Dated 8th January 2009
A newly-launched bus advertsiement which claims there is 'probably no God' has been reported to the ASA by a Christian group.
The ad, the brainchild of comedy writer Ariane Sherine, says: 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'.
But Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority. He says the advertisments break the ASA's codes on substantiation and truthfulness.
The ASA website says: 'Advertisements are not allowed to mislead consumers. This means that advertisers must hold evidence to prove the claims they make about their products or services before an ad appears.'
Stephen Green said today:
'According to one national newspaper, 'some atheist supporters of the campaign were disappointed that the wording of the adverts did not declare categorically that God does not exist, although there were fears that this could break advertising guidelines.'
'Well, I believe the ad breaks the Advertising Code anyway, unless the advertisers hold evidence that God probably does not exist.
'The ASA does not just cover goods and services, it covers all advertising. The advertisers cannot hide behind the ASA's 'matters of opinion' exclusion, because no person or body is named as the author of the statement. It is given as a statement of fact and that means it must be capable of substantiation if it is not to break the rules.
'There is plenty of evidence for God, from peoples' personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world. But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.
The Christian evangelist is not concerned by fears that his complaint will lead to atheists complaining about Christian adverts. 'I am sure many of them have complained about Christian advertising already,' he said, 'but a statement such as "The Bible says 'the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord'" is entirely factual. The Bible does say that. The statement "Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life - no-one comes to the Father but by me,'" to take another example, is a Biblical quote, from the same Bible which is part of our Christian Constitution and upon which witnesses promise to tell the truth in Court. The Bible is, to coin a phrase, our Bible.'
Apparently, Miss Sherine saw a red
bus in June 2008 with a Bible quote and the URL of a website. When she visited the website (www.jesussaid.org.uk), she was told that non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity.
This so upset her that, with the help of prominent atheist Professor Richard Dawkins, she started a campaign which raised a massive amount of money for what amounts to an agnostic evangelistic crusade.
Stephen Green commented: 'Apparently, the comedy writer had a sense of humour failure when told she would burn in hell, but if she does not believe in a final judgment, what is her problem? And if she does believe in an afterlife, where does think she is going to spend it? She won't like heaven, because God is there.'
In an peculiar twist, the ASA is currently investigating an advertorial Christian Voice placed in the New Statesman, after just one complaint that a prediction about teenage infertility could not be substantiated. The Council are due to meet to consider its officials' recommendation to censure the ad next week.
Stephen Green concluded: 'No matter what the ASA decides in our own case, they have to investigate and take action against the bus ads with their statement that there is probably no God, presented, as it is and always will be, without a shred of supporting evidence.'
NOTES for Editors:
The CAP Code, which the ASA administers, says:
'3.1 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.
'Relevant evidence should be sent without delay if requested by the ASA or CAP. The adequacy of evidence will be judged on whether it supports both the detailed claims and the overall impression created by the marketing communication.'
'7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.'