Thursday, October 23, 2008

When the Atheists go to town--

When those atheists go to town

Riazat Butt

London: The first atheist advertising campaign in the United Kingdom has beaten its funding target in less than 24 hours, raising five times the amount needed to have its posters on city buses here.

Organisers of the campaign, which was launched on Tuesday, were seeking £5,500 to run advertisements in London saying "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" on 30 buses for four weeks. By Monday night, individuals and organisations had pledged more than £28,000.

Writer Ariane Sherine suggested the idea in a Guardian 'Comment is Free' blog, saying an atheist bus campaign would provide a reassuring counter-message to religious slogans threatening non-Christians with damnation.

She said: "Ours is a fun and light-hearted message but it does have a serious point to it: that atheists want a secular country, we want a secular school and a secular government. The strength of feeling has been shown with so many people willing to pay for this campaign."

Sherine said she was surprised by the level of support but was pleased with the extra money, which would finance a more ambitious campaign. "We could go national, we could have tube [subway] posters, different slogans, more buses, advertising inside buses. The sky's the limit — except, of course, there's nothing up there."

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, will donate a further £5,500. His contribution is not included in the sum featured on the Just Giving website, nor is the Gift Aid supplement, which will add at least £6,000 to the total. The British Humanist Association has agreed to administer all donations.

Churches have responded favourably. The British Methodist church welcomed Mr. Dawkins' "continued interest" in God, encouraging people to think about the issue. The Church of England said it would defend the right of any group representing a religious or philosophical position to promote that view through appropriate channels. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008

Bipin Shroff