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atheist bus (& billboard) campaign

The atheist bus campaign began in England with London comedy writer Ariane Sherine and signs that read "THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE." Funds were collected by the British Humanist Association and Richard Dawkins pledged to match donations up to £5,500. On 21 October 2008, the first ads were put on some 600 buses and in many tube stations.* One bus driver refused to drive his bus because of the ads.

The Brits plan to run 1,000 advertisements on London Underground and on a pair of giant LCD screens opposite Bond Street tube station. The new ads will feature quotes from public figures, such as Albert Einstein, Douglas Adams, and Katharine Hepburn. The ads inspired atheist groups around the world to follow suit. The campaign now includes placing messages on billboards that range from giving comfort to non-believers to advocating separation of church and state.

Sherine was inspired by bus ads she saw that read: "When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" followed by a web address. She checked the website and learned that those who don't accept Jesus will "spend all eternity in torment in hell." She didn't think it was a joke and felt a need to respond. The idea for an atheist bus campaign is now global and includes nations in Europe, Australia, North America, and South America. Click here to view an exchange between Sherine & a theist.

The atheist bus campaign has met with resistance in several places.

In Australia the Atheist Foundation of Australia formally complained of religious discrimination to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission after being refused permission to put atheist advertising on buses. The offensive signs were to read: "Atheism — celebrate reason". APN Outdoor refused to run the ads, giving no reason for their refusal. The Atheist Foundation and Metro Tasmania reached a deal after conciliation was ordered by the Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The signs will begin appearing on Tasmanian buses in 2010.* In March 2010, buses started carrying atheist signs in Melbourne.

In Washington, D.C., the ads were sponsored by the American Humanist Association. They were met with ads from the local Center for Family Development. The atheists' ads proclaimed: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." The believers' ad read: "Why Believe? Because I created you and I love you, for goodness' sake. —God." [update: 22 Oct 2010: The new Washington DC Area Coalition of Reason (Washington CoR) was given $7,875 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (United CoR) to put up ads in the area.]

In Northern Ireland, atheist ads for buses were banned, but the ads may appear on bus shelters, on digital screens, and billboards.

In Barcelona, Spain, buses rolled out with the message "PROBLAMENTE DIOS NO EXISTE. DEJA DE PREOCUPARTE Y GOZA DE LA VIDA." (PROBABLY, GOD DOES NOT EXIST. GIVE UP WHAT WORRIES YOU AND ENJOY LIFE.) Madrid, Valencia, and other cities are being targeted to run similar campaigns. The Spanish newspaper La Gaceta, which covered the first day of the ad campaign launched by the Union of Atheists and Freethinkers” of Spain, said that despite "so much publicity and so much ink spilled in the media," most Spaniards reacted with indifference to the ads.*

The Freethought Association of Canada reported that it had collected $21,500 to buy atheist ads on buses in Toronto. A campaign in Calgary met little resistance, but several other Canadian cities have been thwarting the atheists' efforts. Atheist ads have been rejected in Halifax, Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, B.C., London, Ont., and Ottawa. (Atheist bus ads coming to Kelowna the week of April 11.) Folks in Halifax are quite upset at the censorship. The Ottawa city council reversed its decision to ban the ads when it was told that the ban probably wouldn't hold up in court. The attempt to load buses with ads in Kingston, Ontario, fizzled because of contract language between the ad and the bus companies. But the small town of Saskatoon got into the action big time.

Ads reading "The bad news is that God doesn't exist. The good news is that you don't need him" were due to appear on buses in Genoa, Italy, but religious conservatives blocked them. However, ads were okayed that read: "The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression."

In Brazil, ATEA, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos (Brazilian Atheists and Agnostics Association), prepared to launch a bus ad campaign. Daniel Sottomaior, who is leading the campaign in Brazil, informs me that he was interviewed by two leading Brazilian newspapers. Perhaps the newspaper pieces will inspire contributors. In any case, the ads should begin running in the near future. The ad campaign has already been attacked by a politician. Cláudio Lembi, a former vice-governor of São Paulo State, has attacked the ads as part of the atheist campaign for communism, hedonism, nihilism, and anything bad. Imagine what he'll say after he's actually seen an ad.

billboards, trolleys, and buses

Argument by billboard could lead to some humorous moments, as in a sign outside a church proclaiming that atheists do not exist.









Ninety complaints trump freedom of expression in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The city is being sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for removing a billboard ad that read: "Imagine No Religion."*

In New Orleans, the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association bought space on the sides of streetcars. So far there have been no lawsuits that I know of.










A man PZ Myers classifies as one of the "brain-damaged peckerwoods" has put up a billboard of his own. Ray Comfort, the Ben Stein of televangelism, has shelled out $6,000 for one month's rent of a billboard in Southern California on Interstate 105. Purely by coincidence, Comfort also announced that he has a book coming out with the catchy title of You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think.

