Indiana Atheists seeking to advertise on public buses were recently handed a disappointing decision by Bloomington Transit. The public transportation provider refused to allow their message, "You can be good without God" to be installed on buses, stating that it was "too controversial." On behalf of the Indiana Atheist Bus Company, the American Civil Liberties Union is preparing to file a lawsuit against Bloomington on First Amendment grounds.
It seems interesting that atheists are trying to connect themselves to public transportation. After all, there really hasn't been much written on the relationship between various religions and their modes of transportation. Jesus walked everywhere, at least when He wasn't riding a donkey, and the same could easily be said of Abraham, Moses, Siddhartha, and Mohammed. For that matter, the religious figures who are famous for their cars also tend to be famous for their questionable accounting methods.
The "Atheist bus" program was initially designed to counter explicitly religious slogans on British buses, but has since opened an interesting conversation about the existence of God and the place of religion in daily life. The campaign's slogan, "There's Probably No God...Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life," is intended to promote a positive image of Atheism, not as a lack of belief, but as a release from religious fear.
Launched on October 21, 2008, the initial goal was to raise £5,500, in order to run messages on 30 London buses. The organizations planners reached that goal by 10:06 AM on the first day; by the end of the day, they had collected £48,000. When they stopped accepting money, on April 11, 2009, collections totaled £153,516.51.
One of the most interesting things about the program is who has given it money. In addition to well-known atheists like Richard Dawkins, and AC Grayling, it has also collected money from Peter Wooley, the director of Theos, a "Public Theology Think Tank." Wooley lauded the campaign's ability to jump-start a conversation about religious faith, noting that "The posters will encourage people to consider the most important question that we will ever face in our lives." This opinion was echoed by Mike Elms, a fellow member of Theos, who stated "The atheist campaign opens the door toward a very public debate on the existence and nature of God."
In the weeks since Britain's Atheist bus program launched, it has spawned similar efforts around the world. In Washington DC, the American Humanist Association ran ads asking "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake." Meanwhile, a Spanish advertising campaign translated the British slogan and placed it on buses in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Some localities in Canada have also accepted the atheist ads.
Bloomington is not the only municipality to reject the ads; in fact, it joins Australia, Italy, Croatia, and Switzerland. Presumably, Saudi Arabia and Iran are also in the "no" category, and the jury is still out on New York City.
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