Atheist Bus Campaign in… Seattle! March 5, 2009

Atheist Bus Campaign in… Seattle!

Seattle Atheists is preparing to launch a bus ad campaign of its own, humorously enough, on April 1st, a.k.a. April Fool’s Day, a.k.a. the Atheist’s Holiday (ha ha ha)…

Here’s what you will be seeing on local buses:


I like it. Short and sweet and pro-atheist instead of anti-religious.

And leading into that campaign will be a regional conference — called Darwin @ 200 (and other matters) — held at Portland State University, sponsored by the Northwest Freethought Alliance and the Humanists of Greater Portland. The conference will be held March 27th-29th. It’s not too late to sign up!

(Thanks to Amanda for the links!)

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  • Chris Nowak

    Wow, great idea. I love it. Could appeal to the religious right people who tend to be more patriotic and all about the founding fathers. You see people talking about what “the founding fathers would do” all the time in political debates…

  • I like that one a lot.

    This bus ad fad is pretty encouraging.

  • Richard Wade

    Positive and eloquent. My only concern is that it is 27 words long. There’s no way I could read all that on a moving bus going past me. Maybe everybody in Seattle is a speed reader, but I am not. It might work on the rear of the bus or as a poster inside, but you won’t get as much exposure in those two cases.

  • I enjoy and read your blog daily.

    Well, I like the ad, too. And I agree with Jefferson. Questioning is essential to well formed faith. So the ad is very pro-religious as well.

    I believe in you, too. But I also believe in God. Great ad.

    I’ve linked to your site and posted something similar on my blog.

    Thanks . . . Dan

  • CatBallou

    I live in Seattle, and I’m totally baffled. Won’t a large percentage of people take “We believe in you” as a message to God?

  • GullWatcher

    @Richard Wade

    There’s no way I could read all that on a moving bus going past me.

    Your error is in assuming the bus is actually moving. With Seattle traffic, that’s not much of a concern.

  • Luther Weeks

    April Fools Day?

    Is that when we run around and tell everyone there is a God. And then we say “April Fools?”.

    Or when they tell us and we don’t fall for it? (Oooops there are 365 of those days in most years)

  • Siamang

    Won’t a large percentage of people take “We believe in you” as a message to God?

    The “you” isn’t capitalized.

  • Sandra

    Is that when we run around and tell everyone there is a God. And then we say “April Fools?”.

    I love it — I am SO stealing this! 😀

  • To clarify, these are on the *inside* of the bus. Plenty of time for people to sit, read and contemplate. Muahaha.

  • Hoping that the Jefferson quote wasn’t taken completely taken out of context, I decided to look it up. Apparently, it’s from a letter he sent to his nephew, Peter Carr, in 1787. This is as much of the surrounding text I could gather:

    Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object [religion]. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favour of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears & servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. … Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it end in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and in the love of others which it will procure for you.

    Pretty cool, eh? I also found the original text, but I can’t read it.

  • CatBallou

    Siamang, that’s just splitting hairs. People don’t make those fine distinctions.
    The juxtaposition of “Question the existence of God” with “We believe in you” will, I believe, send a message exactly opposite of what was intended.
    And even more puzzling, the original says “the existence of a god,” with no capitalization.

  • Interesting. I’m glad to have been exposed to this quote since it reminds me of something I said many years ago.

    It was in religion class in high school. At my school anyway, religion class was a joke with a mix of students at every academic level. So we’d often have mind-numbingly stupid lessons like, “what is worship?” During that lesson the teacher asked the class, “how do we worship?”

    “Go to church”


    “Sing hymns”

    “Read the Bible”

    You know, the usual stuff. I put up my hand and after being called upon said something to the effect of, “by using all our abilities to their fullest potential to question all the mysteries of the universe including the existence of god himself.”

    Silence. The teacher gave one of those looks that said, “do I really have to be here?” I was never able to figure out if she meant me or her. She went on sabbatical the next year.

  • Eliza

    Tao Jones, what a great way to stop conversation (& start some thought, maybe). Poor teacher!

  • Hmm… well, we’ll have to see. We have 3 signs going up now, and hopefully more to follow in the future. I think next go-round we’ll have a completely different set. So keep your eye out for more! Let us know if anyone spots one in Seattle! The phrase “We believe in you!” is on our parade banner, and has had tremendously positive response, and no one has taken it to mean god… yet. 🙂

  • Awesomesauce

    “We believe in you.”

    I absolutely adore that line!

  • Darrell Barker

    Talk about “boldness” . . . This ad campaign is great.