In Genoa, Italy, the first atheist bus hit the streets on February 16th, 2009, with its message "The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression." The bus was back in the garage within minutes, however. Much to the delight of conservative religionists, the bus battery died shortly after leaving the station. Coincidence or divine intervention? Either way, it's good for a laugh.

In Madison, Wisconsin, the bus ad campaign has become a paper war between the Freedom From Religion Foundation and nearby Pilgrims Covenant Church. The atheists are putting ads inside buses, while the Pilgrims are buying space on the outside. One atheist ad reads: "As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion." (This is a quote from the late actress Butterfly McQueen, who appeared in the movie "Gone With the Wind.") The Pilgrims countered with: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God" (Psalm 14, verse 1).

Photo: Brent Nicastro

Meanwhile, a campaign was initiated in Montreal.Ten controversial bus advertisements promoting atheism went up around downtown Montreal as part of the Quebec Humanist Association's campaign against established religion.







In Germany, organizers raised funds for a campaign in Berlin, Munich, and Cologne. Phillip Möller, one of the campaign organizers, said the German group had collected €3,500 in the first four days of fundraising. They needed €16,000 more to fund the project. The campaign had problems finding a bus company that would run their ads (17 companies rejected the ads). Campaign organizers "decided to drive the bus themselves on a tour which will cover 20 major German cities."*

In Boise, Idaho, a local billboard spurred some heated debate over its message: "Beware of dogma." The billboard was funded mainly by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. "We were inspired by other groups around the country and around the world who have been putting up similar humanistic messages," said president of the Humanists of Idaho Paul Rolig.

In Finland, the Finnish Humanist Union and the Union of Freethinkers of Finland prepared a campaign for Helsinki and Tampere.

A private citizen in Finland filed a complaint with the Council of Ethics in Advertising over the atheist bus campaign, which had plastered buses in some cities in Finland with atheist slogans. According to the petition, the ad campaign for atheism is slanderous and breaches UN human rights treaties. The chair of the Union of Freethinkers, Jussi Niemelä, denies the allegations.

In north Texas, two billboards, one on Interstate 35E near Loop 12 in northwest Dallas, the other on I-35W near Braswell in northern Fort Worth, read: "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." update: 19 Dec 2010: Atheist and Religious Bus Ads Banned in City Atheist groups will no longer be able to advertise on buses in Fort Worth after the local transit authority bowed to public pressure and banned all religious advertising.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the American Atheists (AA) affiliate, Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists (FLASH) put up a billboard, as seen below, that local residents, mostly African-Americans, want removed. FLASH is collecting money and hopes to carry the billboard message to other parts of south Florida. According to a news report (New Observer):

The billboard may be working: About 30 people attended a recent Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists' get-together at a Davie, Fla., restaurant, up from the usual dozen.

Over beers and burgers, nonbelievers, agnostics, skeptics and lapsed Jews, Christians and Muslims talked about everything from science and philosophy to politics and current events.










In Moscow, Idaho, the American Humanist Association put up a billboard on highway 95.






In New York City, the NYC Atheists bus campaign went into full swing.


In Seattle, the campaign continues.







The Netherlands also joined the fray.





South Bend, Indiana, joined the fun. An atheist bus ad was scheduled to go up in Bloomington, Indiana, but the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation rejected the ad on the grounds that it was "controversial." The ACLU and the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign sued in federal court and won. The ads will now go up in Bloomington.

The Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers (IAF) launched an advertising campaign on the sides of 20 transit buses in Des Moines Iowa. Iowa governor Chet Culver claimed he was "disturbed" by the bus ads. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) took down the ads, claiming that they were never approved in the first place and that they were accidentally put on buses. The Iowa Atheist and Freethinkers said the ads were approved. The state's American Civil Liberties Union chapter  launched an investigation into the legality of DART's actions.* DART officials met with Iowa Atheist and Free Thinkers and concluded they were operating under an outdated advertising policy. DART officials apologized to the group and said they would reproduce the ads their expense.* When the ads finally went up, one of the bus drivers refused to take over a bus during a shift change because of the ad. "DART was able to get another driver on the scene quickly enough so that passengers only had to wait about 5 minutes before their commute resumed. The driver is facing disciplinary actions. Angela Shiel refused to drive the bus because the ad goes against her Christian faith. She has been suspended from her job and faces termination.* Also, "...a handful of fairgoers... refused to board a state fair shuttle bus because of the ads."*

San Francisco is now on board. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is putting up signs in 75 of San Francisco’s MUNI buses (October 2009) including one with a quote from Richard Dawkins: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”

New York, Chicago, and Boston are good to go.













