Ron Heather is the Christian bus driver who has refused to drive the UK atheist buses, creating a news story which has been in the press a lot over the past 24 hours. He and I have something in common: we’ve both taken exception to websites promoting belief systems different to our own.
The website I took issue with was JesusSaid.org, advertised on buses and tube cards in June last year, which – as you can read here – promotes the idea of God’s wrath and eternal punishment. It insists:
“God’s wrath includes the prospect of eternal punishment – it is appointed to men to die once and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). You will rise from the dead and will face the Judge and know that you rejected His kind and merciful answer. You will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell. Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and all his angels.”
Our adverts were designed to counter these rather alarming ideas.
Conversely, the website Mr Heather didn’t like much was… er… this one. The Guardian revealed today that “Heather said he had been particularly offended by the name of the website featured on the ad, atheistcampaign.org.”
Maybe the words “atheist” and “campaign” unsettled him for some reason, but they really shouldn’t have, because this campaign is as gentle as any. I truly don’t think he’s visited this site, because we’ve taken great care to make it very peaceful and upbeat (as we have with the entire campaign). We wanted to create a calm place where people could talk freely about their beliefs – the very opposite of JesusSaid.org, in fact. We believe in freedom of speech, so we rarely delete comments, but the main content of this site is very mild, friendly and straightforward.
If Ron ever does visit, he’ll be very welcome here. But somehow we don’t think he will.
Here’s the quote I gave to the press yesterday:
“We live in a democratic society, which will only function as such if we are allowed to peacefully express different viewpoints. The bus companies have accepted the adverts, and nobody imagines that bus drivers wholeheartedly endorse everything advertised on the sides of the buses they drive.“
It’s the bastion of the religious establishment: Thought for the Day on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. The problem is that atheists and humanists are barred from making presentations on the two and a half minute slot, but that didn’t stop Rosemary Lain-Priestley criticising the atheist bus campaign on today’s Thought for the Day. Click here to get to the recording of the progamme - 1:50:50 in. If you think we should be able to state our case then you can contact the Today Programme here.
It’s been a long day, you’ve worked hard and maybe had a beer or two somewhere and then you’re about to get a nightbus home in London. Welcome rest awaits soon, but you’re content looking back at the day.
That’s more or less how I’m feeling as the webmanager of atheistcampaign.org after this manic and brilliant first day of the campaign to get atheist ads on the buses. As I write more than £43000 has been donated, almost 8x the target, and that does not even include any match funding from Richard Dawkins. This website has received more than 15000 individual visitors today, even prompting the hosting firm to contact me to ask me what was going on with such a spike in traffic.
The campaign has been covered all over the place – BBC, ITN, Telegraph, Times – and more will surely await tomorrow. We’re also very thankful for all the messages we’ve received, and the bloggers that have written about the campaign – we’ll link to you just as soon as we get a moment.
Ariane and I are voluntarily giving up our time to run this website and campaign, so today marks the culmination of weeks of hard slog to pull everything together doing this alongside our regular work. It’s been very, very worthwhile, and I’m super grateful to everyone that has donated so far. I’ll log off for now and be back at it afresh tomorrow morning.
It has been a manic first day for the atheist bus campaign – we surged past the £5500 donation target a little after 10am and the more money that gets donated the more buses with atheist adverts we’ll be able to pay for. Thanks to all that have donated, and please keep on donating!
As well as Ariane’s Comment is Free article we’ve also received some decent press coverage of our efforts:
Online we’ve been covered by The Register, politics.co.uk, The First Post, Brand Republic and tens of bloggers.