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What do you think of the atheist bus adverts in the UK?

Do you think that the campaign is a good idea, or do you think that it might backfire (as some religious commentators have suggested).

Posted: January 8th 2009

SmartLX www

I love the campaign, but as an Australian I feel very left out. Our version of the campaign was rejected by the company which appears to monopolise bus advertising here. We’ll have to put the banners somewhere else.

Posted: January 12th 2009

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Dave Hitt www

I like 'em. Religious billboards have infested the highways forever. Now we have advertisements promoting rational thought over superstition. What’s not to like?

I would have done them a bit differently. I’d have the word “probably” out of the English version. And I wouldn’t have used a stained glass motif for the “Imagine no religion” ads. I would have shown a picture of the Twin Towers in flame.

Posted: January 9th 2009

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bitbutter www

I’m really enthusiastic about the campaign.

We knew, of course, from the beginning that it would draw criticism from the religious who feel threatened by it. But even by their standards, the content of that criticism has been particularly weak. Much of that hot air has been wasted on the word 'probably’. Commentators like Nick Spencer pretend to wonder whether it means that atheists are having doubts. The real explanation for its inclusion is only a google search away and well within the reach of even the laziest journalist.

Some Christians think that the advert is a good thing for Christianity in the UK, and that anything that gets people thinking about gods is a win for their side. I think they’re mistaken.

This campaign has set an important precedent; it’s a publicly funded, public expression of an overtly atheistic point of view on a large scale. We routinely see 'Godverts’, most commonly on the sides of churches, but nothing like this has been done before. The ad is an important step in the ongoing project of legitimising atheism in the public mind. Judging from the global response to the advert, it’s come at just the right time.

Posted: January 9th 2009

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logicel

Simply smashing – from the way the idea was hatched to how the money was raised to how the idea was executed to how the slogan looks on the buses (very elegant and friendly) to how the religious are responding (their indignation and protests that religion does not prevent relaxation and enjoyment are hilarious!) I heart this ad campaign bigtime.

My happiness may be getting in the way of my being able to discern if such an ad blitz could backfire, but I can’t see how it can. Atheists have no need to run the ads if the religious stop their vicious haunting of our psyches in the public realm. We have nothing to lose if such ads referencing god(s) are no longer allowed as we have no agenda unlike the religious who have way more to lose (more than what they are already losing).

Posted: January 9th 2009

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Eric_PK

I would say “Brilliant” – they get a point across without being too judgemental or heavy.

I think one of the problems that atheists have had is that atheism is very rarely evangelical – many (if not most) atheists believe (or have believed) that what you believe is your own personal business.

That’s often had the result of giving religous beliefs a free pass, and meant that atheists have a real image problem, at least in the US (the UK is much less churched than the US is).

Posted: January 9th 2009

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flagellant www

People have had some time to get used to the idea of these buses. The upset, apart from a few dotty complaints, has been very mild. The very gentleness of the message is a point strongly in its favour.

With a campaign like this, it is important to establish in the public’s mind that religion and belief are not sacrosanct and that they are fair game. Additionally, having achieved this, the advertisements, light-heartedly and non-dogmatically, make the point that it’s quite acceptable to be a free-thinking non-believer.

Too often, religion gets a free ride; it seldom has to be justified. It is simply accepted. The atheist advertisement undermines this mindset both subtly and appropriately; the deliberate use of 'probably’ in its explanation and an implicit exhortation to feel neither guilt nor fear contrasts strongly with most religious messages.

Since the Enlightenment, the 'God-given’ nature of 'God’ and religion has been increasingly questioned; this campaign continues the process. The tube campaign cards, which will appear shortly, also make the point carefully, without being confrontational. No-one could possibly take exception to Douglas Adams’s lovely question 'Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?’

Atheists spend too much time rehearsing and repeating the arguments among themselves; seldom do they do something important and strategic. Carefully argued books like Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell challenge the cosy position occupied by faith and religion. Faced with the arguments, many of the religiosi have shifted to ground where they no longer claim the literal truth of their religious books. Instead, they now talk about the metaphorical point of many of the stories. The bus – and other transport – campaign is an important step further forward; it keeps up the pressure on those who would promulgate faith, requiring them to justify themselves more than they’ve hitherto been expected to do. Watch out for further retreat into the world of metaphor and simile.

A prominent complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority comes from Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice. It includes the claim that the advertisements break the ASA’s codes on substantiation and truthfulness.

It is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules. There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.
This complaint can only help: either the ASA will rule the objection too trivial to consider – (Ariane Sherine has already checked out the 'probably’ with the ASA and, in any case, one would have thought that if 'God’ were half the person his acolytes claim, s/he/it could surely take care of him/it/herself) – or Green will be asked to substantiate his assertions. Whichever way things go – and the case being ruled 'beyond an earthly court’s jurisdiction’ being far more likely – the atheist campaign will benefit from yet more favourable publicity.

Posted: January 9th 2009

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brian thomson www

Generally positive, though I have a slight problem with the word “probably”: it’s not wrong, but the word has been much abused in UK advertising in recent years. “Probably the best (product) in the world” has become a hackneyed cliché. Ideally, the word would get people thinking about the actual probability that their beliefs are correct. It’s not 50/50, as so many seem to assume, which is why Pascal’s Wager keeps getting dragged out.

In general, the negative responses have been so obvious as to resist reasoned argument – but maybe I’ve been doing this too for long. I find it hard to see how anyone could fall for such arguments – never the religion(s) behind them – yet too many are persuaded by such nonsense. I don’t hold out much hope that the bus ads will promote any deep, personal, thoughts about religion and the impact it has on the world. Even a “backfire” might be an improvement on the current lazy acceptance of religion in public life.

P.S.: the campaign is getting a fresh publicity boost, thanks to the infamous Stephen Green of “Christian Voice”, who has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). He claims the ads make a factual claim… and religious ads don’t?

Posted: January 8th 2009

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