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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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61 Responses to 575

  1. Caroline Too says:


    I’m the first to comment


    I’ll go and make some tea now :-)

  2. Linus says:

    There’s probably no love, or hope, or joy or peace or justice either. But stop worrying. Enjoy your life.

    As for me, the possibility that there might be a God, and the evidence that supports that possibility, and the possibility that there is hope and meaning and purpose to life is the only thing that stops me worrying.

  3. Razzler says:

    Haha, love it. :)

  4. Ha! I want to raise money for a campaign to say “Sorry, there’s (probably) no Father Christmas”.

    The ironic thing is, you’d get lynched for saying that. :-)

  5. Laura says:

    What???? There’s NO FATHER CHRISTMAS??????? :shock:

  6. drew says:

    What i don’t get is the disclaimer ‘probably’?

    Is that just in case ‘Thor’ has been on his hols for the last few years and they are worried he is back just waiting to throw a thunderbolt?

  7. Clare says:

    Ariane Sherine and her cohorts on CIF depress me on so many levels, I don’t know where to start. I am depressed that they feel the need to try and compete with Alpha adverts, for heaven’s sake (there’s no other Christian advertising I can think of in this country, despite the comments suggesting that atheists are being oppressed by religious messages at every turn.) I’m depressed that they are wasting money on a non-message – (what are they actually hoping to achieve? at least alpha advertises something you can attend, whatever the pros and cons of that might be). I’m depressed at their smug comments (so very typical of fundamentalists of any variety) about how atheists are better able to think for themselves (well frankly if this is what happens when they do, they might as well save themselves the effort). I am depressed that so many people on the CIF blog are vehemently defending themselves against a weird distortion of christianity which I don’t recognise as having anything to do with the gospel of Christ. I could go on. But I’m too depressed to type any more.

  8. Clare says:

    and another thing… if humanism is such a bloody marvellous idea for humanity, why aren’t there any atheist groups out there contributing to the greater good? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of Atheist Aid, or Atheists Against Poverty, or Atheists for Peace.. I’m the first to admit that the church is a mixed bag at best. But at least Christianity has produced some kind of useful response to some of the awful suffering in the world. I suppose their answer would be to ‘stop worrying about it’?

  9. Dorian says:

    Yeah, that ‘probably’ is reassuring. Really.

  10. subo says:

    the mischief or buried graffiti junkie in me loves this, it’s all so silly, – I heard some Christians chipped in, they worried the adds might not happen unless there was enough dough

    what next?

    the thing is though, however irritating texts on busses are, this is a challenge thrown at Christianity, and an element of hostility with it, in that the atheists claim we are telling people they’ll go to hell unless….

    sadly a friend has lost her job as ‘Chaplain’ at a university in favour of a ‘Well being Person’, despite her empathic support of all faiths represented in the university, it’s really hard to know how to respond to such persistent and insidious hostility

    one idea is for churches to work towards getting it right, to take on board criticism, and to work towards offering excellence in all areas, from education to pastoral care, from music and art to hospitality, and to integrate our understanding of our faith with our working lives

  11. James says:

    It’s just so pointless. It really is. It’s not like they are helping people in any way through this.

    And they point out “probably” there for if there is a possibility that there is you would want to investigate and find out surly, you not gonna just sit back and relax.

    Who knows maybe this will make people think.

  12. James says:

    Subo, isn’t it crazy that your friend lost her job for showing her love to people as Jesus would, whatever their faith.

  13. Chris F says:

    At some point in Alien, someone defines evil as “irrational and implacably hostile”. As good a definition as you will find, and amply illustrated by this ad

    Can we believe as we face irrational assaults and hostility towards us? Can we love? Can we have faith? See naked pastor for useful piece on this currently

  14. Big Dan says:

    Linus (2) – “There’s probably no love, or hope, or joy or peace or justice either.” – I think we all know that yes, there is. But the point of the message is that doesn’t mean God exists. People can believe in those without believing in God.

