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There is probably no God ...

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William Crawley | 17:25 UK time, Saturday, 25 October 2008

_45128101_6743594c-2984-4a81-a282-098c8c001fae.jpgSo stop worrying and enjoy your life. That's the message at the heart of a new ad campaign by the British Humanist Association. We'll be talking about it tomorrow, too. It's the brainchild of Ariane Sherine, who will be joining us on the programme.

Howard Jacobson isn't impressed by the campaign. In today's Indy, he writes:

"And it's not even much of a clarion call, is it? God PROBABLY doesn't exist. You should answer fire and brimstone with fire and brimstone. They aren't saying God PROBABLY does exist in Waynesville, North Carolina. They aren't wondering in Colorado Springs whether, maybe, considering the question fairly, and without presumption, God might just be allowed to be a viable, though grantedly complex and vexatious, entity. God IS, is what they say. God LIVES. God SAVES. God HATES. You need balls if you're going to swap belief systems with fundamentalists. God DOESN'T exist, God NEVER DID exist, God IS CODSWALLOP - something along those lines. And to hell with what the Advertising Standards Authority thinks. Say God PROBABLY doesn't exist and you've conceded half the argument to believers."

And that isn't even the half of it. Jacobson releases his ire, full throttle, in his response to the campaign. He plainly regards Britain's humanists as an insipid lot who should work out what they actually believe before they invade the sides of bendy buses.

We'll have Simon Barrow from the think-tank Ekklesia on tomorrow's programme alongside Ariane Sherine, creator of the 'Athiest bus Campaign'. Ariane says the purpose of the campaign is to "brighten people's days on the way to work, help raise awareness of atheism in the UK, and hopefully encourage more people to come out as atheists. We can also counter the religious adverts which are currently running on London buses, and help people think for themselves." Richard Dawkins, who's helping to finance the ads, says: "This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."


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  • Comment number 1.

    What I find very interesting about this kind of campaign and the agenda of someone like Prof. Dawkins, is why exactly they want to convert people to atheism.

    Atheism asserts that there is no ultimate meaning to life; that we are the result of random movements of atoms, and that we live a few years on this rock and then we perish for ever. A short flash of consciousness is wedged between two "eternities" of oblivion. And since there is no ultimate moral arbiter or law-giver in atheism, then logically there is no law which states: "Thou must believe that this interpretation of life is true". If there is no ultimate purpose to life, then why bother with "truth"? If it makes people happy to believe in "God" or "gods", then why not? Why are atheists so hung about it? If the idea of "God" or "gods" makes life bearable for some people, then why deny this "drug" to them?

    Now of course the atheist may argue that "religion" messes up how we live this life (and it's true that some "believers" do this - but don't tar everyone with the same brush!) - all this "pie in the sky when we die" bunkum etc etc. And so therefore we need "the liberating power of atheism". Trouble with that argument is that history does not bear it out. The mess atheists made of the former Communist bloc bears witness to this fact. And since there can be no moral code at the root of atheistic thinking (how can there be?), then it's no good atheists claiming to be the guardians of righteousness, love and peace. Why on earth should anyone bother with righteousness, love and peace in an amoral philosophy? Dawkins claims to be a "thinker", but his illogicality on this issue is breathtaking!

    I would like to suggest a theory as to why atheists are so obsessed with trying to disabuse religious people of their so-called "fantasies".

    It is because they know deep down that atheism is in fact not true, and they are obsessed with the need to deny the reality of something they haven't got the guts to face up to.

    Wanna call me a bigot? If you're an atheist, why bother? I'm living my short little life, and saying this makes me happy. In your world there is no god to tell me that I am not allowed to say this. So what's your problem?

    Not very logical are you?

  • Comment number 2.

    Logica- Some of us think that truth is important, and that believing true things benefits society more than believing falsehoods. I'm not saying I agree with them that there's no God (I'm a theist, actually). But they're absolutely right to pursue the goal of truth regardless.

  • Comment number 3.

    So there probably isn't a God?

    This probably isn't a very good attempt at doubt either.

    Funny, isn't it, that the BHA have (probably) raised the profile of God better than many Christian campaigns have done.

  • Comment number 4.


