The atheist bus

Much fun has already been had - with more to come - with the proposed advertisement on London buses, scheduled for January, which will provide us with one doubtful piece of information, followed by two clear commands: There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

The word 'probably' caused much offence among true, born-again atheists, who not unreasonably suggested that the slogan might be taken for a weak, liberalizing version of agnosticism. The campaign leaders pointed out, however, that the word was necessary in order to avoid being in breach of the relevant code of the Advertising Standards Authority.

When the campaign first began in June of this year, it had to be cancelled as the necessary '4680 atheists' who would each pledge 5 never materialized. That campaign closed on July 31, still 3801 atheists short. Relaunched on 21 October, it reached its target in a matter of hours, and now hopes to extend the advertising throughout the country.

As Ariane Sherine, who supported the idea in the pages of the Guardian, put it, 'The sky's the limit for atheists.' Enthusiastic support has also come from believers: the think-tank Theos, which (as they say) has the support of Dr Williams, gave 50 to the cause as it believes 'the "weak" adverts will encourage people to think about God.' Its director, Paul Woolley, added, 'Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity.' Stephen Green of Christian Voice was rather more trenchant, 'Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.'

The Revd Jenny Ellis, Spirituality and Discipleship Officer of the Methodists, said, "This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life.' Other comments have been, 'How about a bus saying "There is probably no Allah"?' 'It tells people to "stop worrying," which is hardly going to be a great comfort for those who are concerned about losing jobs or homes in the recession.' 'It would be rather amusing if it were to go up in flames like so many other bendy buses.' 'I just hope no one gets run over by one of these buses.'

John Fielding

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