The Atheist Billboard Campaign

The Atheist Billboard Campaign launched today. It’s the second phase of the Atheist Bus Campaign, and sees large billboards in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. Here’s the London one:

Atheist Billboard Campaign - Old Street, London

Isn’t it cool? The message will be familiar to anyone familiar with Richard Dawkins’ writings: it’s wrong to label children with concepts beyond their understanding. The labels shown in the background – ‘Catholic child’, ‘Muslim child’, ‘Atheist child’, ‘Post-modernist child’ etc. – should all stick in the throat, as there are no such things (the BHA’s campaign page goes into more detail on the divisive and coercive nature of labelling children in this way). Like the original bus campaign, it’s about consciousness-raising – as Ariane Sherine says in her Comment is Free launch article:

We hope the advert’s message will encourage the government, media and general public to see children as individuals, free to make their own choices as soon as they are old enough to fully understand what these choices mean, and that they will think twice before describing children in terms of their parents’ religion in the future.

I played a very small role in the planning of this campaign, and I’m proud to be associated.

There have been many negative comments, of course. So far the complaints seem to be:

  • “It won’t do any good.” – The aim is consciousness-raising – to get this idea more into the public domain. Anecdotal evidence suggests the bus campaign was tremendously successful at affecting public discourse around the world, and I don’t see why this shouldn’t be similarly capable.
  • “Who are you to tell me how to raise my children?” – Firstly, if you don’t want to listen, don’t listen – nobody’s forcing you to do anything. Secondly, what’s wrong with expressing an opinion on how to raise children? Thirdly, they’re not ‘your’ children in the sense of ownership – you’re their guardians, not their owners, and they have rights as people that trump your rights as parents.
  • “You’re smug and arrogant.” – Ad hominem attacks are pretty desperate.

Given the quality of the complaints so far, I think it’s going well.