If you’ve travelled much on London Transport over the last few weeks, you’ll have seen the new Alpha Course poster pictured on the left.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have experienced an almost irresistible urge to fill in the survey by ticking the ‘no’ box. It appears that doing so might be a somewhat dangerous proposition.
There’s a discussion over on the Bad Science forum about someone who took that obvious action and was arrested by the London Transport Police for criminal damage. Apparently six police officers were present at the arrest.
It all seems rather an overreaction to a piece of harmless vandalism.
I mean, the poster asks a question. How can they object if someone gives them an answer?
There is plenty of evidence for God, from peoples’ personal experience,
to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural
world. But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the
advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an
exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.
Stop and think about that claim for a second – Green obviously hasn’t. This is a religious person objecting to atheist adverts by citing “truth in advertising”. How stupid does that make him sound?
Part of me hopes that the ASA find in favour of this complaint. Because then we could turn it back on them and ban all religious advertising overnight.
But mainly I want the ASA to just laugh in his face.
Last June, writer Ariane Sherine wrote an article on Comment is Free complaining about the amount of religious advertising on the side of London buses. As part of the research for the article she calculated that it would take about 4,500 atheists donating £5 each to get together enough money to have an atheist advertising campaign on the side of a bus. This idea caught on and a pledge was set up to try to make it happen. This original pledge failed, but the idea had taken root and several people started beavering away to try and turn the idea into a reality.
The campaign relaunched today. This time, some recalculations have been done and the project team have worked out that they for £5,500 they can get adverts on 30 buses for four weeks. Richard Dawkins is involved and has said that he will match all donations up to a limit of £5,500 – effectively doubling the purchasing power of the campaign.
The donations page on Just Giving went live this morning. When I gave my donation at about 10am the total stood at about £4,500. As I write this, it’s approaching £15,000.
The response has been phenomenal. Atheists obviously really want to get their message out to more people. It looks like the campaign will be able to put posters on far more buses than expected and therefore reach far more people than they hoped for. This is obviously an idea which has struck a chord with a great many people who are tired of being presented with religious advertising which largely goes unquestioned.
So it looks like it’s going to happen. The adverts will probably start appearing on buses in the next few months. They will say “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. The “probably” there is to satisfy the bus advertising people that they aren’t leaving themselves open to accusations of blasphemy. Seems a little weak to me as the religious adverts make the most ridiculous claims with no need to back them up in any way.
If these adverts raise a smile then it will have been worthwhile. If they stop just one person from taking a religious advert too seriously then the campaign will have been a great success.
Sherine has another piece about the campaign on Cif today. The story has also been covered by the BBC and the Times. I expect it to get more coverage tomorrow, once it becomes clear just how successful it has been. I can’t wait to see how the Mail covers it.
Now. Who’s up for trying something similar in the US?