Atheist bus adverts: Christian refuses to drive bus declaring ‘there’s probably no God’
Ron Heather, 62, walked out in protest after seeing the advert declaring: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
He told his managers he could not drive the bus because the slogan, placed on the side of 800 buses across the country last week after a fundraising campaign raised £140,000, went against his faith.
They have now agreed to accommodate his religious beliefs by letting him drive buses in Southampton that do not bear the controversial message, which has been supported by atheists including Professor Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist.
It comes after more than 200 people complained to the Advertising Standards Agency about the posters, which were created by Ariane Sherine, a comedy writer, as an antidote to religious adverts on public transport that “threaten eternal damnation” to passengers.
The watchdog is now considering whether to investigate the campaign on the grounds that it is offensive, or that its central claim about God’s existence cannot be substantiated.
Mr Heather, who served in the Royal Navy for 25 years before becoming a bus driver four years ago, said: “When I first saw the bus last Saturday I was shocked.
“I was just about to board and there it was staring me in the face. My first reaction was horror. I’d heard about this silly campaign in London but I had no idea it was coming to Southampton.
He added: “There would be no way buses would be able to drive around with an anti-Muslim message like that on the side mentioning Allah. There would be uproar.
“I’m not the only one who has mentioned it — some of the passengers don’t like the adverts at all.”
Despite the complaints since the atheist buses took to the streets, the campaign is still being seen as a success because its organisers had only hoped to raise £5,500 and place adverts on a few routes in London.
The adverts were backed by some faith groups for encouraging debate about religion.
Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, which is running the campaign, said: “I have difficulty understanding why people with particular religious beliefs find the expression of a different sort of beliefs to be offensive.”