Arguing for Atheist Bus Ads

March 5, 2010 by

Photo credit: Jon Worth / British Humanist AssociationYou might remember St. Matthew-in-the-City from their Mary and Joseph billboard a few months back. They’re making headlines again, but this time, I’m a little more sold on what they’re doing. Here’s the jist:

Recently, there was an advertising campaign in New Zealand for atheism. The ads, displayed on buses, read, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” New Zealand Bus got some complaints on the campaign, and they ended up taking the advertisements down.

Enter Archdeacon Glynn Cardy:

Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City in Auckland, says NZ Bus’s decision last month to stop the display of paid adverts showing atheistic slogans is regrettable.

“Many in the Christian community welcome a debate about issues of the existence of God and, also, I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of in that debate,” he said.

You might be thinking, “Whoa, hold on a minute. The buses pulled the ads. Christians win. Right?” Wrong.

Cardy has a great point here, and it’s one that we’d do well to heed as believers in our local communities. I see three great nuggets of truth for local churches to pull out of his response to the pulling of these ads:

We’re not the only ones who get to play. Too often, we have an “I’m going to take my ball and go home” mentality when things don’t seem to go our way. But it’s important to remember that just like we can advertise and communicate our ideas, so can anyone else. (And all the more reason not to suck at it.)

Support those you hope to reach. You’ll get a lot further in affirming and connecting with people unlike yourself if you support them. You don’t have to agree with them or adopt their theology, but you should affirm their right to speech and opinion.

Don’t be afraid of hard discussions. Topics like the existence of God and the virgin birth are admittedly difficult. We hold them very dearly, and it’s easy to feel attacked when someone challenges the ideas we hold dear. But we should be confident as we communicate those issues and communicate that confidence to those around us.

Maybe as we grab on to each of these, we’ll engage in deeper, more influential discussions with the community around us. Especially those who don’t believe the same things as we do.

(Photo credit: Jon Worth / British Humanist Association)

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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4 Responses to “Arguing for Atheist Bus Ads”

  • Tom
    March 5, 2010

    Well, there appears to be plenty of space to place a “-Satan” decal following the statement on the billboard. Ah, just kidding. That would be brilliant though.
    I do agree that we must be prepared for hard discussions. Most importantly, if you don’t have an informed response for a certain question about the Bible, God, or Christ just say, “I’ll have to get back to you.” Don’t fumble over or fabricate a simplistic or convenient answer. Hit the books and get back to them ASAP. There is always an intelligible answer.
    Lee Strobel’s books: Case for Christ, Case for a Creator

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  • mnplatypus
    March 5, 2010

    I’m thinking it would be a great opportunity to promote ‘Prayer is the opposite of Worry’ with the same colors and style :)

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  • Huw Tyler
    March 5, 2010

    This originally was rolled out in the UK. It was quickly picked up by the church who did their own (opposite but very similar) campaign!
    It sparked quite a bit of discussion, but mostly mocking such poor advertising! Here are a few links to check out:
    Creative Review – a UK design mag:
    A funny flickr group:
    Create your own bus ad:

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  • Aaron McCarroll Gallegos
    March 5, 2010

    Great advice. When the atheist ad campaign came to Canada in early 2009, The United Church of Canada’s WonderCafe ( responded by adding our own option to the atheist slogan and inviting people to join in discussion about the existence and character of God on our site. WonderCafe’s alternative response got a lot of attention and brought a lot of people to the site, including many from the atheist community who are still active on WonderCafe. We were also invited to appear at a number of media events with the leader of a local humanist organization, which led to much more public discussion about God than has been seen in the media here in some time.
    Here’s a link to our blog posts about the experience if you would like more info:

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