Atheist bus ads which claim “There’s probably no God” do not breach advertising codes, the advertising watchdog has ruled.
Some religious groups had complained that the ad campaign fails the test of substantiation and truthfulness.
This led to exaggerated headlines that the Advertising Standards Authority would be forced to decide whether God exists.
Others complained that the ads were offensive and denigrated people of faith.
But the watchdog said today: “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.”
When the advertising campaign was launched a Church of England spokesman said: “We would defend the right of any group representing a religious or philosophical position to be able to promote that view through appropriate channels.”
The use of the cautious word “probably” in the atheist campaign is believed to be due to concerns that a categorical denial of God’s existence could break advertising rules.
Prof. Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, said: “I wanted something stronger but with hindsight I think it’s probably a good thing because it makes people think.
“It’s just food for thought – people will have conversations in pubs when they see these buses.”