Buy an atheism bus-ad from the British Humanist Association

Sara from the British Humanist Association sez,

The British Humanist Association is selling the original Atheist Bus Campaign signs. The controversial campaign was launched in October 2008 and by January 2009 had been the subject of 326 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, including a complaint from Stephen Green of Christian Voice(UK) who said "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." Hanne Stinson of the BHA argued that if the ASA rule on this complaint, then the ASA will be ruling on whether God exists.

Each sign is in two parts and these things are pretty large (3.96 metres x 0.5 metres) – they came straight off the side of one of the original Atheist Buses in London. One has already been promised to the Museum of London, but the others are up for grabs to go on your bedroom wall (if it fits), your roof, on your bus (if you have one), or your really long car!

You can own one of these unique pieces of atheist and humanist history by bidding here now. You can bid from anywhere in the world but remember that you will have to pay for the postage and shipping on top of your bid! The money raised will all go towards the BHA's work for a secular state, promoting learning about humanism in schools, and the various other BHA campaigns which can be found on our website.

I'm proud to be a lifetime member of the BHA.

Update: in the comments, TacoChuck writes,

While we are on the subject, tangentially at least, there is a humanist children's school in Uganda that could use some support to help buy some land and build a permanent school house: Kasese Humanist Primary School. Their motto: With science, we can progress.

About and how to donate

I have nothing to do with the school, the blog or anything else, I just support the school and its mission in a place where it is very rare and brave to see humanist values so unabashedly supported.

I just sent 'em $100.

Items for sale from britishhumanistassociation


  1. God is good news for the poor and oppressed, because at least they can hope for some kind of justice, in this life or the next.  But God is bad news for the powerful – because God is, by definition, more powerful.  And might just have the backs of those workers you’re oppressing.

    It’s clear which class this ad is aimed at.

    1. Wait, telling people that temporal injustices are relatively minor because accounts will be settled in magic salvation goods after they are dead is a pro social justice strategy now?

      Boy, I must have been imagining all those centuries of cozy cooperation between theological leaders and the powerful of this world… Crazy me, thinking that atheism was anything but a plot to free the powerful of the world from any restrictions!

      (Yes, before anybody else points this out, there have been religiously inspired movements in exactly the opposite direction, as with the ‘gospel of justice’ Catholics who weren’t entirely killed off by military juntas in 1970s Latin America, or the English ‘levellers’ with their “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then a gentleman?”; but let it be remembered exactly how chummy the leadership of the respective churches were with them…)

      1. The black church in America has done a pretty good job of successfully mixing the salvation/peace/reward after leaving this life of toil message with some serious social justice work.

    2. You forget that the powerful merely made God in their own image, they don’t actually believe all that crap.

    3. How ironic.

      You do realise that organised religion is, by definition, a way for the powerful to control the weak? The hope you speak of is the tradeoff.

      It made sense as well back in a time where access to knowledge was restricted (by the Church).

    4. I always say that religion thrives in those places and times where poverty and ignorance are the rule. Empty hope offered to the desperate is one of the reasons for that.

      Otherwise, though, God has been a useful tool for the powerful. They themselves seldom worry about the Invisible Bearded Sky Man(tm), so why should anyone else?

    5. God is good news for the poor and oppressed, 

      [Citation needed]

      Do you have any, oh, I don’t know … proof? I’ll wait patiently.

    6. The classic socialist song “There’s Pie in the Sky When You Die (that’s a lie)” rather more convincingly argues that religion is useful for the rich to control the poor because a worker keen on rewards in heaven won’t ask for very much in this life.

  2. Oh, man. Whenever I see religious ads, particularly Christian conservative ones in the public square, I groan. It’s obnoxious and I’m not interested in other people’s beliefs. But honestly, the New Atheism movement is just as annoying. I’m not interested in them, either, and when I take the damn bus I want to be pressured to buy Tide detergent, not have some existential epiphany. And anyway, the ad is inaccurate. There are plenty of religious people who don’t actually worry and actually are happy, regardless of whether I share their beliefs. They would scratch their heads at that ad.

    1. You appear to be concerned that ‘p implies q’ is the same as ‘not-p implies not-q’. Please don’t worry. It isn’t. The happy believer is not in any way challenged, or even addressed, by this ad.

      1.  Well, no, it is a universal message to all that the best way to enjoy life is to consider atheism, as one worry will be crossed off the list. It’s a bit patronizing, and it does indeed imply that believers are worried and not enjoying life. It’s just annoying. Not horrible or bigoted, just annoying. Religious arguments in public are always rude and I don’t want to look at a damn bus ad trying to provoke thought or discussion. I just want to go to work or do a bit of shopping.