    Your argument is flawed and illogical. Why should life matter just because there is a God? Why would it matter whether we did his bidding? What right would he have to demand obedience or love from us? Would he not have to prove that he deserved it? What I do is my choice and my responsibility, not that of a Sky Lord.

    Life does not matter to the universe. But it matters to us because we are social animals who care for one another. The same is true of many other animals.

    Why does truth matter? As Ariane Sherine said on Sunday Sequence this morning, there is a liberating joy in the discovery of truth. As Christians say, the truth shall set you free. It is what drives us to seek knowledge. Take a so-called Victims or Truth Commission about the Troubles. Many relatives don't want retribution, but they do want to know the truth about what happened to their loved one. I would suggest to you that there is a healing and a peace in being liberated from lies and falsehoods, especially when they seek to control your mind and instill unnecessary fears.

    As for religious myths, if people want to believe in fairy tales, then they are free to do so. It is when they impose these beliefs on others that I object.
    The fact is that most religious people aren't content with their own delusions; they seek to ensure that we all suffer. Hence religion in politics, in laws (no abortion, discrimination against women, gays etc) in education (segregated schools, compulsory worship, no Humanism on the syllabus) etc), in the media (atheists being treated as 'problematic', 'strident'  – simply because they are being honest). The trouble is, logica, you think God is the cure when in truth he is part of the disease.

    As for atheistic communism, the mess to which you refer was the product of their conception of communism, and had nothing to do with atheism. You have ignored the 'mess' of fascism. Hitler was a believer who thought he had been chosen by God to save the nation. So was Mussolini (Italy), Codreanu (Rumania), Pavelic (Croatia), Franco (Spain), Degrelle (Belgium) and Salazar (Portugal), fascists all.

    If someone gave us £5000, I am sure the Humanist Association of Northern Ireland would do the same here. Actually, we need it even more than London!

  • Comment number 5.

    John, of-course, some of us also have very nuanced views of what constitutes truth. I believe that a vivid hallucination may be more true than a dull deduction from rationally moderated observation. I believe society would be a richer and better place if it were a little less obsessed with science and rationality and a little more Byzantine.

    There was an excellent piece on the glories of Byzantium on the programme this morning - this world could do with seeing much more in the soft golden glow of spiritual awareness rather than exclusively in the cold hard light of reason.

    Logica may have a point in terms of motivation though: I often suspect those atheists who actively engage with Christians are, at some level, looking to be convinced by those with whom they debate. I suspect some deeply buried part of them is searching, inevitably in vain, for the killer argument which will allow them to believe. I say inevitably in vain because they are looking in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

  • Comment number 6.

    Brian your attitude is typical of the Northern Ireland addiction with grants and funding. You say, "If someone would give us £5000 ...". The BHA raised the 60k for their campaign with an online donation. Dawkins gave only 5K. Why do NI humanists have to wait for a handout from someone? Get yourselves into the internet age and raise some money. If there are as many atheists out there as you say, you'll be able to pay for it.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4 - "Your argument is flawed and illogical".

    Thank you, brian, for your response to my starter comment (which I admit was a bit provocative).

    You say I'm illogical. But what is the standard by which you are making this judgement? What is "logic"? What is "truth"? You may assume that "logic" itself - along with "truth" and "knowledge" - is somehow consistent with a naturalistic worldview, and that "truth" can only be perceived by empirical means. If that is not the case, then you would have to acknowledge realities beyond the natural, which is not consistent with atheism.

    Your problem is that you are taking "truth" and "a logical justification for a quest for truth" for granted. Or rather you are pinching these assumptions from a different worldview. Because where in a material universe can you find an injunction which states that "truth can only be discovered by empirical means" - or, to use the well-worn cliche: "seeing is believing"?

    The natural world simply provides us with nothing more than a series of sense perceptions. But the moment we try to interpret these sense perceptions, to organise them, to hypothesise about them, we are drawing on a reality which is "other than" sense perception. It is the realm of "reason", which does not have its origin in matter. This observation of mine may be seen as flawed by naturalistic thinkers, but that is because they take such a process for granted. It's a bit like the atheist who once said to me that "there is no meaning in life". If that is true then the statement that "there is no meaning in life" itself also lacks meaning! So knowledge itself becomes impossible in such a worldview.

