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The Atheist Bus Campaign

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In June 2008, writer Ariane Sherine wrote a blog for The Guardian's Comment is Free site expressing annoyance at the number of adverts for Christianity appearing on London buses. Having looked up a webpage mentioned in one of these adverts and read on it that she would probably 'spend all eternity in torment in hell', Sherine reasoned that some sort of balancing atheist campaign was in order. The resulting Atheist Bus Campaign initially aimed to raise enough money for just a few adverts with the aforementioned slogan; however, it went on to become the most rapid-growing campaign in's history, raising more than ten times its target amount in the first day alone.

The campaign began with a blog entitled 'Atheists - gimme five' calling for atheists to help support a short advertising campaign on bendy buses in Westminster. Political blogger Jon Worth set up a Pledgebank site for readers to pledge five pounds, but despite various offers of support for the campaign, The Telegraph was quick to run a story entitled 'Atheists fail to cough up for London bus ad'. A second Comment is Free piece, entitled 'Dawkin 'Bout A Revolution' set the record straight, and the campaign finally proved itself after numerous donations were made as soon as the Justgiving donations page opened.


Naturally, the campaign has received criticism from all directions, with some antitheists1 calling for the word 'probably' to be removed from the proposed adverts. However, as Sherine has explained, the uncertain nature of the slogan is more to avoid the wrath of marketing regulations that allow religious claims but would probably not permit a fully atheist slogan. Meanwhile, the expected backlash from the Christian community took place and included a mixture of claims: a Methodist reckoned that the campaign would be good in that it would encourage an interest in religion, while one Christian pressure group moaned that 'people don't like being preached at'.


Even before the buses began to roll, the Atheist Bus Campaign had been covered by media from more than 25 countries and was even commented on in an episode of Have I Got News For You. The campaign raised nearly £150,000, while a rival 'Alpha Posters' campaign started a day later to support a Christian course raised less than 1% of that amount. The Atheist Bus Campaign was thus expanded nationwide, and impatient supporters of the campaign mocked up various graphics of buses, bus stops and buildings adorned with the campaign's slogan. The first adverts arrived in London in January, 2009, with adverts on the London Underground and in a number of other towns and cities soon following. An inevitable backlash followed the campaign: the Christian pressure group mentioned above made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, a group of MPs have signed an Early Day Motion demanding an investigation with a view to censorship, and the BBC reported that a bus driver had refused to drive buses carrying the advert.

1Antitheism is a state of active opposition to theism, and some antitheists even work to promote the removal of religion from legislature and public institutions. Not all atheists are antitheists!

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