    Clare (7) – the advert in question is described in the original CIF post: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jun/20/transport.religion – nothing to do with Alpha.

    Clare (8) – I don’t know the answer to your question, but of course virtually all secular charities are full of atheists, as well as believers, doing good work.

    Personally I agree with the statement from the Methodists: “This campaign will be a good thing if it gets people to engage with the deepest questions of life.”

  15. Linus says:

    Hi Dan. Thanks for your post.

    Yes people can believe in those things without believing in God (and some people even make a decent stab at justifying those beliefs philosophically, so props to them). As for me, i would struggle, at least for some of the things i listed. So it would (does sometimes) worry me if i thought that God didn’t exist. But that’s just me.

    Additionally (although its not what i was thinking when i posted before) some people in our world don’t know love or joy or peace exist cos they’ve not experienced them. Telling them that God doesn’t exist and enjoy their life ain’t really going to help them much. Telling Londoners not to care and just enjoy their life (be hedonistic nothing matters) isn’t going to create a world or a society in this country that overflows with my list of good things, i reckon.

    Anyway the main thing that i was getting at is why would the (probable!) non-existence of someone i hold to be vital and wonderful and fantastic in life (like the things on my list) cause me to stop worrying? It is God’s presence that gives me grounds for hope (and therefore not worry), not His absence.

    I think the methodists have got it spot on, Dan, thanks for sharing the quote.

    Chris i think you could make an argument for saying its irrational if you wanted to, but it doesn’t seem hostile to me – i’m certainly not threatened by it. People are entitled to express their opinion. The worst thing the church can do about this is be all defensive. We should engage with it because of what James@11 says, and what the methodists quote says.

  16. James says:

    I hope that people will read it, and ponder particularly as it says “probably”. In fact the whole slogan sounds like satire. Where infact the person the phrase has come from believes there in God and is belittling the subject to make the point to someone else. If you get me. So maybe it could actually work as an advert for Christianity. Now that would be interesting!

  17. Phil says:

    ‘Probably’ does that mean that they are absolutely sure that there’s no absolute truth, or was this just an attempt to piggy-back onto some beer commercial?

    I’m Absolutely sure there is a God, who loves me. Anyone want to party with me because of that?

  18. James says:

    hmm I seem to have partly repeated myself – somehow I completely forgot that I posted the other comment.

    (I am having one of those days I am afraid! lol)

    At least I added more into that post.

    (I think I may go to bed now! :p)

  19. James says:

    Phil, the probably was included otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to run the ad (at least that is what I have gathered from the facebook group).

  20. Chris says:

    ah man…thats great!

  21. Big Dan says:

    Cheers Linus. I think where the ad is coming from is this: for every X people for whom faith is life-enhancing, there are Y for whom it’s oppressive and psychologically damaging. I don’t know what those proportions X and Y are. But the ad, I think, is partly aimed at those “Y” people – and also people who are fed up with hardcore evangelism like the advert that originally prompted the campaign.

    But I agree with you – in terms of a life philosophy, it’s not a very positive message.

  22. Big Dan says:

    Oops, I just re-read the article linked to above the cartoon – and it does indeed mention Alpha. Apologies Clare.

  23. dennis says:

    What there’s NO Father Christmas!!!??? That’s blasphemy!

    I have the feeling it might actually give people HOPE, what a great opportunity for conversation. I think its time for the pub!

    A few years ago I was attacked on BBC radio Kent by a “clever” advertising student who told me that advertising does not work anyway and the industry knew that? (ha ha hilarious)

  24. rebecca says:

    I’ve already posted this comment on Jonny Baker’s blog, but it bears repeating — do you think it was intentional to use words of Jesus (Matthew 6 verse 25)? Possibly this is further evidence that the ad is actually satirically pro-religion (James #16), although if so it gives a very mixed message.

