The Atheist Bus Campaign and Barack Obama October 28, 2008

The Atheist Bus Campaign and Barack Obama

What do they have in common?

Emily Bell of The Guardian writes:

The answer is a lot of money from many people — a new model of fundraising, which the web is facilitating. Obama’s campaign attracted about 90% of its donations from people who gave less than $100. Similarly the atheist bus fund is principally made up of small individual donations and looks as though it might single-handedly reflate the bus advertising market in the coming months.

In just one week, the Athest Bus campaign has raised £110,877 (roughly $173,143).

That’s enough for marketing atheism on British buses many times over.

I hope the British Humanist Association finds an even better way to promote their product with the sudden influx of cash. Hell, they should just rent their own marketing team.

It also raises the question: How is it possible that the British can raise this much money for this cause when Americans who could benefit from the promotion of atheism much more than our European counterparts can’t raise anything even close to that?

Are we that apathetic about giving to atheist organizations or fundraising campaigns?

Or have we simply not come up with a catchy enough way to promote our beliefs?

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  • llewelly

    Are we that apathetic about giving to atheist organizations or fundraising campaigns?

    The non-believer donations to Kay Hagan’s campaign suggest otherwise.

  • Personally, one thing I don’t like about organized religion is the amount of money they spend proselytizing new members. It is one of the many reasons I got out of it. Why would I want to perpetuate that on the other side? I would rather donate my money to organizations that do some good rather than splash ads all over buses. I get the point of doing it and don’t judge others for donating. I am just explaining why I would not give money to an atheist ad campaign whose sole goal was to convince people religion sucks using a petty catch phrase. I think people do donate to other funds, but there are many more charities/good organizations to donate to in the US than in Britain (from what I understand–I could be wrong on that). It is just a matter of where a person’s priorities are. I would donate to certain atheistic legal funds, but that is a donation that would actually DO something.

  • Partly, it’s because we could benefit from it much more that it would be so difficult for us! We could benefit from it much more because there are proportionately fewer of us, so there are fewer of us to contribute, and what few of us exist are spread over a much wider area. Perhaps I only speak for my state, though. 🙂

  • Catherine

    The US is so big in terms of area that it might be hard to convince people to donate to an atheist ad campaign that might not be seen anywhere close to where they live (I’m guessing that such a campaign would probably end up targeting just a few of our larger cities).

    I don’t know how I feel about ‘promoting atheism.’ Mostly, I would just like to promote ‘believe what you want to believe, but don’t be a jerk about it’

  • Aj

    The bus campaign works because it’s not vague, and the team did a good job of promoting it, with the help of Dawkins. The site is really well designed as well.


    The non-believer donations to Kay Hagan’s campaign suggest otherwise.

    If anything that has been more impressive than the bus campaign. When Kay wins I think it sends a message that a) atheists are citizens too, b) don’t anger them, they’re like a nest of vipers.

  • Mark Browne

    It occurs to me that a campaign like that in London would not work in the US, because too many people would refuse to use the bus, so the bus company would lose business. Over here (I am British) the religious proportion is less, and they are probably less concerned anyway.

    Although I do know one Christian who might choose to avoid a bus with that ad on it 🙁

  • Santiago

    Actually, what I found is that a big percentage of people donating where NOT from the UK, commenting stuff like “I’m from Canada, but it feels so good to strike back”. I think US campaigns are non existent because no one has proposed one yet, although my feeling is also thath an atheist ad would find a much chillier reception in many parts of the US.

    But if this campaign is any guide, an ad in the US is likely to find support from all over the world, so it doesn’t matter if US atheists are a bit more frugal than most (which I don’t think they are).

  • noodleguy

    Its because religous fundamentalism and evangelism are 100% more powerful in the US than in the UK. Many countries in Europe are fairly secular, the US is not even close.

  • Seth Pollack

    It’s all of these things:
    1. The United States has over 30 cities with greater than 500K people, the U.K., only a handful. People, money, and causes are decentralized further here.

    2. There is no prominent atheist in American scholarship, no one to rally behind. When one is creating a singular cause, having a figure to champion the cause goes a long way. Dawkins has a lot of clout in the U.K., and while he’s certainly respected here, he’s not going to get a primetime interview on the network news.

    3. This money could be- and likely is- put to FAR better use here. The United States has more elected officials, bureaucrats, than any other country. Many of them have agendas informed by or popularized using religion. We are in the midst of deciding whether a far-right creationist is elected to the executive office. Posting snarky ads on buses is just wasteful.

  • Siamang

    OT, but Kay Hagan has issued a statement about the horrible Elizabeth Dole ad.

    The end of the ad features a picture of Hagan with a female voice yelling “there is no God!” — the clear implication is that the voice is Hagan’s. In fact, the Democratic candidate is a Sunday School teacher and an elder at her Presbyterian church.

    The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday morning that Hagan’s campaign is seeking a “cease and desist” order against Dole’s new attack.

    Good to see the Huffington Post talking about this. More exposure the better.

  • I think such a campaign would get all the funding it needed in the U.S. Who wants to start it?

  • I think the atheist bus campaign worked so well, in part, because it had a concrete (not to mention fun) goal that people could see and appreciate when it was accomplished. Ditto the Kay Hagan campaign (not so much with the fun, but a very valuable concrete goal if it succeeds.

    it’s hard for any organization to raise money just do keep doing the everyday things they’re doing. Even if those things are really valuable. And the economy being what it is, that’s just going to get harder. I think atheist organizations are going to need to do more hustling and fundraising… and do it around specific, tangible goals.

  • Aj

    Seth Pollack,

    Posting snarky ads on buses is just wasteful.

    I’m going to assume you don’t know what snarky means.

  • Here in Chicago there are buses with ads for an organization promoting Islam. The site is I went there and filled out a form and got a packet with a Koran, some pamphlets and a CD. I have not looked at any of it yet.

    They probably should have done this about five years ago.

  • Seth Pollack

    Here in Chicago there are buses with ads for an organization promoting Islam. The site is I went there and filled out a form and got a packet with a Koran, some pamphlets and a CD.

    There are similar campaigns here in New York: One called “Why Islam?”, which has been widely advertised on the subways, and another called “Ask The Rabbi.”

    None for atheism, which is rather telling.

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