An Italian atheist group’s attempt to copy a British atheist bus advertisement campaign has stalled because of poor fundraising and the decision of the transportation’s advertising company to reject their ads on the grounds that they may be offensive.
The Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) sponsored bus ads in Genoa reading “The bad news is that God doesn't exist, the good news is that you don't need him.”
However, the advertising company IGP Decaux, which handles transport advertising for Genoa and many other large Italian cities, rejected the ad, the International Herald Tribune reports.
An IGP Decaux spokeswoman told the International Herald Tribune the company was worried “some people could find the message offensive to their culture, morality or their religion.”
While the British atheist ad campaign raised more than $200,000, the UAAR raised about $10,500 for the ad campaign, enough to pay for ads on two buses in Genoa for four weeks.
"To get ads on buses in Rome or Milan would have cost much more," said Giorgio Villella, events coordinator for UAAR, who said the group couldn’t have paid for the free publicity the controversy has sparked.
The UAAR reported about 3,000 members, but claims another 500 have joined since their campaign began.
Villella alleged that Church pressure helped axe the campaign.
"In Italy, to do such things just isn't possible,” he said, arguing that the Church “remains very strong politically.”
“Our Constitution says that there is no state religion, but in reality that isn't the case,” he claimed, according to the International Herald Tribune.
Neither the Vatican nor the Archdiocese of Genoa officially responded to the campaign.
On Monday the Catholic group Christian Reformists launched its own campaign, putting up more than 5,000 posters around Rome which read “God exists, and even atheists know it.”
Similar campaigns have taken place in Washington D.C. and Spain during the past few months.