In October 2008, a campaign was started off in Britain, with the official support of British Humanist Association and Prof. Richard Dawkins, aimed at spreading peaceful messages about atheism on public buses. The campaign's original goal was to raise £5,500 to run 30 buses across London for four weeks early in 2009 with the slogan: "There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
|Prof. Richard Dawkins|
Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, agreed to match all donations up to a maximum of £5,500, providing a total of £11,000 if the full amount were to be raised. The campaign reached that target by 10.06am on 21 October and had raised £100,000 by the evening of 24 October. The campaign closed on 11 April 2009, having raised a total of £153,516.51.
The idea was sparked off in response to the advertising in buses, of some Christian website which said that all non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity. Subsequently, with the huge success of the campaign, with around 800 buses on road now, the surplus funds were utilised to place huge LCD screens in the streets which would display atheist quotes by famous scientists.
Bus adverts in other countries -
Within no time, similar campaigns were started in other countries too. The American Humanist Association launched a bus campaign in Washington DC in November 2008 with the slogan "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness sake'.
The Atheist Foundation of Australia also attempted to run a bus campaign with the slogan "Atheism – celebrate reason", but were prevented from doing so by advertising company APN Outdoor, Australia's largest outdoor advertiser, which refused to run the adverts.
|The christian version which appeared later|
An atheist bus campaign promoted by the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) was due to start on 4 February 2009 in Genoa. The slogan of the Italian campaign reads "The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that you don't need him". Because of legal issues, the UAAR had to change to a different slogan to comply with the advertising authority's rules: "The good news is there are millions of atheists in Italy. The excellent news is they believe in freedom of expression".
In Spain an advertising campaign has been launched with the slogan "Probablemente Dios no existe. Deja de preocuparte y goza de la vida.", a direct translation of the British advert, on buses in Barcelona which started on 12 January. Madrid and Valencia will follow up at the end of January. This campaign has received criticism from Catholics.
In Canada a nation-wide campaign was launched by the Freethought Association of Canada. The Toronto Transit Commission in Canada approved the advertisements on the commission's buses, trams, and metro and rapid transit trains, with the same message as the British adverts, and debuted in mid-February.
In February, a campaign formed in Bloomington, Indiana to run ads saying "You Can Be Good Without God" in various cities in the state of Indiana.
In Finland a similar campaign was announced on 16 March 2009 to run on buses in Finland in two of the country's largest cities, Helsinki and Tampere.
The German Atheist Bus Campaign had problems finding a bus company which would run their ads and the official website states that they were rejected by 17 companies from all over Germany. Instead they decided to drive the bus themselves on a tour which will cover 20 major German cities. On each stop the bus will take people from the city on a sightseeing roundtrip with an emphasis on scientific and religious historical developments in respect to secularisation and atheism. This decision was met with mixed reactions from the supporters of the campaign who had originally hoped for a conventional advertising campaign which had succeeded in other countries.
Related campaigns -
|billboards in UK|
The initial campaign sparked off other similar movements. One of them is the 'don't label me' campaign which challenged the idea that children should be labelled with their parents' religion. This ad appeared on billboards not buses.
One of the latest is a national public awareness campaign which brings the slogan “IF YOU’RE NOT RELIGIOUS, FOR GOD’S SAKE SAY SO” to public prominence, with the tag line: “In the 2011 Census, tick ‘No religion’”. The campaign aims to stop the falsely inflated figures of 'christians' appearing in the census. many people who are actually non-practicing or who do not believe at all, and who only answer ‘Christian’ out of habit or a loose cultural affiliation or because they were christened and they think that’s what they have to do on the census. With reference to the British Social Attitudes Survey, the Census Campaign estimates that the true number of people who are really non-religious is cut in half by the census.