    Another thing... it is not logical to bundle up all worldviews contrary to atheism and assume they all bear each other's guilt. This is nonsensical. To suggest that I, as a Christian, should be associated with a man who admitted that he was applying to society the Darwinian doctrine of "survival of the fittest" (I am referring of course to Adolf Hitler) - because he might occasionally have used the word "God" - is ridiculous.

    Now you may argue that I am committing the same error by associating all atheists with Stalin et al. The point I was making was that if atheists tar all "religious people" with the same brush, then the same judgement could be applied to atheism. So the argument that all "religion" is the bane of civilisation, because of the irresponsibility of some who believe in a "god", is a flawed argument. By the same argument, atheism is also the bane of civilisation!

    One thing I will say in agreement and sympathy with atheists, is that I regard atheism as nowhere near as obscene a view of life as certain fundamentalist views of Christianity (e.g. the heresy of predestination, which has got to be the most obscene idea ever to enter the mind of man, if you properly understand what it is saying. Likewise the doctrine of "original guilt", which truly is illogical!!). Like I said (and sorry to repeat a tired cliche): don't tar us all with the same brush!

    Finally, you give the example of abortion as an issue that "religious" people are imposing on society. Well, all I can say is that unborn babies are human beings, and why is it so disgusting to want to protect the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable people in society - a society in which the life of a mass murderer is more precious than the life of a helpless innocent baby? Now, in the light of this, who are the true humanists? Who are the true believers in humanity?

  • Comment number 8.

    Portwyne- Again I find it difficult to understand your answer, specifically with regard to the mechanics of how your "soft glow" works and how it "inevitably" will yield truth better than the "cold hard light of reason."

    Warning: this is going to be a stretch for me.

  • Comment number 9.


    If I had a spare 5000 pounds, which I don't, I'd almost be tempted to give the money to Humani just to see what your advertising run would look like. I mean, by raising the profile of God, yet again, I think you're going to shoot yourself in the foot no matter what you do. Frankly there's nothing like a, "There is NO God" slogan, to get a bit of evangelism going! Maybe you guys could learn from us and have a mission, something like "Alpha for Atheists".

    Anyway here's some more possible slogans, but they're probably no good.

    God probably doesn't exist. Then again it probably won't rain tomorrow, but bring a brolly just in case. (Not the best ad for God though, I admit)

    God doesn't exist. This ad was probably placed by an atheist. (But also possibly by a Christian who wanted to provoke a debate.)

    God doesn't exist, but if he did he'd probably be nasty. Then again he might be nice.

    What kind of God don't you believe in? (That's an interesting question!)

    So you don't think God exists? Ever consider the idea that the bus is an illusion too?

    The BHA isn't an advertising agency, but if it was, it would probably be the worst advertising agency in the world.

    God probably doesn't exist, but if he did...

    Ever think of doing one in the King James Version?
    Probably, Probably I say onto thee, God might not exist.

    So if you do yet round to it, you might be best to get some Chritians to go halvers with you, cos I imagine that any campaign slogan would probably be of as much benefit to one as the other.

    And here's a question for 'The Blame Game'. "Who do you blame for atheists?" - And the answer, "Well, probably not God."

  • Comment number 10.


    I believe that in Western Europe from the early Middle Ages onwards a way of looking at the world which probably had its roots in certain philosophical traditions of ancient Greece moved gradually from being a way of understanding life, the universe and everything to become the way. Proponents of this belief system essentially say that the process of observation, deduction and theorizing which the human brain performs in that state which is usually labelled rational is the only mediator of truth to humanity.

    Atheists, correctly, I believe say that this way of looking at things excludes any possibility of certainty about the existence of God or, put another way, the existence of God cannot be demonstrated in any remotely satisfactory way by either argument or experiment.

    Theists buy into the rationalist world view but assert, in my opinion on shaky ground and with but flimsy evidence, that it is possible to infer the existence of a deity from observation of the universe and/or logical process.

    I would assert that Theist and Atheist alike, if convinced rationalists, are functionally but part-human: they have denied and suppressed that element in the human psyche which is alive to means of encountering reality which lie way outside the bounds of reason.