    But the word “probably” really gets me — if this is genuinely an atheist ad, why do they think it necessary to qualify it? It suggests that they are including a get-out clause in case God suddenly appears to punish them (the same point Drew #6 made). Personally I don’t believe God would do that, but I would not expect an atheist to believe it either. Atheists, by definition, aren’t supposed to believe in God!

    Can you imagine an ad which said “There’s allegedly no God”? If it is really the case (James #19) that they had to include the “probably” to be allowed to run the ad, they ought to have regarded that as reason for shelving it.

    Now for the cynical point: I’m not quite sure what we’re achieving by debating this ad on this web site. We’re all preaching to the converted!

  25. JF says:

    Clare (8): I would say the majority of charity etc. is probably run / supported by non-Christians, given that Christians are in the minority of the population and the need/desire to help is a human (not a solely Christian) condition. Someone’s belief that there is no God does not mean that they would want to form specific groups to organise together. It would be kinda perverse to organise on the basis of shared non-belief in something(just like there are no organised unbeliever groups for people who don’t believe in ghosts). They are, to quote the bus advert, too busy getting on with their lives.

    I think the bus ad campaign is a good thing. There is too little discourse on the subject, especially between believers and non-believers. Who knows what discussions this might throw up at bus stops, in buses and in cars all over the country.

    The aspect of the wording that I like is that the church has hundreds of years of history of using language and teaching which is designed to make you feel guilty or bad if you do not believe. This advert seems (to me) to be encouraging people to think it through, but also to encourage them to be at peace with themselves, whatever conclusion they ultimately reach. Surely that is a good and healthy thing.

  26. jonbirch says:

    here’s to those conversations at bus stops! :-)

    re. dennis’s clever (or is that ‘clever clever’) student who said advertising didn’t work. plenty of evidence says otherwise… advertising does generally work on those who it is aimed at. but i do wonder whether it prompts discussion or simply goes in to the brain as a message and stays there. i’m not sure that most people will discuss any advert (unless, like the old guinness ads, they are particularly spectacular)…
    i can’t work out whether i think this ad is a positive or negative message. if you have genuinely been oppressed by religion (many in this country haven’t) then it is a helpful message… if you just lost your partner and your faith has helped you get through, then it is an irritating attack. i guess it all depends on your view of god and the view held by those behind the ad. it does seem to be attacking a stereotype or caricature of a god which many christians would not profess… on the other hand, it says do not worry, which is a good message given that mental illnesses are now the most common illness in our culture.
    on my last point, i would add that community, relationship and HOPE are some of the keys to recovery or coping with mental illness and as such, to have a go at a faith from which many derive support and hope seems selfish and irresponsible.
    jf is of course correct to suggest that those who support organisations for change are supported across the spectrum. but it is no accident i believe that people with a shared view and mandate get many of these things up and rolling. we live in a relatively selfish country and selflessness should be applauded wherever it is seen.
    i am completely sure though that if you took away the voluntary christian organistions in this country it would quickly become unrecognisable… the infrastructure would never cope with the sharp rise in need.

  27. beckyw says:

    Jon – just wanted to say thanks for the cartoons. They’re brilliant and always provoke a response and make me think. You get me thinking about life and the world and Jesus and figuring out how on earth to be a Christian…which frankly is a lot better than the effect of sermons on me (cue long discussion on the value or not of a sermon!). Anyway – please keep going. :-)

  28. jonbirch says:

    y’know what though… i think i’m just disappointed that the ad isn’t better presented. as a piece of graphics it stinks (other than it is legible) from a creative point of view. it’s as bad as the stuff which goes on noticeboards outside church.

    caroline too… was that tea (drink) or tea (food)? i’ve just discovered rooibos… i love it!

  29. jonbirch says:

    blessya! beckyw… you are welcome! :-)
    they say ‘a picture paints a thousand words… in a way i’d rather a picture painted a few choice words clearly. ‘ i’m not sure sermons are always the best way of getting people thinking. they can be… but i don’t remember too many discussions on sermons taking place as a kid after church. a great sermon normally will, but logic would suggest that great sermons are probably thin on the ground. :-(

  30. beatthedrum says:

    I think this is fantastic and hope they do some more ads. If it gets people thinking and discussing then the Gospel will spread.

