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As atheists roll out London ads, believers unruffled

Billboard campaign promotes atheist beliefs on buses.

Ariane Sherine created Britain's atheist bus ad campaign.

Andrew Winning/Reuters

About these ads

It's the first mass marketing of atheism in Britain – and many in the community of faith say that's just fine.

On Jan. 6 some 800 British red "bendy" buses carried the sign: "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

The Atheist Bus Campaign organizer, a young comedienne named Ariane Sherine, took exception last June to several London buses swathed with biblical quotes, placed by Christian fundamentalists.

Her idea to fund a few challenge ads took off; donors sent in $200,000 in two days. Ms. Sherine was joined by Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins, a leading British atheist and author of "The God Delusion."

He predicted anger from believers. "They have to take offense, it is the only weapons they've got," Mr. Dawkins said as the first bus rolled through the streets of London. "They've got no arguments."

But the response by most faith leaders isn't quite what was expected.

Religious institutes, church pastors, and divinity school professors have not treated the ads with Old Testament wrath, but with a relatively open mind and even embrace of so important an issue.

If Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, they say, the ads remind that an unexamined faith is not a real faith, and people need to think, and even pray, more deeply.

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