Advertising watchdog rejects investigation into whether God “probably” doesn’t exist

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said that an athiest bus poster campaign does not break the advertising code. The ASA comments follow complaints led by Christain Voice, an anti-gay evangelical movement that claim that the advert’s claim that God “probably” doesn’t exist was misleading.

There will not be an investigation and the case is now closed.

In a statement the ASA said it had “carefully assessed” the 326 complaints it received.

The ads have appeared on 800 buses across Britain.

“There is probably no God,” they read.

“Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

The £140,000 campaign also uses ad space on the London Underground and two large LCD screens on Oxford Street. It has been funded by leading humanists such as scientist Richard Dawkins and is the UK’s first ever atheist advertising campaign.

The ASA code of conduct requires advertising to be factually correct and some Christians claimed the statement should capable of substantiation to comply with the rules.

“Some complained that the ad was offensive and denigratory to people of faith,” the ASA said today.

“Others challenged whether the ad was misleading because the advertiser would not be able to substantiate its claim that God ‘probably’ does not exist.

“The ASA Council concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion and that the claims in it were not capable of objective substantiation.

“Although the ASA acknowledges that the content of the ad would be at odds with the beliefs of many, it concluded that it was unlikely to mislead or to cause serious or widespread offence.”

A Christian fundamentalist preacher known for his homophobia had led complaints against the ad campaign.

Stephen Green, leader of Christian Voice, has protested at Pride events.

“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,” he said last week. 

“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.”

Mr Green claimed that the Bible would be immune from any questions of substantiation.