Controversy over 'No God' bus ads in Norwich
By Keith Morris
2009: Controversial adverts proclaiming “There's probably no God” have started running on buses in Norwich, backed by the British Humanist Society, and have met with a mixed reaction from the city’s Christian community.
The £140,000 campaign has placed posters on 800 buses across the UK, including Norwich, after atheist and comedy writer Ariane Sherine took objection to adverts on some London buses carrying Christian messages. The full advert reads: “There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
A spokeswoman for First confirmed buses in Norwich were among those carrying the slogan. She said: “The buses are used as an advertising tool. First does not endorse or support any of the adverts on buses, the same as we do not with any other adverts. The atheist adverts have been passed by the Advertising Standards Authority.”
Perhaps well placed to comment on the issue is chairman of Transforming Norwich and a former advertising copywriter for Saatchi and Saatchi, Rev Nicholas Vesey (pictured below).
He said: “If Christians are able to advertise on the buses I think all faiths and none should be able to, it goes with freedom of speech. It also gives us an opportunity to communicate what we believe.
“From an advertising perspective, when you are not the brand leader you often use knocking copy to attack them and also associate yourself with them. I would say in these adverts we are considered the brand leader.
“I would rather see them use a more positive approach, advertising their own ideas than knocking ours. What is the positive Humanist approach?
“At St Luke’s, the slogan outside the front of our church is ‘Make the most of your life’. Maybe the Humanists could use that or ‘Be human, have a heart’ or, ‘Be human - after all we have all got to live together’.
Rev Jack Burton
from St Clement Church in Colegate
, who used to be a bus driver himself, said that while he did not agree with the contents of the adverts, he did not feel it necessary for drivers to go as far as to refuse to get behind the wheel.
He added: “I think it is a very sad gesture with which to greet the New Year, and it is wasting a lot of money just to rob people of their hope.”
But Rev Gill Bridges
, said she felt some good could come out of the campaign: “When I first saw the adverts on buses around the city, I admit I was shocked, it certainly made me stop and think.
“But I think this could be a positive thing if it gets people to think about what they really believe.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Rev Graham James
, said: “Whatever God this sign is talking about it is certainly not the one Christians believe in. The God revealed in Christ is the one who relieves our worries and anxieties, rather than increasing them. He wishes us to enjoy the life he has given us, to have fun and live life to its fullness.”
, secretary of the Norfolk Humanist Group
, said he backed the campaign, adding: “It is important that people feel they are free to express their views on any topic. Religion tends to think it should have the moral high ground and should not be criticised.”