    Oh and there is no way that the Atheists will ever take the naff slogan crown of the church. We are the world champion at the terrible pun.

    Ian Hislop and co took the wee out of this on Have I Got News for You at the weekend. The youtube clip can be found at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=X3a0g4-gHfQ

  31. Pingback: There’s probably no God! Now stop worrying and enjoy your life! « Beatthedrum’s Weblog

  32. jonbirch says:

    beatthedrum… that’s a very funny clip! :-)

  33. miriworm says:

    Probably no bus either :-)

  34. Linus says:

    or three come at once

  35. clare says:

    JF (25) Let me be clear – I was not suggesting that doing good was solely the preserve of Christians – that would be ridiculous. What frustrates me is the smug attitudes evidenced by many commenters on the CIF blog about the superiority of humanism to christianity as a belief system which liberates society from evil and benefits humankind in general. Of course atheists can do good, and I’m sure that individually they do. But the fact remains that very many of the relief organisations which exist today were brought into being as a result of christian conviction that demonstrating love to your fellow man is not optional. I’m sure those same organisations are now supported by people of all faiths and none. But would they even exist if it were not for faith? The atheists seem pretty keen to point out that the world would be much better off without Christianity. I’m just trying to offer a counter to that. I know there is loads of crap that goes along with religion of all kinds – but to me secular humanism is just as oppressive as any of that, and much more prevalent. But its not fashionable to say that. So I’m probably wasting my time.

  36. Pingback: Atheist Advertising… | Youth Ministry Blog

  37. Caroline Too says:

    yeah… roibos is the only tea I can drink nowadays after about 6pm

    sigh, I’m getting so old

  38. jonbirch says:

    i agree with that clare. can’t escape secular humanism, it’s everywhere. :-(

    roibos is the nicest tea anyway caroline, so may be getting older is doing you a favour! :-)

  39. JF says:

    If we have ever stood up and affirmed that “There IS a God”, is it not disingenuous to then decry anyone’s right to say “There probably isn’t”? The justification for either statement is surely the same.

    Jon (38): Where is all this secular humanism? What manifestations are you referring to?

  40. Nick says:

    Not sure if this has been said, but Advertising Standard legislation says they must have ‘probably’ as they cannot prove isn’t.

    At Alpha we are loving this as its encouraging people to come along on the course! We’ve had a couple of people who have turned up precisely because of the atheist adverts! I was tempted to give a bit of money to the campaign and thank them as a Christian (imagine that would have dawkins and co spitting feathers!).

  41. sarah says:

    Clare… x

  42. JF says:

    Robb: “I hate his lack of science” ?!

    So far, science has not demonstrated that there is a God. Nor has it demonstrated that there isn’t.

    To say “There is a God” or “There is no God” would be unscientific.

    To say that, on the balance of a review of the observed physical universe, so far as we currently understand it, there probably is no God in the physical sense, is a scientifically defensible, if rather neutral stance. It is, in my mind, a rather tame piece of wording which is only given any piquancy by the zeal with which those who believe in God defend their own belief.

    I am generally bored/saddened by the whole debate as I feel that believers and atheists are often talking at crossed purposes anyway.

    Physical God vs. spiritual God? That’s the argument in my mind.

  43. rebecca says:

    I’m not quite sure whether it is appropriate to attack Richard Dawkins personally, since it may not have been him who thought up the wording for this ad, but he is the figurehead behind it.

    And on the science argument… there’s no question he is capable of getting it wrong. There was an article he wrote for the Guardian (it appeared in a supplement about Charles Darwin) in which he stated an argument in favour of evolution that was nothing more than Occam’s Razor. For the uninitiated, this can be stated as “the simplest explanation is most likely to be the best”. It can be a useful principle, but it’s completely inappropriate to use it as a scientific argument. The article demonstrated, IMHO, that Dawkins is unworthy of the platform he has as a science writer. And to use that platform to inflict his fundamentalist views on the world is irresponsible.

