British Humanist Association launches Tube poster campaign as antidote to Thought for the Day

Charity is placing posters at 100 London Underground stations this week

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The Independent Online

It is a question probably asked by many a commuter as they await a crowded train to take them to work on a Monday morning: “What’s it all for?” Today the British Humanist Association (BHA) is launching a national campaign which, it hopes, will help provide a few non-religious answers.

The charity, which promotes non-religious beliefs, is placing posters at 100 London Underground stations this week before the campaign spreads to other UK cities. They are offering a “Thought for the Commute” from the works of four famous humanists: the novelists George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, and the philosophers Bertrand Russell and AC Grayling.

Commuters, the BHA hopes, will find the key to contentment on a crowded Tube platform via one poster, in which Russell offers his take on the secret of happiness.

Equally optimistically, another poster will quote Eliot, the author of Middlemarch, to suggest that London Underground passengers “Wear a smile and make friends”.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the BHA, said that the two-week campaign was an attempt to show people that they were not alone in having non-religious answers to life’s big questions, and to offer humanist perspectives that, he claimed, “are still far less available to the public than religious ones”.

Thought for the Commute he added, was partly a riposte to BBC Radio Four’s Thought for the Day, which allows only religious contributors.

Mr Copson said: “Thought for the Day is one of the most graphic examples of the exclusion of humanist views from the public space.  Given the BBC’s funding, we are a bit of a David against their Goliath, but hopefully people will be inspired to realise that that the religious views often broadcast at them are not the only ones.”

The campaign, in which commuters will also be encouraged to tweet selfies with their favourite posters, plus their own answers to the “What’s it all for?” question, follows something of a tradition for using public transport to question religious belief.

It comes five years after the BHA, which is supported by comic Ricky Gervais, backed a controversial initiative to place posters on London buses stating: “There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Mr Copson said recent polling suggested 36 per cent of Britons – about 17 million people – already held Humanist beliefs.

Humanism in quotes

Virginia Woolf: “My notion is to think of the human beings first and let the abstract ideas take care of themselves.”

Bertrand Russell: “The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”

George Eliot: “Wear a smile and make friends; wear a scowl and make wrinkles.  What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?”

A C Grayling: “The meaning of your life is what you make it.”