The Most Offensive Atheist Bus Ad Yet February 5, 2009

The Most Offensive Atheist Bus Ad Yet

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Pattison Maritimes (the group responsible for transit advertising) has a problem with the bus ad Humanist Canada wanted to purchase.

The general manager sent this message to the group:

… We are not able to accept your message as it currently reads.

If you would like to submit an alternative message, we will submit that for approval.

All advertisements must meet acceptable community standards of good taste, quality and appearance. Furthermore, the ads will not be considered discriminatory, or objectionable to any race creed or moral standard.

Man… this must be pretty bad.

The only other places where the atheist ads were banned were the Vatican and Australia.

What does the atheist ad say that’s so unacceptable?

You can be good without God

That’s it.

That’s what was banned.

The transit authority added that they would reconsider their position only if Humanist Canada “toned down its message.”

I don’t know how much more toned down it could get.

I think all that’s left is putting up ads that simply say “atheist.”

Somehow, I don’t think that ad would make it through the filter, either…

(Meanwhile, in London, these counter-atheist-ads are going up across the city.)

I suppose this means Pattison Maritimes will be banning ads that feature meat products (can’t offend vegetarians) or politicians (can’t offend the other party) or Valentine’s Day products (can’t offend single people).

(Thanks to Justin for the link!)

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • PrimeNumbers

    But that bus company does allow religious adds. They’re bigots.

  • Nelson

    Try turning it round … you can be Godly but not good.

  • Tony Boling

    Canada doesn’t have seperation of church and state though does it? Not that it would matter. The ad company can accept or deny anything it wants I’d imagine.

  • the reasons why a company accepts or denies these ads says a lot about its worldview, and this fact, in itself, speaks volumes to people.

    and yes, if they place religious ads, they’re bigots.

  • Alex

    I want to use wonderful science to build a big spaceship, pack it full of rational, loving, and yes, good, atheists and get off this religion-infected rock. I think I’m pretty polite, but this stuff makes me want to show the faithful how naughty an atheist can get. Who’s with me?

  • Godfrey

    A funny thing is how, of all the peaceful passages :rolleyes: in the buy-bull, these trinitatians picked something about hellfire.

  • Chal

    Canada doesn’t explicitly have a separation of church and state (IIRC), but freedom of religion and freedom of belief are listed as two of our fundamental freedoms in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    For refusing such a mild ad, I’m ashamed for my country…

  • c.d.

    “The only other place where the atheist ads were banned was in the Vatican.”

    if you are implying that italy is no more you would be more right than wrong.

  • Me

    Semi-related (it’s about the counter-atheist ads in london).

    Firstly for a daily mail article, it’s *amazingly* mild in tone. But what almost exploded my head is the comments; check the voting on them. I actually have a little hope for once.

  • As for those countless counter-ads, no one is going to remember or pay attention to them. Everyone remembers The God Delusion, no one cares about The Dawkins Delusion or any of the other silly pile-on responses.

  • benjdm


  • I’ve got it! The new “acceptable” atheist advertising. For a while where I live, handing out religious tracts was very popular. I started carrying around blank sheets of paper and giving them to people who gave me tracts.

    So, the “acceptable” advertisement will read:

    And there you go- offensive to no one.

  • Freedom of the bus belongs to him who owns one. So let’s raise some money and buy a bus. We can offer people a bus ride to hell for only $19.99.

  • hoverFrog

    Good grief. Would anybody really be offended at the idea that there are good people who don’t believe in God? I blame that evil Gandhi for all the rotten things he did without Jesus to guide him. Oh, and that vicious Dalai Lama.


  • re: anti-atheist ad

    What the hell? Haven’t all the ad agencies been wetting their pants over not wanting to offend anyone? How the hell is plastering a bus with name-calling not offensive?

  • Ian

    The United Church of Canada is planning counter atheists ads too (for the cities that are allowing the “There’s probably no God…”

    Their ads will read:

    There’s probably a God, now stop worrying and get on with your life

    They’re hoping to promote their website/forum Wondercafe, where the no Gods are winning the poll 53-47%

  • Amy

    There have been posters with that ‘Fool’ quote up in UK train stations for years, so they probably will get past the advertising standards this time as well.

  • Mathew Wilder

    I don’t get why even atheists have been hoodwinked by Gahndi and the Dalai Lama. They’re not saints, and I don’t think they’re particularly great human beings. They’re religious nuts and hypocrites. One could write the same sort of book about them that Hitchens wrote defusing the Mother Theresa myth.

  • Kyle

    Does the “fool” language open up the door for the “more offensive” slogans?

    “The idiot hath said there is a god but has not and cannot prove it.”

  • Bill

    Here is a link to a list of companies owned by the Pattison Group. I live in Canada and buy stuff from them all the time… Until now that is.

  • Jonas

    So : False – “You can be good without God”
    Then here’s Jeffrey Dahmer’s perfect defense – Sorry I was bad, but God was busy finding a parking space for Ted Haggart.

  • Siamang

    I guess this blows a big ol’ hole in the “But the new atheists are too strident” argument.

    Existence is too strident for some people. Or rather, saying publicly that you exist.

