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We have atheist buses in Britain.

We have atheist buses in Washington, D.C.:

Will we have atheist buses in Australia?

Not anytime soon.

Three separate slogans were proposed to APN Outdoor — the company that handles bus advertising in most Australian capitals.

  • Atheism: Because there is no credible evidence
  • Celebrate reason: Sleep in on Sunday mornings
  • Atheism: Celebrate reason

The company said no to all three ads. (Even the last one? Really!?) This, after the atheist group in question had already raised $16,000 (approximately $10,316 in US dollars) for the ad campaign.

President of the Atheist Foundation of Australia David Nicholls appeared on the radio show The Religion Report to discuss this discrimination with host David Rutledge:

David Rutledge: Can you speculate as to why they might be refusing to run this?

David Nicholls: Well it could be just cultural censorship. As [Richard] Dawkins said, we’re brought up to believe that religion has some sort of privileged status. To offer even a mild criticism of it is seen as something very strident, and that’s out of bounds to do that. The Atheist Foundation is not a religion, we are not criticising religion, we are saying celebrate reason. So I think that there is a rejection of atheists having their name out there.

David Rutledge: Are you surprised by that? In a country like Australia, one of the most secular societies in the world, that this would happen?

David Nicholls: I’m disappointed, but not overly surprised. Religion has a very great hold on societies, even democratic societies and in fact it has too great a hold in democratic societies.

David Rutledge: So what’s your next move? Now that APN Outdoor have said that they can’t accommodate a bus campaign, would you say it’s dead in the water or do you have other options to pursue?

David Nicholls: Well there are a few options, there are billboards but APN controls them they haven’t got back to us on that. Any company really has the right to refuse a service to a customer, but in this instance, you have to wonder. Just consider the proposed wording: Celebrate Reason. I mean is it vindictive, inflammatory, offensive? No, it’s not, it’s none of those, and I really have to ask, why have we been refused? It’s not as though they’re opposed to controversy. In Adelaide I believe, in the recent past, the APN buses had all across the back of a bus or some buses, the message, “John 3:16” which is the most famous Biblical passage “That God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” Now atheists find that offensive, and there’s lots of atheists in Australia, but we wouldn’t prohibit its display.

APN Outdoor had no comment on the story.

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