Reading the Bus

05 Feb

An incredible new fad has swept the globe in recent months: the Atheist Bus campaign. It all began in England (home of Charles Darwin – do you think that’s a coincidence?), with this simple ad:


When that campaign opened last fall, I didn’t think about it very much: “Huh, that’s nice.” Then, the American Humanist Association followed suit with this ad, in Washington, DC:


Since this one was closer to home, geographically, for me, I thought, “Hey, that’s pretty cool.”

Now, to the best of my knowledge, there are atheist bus campaigns underway or being planned on three continents (Europe, North America and South America). Sadly, a proposed campaign has been thwarted (thus far) in Australia.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), some Christians have not been inspired or amused by the atheist ads. They have, in fact, been quite offended. Stephen Green protested the British buses, to no avail. Ron Heather refused to drive a godless bus. One blogger suggested that Christians should run this ad:


He may be pleased to learn that he can keep his money in his pocket: the Trinitarian Bible Society, one of several Christian groups that have launched counter-campaigns, has already run that ad. (I must say, that scripture verse is particularly well-chosen because a) atheists have never encountered it before, and b) it’s certain to strike fear into even the hardest and coldest of atheist hearts.)

Who would have thought, when this fad began a few months ago, that bus ad mania would become so amusing? Bus ads are almost as entertaining as comic books these days. So, the next time you need some light reading material, instead of traveling to the bookstore, head to the nearest bus shelter and ride read the bus.

— the chaplain


Posted by on February 5, 2009 in atheism, humor, religion, society


27 responses to “Reading the Bus

  1. revright

    February 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Personally, I like the counter-ad that says, “There definitely is a God. So join The Christian Party and enjoy your life.” Nobody knows how to party like us Christians! (Alcohol free, of course.) And no sense hitting ’em with the hell stuff right away.

  2. PhillyChief

    February 6, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Couldn’t there be a fuss made over such an ad? I mean, if you’re going to make a fuss over ads being offensive, this one is calling people fools! Which atheist ad called believers something derogatory?

  3. DB

    February 6, 2009 at 4:00 am

    They (xians) know that this is working and are starting to be concerned. Who would have thought that a ad campaign on the side of buses would be so effective? Props to them

  4. athinkingman

    February 6, 2009 at 5:35 am

    What I find annoying about the proposed ‘counter’ adds in the UK is that, so far, they look like they are going to be able to say that god exists without having to insert any modifier. The Advertising Standards Authority insisted that the atheist ads had the word ‘probably’ in the claim that god didn’t exist, and theists leapt on this to argue that we weren’t sure. If there is any fairness (probably not) the theist adds ought to have ‘possibly’ inserted in any claim about the existence of god. Atheists can then jump on their uncertainty! :-)

  5. Ubi Dubium

    February 6, 2009 at 8:28 am

    The xian response makes me think of this quote:

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Ghandi (probably)

  6. TrekGirl

    February 6, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Yeah, ’cause nothing eats away at an atheist like a bible verse calling her a fool.

  7. PhillyChief

    February 6, 2009 at 11:03 am

    See, that’s just it, atheists laugh at those things generally, whereas Christians for the most part are ALWAYS seeing attacks and going into persecution mode. The fact remains that calling non-believers “fools” is a derogatory attack, and any such comment pointed the other way would cause a shitstorm of Christian protest and claims of offense and attack.

    I find it lame to cry about being offended for being called a fool, but I don’t see anything wrong with pointing out the obvious double standard, especially when there are outrageous claims by Christians over the severity of harm and offense from pretty innocuous non-religious ads.

    My first thought for their defense is “but it’s in the Bible”, suggesting anything from the Bible can’t be bad. To such a defense, I would run a counter-campaign quoting the worst passages of the Bible, from dashing babies on rocks to how to beat your slaves, from okaying incest to willingness to kill your own child, with perhaps a line like “The good book?”

    How amusing would it be if an ad was deemed inappropriate if it merely quoted a Bible passage? LOL!

  8. the chaplain

    February 6, 2009 at 7:18 pm


    No offense intended, but I’ve endured enjoyed more than my fair share of Christian alcohol-free parties. I have to admit, though, that no one makes jello salads like middle-aged Christian ladies.

    Suggest that maybe, just maybe, there’s no god, and the religiobots go nuts and come back with their oh-so-peaceful, loving rejoinder. Yet, in their eyes, we’re the ones who play unfairly.

    Who in the world ever paid any attention to the ads that deck the walls of mass transit vehicles until now? These days, being well-versed in the scribblings on subway walls appears to be a hallmark of well-heeled literacy. Who knew?

    Surely you jest, hoping for fairness in a god-saturated world.

    It’s astonishing that something so mundane has gotten so far underneath some people’s skin. Here’s to winning!

    Religiobots just don’t get that their scriptures are completely meaningless to nonbelievers. Since scriptures are authoritative to them, they seem to mistakenly assume that the same writings are authoritative to everyone. Duh! If that were the case, we wouldn’t be nonbelievers, would we?

    How amusing would it be if an ad was deemed inappropriate if it merely quoted a Bible passage? LOL!

    There are so many passages from which to choose, I wouldn’t know where to start.

  9. Lynet

    February 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    I love the fuss this is creating. It’s great publicity to be able to cause such a stir by such innocuous sentiments. I think that’s why it has spread. Atheists around the world can see that this is a good way to make a big impact with a small statement.