        1. It is terribly rude of them to prevent you from going to work and doing a bit of shopping. Though I’m afraid you’d go catatonic if you experienced American advertising during election season.

        2. I can see it’s going to be hard to argue without annoying you. The argument is not religious though – it’s simply ‘about’ religion.

          I can’t see where the statement implies that any, much less every, believer is worried. (You’d need the ‘every’ for your case).

          I can see that the statement on the bus is open enough to allow you to infer that its producer is addressing the happy believer, as well as the general worrier (whether believer or not) but I’m afraid I’d have to disagree. It seems to me to be addressing only the worried (directed worriedward?). Possibly because – being neither believer nor worrier – I don’t feel it’s addressed to me.

          1. Since the indoctrination of children in Catholic schools works to instil fear of God because of original sin, etc… there does tend to be people who worry about being convicted of thought crime by a non-existent sky fairy. Also, part of the message is ‘Chances are we have just one life and no after-life, so enjoy this one instead of worrying about the next’.

        3. “Well, no, it is a universal message to all that the best way to enjoy life is to consider atheism, as one worry will be crossed off the list.”

          Or you could just be imposing your own views on the statements of others.

          One of these things is definitely true.

      2. The problem with these New Atheists and their ads is that they continue the colonial premises of Enlightenment of yesteryear where all values of $God are presented as universally equal. If their problem is with the damage and oppression caused by Abrahamic religions, then they should direct their ads specifically at the ills of said religions but I have a huge issue with the fact that they seem to present all belief in god as equally damaging. I doubt the small groups in South America (which I know well, being part of my heritage) that incorporate an animistic view of god into their daily goings are in any way equal to Catholic priest pedophile cover ups. Still, if I were to believe these new atheists, the people that celebrate the Pachamama are as “oppressive” as the Catholic church. That kind of universalist, blanket approach is not just obnoxious, it’s quite frankly, the root of neo colonial thinking.

        1. I think that you are conflating two distinct lines of thought (to the degree that the ‘new atheists’ can even be considered to have a unitary position at a population level, which is limited):

          As with some of the more optimistic Enlightenment types, it is pretty common for a ‘new atheist’ to subscribe to the notion that empiricism is the best available means of knowing about the world, and reject any sort of culturally-intersubjective-ways-of-knowing postmodernist stuff. For good or ill, this is very much in line with the Enlightenment universalist line.

          However, the focus on specific evils perpetrated under religious guise is usually focused on the religious organizations that they have the most familiarity with, either personally or through media accounts. Given the demographics of ‘people chatting about religion in English on the internet, or buying ads on London buses’, that tends to mean Catholicism, major Protestant groups, and occasionally Islam, Hinduism, or Judaism if they manage to make the papers.

          I don’t want to minimize the implications of the universalist approach to epistemology: Yes, the claim that scientific empiricism is Better than those ‘other ways of knowing’ tends not to pull any punches. However, the ‘religion is bad epistemology, period’ claim, which is generally universal, is distinct from the ‘also, religion is often a cover for all sorts of neat abuses of power’, which tends to be focused on locally relevant religions’. 

        2.  I can’t address the colonial arguments, but I do feel quite strongly that any group or organization that promotes unquestioning faith in any sort of purely magical thinking is harmful. There really is no benefit to faith in the supernatural that I can see that would not also be attainable with secular humanist ideas as well.

          Reality and truth are important, discounting them and teaching people they do not matter opens the door to people thinking all sorts of irrational things.

        3. That’s a lot of specific baggage you’re bringing into an argument about a fairly abstract piece of advice. I’m not sure there’s enough room to accomodate it.

          1. Just be glad that the $50 excess baggage fee only applies to aircraft, not buses or abstractions.

          1. Except that the bus campaign had nothing to do with what people refer to when they say “New Atheism.” At least not the kind of “New Atheism” that GGP was complaining about. 

            (“New Atheism” remains in quotes because it alternatively refers to people who feel some sort of moral obligation to eliminate religion…. and people who dare to voice an atheist opinion in the public sphere. The question is…. which one do YOU think applies?)

        4. Eventually, though, those who defend the damage and oppression caused by any religion end up at the same place: “God’s will is unknowable,” “turtles all the way down,” etc. So why shouldn’t those who follow in the tradition of the Enlighenment knock out those props right from the start to thwart the apologists, forcing them to confront the real-world issues?

