Spotting one of the buses on display at a news conference in Kensington, passers-by were struck by the unusual message.
Not always positively. “I think it’s dreadful,” said Sandra Lafaire, 76, a tourist from Los Angeles, who said she believed in God and still enjoyed her life, thank you very much. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t like it in my face.”
But Sarah Hall, 28, a visitor from Australia, said she was happy to see such a robust example of freedom of speech. “Whatever floats your boat,” she said.
Inspired by the London campaign, the American Humanist Association started running bus advertisements in Washington in November, with a more muted message. “Why believe in a god?” the ads read, over a picture of a man in a Santa suit. “Just be good for goodness’ sake.”
Although Australian atheists were refused permission to place advertisements on buses saying, “Atheism: Sleep in on Sunday mornings,” the British effort has been striking in the lack of outrage it has generated. The Methodist Church, for instance, said it welcomed the campaign as a way to get people to talk about God.
Although Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England, Britain is a deeply secular country with a dwindling number of regular churchgoers, and with politicians who seem to go out of their way to play down their religious beliefs.
In 2003, when an interviewer asked Tony Blair, then the prime minister, about religion, his spokesman, Alastair Campbell, interjected, snapping, “We don’t do God.”