(Photo: AP Images / Akira Suemori)
The controversial ads by the British Humanist Association (BHA) carrying the slogan, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," which were put up on buses in London about four years ago, were sold in an online auction.
"Own a little bit of atheist and humanist history," says BHA on its website, inviting bids for the original ads, measuring 3.96 meters x 0.5 meters, from people around the world.
The atheist group has reportedly promised one ad to the Museum of London, but the others were put up for sale. The money raised will be used for promoting a world without religion where people are "free to live good lives on the basis of reason, experience and shared human values."
By the end of the auction Feb. 14, there were 14 bids with the winning bid at £205.00, or about $318.
The ads, launched in 2008, were part of the atheist response to a number of high profile Christian advertising campaigns on London buses and billboards, notably ones run by the Alpha Course, whose posters ask, "Is this it?" and "If God did exist, what would you ask him?"
The atheist ads were publicly endorsed and partially financed by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, who then told the BBC that the campaign was designed to make people think, an action he said was "anathema to religion." "Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride – automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children… This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion."
"We see so many posters advertising salvation through Jesus or threatening us with eternal damnation, that I feel sure that a bus advert like this will be welcomed as a breath of fresh air," Hanne Stinson, chief executive of BHA, said during the launch.
In response, Stephen Green of U.K.-based Christian Voice warned that people don't like to be preached to and that it wouldn't be surprising if the public retaliated. "I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti," he said.
Green was perhaps right. More than 320 complaints about the ad campaign reached the Advertising Standards Authority.
Correction: Feb. 19, 2013:
An article on Feb. 17, 2013, about the British Humanist Association selling the bus ads promoting atheism incorrectly reported that there were no buyers. There were 14 bids and the winning bid was for , £205.00 or about $318.