          Animists in South America aren’t going to be confronted  with these messages because the institutions of animism haven’t cut the destructive swath through history that the Abrahamic religions have, and consequently don’t use their superstitions to justify all the mayhem and destruction. New Atheists may have equal disdain for all religions, but they can also prioritise.

          That’s one of the reasons this ad campaign isn’t being rolled out in rural South American villages, but in imperial capitals like London and Manhattan.

    2. Both the Tide ad and this ad are offering the fretful relief from worry: reject superstition/buy this detergent and you can relax a bit more.

      The ad is targeted at people who do worry and fret about the judgement of a supernatural entity. Granted, that’s a smaller group than those who worry and fret about stains on their clothes, but not that much smaller. It’s not targeting those who find religion to be relaxing, any more than Tide is targeting consumers who do their washing by hand because they consider it more effective.

    3. Yes, darn those New Atheists with their adverts, and books, and talking, and so on… they’re just as annoying as the religious fundamentalists with their opposition to equal rights, and schools which actively lie to kids, and sectarian violence, and …


  3. Strident New Atheist+ here, but I never liked the wording of the ad in the picture. To me it plays into theists’ trope that Atheists are immoral and just do whatever they want because they do not fear a god, which is obviously not the case.

    While we are on the subject, tangentially at least, there is a humanist children’s school in Uganda that could use some support to help buy some land and build a permanent school house:
    Kasese Humanist Primary School
    Their motto: With Science,we can progress

    About and how to donate:

    I have nothing to do with the school, the blog or anything else, I just support the school and its mission in a place where it is very rare and brave to see humanist values so unabashedly supported.

    1.  It didn’t send the immoral message to me, but it did imply that the creators of the ad are patronizing and uniformed, which is a bad combination. Does that bother you too? Anyway, thank you for the link about the school. I will look into it.

      1.  I didn’t look at it as patronizing, but now that you mention it, yes, I agree it is that too. That probably plays into my general feeling that that particular wording is just bad all around and counter productive. That is the worst part, the counter productive part. But it is a start, however small, to bringing Atheism out into the light and for that I appreciate their efforts.

          1. A nice thought, but when a simple statement of fact like “there’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life” is considered patronizing I figure I probably won’t be able to help myself from doing something theists will consider patronizing. I suspect “informing” them would count.

          2. True, but it makes no difference.  The unreachable cannot be informed, but it does no harm to try.  The majority can be taught.  And there’s only one sure way to find out who is which…

    2. The only problem I see with the wording of the ad is the word “probably”. I didn’t notice the religious ads which prompted this campaign claiming that “Jebus *probably* saves”.

  4. I think I would worry a lot less in life and actually be able to enjoy it more if I DID believe in God and an after life. As it is, I feel this intense pressure to enjoy EVERY SECOND OF THIS PRECIOUS LIFE and if I’m not enjoying myself then I feel guilty and stressed out. Oh shit, I need to get off Boing Boing.

  5. Although I will say this- given the very dangerous political climate in Uganda, I don’t like the idea of putting little children all in one place to make them that much easier a target.

    1.  That is a scary point. Hopefully they have a good grasp on the security situation associated with their school though. And while I sit here safely I can’t help but think giving in to the fear is handing the fundamentalist regressives a victory. The bravery of the staff, kids and parents is amazing to me, as is the bravery of kids, parents and educators in all the places where they face serious dangers for educating kids (especially girls and young women) to embrace science and the modern world.

  6. Uganda’s ‘kill the gays’ legislation is the direct result of proselytizing by ‘evangelical’ missionaries, shamefully. Counteracting the damage they have done, countering that world view, is a responsibility.

  7. And nobody foresaw the complaints that would stir up? That is very strange. In my area the advertisements on buses have always been limited to “solicitation to buy a product” and there have been very few complaints.

    1. Given that the original atheist bus ad was a response to a religious ad, I would say that yes, yes they did understand that people would complain.

    2. There was an atheist bus ad run in the US that said something like: “Don’t believe in God?  You’re not alone.”  There were complaints and the bus company pulled it.

      Even the assertion that atheists exist is controversial.

      The question is not whether controversy should be expected. The question is whether the controversy is reasonable. (It’s not.)

    3. Oh, they knew there would be complaints. They counted on it. They wanted there to be enough to get the ASA to rule it, and dopes like Stephen Green strolled right into the trap.

  8. I’d rather see anti-religion ads than atheist ads.  I really don’t care if people believe in some higher power or afterlife.  It’s only when they start getting together in groups that they become a problem.

