I've been enjoying the Atheist Bus Campaign (which is on tubes as well as buses. I saw the ad pictured at Moorgate the other day).
They make me smile when I see them... which seems to me to be all they're really intended to do.
For those who don't know, they were proposed as a whimsical notion by a writer called Ariane Sherine in an article on the Guardian website. (I ought to point out that I know Ariane. Not especially well - but she does beat me at online scrabble from time to time).
Anyway... the idea for the ads came as a reaction to seeing some Christian adverts on buses that, while innocent in and of themselves, contained a url for a website that told anyone curious enough to look it up that they would spend all eternity in hell if they didn't believe in God. Criminy.
The whimsical notion became a reality as readers got behind the idea and said they would donate money towards an atheist ad. Instead of one bus ad, they raised enough money for 800. I like the ads even more for being the result of people power.
I have no idea how many atheists there are in Britain but it is very easy as an atheist to feel like you have no voice. While faith of almost any kind is uniformly accorded a degree of respect, atheism isn't. Even Mormons are listened to more than atheists... and their faith is young enough for the historical record to exist proving that the whole thing is founded on the words of a proven liar...
Anyway... in today's news I see that a Christian bus driver in Southampton has refused to drive one of the buses which carried one of the ads. The company he works for have been very understanding... which is genuinely very nice of them... but I can't help wondering whether they would have been quite so understanding if one of their atheist bus drivers (of which there must be many) had refused to drive a bus with the Christian ads because it offended his or her sensibilities?
If you step back from the issue and afford both views equal respect it seems to me to be abstractly more offensive to threaten people with eternal damnation than it is to recommend they enjoy their life. One contains only a positive message and the other... well, it's a threat.
What if a teetotal driver refused to drive a bus that carried an advert for alcohol? What if their teetotalism was a matter of faith? What if a Jewish bus driver refused to drive a bus which was advertising pork?