Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Humanists question child 'labels'

Bus passing humanist advert in Belfast
The humanist campaign is on the wall if not the side of Belfast's buses

It is not quite plastered on the bus but the outworking of last year's Atheist Bus campaign has made its way onto a wall in Belfast.

NI's first humanist advertising campaign began on Great Victoria Street, with a photo of a girl and the slogan: "Please don't label me."

It includes watermarks saying "Catholic child," and "Atheist child".

Belfast humanist spokesman Brian McClinton said that awareness in NI had to be raised.

"Northern Ireland needs this kind of awareness-raising exercise more than anywhere to counter our extreme levels of religiosity which has been shown to go hand-in-hand with our extreme levels of insularity, xenophobia and bigotry," he said.

The British Humanist Association is running the billboards in each of the UK's capital cities: London, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

This promotion follows the atheist bus campaign run throughout Great Britain earlier this year with the controversial slogan: "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

The billboards are being unveiled to coincide with 20 November, Universal Children's Day, which is the United Nations 'day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children'.

Mr McClinton added that the poster provided "opposition to the near ubiquitous 'Consider Christ' ads that are currently covering most of our Translink buses".

Free Presbyterian Minister Rev David McIlveen said that while it was perfectly acceptable for humanists to express their views he said that the movement was "arrogantly" trying to interfere with families.

"It is the height of arrogance that they would try to interfere between children and parents and what faith they are instructed in," he said.

He said that the campaign would not do the movement any good but "be short-lived then fizzle out like other humanist campaigns".

Ariane Sherine, creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign, said money donated to the original campaign had been used to fund the billboards.

"One of the issues raised again and again by donors to the campaign was the issue of children having the freedom to grow up and decide for themselves what they believe, and that we should not label children with any ideology," she said.

Richard Dawkins, Vice President of the BHA, said children should not be labelled.

"Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a "Marxist child" or an "Anarchist child" or a "Post-modernist child". Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents," he said.

"We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that."

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