  10. cl

    February 6, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    So, the next time you need some light reading material, instead of traveling to the bookstore, head to the nearest bus shelter and ride read the bus.

    I like that! Very good and witty writing.

    I also felt your comments on Psalms 14:1, 53:1 were spot-on.

    One minor quibble and I’m on my way to Thai food:

    I must say, that scripture verse is particularly well-chosen because a) atheists have never encountered it before…

    I know several atheists who have encountered that scripture.

  11. bitchspot

    February 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I keep thinking I’m going to write about the whole bus debacle, I’ve had a story sitting in my queue for weeks now, but every time I think the silliness is over, something new happens.

    Honestly, I think the whole thing is ridiculous and hopefully, bus companies are just going to ban all religious messages on busses entirely.

  12. Sean the Blogonaut

    February 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    You know I don’t think xians putting bible verses on the side of a bus does anything for their cause. When I read biblical quotes in a context such as this my eyes glaze over.

  13. stateofprotest

    February 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I wrote about the “Fool” campaign when I actually saw a bus with that ad in DC. Surprisingly, one of the organizers of that campaign responded to my post, and gave me some more info about it. Seems they’re from (not sure that’s the Trinitarian Bible Society, but could be related).

    Alan, the organizer, prompted this deep question:
    “how can one look around at all the earth and say there is no God? It does seem foolish to me.”

    I’m wondering what the medium will be for the next set of campaigns.

  14. The Ridger

    February 8, 2009 at 3:24 am

    I like that the ASA ruled that the original atheist ad (which was a response to overtly Christian bus ads, so not the original ad in the sequence) were “unlikely to mislead” anyone.

  15. Sarge

    February 8, 2009 at 9:00 am

    It is just so damn important to the more rabid examples that we agree with them, or at least kow-tow.

    Last year a woman sternly gave me the “The fool has said in his heart…” routine, and I responded, “The wise say it out loud”.

    She was shocked. I don’t deny I saw it on a bumper sticker first, but tossing a slogan to someone who lives by slogans works, sometimes.

  16. The Ridger

    February 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Sarge, that’s great. I’m totally using it.

    I just freaking hate the way everybody is supposed to sit quietly accepting Christian posters on busses (including all the anti-abortion “have we gone too far?!” ads on Metro a while back, and all those obnoxious “God” billboards), but one little ad challenging them and they’re in full-blown persecution-hysteria-offended-no-*deeply*-offended mode.

  17. bullet

    February 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    I don’t find it insulting at all.

    ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man
    knows himself to be a fool.’ – Touchstone, As You Like It

    The best part of this whole response will be the backlash.

    Can’t wait to see pictures of the tagged Xian buses.

  18. PhillyChief

    February 9, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Fuck yeah, SLAYER!. I saw them with Motorhead in Bethlehem about 18 years ago (holy shit I’m old).

    Angel of DEEEEEEEATH!

  19. Vitamin R

    February 13, 2009 at 12:17 am

    It’d be pretty interesting if the atheist bus campaign took off in NYC. I’m even thinking of bugging the man, himself, to help bring it to the US. Or at least lend his approval.

    I don’t know if the campaign works as a conversion device, but it certainly gets people thinking and talking. Makes those inclined to believe believe harder as a reaction, but maybe makes those who don’t believe at all finally come out to themselves, if no one else.

    A large part of me thinks it might be better to not play into the hands Xtian ad-mongers, but whatever’s effective.

    (Personally, if someone started quoting holy verses at me, I’d just respond with a Huey Lewis and The News lyric, rather than try to rebut them. The only effective response to a complete non sequitur is another non sequitur :)

  20. arthurvandelay

    February 13, 2009 at 5:37 am

    (I must say, that scripture verse is particularly well-chosen because a) atheists have never encountered it before, and b) it’s certain to strike fear into even the hardest and coldest of atheist hearts.)

    Go easy on them. Theirs is a worldview riddled with fallacies and woolly thinking. Ad hominem is the best they can do.

  21. PhillyChief

    February 13, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Go easy? Oh no, just the opposite is necessary.

  22. sunnyskeptic

    February 13, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    I just love the fundagelicals who are saying that the christians need to ‘fight back’. As if I don’t already drive by a million christian advertisements/billboards on my way to work every day…

  23. Lucian

    March 13, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Here’s my little contribution to the bus-campaign…

  24. the chaplain

    March 13, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Lucian – LOL!

  25. dave

    June 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    > I must say, that scripture verse is particularly well-chosen

    Actually, no it’s not. I’m an atheist and it does not “strike fear in my heart”, rather it makes me pity anyone who would believe that crap. Some iron-age politician wanting to control the ignorant masses says that your a fool if you don’t believe in my god and do what I tell you he wants you to do, and you believe it? How easily are you manipulated?

    A fool is someone who blindly follows an @sshole that’s exploiting him. Those who don’t think will always be controlled by those who do, and not all those that think are thinking of your best interests. This is why rational thought is the responsibility of all citizens of the world.

  26. the chaplain

    June 10, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    The parenthetical remark you pointed out was sarcasm on my part. Atheists can’t help being familiar with that verse, because Christians keep smashing us in the heads with it. The reason they keep smashing us in the heads with it is because they expect it to strike fear into our cold, hard hearts. The fact that it never works as expected escapes them completely.


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