Atheist Bus Campaign… in Australia? Ad Company Says No

We have atheist buses in Britain.

We have atheist buses in Washington, D.C.:

Will we have atheist buses in Australia?

Not anytime soon.

Three separate slogans were proposed to APN Outdoor — the company that handles bus advertising in most Australian capitals.

  • Atheism: Because there is no credible evidence
  • Celebrate reason: Sleep in on Sunday mornings
  • Atheism: Celebrate reason

The company said no to all three ads. (Even the last one? Really!?) This, after the atheist group in question had already raised $16,000 (approximately $10,316 in US dollars) for the ad campaign.

President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia David Nicholls appeared on the radio show The Religion Report to discuss this discrimination with host David Rutledge:

David Rutledge: Can you speculate as to why they might be refusing to run this?

David Nicholls: Well it could be just cultural censorship. As [Richard] Dawkins said, we’re brought up to believe that religion has some sort of privileged status. To offer even a mild criticism of it is seen as something very strident, and that’s out of bounds to do that. The Atheist Foundation is not a religion, we are not criticising religion, we are saying celebrate reason. So I think that there is a rejection of atheists having their name out there.

David Rutledge: Are you surprised by that? In a country like Australia, one of the most secular societies in the world, that this would happen?

David Nicholls: I’m disappointed, but not overly surprised. Religion has a very great hold on societies, even democratic societies and in fact it has too great a hold in democratic societies.

David Rutledge: So what’s your next move? Now that APN Outdoor have said that they can’t accommodate a bus campaign, would you say it’s dead in the water or do you have other options to pursue?

David Nicholls: Well there are a few options, there are billboards but APN controls them they haven’t got back to us on that. Any company really has the right to refuse a service to a customer, but in this instance, you have to wonder. Just consider the proposed wording: Celebrate Reason. I mean is it vindictive, inflammatory, offensive? No, it’s not, it’s none of those, and I really have to ask, why have we been refused? It’s not as though they’re opposed to controversy. In Adelaide I believe, in the recent past, the APN buses had all across the back of a bus or some buses, the message, “John 3:16″ which is the most famous Biblical passage “That God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” Now atheists find that offensive, and there’s lots of atheists in Australia, but we wouldn’t prohibit its display.

APN Outdoor had no comment on the story.

  • weaves

    Damn. It would have been a nice thing to see around.

  • Stephen P

    If the AFA can’t get advertising space because a single company controls this type of advertising medium, it seems to me that it’s time to get the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission involved.

  • Oli

    I was thinking that actually saying Atheism: Celebrate Reason could be offensive as it implies that non-atheists, i.e. theists, i.e. Christians in Australia aren’t reasonable.

    But then i thought about all the christian messages you see plastered on advertising
    “The only way to heaven is through me”
    “God is love”
    etc etc
    All very much emphasising the point that christians are right and everyone else wrong/evil.

    Its just that i am so used to seeing the christian messages that even as an atheist, they seem natural but an equally worded message with an atheist slant doesn’t. I guess it just goes to show the effects on your psyche that your nations culture does have.

    All that aside, i hope the Austratheists (did you see what I did did there?) get there message out there.

  • justin jm

    “John 3:16? which is the most famous Biblical passage “That God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” Now atheists find that offensive

    Do any atheists really find John 3:16 offensive? I think the content of the verse is inaccurate and confusing, but I’m not offended by it.

  • Ubi Dubium

    Do any atheists really find John 3:16 offensive? I think the content of the verse is inaccurate and confusing, but I’m not offended by it.

    I’m not offended by the quote itself, I’m offended by the way the xians try to shove it on everybody else.

  • Brooks

    I’m not offended by John 3:16 in itself but by the threat of hellfire that usually goes along with it.

  • Polly

    On the way to Las Vegas, I had a chance to read the 10 commandments in outdoor-sign form, again. There’s one point along the 15 where every mile or so each of the commandments is placed on a sign easily read from the road so that within 5 minutes you’ve read all 10. Should be a nice reminder for Xians. Most atheists, I bet, already know them.