Chicago bus








Baltimore has joined the congregation.








And so has Houston.






Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, awarded a large chunk of change by the Templeton Foundation for promoting "spiritual" stuff, called the atheist bus campaign "pathetic." Taylor had nothing to say about all the religious messages that have adorned buses around the world for decades.

Paul Woolley, director of Theos, disagrees with Taylor: "We think that the campaign is a great way to get people thinking about God. The posters will encourage people to consider the most important question we will ever face in our lives."

It's pretty obvious that deciding to put an ad on a bus is an important question, but I didn't realize it was the most important question we will ever face.





Sacramento, California, has joined in the campaign.







The Imagine No Religion billboard was placed at 8280 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento. And today (8 Feb 2010), I saw an atheist billboard on I-80 west of the causeway on my way to Davis from Sacramento:


Apparently, there are ten such billboards in the Sacramento area, thanks to the Sacramento Area Coalition of Reason with funding from the national United Coalition of Reason. [update: The billboard near my home town has been vandalized. Sometime during the night the words "also lost" were added. Our local FOX News station has the story and the video.]

For those who think the billboard campaign is silly, consider this sign on I-35 in Minnesota as you drive in from Iowa:









See also anti-theism, atheism, New Atheism, and gods.

further reading

Official Website of the Atheist Bus Campaign

Atheist Revolution

Richard Dawkins


These Atheist Billboards in Brazil Get Right to the Point

Check out the ads that went up on buses and billboards last month, courtesy of the Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos (Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics) — forgive my rough translations:

“Religion does not define character” — Charlie Chaplin is described as someone who didn’t believe in god while Adolf Hitler is described as someone who did.

“Faith gives no answers. It only impedes questions.”

“We are all atheists with the gods of others” — the captions read “Hindu myth,” “Egyptian myth,” and “Palestinian myth.”

If God exists, everything is permitted.”

ATEA logos contain the phrase “Say no to prejudice against atheists.”

Atheists say thank-you to bus ad thief The mystery behind Kelowna’s [British Columbia] missing atheist bus ads may never be solved, but the club that paid to put them up doesn’t have sour grapes. Instead, they’re extending a thank-you to the thief. “Whoever removed the signs, if they intended us harm, they achieved the opposite,” said Guy King, head of the Kelowna branch of the Centre for Inquiry, noting it should cost club members $210 to replace the bus ads. “They gave us a gift, in terms of publicity. The new signs will be up soon, and hopefully someone will rip them off again.”

‘Godless billboards’ promote atheism in Stockton and Ripon

California atheist billboard vandalized 3 days after going up

US judge rules for Muslim defector bus ads A group that says it helps Muslims quit their faith has won a court order against Detroit's regional transit system for rejecting bus ads that ask, "Fatwa on your head? ... Leaving Islam? Got questions? Get answers!" U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood granted a preliminary injunction Thursday against the bus system, which was sued last year by the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Atheist transit ads in Kamloops a first in B.C.

Atheists use billboards to create interest in their convention New billboard ads are turning some heads in Des Moines this week. The ads were paid for by the American Atheists and read: “You know there is no God…we know you’re right.” The American Atheist National Convention is scheduled for April 21-24 in Des Moines.

Godless Ads Go on Ft. Worth Buses December 1

dallas bus


Christ meets Big Foot: more irreverent atheist ads to hit Canadian cities

bus sign


Atheist Billboard on Nativity Scene: 'You Know It's a Myth'

xmas myth billboardLast week, the billboard pictured above went up outside the New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. Morning Gloria at Jezebel doesn't like it. "Ridiculing a belief system that, for many people, is the basis for their entire life philosophy is not a way to win friends or influence people ... confrontational atheism isn't productive."

Give me more, said PZ Myers. "Tell me, what about that sign interferes with common decency? Are people who see that sign subsequently unable to go to church? Does it silence preachers all across the land? No. Does that sign incite hatred, does it deprive people of their civil rights, does it oppress a minority? No ... Might it stir a little resentment, maybe even sting Christians a little bit because it reminds them that atheists exist and freakin' disagree with them? YES! And that is a good thing that does them no harm, and even does them considerable good. We're here, we're just as much a part of this society as they are, and we're not going to sit silently any more."

Atheist Groups Promote a Holiday Message: Join Us Four separate and competing national organizations representing various streams of atheists, humanists, and freethinkers will be spreading their gospel during the holiday season through advertisements on billboards, buses and trains, and in newspapers and magazines: American Humanist Association, American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation, and The United Coalition of Reason.

 Godless Billboard Goes Up in OKC in Time for State Fair

Another one goes up in Tulsa.