    Nice Work

    Darrell Barker

  • Gavin

    I am so glad you are running this ad! The response should be interesting after the fiasco in Olympia over the “holidays”.

  • It reads as an excessive intellectual compromise. Those who criticise this specific quotation do so with good reason. The “even the existence of God” seems to suggest this concept above most others deserves some sort of extra degree of bravery. A genuinely reasonable mind would treat the question with the same degree of attention as any other requiring one’s intellectual efforts. The phrasing may be of significance to beg intellectual fortitude of a theist – be honest in your approach to your beliefs – however, one who is technically an “atheist” has much bigger fish to fry than the question of a “god”. When one is certain there isn’t even a “god question”, one busies oneself with the actual affairs of living in the real world. The capitalization of “God” is also telling in that an “atheist” isn’t likely to use such spelling. A capitalized “God” suggests some reverence which, although perhaps true of the theist, is certainly not true of a genuine “atheist”. Last, a genuine “atheist” isn’t liable to grant a gender to an alleged deity they have already rejected as nonsensical and certainly aren’t liable to suggest they know anything at all what a non-existent deity thinks or feels about anything. Of course, the last statement – “we believe in you” – is going to cause all sorts of misinterpretations overshadowing the already weak attempt at making an “atheist” statement.

    I would much have preferred the message – “Keen senses and good reason are your only hope. Abandon delusion.” or some such similar text. The one mentioned in the article is an intellectual disaster giving the strong impression it was chosen to patronize theist feelings rather than advance the cause of reason without compromise.

    “Atheists” willing to compromise reason are more like theists than they imagine.

  • Liz

    Woah! Naumadd, I’m handing you a virtual cup of chamomile tea. Mellow out, fella!
    It’s more constructive to give people someting to think about that won’t result in a knee-jerk reaction of them slamming their minds shut and feeling defensive about their religious institutions.
    I think it’s a nifty ad!

  • Wendita

    Several have commented that they could not read 27 words on a bus as it drove by. I am a member of Seattle Atheists and as I understand it, these ads will be inside the bus for folks to stare at for 20-40 minutes as they ride to work or school or wherever they are going…plenty of time to ponder and write down the website, perhaps to fire up a laptop or iphone in transit as well. I am making a donation to help them buy more ads down the line, because I think it’s fantastic!

  • James

    Loving it but it’s hardly ‘not anti-religious’. It’s saying they’re blindfolded by fear, which is true, but it may well spark outcry.

  • Andrew Sinclair

    JPEG? Seriously?

    I love the actual content. I am an atheist for that exact reason: I use reason.

    But why not use a PNG? It’s not 1995 here, people!

  • Eric

    Missing the initial quotation mark.

  • Stan

    Uh, why is this pro-atheist? It’s pro-questioning God, but not necessarily pro-atheist. Have the atheist lost their balls to stand up and say that God doesn’t exist?

  • Chad

    Do you honestly believe hardcore religious people will read past the big Q, let alone get the “Thomas Jefferson” part?

  • Leslie

    I think it’s too long and not pro-atheist at all. It talks about the sort of “reasonable faith” the Christian/Muslim/Jewish apologists like to use to separate themselves from the fundamentalists. They claim that their faith is wonderful because it’s so full of doubt.

    No, it doesn’t make any sense. But they’d applaud this. As an atheist, I think the quote is weak since it’s basically, “You should do this because god would like it.:

  • Christian Meunier (meunierc)

    Great ad. Although it is not “pro-atheist” the least – unless you like cutting corners or you have an agenda. 😉 As a fervent religious I’m proud to read the ad and keep my own conclusions about the Universe and God. As an exercise for the reader: try modifying the Drake equation to calculate the probability of having a god with us. Cheers!

  • Donny

    Balls have nothing in this matter, Stan. There’s no reason to cause unnecessary hate towards atheist culture by screaming in their faces that they are wrong and we are right. It’s much less offensive and I believe over all more compelling to instead offer a tangent that goes off and tells the reader to think for themselves.

  • fantastic.

  • barleyguy

    It’s an interesting advertisement. But if you look at the original text, it doesn’t match. What is misquoting Thomas Jefferson going to accomplish? I think if someone is going to use a direct quote as a publicity campaign, it should be an exact quote.

    As a side note, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t atheist, he was Unitarian. Which is a religion that believes in asking honest questions and supporting all people on their respective spiritual paths. I believe this statement, as it says, was about questioning the existence of a god, but did not predispose to any particular answer, positive or negative.

  • James

    Truly wonderful quote and campaign, however there is a small mistake. The quote should read “a god” instead of “God” preceding the semicolon. Not only is the quote more powerful this way, but the mistake slightly clouds the meaning of the sentence.