    Dawkins is not the only example I can think of of a scientist who is not a good science writer. James Lovelock is just as bad (I wouldn’t recommend any of Lovelock’s books to anyone who isn’t already an environmental expert). Is there another cartoon coming on here?

  44. rebecca says:

    And a quote from one of my friends: “If Dawkins didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

  45. doctor ruth says:

    Rebecca (45) LOL – that quote has made my day!

    IMHO fundamentalism is a dreadful thing at either end of the spectrum. Dawkins (and his disciples) does all the things he accuses religion of, for example, inciting hatred, making sweeping generalisations, mistaking beliefs for facts, abusing power, and so on. I can’t help to think that his vehement atheism is really a psychological defence for his own low self esteem (but then I would say that, I suppose…)

  46. janetp says:

    What puzzles me about this one is the command to “stop worrying”. I don’t know anyone who can stop worrying just because someone told them to, much less because a BUS told them to! :)

  47. jonbirch says:

    another cartoon on this rebecca… i’ll se what i can do. :-)

    you lot are funny! :lol:

  48. jonbirch says:

    hey, i made a moving emoticon!!! :lol:

  49. Robb says:

    JF – Robb: “I hate his lack of science” ?!

    So far, science has not demonstrated that there is a God. Nor has it demonstrated that there isn’t.

    That’s my point!!

    I am generally bored/saddened by the whole debate as I feel that believers and atheists are often talking at crossed purposes anyway.

    Again agreed. I despair at the way theists and atheists try to slog it out on scientific lines when their beliefs are un-provable by scientific means.

    Physical God vs. spiritual God? That’s the argument in my mind.

    What do you mean by this? Are you going along the Bultman line or are you suggesting something better?

    Rebecca – he is the figurehead behind it.

    When he stops being a bigoted evangelical fundamentalist proselytising atheist – I wont care. He currently treats people of faith like shite he stepped in. That is wrong from a phenomenological point of view! Bad Religious Studies. Bad Science!

    And a quote from one of my friends: “If Dawkins didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

    The thing that has made me laugh more than any other!!

    Like Dr Ruth says – any person who is trying to swing you round to their position can be that dreadful.

    Now if he stops being the ‘poster boy’ for the campaign I’ll stop focussing on him and just say “HAVE SOME BALLS” to whomever wrote it!!

  50. jonbirch says:

    i tend to agree with that robb.

  51. Robb says:

    Must be the first time I have made linguistic sense in a long time :D

  52. subo says:

    hi Clare ‘if humanism is such a bloody marvellous idea for humanity, why aren’t there any atheist groups out there contributing to the greater good?’

    there’s plenty of humanists and existentialists in the counselling world, I think they seem blind to the pain they cause with their dogma of individualism, it’s well known that long term counselling damages peoples real life relationships, and yet this is not seen as an ethical issue! – (despite the stats that people suffering with depression and anxiety have a better quality of life if they have close relationships)

    I have also met counsellors who skip the rules, and don’t pressurise their clients to keep coming month after month, at £35 a time

  53. subo says:

    ‘Can we believe as we face irrational assaults and hostility towards us’, nice one Chris F. to keep being open and loving in the face of aggression – I sometimes marvel at the story of Jesus picking a chat with the woman at the well, after his community threatened to kill him, maybe he knew he needed to keep making contact and building love (you wouldn’t see me for months after an incident like that)

  54. subo says:

    great conversation, wicked humour, thanks Asbo community. x

  55. Robb says:

    Subo – how are you defining ‘long term councelling’? I’m pretty sure that here in the UK there is a policy within the NHS of not allowing more than 20 sessions in most cases. Obviously private practice can do whatever it wants… vive le free market econom…ental health!

