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A Jinxed Start For Atheism Bus 18-02-2009
ROME(SAR NEWS) --After buses rolled out with ads in London, Barcelona and Washington with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now, stop worrying and enjoy your life”, atheist buses moved closer to the Vatican.

Protests from Christians and Muslims compelled the original slogan “The bad news is that God does not exist. The good news is that you do not need him” to be

changed. Even with the new message: “The Good News is there are millions of atheists in Italy; the excellent news is they believe in the freedom of expression” written in white on the blue bus had a jinxed start.

Italy’s first ‘atheist bus’, which got moving, February 16, had to head straight back to the depot because of a power fault.

After repairs, the bus started out on its route again and is set to spread its message around the northwestern Italian city for the next month. “By pure chance,” a member of the Italian atheists association said wryly, “the vehicle left the depot bright and early but had to go straight back because of a ‘curious’ problem with the batteries.”

Atheists take on the Cardinal A spokesman for Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the Archbishop of Genoa and head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Father Gianfranco Celabrese, attacked the atheist campaign saying it amounted to “intolerance”.

The Vatican officials were said to be alarmed at reports that the atheist campaign would target Rome next.

Father Calabrese said: “There are some methods which promote dialogue and others which feed intolerance. Head-on opposition always demonstrates intolerance.

The Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) said it had chosen Genoa deliberately in order to challenge Roman Catholic beliefs ‘on Bagnasco’s own turf’.

” Cardinal Bagnasco, who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, is an outspoken opponent of artificial insemination and gay marriage, and last June opposed a Gay Pride march in Genoa staged on the same day as the feast of Corpus Domini.

Living without Faith concept Raffaele Carcano, head of UAAR, said the Genoa campaign was “not a provocation” but an attempt to link the concept of “living without faith” to Italy’s secular rather than Catholic traditions. It was partly aimed at “the positions taken by the Church on civil rights, reproduction and scientific research”.

Carcano said the Genoa campaign cost of 7000 Euros was being paid for by donations. “Who knows, at this rate we will be able next to put the slogans on buses in Rome which pass close to the Vatican,” he said.

Mayor of Genoa, Marta Vincenzi, said the city authorities could not “act as censors”. The campaign might in any case rebound on the atheists, she said, “since they are saying after all that the idea that God does not exist is bad news”. She hoped the campaign would be seen as an invitation to debate, and would “not offend anyone. If passengers do not want to travel on one of the atheist buses, they can always wait for the next one”, Vincenzi said.

More Buses in More Cities Head of the Genoa public transport company AMT, Bruno Sessarego, said it had seen no reason not to sign the contract for the bus advertisements, since the law allowed any advertisement which was not “obscene or offensive”.

UAAR treasurer Isabella Cazzoli said the association was “optimistic” about getting the original message out in other Italian cities. “We’re at an advanced stage of negotiation with other cities but after what happened in Genoa we don’t want to say which,” she said.

A Facebook group in favour of the UAAR’s drive has drawn thousands of supporters.

The UAAR, which has 4,000 members across Italy, was out in force in Genoa’s main square, Piazza De Ferrari, February 16, to explain the purpose of the initiative.


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