'Pro-God' advert provokes record number of public complaints

By staff writers
May 26, 2010

An advertisement campaign run by the hard-line Christian Party headed up the Advertising Standards Authority’s Top 10 most complained about adverts in 2009, and is also one of the most complained about non-broadcast adverts ever.

The adverts proclaiming "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life” was displayed on the sides of buses.

It deliberately mirrored the British Humanist Association’s high-profile “Atheist Bus Campaign” from earlier in 2009 - which ran on the slogan “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life”.

What some considered more of an agnostic than atheist initiative, the BHA adverts, supported financially by Professor Richard Dawkins, were originally only intended to adorn the sides of 'bendy' buses in London.

But an appeal to fund the ads raised well over £100,000 from public donations – enough for the campaign to be expanded across the UK. The campaign has been widely copied by other humanist and atheist organisations around the world.

The Bible Society's Theos think-tank contributed £10 to the Atheist Bus Campaign, and it was also welcomed by the Methodist Church and others for "encouraging debate".

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented yesterday (25 May 2010): "Our adverts were a light-hearted response to exactly the kind of dogma that says people must be told what to believe and how to live, often accompanied by the threat of punishment in another world. It is with some satisfaction that the public chose to complain about an advert that did not want them to decide for themselves about the existence of god."

He added: "Working for freedom of speech, expression and belief is at the very core of the humanist tradition and at the heart of all the BHA’s work, and we were quite happy for Christian groups to mimic our own successful campaign. This is in contrast to official complaints lodged against our adverts by the likes of Christian Voice, which were wholly rejected by the ASA who made no further investigations."

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, commented: "Many people probably react with bafflement, amusement or indifference to the attempts of various belief groups to proselytise with expensive advertising hoardings.

"Encouraging people to think about their convictions concerning the meaning and purpose of life is a good thing. But there are surely better ways of doing it than this?"

"Self-designated 'pro-god' and 'anti-god' propagandists might therefore be better off spending their money on benefitting people and planet, and on finding ways of working together across boundaries of faith and belief for human good," said Barrow


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