  • C-LAW

    The funny thing is, that same company allows
    an ad for one of the most mainstream gay bars in town. I’m pretty sure that lots of prudish religious people get offended just by hearing the name “Reflections”.
    Not that i’m dissing the bar or the clientel, it’s one of the better bars in Hali.
    And the United Church? about 5-10 years ago their leader at the time publicly pondered the veracity of the existence of Jesus!

  • SarahH

    Canada, really? Canada? You’ve been such a hopeful, mild, progressive country for me to look up to (or north to!) for so long!

    The “fool” ads will only reinforce the relaxed, cheerful, non-confrontational aspect of the “probably” ads, so I’m not too fussed about that, honestly.

  • Jen

    I would hate to see what would happen if this bus company came across something that was actually offensive. Poverty? Racism? Sexism? Human trafficking? Oh noes, lets just be mad about being good without god.

  • Perhaps if they changed it to the following, it would get approval from the loving Christians who own the bus company.

    You can be good without God
    but you might burn in Hell for all eternity… or not.

  • Sorry if this repeats what someone said because I didn’t read all the comments, but although Canada doesn’t have a “separation of church and state” we do have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that gives us freedom of the press (specifically: “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”) and freedom of/from religion.

  • The only other place where the atheist ads were banned was in the Vatican.

    Not quite true Hemant, Bus Adverts have been banned in Australia as well. The Atheist Foundation of Australia is currently pursuing legal action against the bus and advertising companies for just that reason.

  • cl


    In this case, I agree with you again. The wording of this ad should not be an issue IMO. However, I did take issue with the wording of the FFRF’s sign in Olympia.

  • That counter ad doesn’t seem very nice. It’s straight up calling atheists “fools.” Does that mean we could run ads that say “Atheists may be “fools,” but Christians are retarded?” No, not even a little. But, just because the word fool comes out of their bible, they can use it, and it’s obviously not offensive.

  • Cait

    It’s a shame they won’t run it, but I think that pretty much anyone who reads the newspaper has heard of these ads. So even if attempts to advertise are unsuccessful, at least people know that there are more atheists out there than they thought.

    And if any religious groups try to retaliate, it really just makes them look like childish, and shows that their beliefs aren’t solid enough to withstand criticism. …I think that intelligent people who haven’t made their mind up about religion yet will see that, and maybe it’ll push them towards getting away from religion.

  • Interesting how the Christians claim the atheist ads were an attack on people’s beliefs just for saying there probably isn’t a god. Now they purposely call non-believers fools. How is that not an attack? (And don’t dare give me that “We’re just quoting the Bible” excuse).

    They’re nothing more than hypocrites.

  • To Kimbo Jones:

    The document of which you speak starts of by saying that Canada acknowledged “the supremacy of God”. I have lived in Canada for most of my 70 years and I can assure you, there is no separation!

  • Nico

    Understand, that the maritimes is still fairly “churchy”, and as such, such heathen concepts as “sunday shopping” were introduced only a couple years ago, and is still a ridiculous point of contention.

    There’s still a great deal of pearl clutching horror about how people aren’t at home with families and in churches on sundays, like it used to be.

    Atheism…and progress just don’t fly here. Try again in 50 years, because that’s about how regressive this place is.

    I would however love to see atheist bus ads. we just got an atheist group on campus, but the posters are regularly torn down or defaced, unlike the christian student groups who defy a proselytizing ban and placed flyers on almost every seat in a lecture hall.

    Can’t imagine the stink if the atheists did such in kind, but that’s how it goes here.

  • JSug

    To be fair, there’s a difference between “banned” and “rejected”. “Banned” suggests some legal action or government initiative to prevent the ad from being posted. In this case, it was simply rejected by a private company, who has every right to decide what ads they run, no matter how arbitrarily or subjectively they make those decisions. The best course of action in this case is to find out if the local media is interested in reporting the rejection.

  • Wendy

    Contact Pattison, and let them know what you think!! The bigger the stink, the better.

  • cl


    That counter ad doesn’t seem very nice. It’s straight up calling atheists “fools.” Does that mean we could run ads that say “Atheists may be “fools,” but Christians are retarded?”

    I’m not so concerned about privately-funded ads, which is the context we’re in. I wouldn’t mind either of those on a bus. OTOH, I think if a particular bus company has a problem with the ad, they can refuse to run it.

    Where I do have a problem is with similarly insulting or intolerant ideas being promoted in government buildings, for example, the FFRF’s sign in Olympia, which is effectively a state-sponsored insult. The first three sentences in that sign are not problematic for me; it’s the last one that’s inappropriate IMO.

    And I’m prone to side with the FFRF on many other issues.

  • Jay Ballou

    I don’t get why even atheists have been hoodwinked by Gahndi and the Dalai Lama. They’re not saints, and I don’t think they’re particularly great human beings. They’re religious nuts and hypocrites. One could write the same sort of book about them that Hitchens wrote defusing the Mother Theresa myth.

    It’s easy to say “one could” without actually doing the research and gathering the evidence that Hitchens did. You might as well say that one could write a book showing that everything you believe is true. It’s the same sort of intellectual laziness and dishonesty that the religious engage in.

error: Content is protected !!