You’re going to hell – if you believe in it

January 7th, 2009 by Jon Clements


The battle lines are drawn; the forces of good and evil face one another across the cosmos; the advertising space has been bought. Let the mortal scrap for our souls begin!

The Atheist Bus campaign has taken to the streets of London, propogating the idea that “There’s probably no God…now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The whole idea began as a blog post by writer, Ariane Sherine (ex-Sunday school attendee) which mushroomed into a call for donations to pay for an atheist advertising campaign to rival the Christian public transport campaign that inspired Sherine’s ire.

According to the Guardian’s report today, the campaign has the backing of Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, the British Humanist Association, philospher AC Grayling among others.

Meanwhile, the Church of England is being no slacker in fighting back for the forces of religion, by devising a Prayer on Being Made Redundant plus a Prayer For Those Remaining in the Workplace, which even had a reading on Radio 4’s PM programme last night. Call me cynical (and an atheist if you like), but isn’t that capitalising on the human fall-out from the credit crunch?

PR Media Blog picked up on the Churches Advertising Network nativity campaign back in December, so clearly the strange bedfellows of religion and marketing communications are very much in cahoots.

*Update – A complaint is made to the Advertising Standards Authority by Christian Voice stating that the Atheist Bus Campaign needs to substantiate its “There’s probably no God” slogan. I suspect this one is going to run and run…

**Update 2 – and it has. Radio 4 will run its first atheist Thought for the Afternoon, to balance out the Today programme’s daily faith-based Thought for the Day.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

8 Responses to “You’re going to hell – if you believe in it”

  1. Chris Bull Says:

    Dawkin’s pledged to double any money raised by the public appeal, which was originally aiming only for a around five thousand pounds. It has raised over £150,000, however, so it should be quite a large campaign!

    Interestingly some Christian groups have welcomed the idea, because it is at least raising theistic debate.

  2. Ginnie Oram Says:

    With numbers of churchgoers falling, the Church (like any other business) has to find ways to entice bums back onto pews. They can’t really afford not to embrace marketing in some form or other, as cynical as it may sound. I also think they’re trying to make themselves more appealing/accessible by illustrating that they understand what problems/issues their flock (or would-be flock) face.

  3. Jon Says:

    I think you’re right. In times of stress people may well look to religion for solace or comfort, so times such as now play well to the church’s recruitment drive.

  4. Jon Clements Says:

    I can understand that – at least if people are actively thinking about their choices, they are more likely to be receptive to messages from both camps. It is after all a contest for hearts and minds before you can get to their souls.

  5. Garry Burton Says:

    The church has been engaging with marketing communications/new media for a very long time now – it’s nothing new. Certainly not newsworthy. A lot of people still base these stories and tales of falling churchgoers on their own (dated) preconceptions of church. In some cases you may discover the opposite!
    Why can’t churches afford not to ambrace marketing? It’s not a profit run business. And why is it so odd that they are trying to make themselves more appealing/accessible by illustrating an understanding of peoples problems – isn’t this what every brand/company does to sell themselves. Whats the difference? Should people find solace and comfort in religion, probably the best lager in the world, happiness in a cigar called Hamlet or comfort in promiscuous relationships?

  6. Jon Says:

    Garry – I don’t agree that this isn’t newsworthy. When two sides of a provocative debate are actively and innovatively using marcomms techniques to get their point across I think it’s fair game for the media.
    My contention about the timing of the Prayer on Being Made Redundant is that the Church is making the most of an opportunity to get its message across to people in dire straits. That’s nothing new either.

  7. Ross Says:

    I think its fair to allow people to make up their own minds. The Church has held a monopoly on the battle to keep a clear concious for centuries.

    The problem is that it could leave people feeling alone and insignificant.

    Full marks for PR! Full marks for freedom of choice. But can’t help feeling for folks whose world is held together by faith.

  8. It’s official: you can’t prove there’s a God (or not) » Says:

    […] so, the verdict from the Advertising Standards Authority on the Atheist Bus Campaign is, in summary: “Nothing to investigate, case […]

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