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Christian Group Counters Atheist Ads With Own Bus Campaign

February 06, 2009 12:56 PM
by Josh Katz
A Christian group in London is responding to the atheist bus advertisements that have spread throughout London and the world by launching its own pro-God campaign.

Christian Group Launches Own Bus Campaign

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The Trinitarian Bible Society announced on Thursday that it will launch a pro-God advertising campaign to counter the atheist effort that has swept London. The group has produced the Bible in different languages for more than 150 years, according to Agence France-Presse.

The ads, which will debut on Monday and run for two weeks, will display a verse from the Bible and information on how to receive a Bible for free. They will appear on 183 buses throughout London.

David Larlham, the group’s assistant general secretary, said that the effort will cost $51,300, though the society might extend the campaign depending on its success.

“I was pleased to see (the atheist) campaign, because its good that the country is a free country where people can voice their opinion and declare their belief,” Larlham told AFP.

In Britain, the organizers of the Atheist Bus Campaign first announced the idea in October 2008, not expecting to receive much funding. But by mid-January the group had received more than $200,000 and began displaying the message on 800 buses across the country, according to The New York Times. Comedy writer Ariane Sherine spearheaded the effort in the UK with the help of prominent atheist Richard Dawkins.

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Background: Atheist bus campaigns around the world

Earlier in January, Barcelona began displaying atheist bus advertisements questioning the existence of God, using the phrase: “Probablemente Dios no existe. Deja de preocuparte y goza de la vida,” meaning, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life,” according to The Guardian.

The ad campaign has crossed the Atlantic and surfaced in Washington, D.C. The American Humanist Association unveiled bus advertisements there in November, although the message was not as controversial: “Why believe in a god?” the ads read, next to a picture of a man wearing a Santa suit. “Just be good for goodness’ sake.”

The atheist bus advertisements also made their way to Calgary, Alberta. Justin Trottier, president of an atheist organization, said people from Calgary have been major supporters of the Canadian campaign, which has raised about $30,000. “About half our donations have come from outside Ontario, with a lot of response from Calgary and Halifax,” according to the Calgary Herald.

Atheists tried to bring the campaign to Australia as well, but that effort was not as successful. The ads, which read, “atheism—celebrate reason” or “atheism—sleep in on Sunday mornings,” were rejected by APN Outdoor, the country’s largest outdoor advertising company, according to The Daily Telegraph. Similar attempts failed in Tasmania when state-owned bus company Metro called them discriminatory and threatened legal action.

The campaign also failed in Genoa, Italy. “Right-wing politicians criticized us ferociously,” according to Giorgio Villella of The Italian Union of Atheists and Rationalist Agnostics. He went on to say, “It’s strange that in a country where ads depicting near-naked women wearing skimpy lingerie is permitted on buses that we can’t run ads about atheism.”

Reference: Atheism and religion guides; Dawkins’ official Web site

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