    1. That sounds pretty ridiculous, I have to say. “I have no problem with (insert believers in any ideology here), it’s only when they start getting together in groups that they become a problem.” Since nothing exists in a vacuum, and people are communal creatures, and create groups for pretty much everything, from the big stuff (religion, politics) to the less so (pretty much any subculture on the internet), in other words, you do have a problem with them. At least be honest in your prejudice.

    2. It is just so rare that people are able to compartmentalize their fairy tales and not try to impose them upon others. In fact a large evolutionary component of religion is it’s attempt to propagate itself from person to person through coercion or out and out violence.

  9. i love getting the BHA nuts so twisted they feel the need to take out ads on the sides of buses. lol.

    1.  My, my … what was it you said (doubtless in an Internet forum) that caused them to spend money on an ad whose message so clearly reflected their urgent distress and angst?

  10. I have to keep reminding myself that there are lots of people who are deeply anxious about all the stuff out there that is still unknown. Me, I’m fine not knowing if there is a God, but I have to keep remembering it’s fine if other people want to believe that.

    1. OK, position on this among “new atheists” is that “atheism” is a statement of belief while “agnosticism” is a statement of knowledge.  Most “new atheists” seem to concede that disproving the existence of God is a logical impossibility so that they can’t be 100% sure that God doesn’t exist.  Thus a lot of “new atheists” style themselves “agnostic atheists” — they don’t know that God doesn’t exist but they have serious doubts.

      In fact, that’s pretty much my position.  I don’t know for sure that there isn’t a God but based on my experiences in this world I do not believe there is one.

      Part of the problem is that the term “God” is so nebulous and poorly defined.  I take the statement “God exists” to mean roughly “the universe is a person” and I do not believe this is the case.

  11. I hate that stupid ad. It’s not an argument. It’s simply agnosticism. And it’s instructions are so weak, they seem more like suggesting we just “enjoy ourselves” and forget about morality.

    “There’s probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy life.”

    Would that challenge the beliefs of anyone, anywhere? Could you possibly imagine even some wavering, unsure religion person being convinced by this ad?

    There are so many better things that could have been said.

    “There’s probably no God, so make the world a better place now, instead of hoping for one in the afterlife.”

    1. How about, “Even if there is a God, you’re probably worshipping the wrong one”?
      Jehovah, Zeus, Odin, a professor God who expects empiricism and only lets atheists into heaven…

      What makes one more likely than another? (S)He hasn’t personally revealed anything to me.

    2.  You’re assuming the intent is recruitment and not solidarity.  You may not know this but there are already such things as atheists.

  12. If athiest coalitions were about something, as opposed to be about the absence of something, they would be more interesting.

    Of course then they wouldn’t be a-thiests would they… They’d be physicists or doctors or any of the other myriad professions that are about something…

    Most those I’ve met who self identify as athiests (as in I didn’t have to ask, because they made it apparent) are about trolling christians and new agers. Secular Humanists I had hope for. But they seem caught in the same old trap, and their manifesto reads like a godless reaffirmation of the morality of the ten commandments, and the rights of the declaration of independence. Nothing new there.

    Whats there big idea? Play baseball, study hard, and avoid promiscuous sex. Fuck that.

    1. I’m pretty sure “avoid promiscuous sex” isn’t an atheist or humanist principle.  (It may or may not be a good idea, but it’s lacking in philosophical significance.)  And I’m very sure that promiscuous baseball isn’t involved.

    2. Um… I don’t think that people get paid for being atheists (as opposed to physicists or doctors.) Nor is having a profession mutually exclusive with having religious beliefs. I must admit your statement has me befuddled, sir. 

    3.  I dunno, when more than 90% of the world’s population believes in anthropomorphic deities of one kind or another it starts to seem like positive belief in God is a sort of default position.  And, in fact, that’s how it’s been treated for decades — people who didn’t want to be forced to pray in school or at meetings were the odd ones out.

      Given that religious belief is the default I think that “being about the absence” of that default is actually about something — about a change from the default.  I think this is a good thing.  It makes more room for esoteric belief and opens up previously sacrosanct people and institutions to criticism.  Maybe you find something distasteful about taking the piss out of new agers but I think there’s something distasteful about encouraging people not to have their children vaccinated, so maybe a wash?

    4. What about the campaigns for secularism then? There are religious based laws that affect education, medical science, equality, animal welfare, etc… etc… When there is policy based on what it says in a 2,000 year old book, policy decided on by believers in a particular faith, that affects everyone else of either a different faith or no faith… then such coalitions campaigning against those policies makes sense. Law should be based on reason, not superstition. Hence the coalitions you speak of… if you want separation between church and state then they’re an important part of achieving that.

