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Posts tagged with: Atheist Bus

Lessons from Atheist Bus for the Gay Bus dispute

Stonewall has been running an excellent campaign on 1000 buses with the slogan “Some people are gay. Get over it!” So – surprise, surprise – some bigots decided to run a counter campaign on 25 buses with the slogan “Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!” Only Boris Johnson, in the middle of an election campaign, has intervened to try to get TfL to pull the ads.

Boris is wrong to make this request. Here’s why.

I have quite some experience with this sort of thing as I was one of the people who started the Atheist Bus Campaign. We needed our slogan – There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. – to get the OK of the Advertising Standards Authority. With that permission granted our advert was good to run. Our campaign prompted a whole slew of counter campaigns. One from the Christian Party asserted there definitely is a God and TfL allowed it, while a further ad basically branded people fools. Our atheist ads caused offence but we were right to run them and likewise the counter campaign caused offence too (not least the Christian Party one that attracted the second highest amount of complaints in ASA history).

Yet I would have taken the UK response to all of this over the German response any day. In Germany atheists were barred from advertising on public transport by one local authority after another, and in the end resorted to hiring a bus and driving it around Germany. This is despite religious adverts being allowed on German public transport, as documented here.

So then ask yourself the question: in the dispute over the Gay Bus ads, which approach would you prefer?

While I intensely dislike the anti-gay message on the counter advertisements, I still think they should be run. The rules need to be equally respected by both sides, and the ASA has also confirmed the anti-gay ad does not contravene any UK advertising law. If the law is wrong then it needs to be changed, and the new rules applied equally to everyone. By intervening to stop these adverts Boris has shown just the sort of intolerance that prevented atheists advertising in Germany. Is that the sort of approach to public debate we want in the UK?

[UPDATE 13.4.12, 0900]
Just to make it clear: the ASA does not pre-approve ads, but in the Atheist Bus campaign case we checked with CBS Outdoor, the company that manages the ads on London transport, and they stated that as far as they could tell there was not a problem. Subsequent complaints by Christian Voice and others to the ASA confirmed this.

[Image generated from the ever-excellent Bus Slogan Generator]

The Atheist Bus Campaign has re-framed the UK’s ‘debate’ on religion

The Atheist Bus Campaign is the biggest thing I’ve ever done, and may prove to be the biggest thing I ever will do. It was more than three years ago that the original campaign started, and it still lives on.

In recent days a new controversy has been brewing in Oxford as Richard Dawkins has declined to debate visiting American theologian William Lane Craig and Craig’s supporters have taken out 30 ads on Stagecoach buses in the city (more from The Oxford Times) with the slogan “There’s Probably No Dawkins”.

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Online donation patterns

I’m at the Advocacy Online session at the eCampaigning Forum where I’ve just listened to a presentation from FullCitizen about online fundraising strategies [more here]. They rather swiftly dismissed the fundraising power of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter in one of their slides – there’s little or no conversion into fundraising they argued.

Hold on, are they just doing the old, traditional stuff (e-mail, follow up calls) very well? Or are all of their online advocacy efforts just for campaigns that otherwise do not get wider media coverage?

Because (and sorry to return to it) the Atheist Bus Campaign managed to use basically only Facebook, Twitter and blogs for the entire transmission of its message, and that resulted in online donations of £153,523.51, with more than 9000 donors. OK, over the months the website has clocked up almost 600k individual visitors (see Google Analytics below), with 24k in the Facebook group and 3k followers on Twitter – that’s not a fantastic conversion rate into donations – but it’s for sure a social media generated fundraising effort.

For more on social media (and web) fundraising see Webdesigner Depot’s 8 tips for a charity website, and Mashable’s Twitter fundraising tips.

[UPDATE] I made an impromptu presentation about Atheist Buses in Duane’s training course. Slides I used for that are here (40mb).

Maybe Eurostar needed divine intervention?

Spotted recently at St Pancras - mockup on the basis of an original CC / Flickr image

Spotted recently at St Pancras - mockup on the basis of an original CC / Flickr image

In some weird transport / religion crossover an online magazine called Communicate Jesus has done a write-up on the Eurostar mess and has linked to my post about the issue. Seems they did not notice the Atheist Bus banner in my sidebar :-) Their article is entitled ‘Important lesson from Eurostar’ and the article is categorised ‘for Churches, for Pastors’. The idea of a sermon about Eurostar is a rather odd thought, or maybe they hope that some divine intervention will stop Eurostar breaking down in the future?

Da ist wahrscheinlich ein gott (aber natürlich nur ein christliches gott)

As seen on the streets of Zürich - made with the bus slogan generator

As seen on the streets of Zürich (not) - made with the bus slogan generator

The Swiss referendum banning the construction of minarets has caused a load of hand-wringing. Why?

Of course it’s absolutely wrong to deny freedom of religious expression, and the outcome of the vote is wrong. I’m no fan of any religion but here the Voltaire quote seems apt: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

But to be remotely surprised or aghast or shocked that Switzerland would pass such a vote strikes me as utterly ludicrous. After all the SVP/UDC is the largest party and Switzerland, it’s been fiendishly hard to get Swiss citizenship for decades, and it even took the country until 2002 to join the UN. The country’s direct democracy is seldom a force for anything progressive, and indeed seems to be quite the opposite.

And while everyone is having a good old rant at the offense caused to muslims by this vote, equally have a look at the difficulties atheists have had in Switzerland to run an advertising campaign – see the report below from Swiss TV from 9 months ago, and look at the way atheist posters have been defaced. Basically if you’re not christian then you don’t count (which is what the bus slogan above alludes to).

Atheists’ right to advertise

Gott am Bahnhof, Köln - J. Worth

Gott am Bahnhof, Köln - J. Worth

One of the arguments that my German friends like to make against the Atheist Bus Campaign (and especially it’s German equivalent) is that ‘because there is no religious advertising on public transport in Germany atheists do not need to advertise’. This is the sort of reasoning why companies such as EVAG Essen declined the advertising.

So then what do I see when changing trains today at Köln Hbf? The pictured religious advertising right in the middle of the station! So much for there not being religious advertising that atheists are wholly within their rights to counter.

Germans also need to reflect a little about their vocabulary when it comes to atheists. I was introduced to someone (admittedly born and brought up in Baden-Württemberg) on Thursday who’s reaction to me – essentially a complete stranger – when someone said I was behind the atheist bus campaign was “das ist total schwachsinn” (“that is total bullshit”). Think about that for a moment. Am I going to go “that’s bullshit” to someone who I meet who is on the way to church? No I’m not, and it’s not socially acceptable to do so.