Monday, 9 February 2009

There DEFINITELY is a god, claims number 23 bus

A campaign was launched last year on the Guardian's Comment is Free site, raising funds to place a few adverts on London buses explaining that god doesn't exist. The campaign was launched by Ariane Sherine as an attempt to counter the increasing numbers of religious adverts found on the tube and buses. With an initial plan to raise £5,500 from online donations, the campaign eventually raised over £150,000 allowing a much larger advertising push than anticipated. The campaign first went national and has now gone global.

A lot was said about the wording of the advert, which read:

"There probably is no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life"

Many thought the wording was too weak, questioning the need for the word "probably". Surely if it was an atheist advert it shouldn't need that word?

Many thought the "probably" implied agnosticism rather than atheism, though I see no problem. A read around the different forms of atheism shows how you can be a de-facto atheist whilst still enternaining a very very very small possibility that you are wrong. After all, I might also be wrong about the celestial teapot.

A complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Agency about the advert by professional loon Stephen Green of Christian Voice. The complaint was rejected, and the inclusion of the word "probably" may have helped. The ASA judged that:

the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation.

Since then, Christian groups have decided to go ahead with their own campaign. One of the key differences between their adverts and the Atheist one is their certainty. One advert reads:

There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life

I'm sure somebody at some stage will submit a complaint to the ASA, though I'm not sure how far that will get. It seems from their guidelines that first of all a complainant would have to show that the existence or otherwise of god is capable of objective substantiation, and then that the conclusion that god exists is false. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the ASA meeting to decide this. The prospect of the ASA having to decide on the existence of god is quite interesting but it would never get that far.

I'm on two minds as to whether to submit my own complaint or not. Do I really want to lower myself to the level of Christian Voice?

What is most interesting however is how the religious seem unable to contemplate even the remotest prospect that they are wrong. The word "probably" is so threatening to them that you won't find it in their adverts.

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