  • Jon

    I think it’s time to start a Mohammad campaign. Here’s to having a picture of the beloved Mohammad on every bus in the city.

  • Thomas

    “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever.”
    Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781

    Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true.
    Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Jefferson Smith, February 21, 1825

  • Stan,

    Atheists cannot honestly say that God does not exist for the same reason that Theists cannot honestly say God does exist: There is no empirical evidence either way.

    Atheists tend to base their viewpoints on logical, rational arguments. They use reason, the Scientific Method, and critical thinking to judge whether or not an idea (such as the idea of God) makes sense.

    Another way of putting this is, “this alleged entity [God] has no place in any scientific equations, plays no role in any scientific explanations, cannot be used to predict any events, does not describe any thing or force that has yet been detected, and there are no models of the universe in which its presence is either required, productive, or useful.”

    It’s not about having the balls to say God does not exist. It’s about being able to prove that God does not exist. Proving that God does not exist is the same as trying to prove that Leprechauns do not exist. It cannot be done. To prove that something does not exist (in our Universe), you would have to check every part of the Universe simultaneously, leaving no rock unturned, no cavern unchecked, no ocean unscanned.

    Just think about how many caves exist on Earth. Then multiply that by the BILLIONS of planets that exist in the Milky Way alone (much less the billions of planets in the other BILLIONS of galaxies). You’d have to search them all. Instantly. Every square inch.

    Now you see part of the problem? You cannot say with 100% certainty that Leprechauns don’t exist because they could be ANYWHERE. You can, however, say with 100% certainty that Leprechauns PROBABLY don’t exist.

    Finally, for the author of this blog:

  • Merc

    The original says “the existence of a god” not “the existence of God”. If you’re quoting you might as well get the quote right.

  • Another thing to consider- many Christians question and search for God just as much as atheists do, so be careful! You might inadvertently inspire some faithful people too.

  • MrMoonshineMan

    its pro-questioning beliefs, which if done in earnest should lead to agnosticism. some people may examine what they believe, and come to a different conclusion than atheists have found. that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re blindfolded. thats why this quote is so nice, it leaves things open so religious folks won’t instantly turn away. i think an ad on the outside would be better, sends the message to more people throughout the day, rather than the same set of commuters.

    compromise is always necessary, there is probably no set of words that if said to an extremely religious person would flick the switch inside them and bam! they’re atheist/agnostic. baby steps, get the people around them questioning first. when they’re all alone in their faith, it’ll crumble.

  • Simon Gardner

    Re the Seattle Atheist Bus:

    I had an email exchange with Paul Case at Seattle Atheists last night [18/19-3-09] and they are playing this all very close to their chests until there’s a press release. But the date of April 1 is genuine.

  • Great way to make a positive celebration of clear-headed thinking. I’m glad there are ad campaigns like this to let people realize the rich and joyous heritage of critical thinking that has, fo rmany, replaced non-falsifiable and superstitious notions like gods, souls, miracles, and metaphsyical threats and rewards. This will surely help us focus better on the real challenges we face in the 21st Century where we need science and clear rational thinking all the more to solve the problems of solving global politics, maintianing our environmet, exploring the universe, and coming to terms with a deeper understanding of biology and the brain-base mind. Mission of Reason is a like-minded organization trying to promote clear thinking around the globe.

  • Why are there Church of Scientology banner ads on this site?

  • josh

    Hello, I am trying to get a hold of the Seattle atheist group but they will not contact me. I am beggining to fear that they are afraid to go public. Please contact them at Seattle atheists .com.

  • Paula

    Good luck to you from a proud Brit! Especially in the world’s bible belt that is the USA! Agree that it’s a bit too long and could be a wee bit ambiguous, GO BOLD next time!!!!

  • John

    I just saw the Santa ad today on a Seattle bus. A bit over the top. No one can say with 100% certainity if there is no god or if there is a god, or gods.
    The sheer fact with highly sensitive scales a persons body weight differs slighty between the moment of death and pre death. I would be plausible to say that this weight may contain a soul. A field of energy that some say have been photographed with Kirlian Photography.
    If a soul may exist it is very plausible
    that the score of hundreds of cultures
    may be correct in their beliefs and the single Atheist culture may be in error for not positively disproving the existence of a supreme being… Something to ponder. John

  • Me

    You might be interested in what the reaction is of believers:

  • Whats the point of this though? Like I understand it increases awareness, but whats the point? And who’s paying for it? Wont you just be preaching to the choir?

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