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Useful advertising: Atheist bus ads

Image: An atheist bus advert (credit: Lorissa)
Image: An atheist bus advert (credit: Lorissa)

You’ll doubtless have heard the story of the journalist and comedian, Ariane Sherine, who was irritated by a Christian ad campaign on buses declaring that non-believers  “will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell … Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire prepared for the devil”.

Writing a series of articles on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website, she suggested that atheists club together to pay for a some ads with a more reassuring atheist messsage (“There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”) the campaign gathered momentum and raised far more money than was needed. It also became a meme that spread around the world.

Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the ad. The ads, or the process of getting them there, became a social object.

The effect of the advertising itself is almost peripheral to the effect of the debate, the bringing together of atheists – a group usually less adept at organising itself than anarchists – with the focus of getting these ads made and the space on the buses bought.

So, some online debate plus a donation website (with a fund that is still growing) and there you have it… a potent piece of activism.

: : Finally, as a riposte to the inevitable complaints to the ASA, Richard Dawkins, a devise proponent of atheism gives a choice quote in this video:  “They have to take offence – it’s the only weapon they’ve got.” Got to remember that one, right?

By Antony Mayfield

I'm Antony Mayfield - to find out more about me take a look at my LinkedIn profile (see the button on the home page). You can contact me by email at antony [dot] mayfield [at] gmail [dot] com.

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