    Re: John 3:16
    I use that same verse to show my wife why the NT teaching about Hell is contradictory. And, hopefully, to convince her that I’m not going there.
    It doesn’t say “Hell” in 3:16, it says “perish.” They could have used “hell” as they did in many other spots in the Gospels but they chose a word that describes death, permanent death.

  • http://www.dday76.net Jason

    John 3:16b – For god so loved the world he gave us hell.
    .. And Australia is a secular society? I thought they have almost as many problems with fundies as we do in the US.

  • ArthurDental

    Have you tried the slogans in those two campaigns? It’d be interesting to see the response when you point out it’s been used elsewhere in the Western world.

  • Craig

    Jason: I think we exported the worst of them to the US: Ken Ham. :-)

  • Pingback: Australian Atheists Not Even Allowed on Back of Bus « Altarkation’s Blog

  • http://godless.biz/ Andrew Skegg

    Atheism: Because there is no credible evidence

    Could be read as “there is no credible evidence for atheism”, which is of course silly but certainly not offensive.

    Celebrate reason: Sleep in on Sunday mornings

    …God did.

    Atheism: Celebrate reason

    Why would anyone be offended by holding reason is high esteem?

    I am saddened by the bigotry and double standards the religioius exhibit.

  • Pseudonym

    Oli:

    I was thinking that actually saying Atheism: Celebrate Reason could be offensive as it implies that non-atheists, i.e. theists, i.e. Christians in Australia aren’t reasonable.

    Agreed 100%.

    But then i thought about all the christian messages you see plastered on advertising
    “The only way to heaven is through me”
    “God is love”
    etc etc

    I’ve seen such things on signboards outside churches in Australia. But I’ve never seen such a thing in “advertising”.

    The only Christian advertising I’ve seen recently on billboards, hoardings etc are things like World Vision or the Salvation Army charity stuff. I haven’t even seen any Christian Television Association spots in the last decade or so.

    Perhaps that’s the difference. These ads would be useful as a counterpoint to Christian advertising if there was a problem with Christian advertising.

  • DSimon

    The Atheist Foundation is not a religion, we are not criticising religion, we are saying celebrate reason.

    It’s a little dishonest for him to say this; it seems pretty clear to me that they ARE criticizing religion. It’s just that it’s civil criticism, which ought to be fine.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    “Greg Clarke: Well again, you know, I’d like to plug in there, ‘Christianity: Celebrate Reason’. I just think this claim that religion is anti-reason doesn’t hold up. I mean the incredibly influential Christian thinkers like Aquinas, Augustine, through Luther, they gave a very high role to reason. There are people who practice religion in a very irrational way, but the basis of religion can be approached with your mind and does make sense.” That would be my take on it too. I do consider the proposed Australian sign somewhat insulting, whereas I have no problem with the American and English versions. I expect that’s why they’re avoiding it.

    Also, Jason said, “.. And Australia is a secular society? I thought they have almost as many problems with fundies as we do in the US.” Not by a long shot mate. Consider immigration.

  • paola

    I wish I could see an atheist bus in Rome!!

  • simon

    Is there anything we can do to help? I’m not in a position to offer any money, unfortunately, much like many in today’s economic climate, but is there a petition to sign or event to show up at, or even a letter to our local politician to complain about religious discrimination we could write? Surely there’s some law in Australia that prevents religious discrimination? APN Outdoor must be held accountable for their bias.

  • lara

    So in theory you would prefer to see Peoples faith completely destroyed and proving what, you hate a God you do not believe in??

    Hmm interesting

  • Jay

    Christianity and Christians are only one part of a much larger group of religions and spiritual belivers, however it seems that because the Christians were able to put one religious slogan on a bus in Adelaide, which apperently was ‘offensive to athiests’, athiests should be able to do the exact same thing in return. what exactly is the gain of all this and is it worth it?