    For most of our history we humans have relied as much on instinct as reason. For millennia the two coexisted peacefully and profitably, advancing man's material welfare while nurturing community and that inner well-being which comes from the experience of connecting and connectedness. Reason taught us to consider how an arrow might travel further than a spear, instinct taught us respect for our environment when we considered that spirits inhabited rocks or great trees.

    In all societies where reason has not rubbished the notion, men accept absolutely that there are genii in places or objects. We experience such entities through a sense of the sacred (or the infernal) which is palpable and real, which can raise the hairs on the backs of our necks or induce feelings of peace or delight. I accept the existence of a spirit world parallel to the material world and at certain places, with certain objects, or in certain people the worlds collide.

    I do not think science is inferior to instinct just as I do not think instinct is inferior to science - they are different but complementary. A part though is inferior to a whole so science without instinct is less than science with instinct. What is important is understanding the limitations of each - Dawkins speaking about the sacred makes as much sense and is about as relevant as a tribal shaman's opinion on quantum mechanics.

    We experience the golden light (a reference to the reflection off the gilded surfaces of icons of hundreds of candle flames) through opening our perceptions to the world beyond by fasting, meditation, drugs, trance, music and love. I believe such an undertaking is fraught with danger but it is part of that which makes us whole and it is love which guides and protects us in the endeavour.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yet again Portwyne an interesting and illuminating post relating to your thoughts/experiences.

    Just one question at this point. I accept that rationality as you have defined it is not the only way in which we might know. However you appear to exclude any knowledge of God on the basis of rational process. Is this a reasonable understanding of what you are saying?

    Might I add just one thing at this point; I do not drive this apparent wedge between the rational and the 'experiential' or, if I might put it this way, between the physical and the spiritual. For me, a cup of water given to the thirsty may be every bit as spiritual as, and perhaps more 'spiritual' than, for example, prayer.

  • Comment number 12.

    I am not sure that we should be too quick to knock this ad - maybe I am reading too much into it but maybe it is extremely subtle.

    The ad has the advantages of overt simplicity, just a short clear message expressed in bold colourful type. Behind the spare surface, however, lies a wealth of subtle persuasion.

    The ad buys into success. There's the opening word 'Probably' and an immediate association with cool brand Carlsberg. This company's advertising campaigns have redefined 'probably' into a knowingly ironic understatement of an absolute. From the first word then we are being told Atheism is a young, cool-speaking, successful brand.

    There is the interesting choice of colours used in the type, surely not random. To me the pink, orange and yellow combination immediately prompted a recollection of the Keillor Honda diesel advert - a phenomenal success. The memory evoked is of something hateful, a baleful pollutant, changed into something good and beautiful, there is a sense of a paradise regained, the banishment of the spoiler, abundant happiness in a pastoral idyll free worry and care. A major dividend just from the juxtaposition of three colours.

    Then there is 'Stop worrying... enjoy your life' - a paraphrase calling to mind Bobby McFerrin's catchy "Don't Worry - Be Happy!" and already not one but two very positive tunes are floating through our heads associated with product No-God.

    Now this is the sort of post-modern over-analysis which probably gives John headaches (or worse!) but I still think this is an ad worth watching.

  • Comment number 13.

    For first word, read second! Sorry!!

  • Comment number 14.


    I do not think that we find God or get to know him by means of rational process. If, however, we come to know Him I entirely accept that then we can say rational things about our experience of Him and how it impacts on our lives, our moral outlook, our choices and our view of the world.

    I distinguish but do not separate the two ways of knowing I have described - for me the two absolutely cohere in a whole man. Equally, I see no distinction between prayer and service to one's fellow man, where one is spiritual and the other physical: both take us beyond ourselves and our selfishness, both allow us to connect.

  • Comment number 15.

    Portwyne- Don't worry, I understand advertising well, it doesn't give me a headache at all. But that could be a useful place to begin my reply to you.

