Richard Dawkins Sparks Religious Ad Spend Frenzy, as Christians Battle Heretics on London Buses
Oh Richard Dawkins, what have you started? The British Humanist Association’s atheist bus campaign, which was rolled out late last year with Dawkins’ support, declared “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.”
CBS Outdoor received over £130,000 from the campaign, which led to a four week ad rush on London bus and tube sites, and acted as a red rag to the UK’s dwindling and much maligned population of hardline Christians. Predictably enraged, a number of Christian groups are now counter-attacking with their own bus campaigns.
First up is the publicity-hungry Christian Party (awkward slogan: “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”), best known for their figurehead and founder Reverend George Hargreaves, who starred in the farcical Channel 4 reality TV show Make Me a Christian and is famous for using the massive royalties he earned from writing and co-producing the 1986 Sinitta gay disco hit ‘So Macho’ to fund a church organisation that rails against the evils of homosexuality. His message for broadcast on the bendy buses of east and central London?
There is definitely a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life.
The ‘definitely’ here is a little provocative, and could fall foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, whose regulations state that advertisers must be able to “objectively” substantiate any claims they make. This is a pretty straightforward procedure when you’re talking about, say, how much meat content your burger has, less so when it comes to debating the existence of God. Ironically, the ASA received around 150 complaints from Christians in January, who said that the Humanist campaign’s statement “there’s probably no God” was impossible to substantiate (unlike the messiah! The ASA rejected the assertion, and ruled the atheist ads weren’t misleading and were unlikely to cause offense).
Next up are the Russian Orthodox Church (?!?), who are being funded by Russian Hour TV, a mysterious online TV ‘portal’ which claims on its website that it wants to “help increase understanding between the UK and Russia.” They also claim on the same site that “There is a theory that King Arthur was a Russian,” but let’s suspend judgment for just a moment… Their contribution to 25 London buses is:
There IS a God. BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life.
Unfortunately no-one appears to have informed the Ruskies when using the English language, the random and excessive use of the caps lock button makes you sound like a barking juvenile trying to make a point while swilling cider on the night bus home, or even a mad evangelical on a street corner, but they make their point all the same.
Then there’s the Trinitarian Bible Society, who are taking on the atheists with a little more gusto by quoting Psalm 53.1 in an advert which will run on 100 buses, and cost £35,000:
The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.
They’re also offering free bibles! A bargain in these straitened times.
This theological bunfight amongst a bunch of impassioned randoms has been music to the wallets of CBS Outdoor, owned by American media conglomerate CBS, who have otherwise been taking a massive hit with the decline of the advertising market in the face of the worldwide financial crisis. They can only hope Dawkins and Co. will hit back with yet more part-publicly funded atheist campaigns, as the anti-deist rottweiler and bestselling author looks to take his message to the conservative heartlands (and why not: if he’s mad enough to discuss religion with Bill O’Reilly – see the video below – who knows what he might do next?).
Still, who’d have thunk bitter religious rancour could be so profitable? Or that small Christian fringe groups would have so much money to burn?