Atheist Bus on Fire!

The campaign to put atheist advertisements on buses in London has quickly taken hold thanks to some international attention via the British Humanist Association and Richard Dawkins. The campaign launched just six days ago with a target to raise £5,500.00 (about $8585 US) with a promise to match that amount from Richard Dawkins himself, bringing the total to £11,000.00. This would be enough money to create a mobile billboard reading "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The campaign reached its goal in only 10 hours!

But it didn't stop there. As news of the campaign spread like fire across the internet, donations continued to pour in. Within two days, the campaign had climbed Mount Improbable and reached £80,000.00. And still the donations arrived. As of this posting, they have accrued £110,835.00 (approx. $172,000 US). That's enough money to place ads on 300 buses for 4 weeks. When you read this, the total will likely have changed. Click here to find the current amount. You can also provide a small donation yourself.

The campaign got its start back in the summer of 2008 with an article published in the Guardian (also see Ariane Sherine's original blog post) on the religious advertisements seen on the sides of buses:
Yesterday I walked to work and saw not one, but two London buses with the question: "When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). It seems you wait ages for a bus with an unsettling Bible quote, then two come along at once.
The ads provided a web address which explained what sin was
Sin is the state that resulted from mankind rejecting God. Sins are the acts that people do as a result. Sins can include exaggeration, lying, jealousy, stealing, murder, adultery or sexual perversion.
as well as the consequences of rejecting God:
You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell.
(Between you and me, if exaggeration wasn't a sin then I might think the last quote was a little over the top...)

A little over 800 people promised donations for this first attempt at getting atheist ads on buses, short by about 3,200 donors. But the idea never faded away. It smoldered and, as with most things on the internet, suddenly took off.

By the way, if you wonder why the ad says "There's probably no god...", it's worth looking back at the original Guardian article again:
I then asked her about another unrelated ad: was it okay for Carlsberg to say their lager was "probably the best lager in the world"? She thought so: "We haven't upheld a complaint against them."

After that, I Googled Carlsberg and found this marketing site, which suggests that using the word "probably" at the start of the ad saved Carlsberg from litigation.
I've yet to tune in to the atheist blogs to see what their take on this is, but I'd guess you need the word probably because, if sued, the burden would be on you to provide proof that your ad is correct. Still, it's a weak argument. There are more things that don't exist than do. How do you prove they all don't exist? Regardless, Ariane Sherine has a little more on why "probably" here. Also, commenter Jonathan suggested this blog post for more (thanks!)

The Guardian also has a short article about what Barack Obama and the Atheist Bus have in common - which boils down to the method of garnering a lot of support and raising a lot of money using the internet as a medium. This will probably be the Dems new territory. Republicans tend to get most of their info spoon fed to them from TV and talk radio...not the best of vehicles to raise money. But that's another subject altogether.

So, has anyone started a similar campaign for buses in the U.S.? That would certainly roil the masses.


Jonathan said...

The reasoning they've given for the 'probably' is that they need to satisfy the bus advertising company's criteria of the slogan not offending religious people. May sound a little silly, but thats the price they have to pay!

You can read more about it here: http://www.atheistcampaign.org/probably/

The skepTick said...

Thanks...I'll update the blog with this link.

stavros said...

I was a bit irritated myself when I first saw these ads in the tube. The website advertised in those cases was http://www.jesuslambofgod.org instead of http://www.jesussaid.org but the contents remained pretty much the same.

It is good to finally have something to counter all this religious propaganda...