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Bus adverts and the 2011 NZ census

What is it with these atheists?

I go out of town for a few days and they launch their NZ bus adverts campaign.  When I get back I find that I almost miss my own chance to make a donation! Because they are going to cap it off after reaching $20,000!

Its obviously hit a spot because their original target of $10,000 was reached in less than 48 hrs (see $10,000 and growing fast).

But isn’t it strange that an appeal like this should be capped? Haven’t heard of any religious organisation doing this. They always have their hand out. Their “targets” seem to have no limit.

Anyway, good on the people who launched this campaign. They have decided to use the inoffensive slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The same as used in the successful UK campaign. The organisers say “This campaign is about challenging people to think critically about their beliefs, and especially to think critically about how much control they give over their lives to a supernatural being for which there is no evidence.”

The launch seems to have got a fair bit of media coverage. And most commenters on  blogs, etc., seem positive. There are of course a number who, for their own religious reason, attempt to damn it or label it as a waste of money, ineffective, or pointless. One of the funniest I saw was from blogger Macdoctor (see Zealots) who spent some time denouncing the campaign and then appealed to Christians to ignore it!

One can easily overestimate the effectiveness of these sorts of campaigns in changing the long held beliefs of people. But I think this misses the point. Many welcome these adverts because it shows the public face of non-theistic beliefs. It establishes the fact that we are there, we are normal people – no worse and (possibly) no better than others and should be accepted as normal members of society.

However, here’s one tangible result that we might see. Just imagine if more and more people come to think that it’s OK not to declare a religion. All those times people put C of E, Presbyterian, etc., on official forms because they somehow thought that “should” have a religion. They had seen having a religion as nothing to do with belief, but to do with family  or culture. And necessary for respectability.

So what will these people do when the next census comes around? Will they answer the “religion” question more honestly this time?

Already the number people claiming a Christian religion was down to 49.5% in the last, 2006, census (after correction for double dipping – see Is New Zealand a Christian nation?). Could that number really plummet in 2011?

See also:
Battle of the bgus ads
Givealittle – NZ Atheist Bus Campaign.
NZ Atheist Bus Campaign
“Is there a god” NZ poll


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“Probably” no God – probably acceptable

Debate around the ‘probably’ in the London atheist bus adverts is interesting. First, some background.

Arian Sherine raised the issue back in June with her Guardian article Atheists – gimme five:

“Yesterday I walked to work and saw not one, but two London buses with the question: “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). It seems you wait ages for a bus with an unsettling Bible quote, then two come along at once.

The errant capital letters weren’t the only disturbing thing about this (Faith Hill or Faith Evans?). There was also a web address on the ad, and when I visited the site, hoping for a straight answer to their rather pressing question, I received the following warning for anyone who doesn’t “accept the word of Jesus on the cross”: “You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels (demonic spirits)” (Matthew 25:41). Lots to look forward to, then.”

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