Monday, January 19, 2009

On The Sides Of Buses

From Around the world, atheists hit road to knock down God:

An atheist drive to persuade people that God doesn't exist is catching on in a surprising fashion -- on the sides of buses in a growing number of countries around the world.

With the concise message "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," the campaign took to the road in Britain this month, while similar drives are underway or planned in Spain, Italy, Canada and Australia.

The British campaign was originally floated by comedy writer Ariane Sherine in a newspaper column in June, and is hoping to reach the majority of the country's population in some fashion or another over the next three weeks.

"We could never have imagined it would have gotten this big, and we would have raised quite this amount of cash," campaign co-founder Jon Worth, a political blogger and website designer, told AFP.

"It's astounding."

Sherine wrote her column after advertisements began appearing on central London buses directing passers-by to a website that told those who did not accept Christianity that they would suffer for eternity in hell.

Soon after it was published, Worth contacted her asking if he could set up a pledgebank based on her idea, and shortly thereafter, the Atheist Bus Campaign began taking donations, initially hoping to raise 5,500 pounds (6,200 euros, 8,200 dollars).

To date, it has raised upwards of 140,000 pounds, enough to pay for advertisements on 800 buses across Britain -- 200 in central London alone -- along with 1,000 posters in London's Underground trains and two video screens in a popular Tube station, all for a full month ending in early February.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign has struck a nerve among God-fearing commuters, prompting around 200 complaints to Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which regulates commercials here.

By way of comparison, the most complaints the ASA has ever received over an advert was 1,600.

The watchdog needs just one complaint to investigate an advertisement, which are judged on a variety of factors including harm, offence, taste and deceny as well as factual accuracy, but will wait until next week to decide whether or not to probe the Atheist Bus Campaign's ads.

"A few religious people have complained to the ASA, which seems rather odd, as if they (the ASA) will be able to make a judgment about the evidence on that sort of issue," said Peter Cave, chair of the Humanist Philosopher's Group, which advises the British Humanist Association.
Read more here.

From Catholic Church blocks plans for atheist bus adverts:

The Roman Catholic Church has blocked a plan to put atheist slogans on buses in Italy.
A spokesman for the Italian Union of Atheists and Rationalist Agnostics, which organised the campaign, said yesterday: 'It appears that buses can carry campaigns for underwear and holidays with no problem but if you ask for space to say God doesn't exist then you are denied.'
From Christian driver refuses to board bus carrying atheist slogan by Martin Hodgson:
You're either on the bus, or you're off the bus. And if the vehicle in question bears an advert proclaiming the (probable) non-existence of God, one churchgoing bus driver would rather not climb aboard.

Ron Heather, 62, an evangelical Christian from Southampton, refused to drive a bus bearing an advert from a national campaign aimed at persuading more people to "come out" as atheists.

About 800 buses across the country are to carry the adverts, which read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and go and enjoy your life." Heather said he was "aghast" when he realized last Saturday that he would have to drive a double decker emblazoned with the slogan. He walked out of his shift in protest.

He said: "I was just about to board and there it was staring me in the face - my first reaction was shock horror. I felt that I could not drive that bus, I told my managers and they said they had not got another one and I thought I better go home, so I did."
I wonder how many times Mr. Heather has driven his bus while passengers were either thinking about or discussing the non-existence of God.

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