  13. I really don’t understand this argument:
    [Stephen Green of Christian Voice(UK) who said “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 no god” – Is a statement of fact
    “there is a god” – Is a statement of fact (and also the religious position)
    “there is probably no god” – Is NOT a statement of fact

    So not only is his argument utterly wrong, he’s effectively saying that religious adverts should be banned…

    1. Though I dislike the ad campaign, your argument doesn’t quite follow here.

      “There probably is no god” is absolutely a statement of fact. It means “the probability is less than 50% that there is no god.” Likewise, if I roll a dice in a cup but don’t look at it, I can say the factual statement “it probably isn’t a 6.”

      Ignoring the word “probably” which involves a specific percentage, the statement is equivalent to “it is possible that god does not exist,” which in modal logic is denoted as ◊(God does not exist). This statement is true if in any possible universe, god does not exist.

      As you can see, this statement is far more likely than “God does not exist”, since the latter always implies the former but not visa versa, and so you could assign it a higher probability of being true. The only way it can be false is if in all universes, god is required to exist (i.e.  □(God exists), or “it is necessary that god exists”).

      So for the statement to be false, the Church (or whoever) would need to prove that it is necessary for god to exist in all possible universes, which is a much harder proposition (though one that many religious people would still agree with).

      So the third statement is indeed a fully-fledged statement. However, it’s also the one with the lowest burden of proof, so your general point is still valid.

      …that said, do English religious ads say “There is a God,” though? If not, then this statement is indeed the only statement of fact being made, so Dawkins may still be required to go before the Modal Logic court and prove that !□(God exists), i.e. that it is not necessary that God exists….

      1.  “the probability is less than 50% that there is no god.”

        If the available options are “there is a god” and “there is no god”, and the probability of “there is no god” is less than 50%, that means the probability of “there is a god” is greater than 50%. I don’t think that’s what the advert was supposed to imply. :o)

        I don’t agree that “it is possible that god does not exist” is equivalent to “there probably is no god”; the former suggests there is a non-zero probability, whilst the latter implies there is a high probability. Using your dice analogy, you wouldn’t say that “it is possible that I’ve rolled a six” is equivalent to “I’ve probably rolled a six”, would you?

      2.  Frequentism doesn’t apply here because we have a sample size of at most one and quite possibly zero.  I think “there is probably no god” should be taken to mean “there are good reasons to doubt the existence of god and very few reasons to believe in god”.  However, this is clearly a statement of opinion and not fact.  God might play dice but that doesn’t mean God is dice.

      3.  [It means “the probability is less than 50% that there is no god.”]

        Where are you getting this from?

        On a scale of ‘no god’ – ‘uncertain’ – ‘is a god’, or 0% – ‘0-100’% and 100% (or the inverse), if you reject the absolute certain opinions of 0% and 100%, you’re left with a scale of:
        0.0[recurring]1% to 99.9[recurring]9% (or however you’d write down a near infinite scale) for the uncertain option. Ie: pretty much all of the percentage scale.

        Where did you get the 50% number from?

        1. While I had a typo there (more than/less than) which Disqus won’t let me fix, the number 50% is obviously there because of the word “probably.” The word “probably” means “more likely than not”, i.e. >50% chance.

          If you roll a dice, you wouldn’t factually say “I’ve probably rolled a six,” but you could factually say “I’ve probably rolled greater than a one.”

  14. The wording is ghastly. For a start, “There is probably no God” seems like a back-down from what should be a much more robust statement. To me, it just feels like they put the ‘probably’ in there entirely because “There is no God” would come across as a little to confrontational… bad for the brand, do you know? But what really makes me clench my teeth is the “Now…”… it makes the whole thing sounds incredibly patronizing. It may as well read “Now run along and play”. Thanks mainly to Dawkins and Hitchens, Atheism has already acquired a reputation for smugness, and this stunt is really not helping.

  15. Regarding the ‘Probably’:

    It’s also worth a mention that there’s ‘probably’ no flying spaghetti monster, tooth fairy, Santa, etc… etc… but we can’t disprove any of them either since it’s not possible to do so. That doesn’t make them any more likely and so atheists are just as ‘agnostic atheist’ about them, though you wouldn’t expect them to have to say it :-)

    1. So we can look forward to a “Santa probably doesn’t exist” campaign leading up to next Christmas?

      1. If people start making discriminatory laws due to a belief in Santa and teaching kids that we were all created by elves in the north pole, and that evolution isn’t true, plus medical progress in some cases should be halted because Rudolph is against it… and all this policy is to be funded by the tax payer, then sure… we’d probably run a Santa doesn’t exist campaign too :-)

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