    See, I don't think that's an example of postmodern thinking. It's an example of using rational thought about what we know of psychology and communicating with others. It's very logical. At the same time, good advertising calls upon how we feel, and evokes emotional responses. But I don't think that necessitates that we believe anything is going on 'under the hood' that we don't know about or understand: it's the same exchange of chemicals and electrical impulses that permits rational thought and there isn't an 'other' side to that coin.

    I understand what you mean when you refer to the 'spiritual' part of a human being. But honesty and science require us to admit that it's all perfectly explainable by the processes we're learning more about all the time, and that there's absolutely no proof of (or need to invoke) any unseen, deeper, higher energy, force, spiritual world whatsoever. (That's not to say I think we've discovered absolutely all of what the human mind is capable of, or that we won't discover ways to use that mind that could sound or seem like some of what you're describing, but it won't occur in any way that couldn't possibly be explained by science.)

    Which brings me to the part of your post where you describe "instinct" and "rationality". First, isn't instinct simple evolution? Surely instinct is the baser of our capacities, cerebrally, in fact more so as we continue down the food chain? It certainly isn't the 'higher' capacity, insofar as we're capable of discerning truth. Instinct tells us we need to survive; it's a biological demand upon us rather than a call of truth. The only truth associated with instinct is: "I will die if I don't do what my instinct tells me!" Thus we don't have the 'instinct' to commit suicide, for example, we only commit suicide when presented with the harsh truths we learn through rational thinking!

    And secondly, can't one address the other? Can't rationality address instinct, and tell us the above about it? Rationality can provide us truth about instinct. And what you're describing toward the end of your post can also be addressed rationally, can it not? Taking one of the examples you mention, love; isn't it true that we can think about why we love rationally and ask ourselves why we feel love for certain people at certain times? While that may not produce the feelings, it can assess the feelings and come to rational conclusions about them based on what we know from science.

    I guess I'm just confused about why you think certain truths can't be discerned through reasoning, and why we need to posit anything else to explain what science already has explained.

  • Comment number 16.


    Your concern for atheists is always touching. I suppose it is an example of your Christianity in action.

    There is another question, which you should be more concerned about: are some Christians a good advertisement for Christianity?

    The BHA campaign was to raise £5,500 for their campaign and this was to be matched by a donation from Dawkins. Within a week, they have already raised over £100,000, 20 times this amount  – not bad for shooting themselves in the foot. But of course Dawkins also shot himself in the foot with his book, selling 2 million copies, and Humani also shot itself in the foot presenting his book to MLAs last year and acquiring 50 new members since.

    Here’s a few other suggestions to go on a local bus:

    There is probably no god and try finding a plumber on Sunday (Woody Allen).

    There is probably no god and I'm a born-again atheist.

    There is probably no god, and it is better for his reputation that he doesn't exist.

    There is probably no god, and if there was, it would be necessary to abolish him.

    There is probably no god, and if there was, he would play dice.

    There is probably no god, but matter is God and God is matter; and it is no matter whether there is any God or no.

    There is probably no god and therefore, unlike bendy buses, he doesn't move in a mysterious way.
    There is probably no god, and the flying spaghetti monster is not his prophet.

    There is probably no god, so remember your humanity and forget the rest.

    And finally a long one:

    There is probably no god, and our logic will lead us not into delusion, but deliver us from ignorance, for thine is the sanctity of thought, and the wonder and all progress, for ever and ever, amen.

  • Comment number 17.

    Can someone help me out with this ad - I just don't get it.
    What I mean is I do believe in God , I don't worry, and I do enjoy life.

  • Comment number 18.


    As an after-thought, can I add that the charge of foot-shooting which you persist in making against Humanists/athists etc., is a bit like the motes and beams, surely?

    After all, the arch foot-shooters in NI are Christians who expend so much time and energy at an individual level trying to bring people closer together and encouraging them to love one another, while acquiescing in policies designed to keep them apart and hate one another: segregated schools; segregated worship; the labelling of other churches as unChristian; sexism and homophobia.

    Indeed, we could further. Christians in NI have a tendency not so much to shoot themselves in the foot as to blow their own heads off.

  • Comment number 19.

    Rev Ian Hall:

    Good for you. What about your congregation? I take it that you don't preach hell and damnation any more? No more wailing and gnashing of death, then?

