Thursday, January 15, 2009

More about Atheist bus advertising

You'll have already seen reports about the success the British Humanism Association has had with putting atheistic ads on the sides of British buses. With the endorsement of Richard Dawkins, their members raised over 130,000 pounds, and have put ads on 800 buses. The slogan, a modest enough one, reads: "There's probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Of course a transit advertising campaign would never work in Boston. Commuters are putting their lives and their itineraries in the hands of providence when they ride on the MBTA -- we can't ask them to give up their faith, their hope, that all the delays are part of a greater plan, a divine timetable. Commuters trapped on a subway car stuck between Andrew and JFK need a religious source of comfort if we want them not to give in to despair. Do we really need more despair on the Red Line? Do we want to associate atheism with that despair? Maybe instead we could do ads on the back of bottles of Sam Adams: "Hi there, New Englander... enjoying your drink? You might want to open another one, because boy do I have some upsetting news for you about the afterlife."

Actually, the BA is developing plans for just such an advertising campaign here in Boston. For several years, we've been seeing subway and bus ads for Christian groups like The Vineyard and the storefront Reunion Church. These are being peddled as fresh alternatives to traditional congregations. These aren't your parents' religion, folks -- this is church for the iPod generation. I'd like to see ads for Boston's secular institutions, social groups, right alongside ads for the Vineyard and other hipster ministries. You'll hear news about that as that project moves forward.

Not everyone's pleased about these blasphemous buses. Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, has filed a complaint with the British Advertising Standards Authority, saying that the advertisements broke codes on substantiation and truthfulness. Says Green, "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.h The regulations he cites state that marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation."

I came across a report in the Scottish Sunday Herald: apparently the Spanish are atheisizing their buses, too. The Catalan Union of Atheists and Freethinkers has just signed a contract to put ads similar to those in Great Britain, on buses on Barcelona, and have plans for the same slogan to appear in Madrid, Valencia, Seville, Saragossa and Bilbao.

The Vatican's cultural spokesman, Cardinal Paul Poupard, has dismissed this Spanish bus blitz as "stupid, superficial and ridiculous". Then, Cardinal Poupard heplfully provided an example of stupidity and ridiculousness, by inviting people of faith "to continue enjoying life believing in the love of God".

Of course Catholicism does not have a monopoly on stupid or ridiculous. To say more about that, I'll turn the mic over to Jackie who wants to tell us about a recent article on World Net Daily -- a fiercely independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism.

Sources cited: ATHEIST BUS CAMPAIGN,0,3974830.story