins, it raised more than $88,500 in a single day, she said.
Sherine, a freelance journalist who said she grew up in the Church of England, said that until now, atheism had been denied a voice in British society.
In contrast, she said that the influence of religion had been greatly exaggerated by a handful of powerful people in government and media.
“There is a small number of people making all the noise,” she said.
Hanne Stinson, head of the British Humanist Association, said he hoped donors would be generous.
“If the money keeps pouring in we can expand the campaign, not just to ads inside the buses as well as outside, but to ads on the [subway] or other transport, and in locations outside London,” he said.
A 2007 research report by Tearfund, a Christian development agency, found that two in five people in the United Kingdom hold to no religion at all, with only 15 percent of the population attending church services on a monthly basis.
However, due partially to the influx of immigrants from outside Britain, London was found to be one of the more religious parts of Britain, with 22 percent of its residents regularly going to religious services.
Tim Bleakley of CBS Outdoor, the company that sold the association advertising space on the buses, said in a statement it was “great to see this campaign sparking so much debate.”
Bleakley said it was not the company’s place “to make judgments on the appropriate nature of advertising based on people’s beliefs.”
Bus advertising has the power to captivate millions of people every day, and the atheism campaign was just one instance of an unusual ad carried by London buses, he said. Recently, a London woman had advertised for an egg donor.
CBS Outdoor is the outdoor advertising division of the American CBS Corporation.
The campaign has received a relatively benign response from some religious groups in Britain, with a spokeswoman for the British Methodist Church saying the campaign would “encourage” people to think about God.
“Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity,” Paul Wooley, director of Theos, a religious think tank, told the Daily Telegraph.
Sherine said Wednesday she was happy with the response from religious groups.
“I’m pleased that they support freedom of speech,” she said. “I think that I respect any organization that thinks any views should be put out there.”