NewsTue Jan 20, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST
Atheist Bus Ads - Christians Protest, Italy Rejects, Spain Welcomes, Toronto Is Next
By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
January 20, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A bus ad campaign started in Britain earlier this month has caused a furor in several European countries and may be spreading to Canada.
In Britain, comedy writer Ariane Sherine came up with the idea to have the slogan "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" placed on the sides of buses, and quickly gained support from the British Humanist Association and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins.
Recently a Christian bus driver from Southampton refused to drive a bus that displayed the ad, saying he was shocked and horrified when he saw the slogan, and walked out of his shift in protest.
"I was just about to board and there it was staring me in the face, my first reaction was shock, horror," driver Ron Heather told BBC radio.
"I felt that I could not drive that bus. I think it was the starkness of this advert which implied there was no God. I told my managers and they said they haven’t got another one and I thought I better go home, so I did," he said.
An AFP report said that following the appearance of the ads on 800 buses across Britain and in London’s subway system, "angry Christians have protested to Britain’s advertising watchdog - the Advertising Standards Agency - asking for proof that the slogans are telling the truth."
A Daily Telegraph report said that the Advertising Standards Agency is considering whether to investigate the campaign on the grounds that it is offensive or that its central claim about God’s existence cannot be substantiated.
In northern Italy, a more blatantly antagonistic slogan - "The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that we do not need him." - has been rejected by a billboard agency, the IGP Decaux advertising group. The ad campaign was condemned by the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Genoa, whose Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco is president of the Italian Bishops Conference.
Spain, on the other hand, has had the ads appearing on buses in Barcelona and Madrid since last Monday. Though condemned by the Catholic Church in the country, no other apparent protest is being reported in the media.
Madrid’s La Gaceta said that despite “so much publicity and so much ink spilled in the media,” most Spaniards were indifferent to the ads.
“Yesterday,” the report said, “residents in Barcelona generally showed indifference to the campaign, even though every newspaper, radio and television station, both in Catalonia and in Madrid, covered it in recent days.”
The Freethought Association of Canada is planning to extend the atheist ad campaign to Toronto where it intends to buy ad space on buses from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
The group’s website indicates that the ad in its British format has been submitted for approval to CBS Outdoor, the firm that handles advertising for the Toronto Transit Commission, with atheist groups in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver watching the outcome in order to follow suit if the Toronto campaign is successful.
To contact the Toronto Transit Commission with your concern:
TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone
Email: [email protected]
Advertising Complaints: 416-393-3030