    I am sure that I will be better informed by the Mrs of the exact figures when the NHS lunch time happens and ASBO and facebook et al can be engaged with :D

  56. subo says:

    hi Robb

    It’s not an exact science, though something worth thinking about. I know some Christian counsellors make an effort to protect clients key relationship bonds, and encourage their client to talk and build trust with their partners

    obviously this isn’t going to be the brief in the NHS, though there would be an expectation to work ethically, to stay within the brief of the counselling. I don’t think the NHS has put enough money into counselling, so people are left to find someone themselves and pay privately, there are of course many fantastic private counsellors, – however I still think they are often blind to the potential damage they do to people’s own family bonds and relationships

  57. doctor ruth says:

    Subo -“it’s well known that long term counselling damages peoples real life relationships”
    What is your evidence for this please? The research I know of (and it is my job to know about it) shows that counselling/therapy not only improves people’s symptoms but also brings about improvements in quality of life and in relationships. I certainly know that in my own work people often tell me that their relationships outside of therapy have deepened as a result and I certainly don’t encourage dependency or propagate an individualistic world view.

  58. jonbirch says:

    a good counselor will be aware of the dynamics of dependence. there are, i guess, bad practitioners in every professional field, so i suppose counseling will be no different… but i am forever grateful to those who have given of there time (privately or through the nhs) who have helped or strive to help me. god bless’em!

  59. Pingback: Weekly Meanderings « The Way of a Pilgrim

  60. subo says:

    sorry for forgetting to come back to you on this one, and yes, maybe I should have said ‘counselling can damage your relationships’ not ‘does’!, it’s great to read your positive affirmations of counselling

    I think the key point I was trying to make, (although I think there are a number of ways in which counselling can be harmful) is that some world views have an inherent belief system that is different to mine as a Christian, and in my view potentially destructive, – in that beliefs shape the way we do things. At college, studying counselling, I was taught that both Humanism and Existentialism made good foundations for counselling, and I have indeed benefited from the liberation these philosophies bring.

    I just think there is a difference between my over protective church background and the real power of the Kingdom of God, and that because Humanism and Existentialism are liberating in comparison with ‘religiosity’, that doesn’t mean they have the full life giving grace of the gospel. Indeed, even though they ‘taste good’, I believe there is a fatal flaw in both, in that they are not true.

    I don’t think you have to hold an Humanistic/existential world-view, to practice as a counsellor, though I do think they are common in the counselling world, and a powerful, hidden, dynamic in counselling

    I think it’s healthy to criticise things, to look at them objectively and say ‘are you doing the job you claim to do?’, and counsellors do this, and are continually developing their work, for some of the criticism I’ve come across see the following writers:-

    – details on how counselling might damage your relationships read ‘Scripts People Live: Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts’ by Claude M. Steiner – see longer quote from a book review below

    and – “Both lawyers and counsellors tend to focus more on what’s best for you as an individual and not what’s best for your marriage.” Harry Benson, Project Director, BCFT

    “Of course, many aspects of counselling have been criticised from both counsellors and non counsellors. From the counselling world, with relevance here, are Claude Steiner listing aspects he felt were unhelpful. (1, Most of us long to belong to a group, and one-one therapy is not likely to help this. We also long to have deeper and more meaningful relationships with those who are important to us, here again, the artificiality of relating to a counsellor has been shown to make it more difficult to relate on and equal and human level, in that real relationships are different form counsellor/client relationships. And Steiner also sees one-one counselling as letting down the most vulnerable and abused people, as the hurt they’ve suffered remains ‘a secret’, denying them the sense of freedom and justice of being loved by the group, if a counsellor colludes with the ‘secret’) Also Carl Rogers nailing his 6 (including – empathy, warm regard and genuineness) conditions in a paper, an action reminiscent of M Luther, is essentially criticising the therapeutic practice of his day.

  61. ED... says:

    I just put a poster on the bus stop outside the church saying “There’s probably no bus, now stop worrying and enjoy your wait.”

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