  • simon

    No Lara, that’s a typical ignorant response. People shouldn’t have faith in something that does not exist. Such behaviour is acceptable in children (Santa Claus, Easter bunny, monsters under the bed etc) but in adults it’s called mental illness. Atheists don’t hate god, how can they hate something that does not exist? What we hate is the effect such superstitions have, not only on our individual civil rights but also on the damage done on human society by these primitive and outmoded superstitions.

    To answer your question, yes, I’d like to see faith in ‘god’ completely destroyed, and replaced with the compassion and understanding that can only come from the knowledge that each person is responsible for their own lives, no excuses, and since we only get one shot at life make it a good one.

  • seniorskeptic

    Lara,
    What most atheists dislike about christianity and some xians is that they want their superstitions imposed on non xians, such as, prayer in school, prayer in city council meetings, prayer at sporting events,prayer in swearing in ceremonies, oaths of office, and on and on and on and on. Get the picture? Keep your religious beliefs to yourself and we’ll all be happier.

  • Jay

    So basically in order to stop xtians imposing their belifs on non-xtians, athiests are going to post their beleifs on buses, so that, what? when a xtian sees them their going stop trying to ‘impose’ their beleifs on the world and let athiests do it instead?

  • http://www.software3d.com Robert Webb

    Hi guys,

    A news update: the atheist ads on buses now have the go-ahead for the Australian state of Tasmania. Just got to get the others onboard now.

    The slogan will be “Atheism – Celebrate reason!”, and as the guy who actually came up with it, I thought I’d reply to a couple of things.

    incredibly influential Christian thinkers like Aquinas, Augustine, through Luther, they gave a very high role to reason

    Can you think of anyone post-Darwin? Reason is cumulative. Reason is the the process of implying B from A, but no matter how great your ability to reason, if your initial assumption A is wrong, then you haven’t proven B. There is no built-in truth in our brains, so we can only apply our reason to what has already been discovered. Others will interpret my slogan differently, but my intention was not to say that a religious person can’t make use of reason, it was to say that reason is the process by which we reach the conclusion that there is no god. It is a triumph of human reasoning, and builds upon accumulated knowledge from many fields, all supporting the same conclusion. Evolution is certainly a big part of that.

    As an aside, it is funny though when even prominant atheists say that it would have been difficult not to believe in god before Darwin. Funny because the truth of the matter hasn’t changed, just our uncovering of it. Reminds me of Dawkins’ quip where someone says that people used to believe that the Sun went around the Earth because it looked like it did, to which someone replies “And what would it have looked like if it didn’t?”. Same thing here. To say that it would be hard not to believe in god before Darwin is to say that we have to believe some answer rather than just admitting that we don’t know, which does seem to be a strong human instinct. Any answer, true or not, seems better than not knowing.

    Christianity: Celebrate Reason

    No one arrives at Christianity via reason, or they are not well-informed if they do. As with many religions, Christianity promotes belief without question, faith in the divine word, where doubt is seen as a weakness. The above suggestion is just a knee-jerk reaction to the original slogan, but the link between Christianity and reason just isn’t there. But I’d be happy for someone to explain the link if I’m missing it.

    I do consider the proposed Australian sign somewhat insulting, whereas I have no problem with the American and English versions. I expect that’s why they’re avoiding it.

    Avoiding it? Who’s avoiding it? The Americans and English came up with their own slogan. Indeed the Brits were first so my slogan wasn’t even around to consider.

    As far as being insulting, it wasn’t really intended to be. Most of the slogans I’d seen suggested were explicitly negative about religion, or just too dry, or too wordy. I wanted to come up with one that was more positive and joyous, without being completely flippant. I don’t think we should try to offend, but we also shouldn’t go out of our way to avoid offense, since one goal is to bring religion down from it’s untouchable pedestal. Say anything bad about it and you’ve committed the worst possible sin. I guess my slogan does imply that atheists are more interested in reason and logic than Christians, but isn’t that a fair call? If they’re a little offended, that’s probably not such a bad thing.

    Rob.


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