This one honors U.S. Senator Thomas Gore who was an Oklahoma native and may have been the first openly atheist US Senator. He was first elected in 1907.




Atheistic Billboards Across N.C. Tout a Dangerous Message [says Mr. Creech, who calls himself "Rev. Mark H. Creech"] "The North Carolina Secular Association ... mounted an ad campaign that has their message posted on billboards in six major cities in the Tar Heel State. The message on the billboards: 'One nation, indivisible.'

"What does the North Carolina Secularist Association want? They say via their website that they want no references to a god in the "Pledge of Allegiance" or the National Motto which says, "In god We Trust" – no reference to a god in the state's constitution – or as they vaguely added, "and in many other ways."

the vandals tag patriotic messageAtheists of Florida, a group advocating separation of church and state, placed five billboards that promote "one nation, indivisible" (but no "god") in Lakeland, Florida.  The goal is to send a message this Fourth of July that atheists are Americans, too.

The billboard was defaced by vandals, but has been repaired in time for Independence Day messaging.

FFRF’s newest bus sign campaign rolls out











Atheist ads on Detroit buses vandalized At least three of the ads, which say “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone,” had the upper left hand corners ripped off, removing the word “don’t” from the sign.

Atheist billboard campaign arrives in St. Augustine and Jacksonville This week, billboards saying, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone" go up in St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida.

Atheists claim bias over rejection of 'No God' ads

A group of atheists says it faced discrimination when a bus company rejected its advertisements and is now considering legal action.

The bus advert, which reads: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," has been used worldwide but was dismissed by bus companies in New Zealand as too divisive.

Controversial atheism campaign to hit billboards Controversial ads promoting atheism will soon appear on billboards throughout New Zealand....The Atheist Bus Campaign last year raised more than $22,000 to fund the ads, but NZ Bus declined to run them after receiving a number of complaints from the public and staff.

The group applied for legal representation from the Office of Human Rights Proceedings in March to pursue a discrimination case against the company.

Campaign spokesman Simon Fisher said the billboards would get the atheist message out into the public while the group awaited the office's decision.

About $10,000 - roughly half the campaign's funds - would go towards the billboards.

"We're still keen to go ahead with the discrimination case against NZ Bus, and therefore we still need to be able to follow through with the bus campaign at the end of the day. So we need money aside for a bus campaign if we do win," said campaign spokesman Simon Fisher.

The ads should appear on billboards in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch within two to three weeks, he said.

It too a while, but the ads are now [1 July 2010] up. For more information contact http://www.nogod.org.nz/

Atheists’ ad campaign embarrasses humanism leader

Edd Doerr, the elected head of the American Humanist Association from 1995-2009...writing in the NY Times (Dec. 9/09) ... commented: “…I am embarrassed by the A.H.A.’s “good without God” campaign of signs on transit vehicles. Humanists are philosophical naturalists, but more important than advertising, one item of the humanist worldview is emphasizing the many positive positions we hold in common with a wide range of religious believers. I refer to such matters as peace, civil liberties, religious freedom, the environment, social justice, democracy, women’s rights and so on.”

Children on atheist billboards 'are actually Evangelical Christians' A spokeswoman for the BHA admitted that the images had been taken from a photo website, and said it was unaware of the religious beliefs of the young models.

Northern Ireland’s first humanist advertising campaign has begun The point of the campaign is to persuade parents to stop attaching religious labels to their children. Sponsored by Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association (BHA), the billboards are an extension of the atheist bus campaign.







Humanists launch 1st-ever Godless holiday campaign This weekend, 200 buses and 50 rail cars in the Washington DC area will begin featuring smiling individuals in Santa hats on interior ads, along with the words, "NO GOD? NO PROBLEM!"









Death threats force removal of atheist billboard A billboard that read "Don't believe in God? You're not alone" was put up by the Cincinnati Coalition of Reason on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon the group was told it would have to come down because the landowner claimed he was getting death threats.





Another atheist billboard vandalized - FFRF calls it a hate crime First Moscow, Idaho, now Grand Junction, Colorado.







The word "without" has been obscured.

Grand Junction sign defaced






The vandalized sign has "fag" written over "Religion".

Billboard campaign hopes to dispel atheist stereotypes "Freddie Schineller is a hip-looking math professor with a salt-and-pepper goatee. His artist wife, Holly, has long blond hair and stays home to take care of their four kids ages 8-12.... A portrait of the smiling Schineller family appears on a billboard in Mesa, one of nine featuring Phoenix-area residents or families who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or freethinkers, posted throughout the Valley. There are two in Tucson. Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Phoenix-area chapter plastered the faces over billboards last month as part of its “Out of the Closet” campaign. They are expected to come down next week."

Last updated 27-Oct-2015

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