    As for your beliefs, they aren't really relevant to the truth. If there is no god, then it is true, whether you believe it or not.

    I'm sorry, Reverend, but the ad was not not really designed for your benefit. I would imagine that it is addressed to all those people who largely agree with its sentiments, but will feel more confident and proud in their non-belief if it is proclaimed in public.

    Ariane Sherine, who thought of the campaign, says that originally she was just keen to counter the religious ads running on public transport, which featured a URL to a website telling non-Christians they would spend 'all eternity in torment in hell', burning in 'a lake of fire'.

    "Religious advertising works particularly well on those who are vulnerable, frightening them into believing. Religious organisations' jobs are made easier because there's no publicly visible counter-view to refute their threats of eternal damnation".

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Brian

    There is probably no God, which might mean there is one.

    There is probably no God, but you can always rely on an atheist to come up with a cliche about him. (and before you say it Christians are good a cliches too!)

    Portwyne thinks the ad is subtle, but personally it comes across to me like all religious ads (ironically that is what it is) and most religious ads don't change anyone's mind, usually they just reinforce the ideas we already have. I see you suggest that in post 19 - so it was a sort of in-house ad, was it? You guys should have a testimony night, I think we invented that one too.

    Actually some of your ideas for a bus ad are better than the London one, and I agree with you the flying spaghetti monster, may he boil forever, is not God's prophet.

    Of course your point about 'real' christians is the best point of all. Christ's comment, about the fruit of our lives, is enough to rule most of us out, don't think I haven't already thought it, I do not presume upon my faith!

    Interestingly your points about humanist evangelism and fundraising are impressive, but I thought you weren't into that sort of stuff.

    And yes, I agree, we christians are probably better at shooting ourselves in the foot, but why don't you just accept that this ad is a bad one. I mean, "I'm and atheist, and I think God probably doesn't exist?" doesn't really cut it. Portwyne's a Christian and he knows God doesn't exist! And I'm a Christian and sometimes I think I don't exist. Really in the end, doubt's overrated!

    Maybe if you got a few thousand pounds together, say 100 pounds from each of your new members, you could run with the, "There is probably no god, and it is better for his reputation that he doesn't exist." one, but personally I'd look forward to the opportunity to debate it more widely.

    Or on further reflection of your comments in post 19 to Mr. Hall, why not try this one, "I'm an atheist, I probably believe in me."

  • Comment number 21.

    "Atheism asserts that there is no ultimate meaning to life; that we are the result of random movements of atoms, and that we live a few years on this rock and then we perish for ever. A short flash of consciousness is wedged between two "eternities" of oblivion. And since there is no ultimate moral arbiter or law-giver in atheism, then logically there is no law which states: "Thou must believe that this interpretation of life is true". If there is no ultimate purpose to life, then why bother with "truth"? If it makes people happy to believe in "God" or "gods", then why not? Why are atheists so hung about it? If the idea of "God" or "gods" makes life bearable for some people, then why deny this "drug" to them?"

    Since there is no evidence to suggest that god exists, then there is no rational reason not to believe that the foregoing is not true. There is an irrational reason though. That reason is that many people don't want it to be true. Their emotions will not let them accept it. Therefore they need the comfort of beleiving in god and all that goes along with it...including religious wars and the marching season.

    "Your argument is flawed and illogical. Why should life matter just because there is a God? Why would it matter whether we did his bidding? What right would he have to demand obedience or love from us? Would he not have to prove that he deserved it? What I do is my choice and my responsibility, not that of a Sky Lord."

    If there is a god, this would depend on the nature of that god.

    "There is probably no god"

    If you believe in a rational universe, the notion of probability is absurd as I have explained in previous postings on other threads. Probability is strictly a human invention for conveniently creating mathematical models for events and objects which are to us indistinguishable. Either god exists or it doesn't. Putting odds on it is as silly as believing in it without any supporting evidence.

  • Comment number 22.

    It seems like most of you lot are missing what, to me, seems the whole point of the advert.

    Jacobson (in the Independent article) seems to have got it most wrong of all. You emphasise the difference between most religions and atheism by not using their rhetoric.

    As post #19 points out, Ariane wanted to counter the religious ads that we see every day. First of all you do this by having an atheism ad in the first place.

