Vehicles of New Atheism: The Atheist Bus Campaign, Non-religious Representations and Material Culture

  • Lois LeeEmail author
Part of the Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures book series (SCPT, volume 21)


What unites New Atheist contributions in a single culture is their shared radical secularist critique of religion, made on philosophical or moral grounds. Discussion of New Atheism typically focuses on these intellectual aspects, attending to their coherence and impact. This chapter shifts attention from the ideal to the physical, demonstrating how New Atheism and related atheist cultural movements have impacted upon and worked through material environments. I argue that detailed analysis of the media via which New Atheist ideas are communicated reveals impacts and legacies that might otherwise be ignored. The Atheist Bus Campaign is used as a case study. This campaign has attracted much attention, focusing again on its intellectual and activist elements: the intentions behind it, the ideas expressed in it. In addition to this, however, the materiality of the campaign has shaped its impact and set its course in sometimes unexpected directions. The case of the bus campaign illustrates a broader argument that an investigation of the impact and legacy of New Atheism must look not only to its intellectual content but also to the social and cultural vehicles of that content and to their movement through time and space.


New atheism Non-religion Secularity Material culture Atheism Postsecularity Outdoor advertising Urban studies Media 


  1. Amarasingam, Amarnath, ed. 2010. Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  2. Beaumont, Justin, and Christopher Baker, eds. 2011a. Postsecular Cities: Space, Theory and Practice. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 2011b. Introduction: The Rise of the Postsecular City. In Postsecular Cities: Space, Theory and Practice, ed. Justin Beaumont and Christopher Baker, 1–14. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  4. Beckford, James A. 2012. SSSR Presidential Address: Public Religions and the Post-secular: Critical Reflections. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51 (1): 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. BHA. 2013. Humanism. Accessed on 15 Jan 2014.
  6. Blanes, Ruy Llera, and Oustinova-Stjepanovic, Galina. 2015. Godless People, Doubt, and Atheism. Social Analysis Special Issue 59(2).Google Scholar
  7. Bullivant, Stephen. 2010. The New Atheism and Sociology: Why Here? Why Now? What Next? In Religion and the New Atheism: A Critical Appraisal, ed. Amarnath Amarasingam, 109–124. Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bullivant, Stephen and Lee, Lois. 2016. The Oxford Dictionary of Atheism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bus Slogan Generator. n.d.. Available at Accessed on 15 Apr 2012.
  10. Campbell, Colin. 2013 [1971]. Toward a Sociology of Irreligion. Alcuin Academics.Google Scholar
  11. Cimino, Richard, and Christopher Smith. 2011. The New Atheism and the Formation of the Imagined Secularist Community. Journal of Media and Religion 10 (1): 24–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cotter, Christopher R. 2011. Consciousness Raising: The Critique, Agenda, and Inherent Precariousness of Contemporary Anglophone Atheism. International Journal for the Study of New Religions 2 (1): 77–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cragun, Ryan. 2013. Does Atheist Movement Activism Increase Interest in Atheism? Nonreligion and Secularity blog, 25 September 2013. Accessed on 14 Jul 2014.
  14. Cronin, Anne M. 2006. Advertising and the Metabolism of the City: Urban Spaces, Commodity Rhythms. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 24 (4): 615–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. ———. 2013. Publics and Publicity: Outdoor Advertising and Urban Space. In Public Space, Media Space, ed. Chris Berry, Janet Harbord, and Rachel Moore, 265–276. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dant, Tim. 1999. Material Culture in the Social World: Values, Activities, Lifestyles. Buckingham: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. London: Transworld.Google Scholar
  18. Day, Abby, and Lee, Lois. 2014. Making Sense of Surveys and Censuses: Issues in Religious Self-Identification. Religion, Special Issue, 43(3).Google Scholar
  19. de Botton, Alain. 2012. Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion. London: Hamish Hamilton.Google Scholar
  20. Gutkowski, Stacey. 2010. From Multiculturalism to Multifaithism? The Panel Debate. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 10 (2): 319–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lee, Lois. 2012a. Talking About a Revolution: Terminology for the New Field of Nonreligion Studies. Journal of Contemporary Religion 27 (1): 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. ———. 2012b. Locating Nonreligion, in Mind, Body and Space: New Research Methods for a New Field. Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion 3: 135–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2013. Western Europe. In The Oxford Handbook of Atheism, ed. Michael Ruse and Stephen Bullivant, 586–600. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2015a. Ambivalent Atheist Identities: Power and Nonreligious Culture in Contemporary Britain. Social Analysis 59 (2): 20–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. ———. 2015b. Recognizing the Non-religious: Reimaging the Secular. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mumford, Lorna. 2015. Living Nonreligious Identity in London. In Atheist Identities – Spaces and Social Contexts, ed. Lori G. Beaman and Steven Tomlins, 153–170. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Pink, Sarah. 2006. The Future of Visual Anthropology: Engaging the Senses. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Sherine, Ariane. 2008. Atheists – Gimme Five. The Guardian (online), 20 June. Accessed 21 Feb 2011.
  29. ———. 2010 [2009]. The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. London: The Friday Project.Google Scholar
  30. Solid Documents. 2009. Friday Fun – Bus Slogan Generator, 30 January. Available at Accessed 15 Apr 2013.
  31. Strhan, Anna. 2012. Discipleship and Desire: Conservative Evangelicals, Coherence and the Moral Lives of the Metropolis. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Kent.Google Scholar
  32. ———. 2015. Aliens and Strangers? The Struggle for Coherence in the Everyday Lives of Evangelicals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Taira, Teemu. 2012. More Visible But Limited in Its Popularity: Atheism (and Atheists) in Finland. Approaching Religion 2 (1): 21–35.Google Scholar
  34. Taylor, Charles. 2007. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Thompson, John B. 1995. Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Tomlins, Stephen, and Spencer Culham Bullivant. 2016. The Atheist Bus Campaign: Global Manifestations and Responses. Leiden: BRILL.Google Scholar
  37. Voas, David, and Abby Day. 2007. Secularity in Great Britain. In Secularism and Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives, ed. Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, 95–110. Hartford: ISSSC.Google Scholar
  38. Wood, Matthew. 2007. Possession, Power and the New Age: Ambiguities of Authority in Neoliberal Societies. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  39. Zenk, Thomas. 2012. ‘Neuer Atheismus’: ‘New Atheism’ in Germany. Approaching Religion 2 (1): 36–51.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

Personalised recommendations