It's a heartwarming tale that began with her initial reaction to a Christian bus advertisement and the uncompromising website it linked to (with its dire warning of Hell), and her subsequent suggestion in the Guardian that atheists might like to club together and pay for an ad with a less intimidating message. After a couple of false starts — gleefully snickered at by the press — the campaign suddenly took off, reaching its funding target within hours of its formal launch. The final sum raised was in excess of £150,000 — about 14 times the initial target of £11,000.
News of the campaign's overwhelming success quickly travelled around the globe, prompting similar efforts in many other countries. Atheism, it seemed, had arrived. By bus.
The campaign did have its detractors, many of whom showed up in Ariane Sherine's email, and she treated us to a sad selection of these. They were, however, vastly outnumbered by messages of support, and she thanked those who had been vocal in their encouragement.
Now there's a book. The Atheist's Guide to Christmas is an anthology of contributions from many well known people of the godless persuasion, with all royalties going to the Terrence Higgins Trust. Not bad, for a bunch of nihilistic heathens with nary a moral amongst them.
Ariane Sherine seemed to spend a good deal of her time during the two days of TAM London tirelessly signing copies of the book she edited. No quick-scrawl-and-on-to-the-next for her — each book was patiently inscribed while chatting pleasantly to the recipient. If Richard Dawkins is Britain's most prominent atheist, whom the atheist community might (or might not) like to name as some kind of figurehead, Ariane Sherine is the atheist many of the younger generation must surely aspire to be.