Friday, 9 January 2009

The Atheist Bus Campaign

I feel slightly let down by Humanism. In some ways Humanism is impressive. It has an aim of treating human beings with respect, dignity and concern without the motive of the heavenly reward promised by religions. In that respect it can be more selfless, more altruistic than a religion. How can I not feel respect for that? Something else that impressed me was the way the resources of Humanistic groups went into doing something about the plight of human beings whose human rights were being abused.

What I never expected was for Humanism to go down the road that modern Christianity has of diverting money away from helping people to commercially advertising its beliefs. Hold on, you might say, is not one of the responsibilities of Christianity to ‘spread the word’. Yes, granted, but there is a big difference between religious conversion and spending millions worldwide on billboard advertising, newspaper adverts and suchlike instead of fulfilling the Christian duty of helping people directly. That money could feed the starving, house the homeless, pay for medication for the sick and more. Other forms of advertising, for an appeal to help people, at least have a practical purpose. Band Aid is a good example.

As to the advertising of the existence of Christianity, have you ever met someone who has not heard of Christianity? It is a bit like starting an advertising campaign to let people know that there is a part of the world called ‘Europe’ or that there is a country called the ‘United States of America’.

I was curious when I read about an Atheist Bus Ad Campaign which was in reply to Christian bus advertisements. The organiser, Ariane Sherine, hoped to raise just over £5,500 to pay for advertising on buses promoting atheism. To be fair, that seemed like a good idea because she was replying to a less than admirable advertising campaign. What made my heart sink was when I read that they raised over £135,000 and used it all on advertising (800 buses in the UK and now the project is going global) and none of it went on more responsible Humanistic causes. Picture the scene of a homeless person begging on a street in the freezing weather we have had this week; first he sees a bus with advertising for Christianity go past, then he sees a bus with advertising for atheism go past. How did either help him? The cost of the advertising on just one of those buses would probably have got him out of the cold weather into a shelter for quite a while, providing him with food and even new clothes.

It is a shame that the main concern of both beliefs, Christianity and Humanism, of helping humanity should potentially be reduced through concerns of promotion through advertising.

To read the full story and see news videos on the project please click this link:,3494,Atheists-launch-bus-ad-campaign,BBC

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