    But then, a little more subtly you change the tone - you replace the arrogance and lecturing nature of your standard religious message with something more balanced, less sure, less threatening.

    It says to me that because we humans don't know everything there is to know, we can't ever be sure, but on balance, thinking logically, God probably doesen't exist. It finishes up with the reassuring message that you don't even need to worry about this, it's just not important.

    Seems to work fine to me, and I imagine it will work well with most people who are a little less firmly entrenched in their views (the floaters) as the good people of this blog.

  • Comment number 23.

    Brian ,thank you for your no doubt sincere interest in my congregation. I am happy to report that I am currently ministering to a congregation who in the main do believe in God, are not suffering from great anxiety and do enjoy life.
    Brian, believing in God and enjoying life are not mutually exclusive.
    As far as what I have been preaching lately - last Sunday night I preached on Jesus, The Friend of Sinners. My text was Mark.2:13-17

  • Comment number 24.

    I have thought a little more about the bus advert and am convinced that my analysis of it was substantially correct but insufficiently thought through. My considered opinion is that the ad is much more sinister than I had originally thought - I can safely use the word demonic knowing that nobody could seriously label me a fundamentalist and everybody probably already labels me some variety of loony tune!

    No marketing professional could use the word 'Probably' without knowing that in the context of advertisement it would reference the mega successful Carlsberg campaigns. What was the the subtext of those ads for what was "probably" the best beer in the world? What was the embedded command? None other than Go on - indulge yourself! If that embedded command sounds familiar it's because it should. It's the age-old archetypal lure of the serpent. In the myth of Eden the serpent tells Eve "Go on - indulge yourself!". When Christ walks the spirit path after 40 days of fasting he encounters Evil and what does Evil say to him? In essence: "Go on - indulge yourself!". This advertisement is not saying connect with the world, engage with society, find meaning and purpose; it is saying there is no way there's a god, there is no moral frame of reference to inhibit (worry) you, Go on - indulge yourself.

    If you doubt the link to the Honda ad, just look at the web-poster for the campaign - I, at any rate, would know those flowers anywhere. What's the signature line of the catchy little song that accompanies the ad, the only line most will remember, the memory subliminally activated? What I remembered was the rather rhetorical question "Can hate be good?". Enough said!

    I have to disagree with PeterM - advertising is extraordinarily powerful, its influence is grossly underestimated generally. Corporate financial directors do not sanction the colossal sums expended on it without solid proof that it works, and work it surely does. It is most effective when a clear message, an instruction, is subliminally and preferably multiply reinforced. This ad meets those criteria.

    I think it might be instructive to take a look at Ariane Sherine's blog. For me the entry for 30 December 2007 says it all:

    My advice is: don't watch the news. (Don't even read it if you can help it, though I might be alone on this one.) Focus instead on other things: on all the millions of people who are alive and healthy and enjoying their lives, on happiness and truth and kindness and all the concepts which don't make good copy in the slightest. Live in a dreamworld, and pretend it's not happening.

    As Theo's brother says in 'Children Of Men', when Theo asks why he doesn't feel depressed about the apocalyptic horror taking place around him: "I just don't think about it."

    Do the dull worthies of the BHA endorse this view? Do they really know what they have taken on-board?

  • Comment number 25.

    John my response to your post # 15 will have to wait until after work...

  • Comment number 26.

    I would regard the slightly sneering and condescending tone of the theists on this blog as a good sign. For advertising to work it just has to make an impact and my goodness, it has'nt even appeared yet and people are talking about it. One nil to the atheists/humanists!

  • Comment number 27.

    Portwyne: "This advertisement is not saying connect with the world, engage with society, find meaning and purpose; it is saying there is no way there's a god, there is no moral frame of reference to inhibit (worry) you, Go on - indulge yourself."

    No it's not. It's saying stop worrying about pointless stuff like religion and get on with life (whether that be having fun or worrying about things that are worthwhile).

    YOU have made this connection, via the rather convoluted route of a beer advert.

    Most conspiracy theory nut jobs hold the government or business responsible, it is refreshing at least to see one that has the devil behind it all - kind of like a Scooby Doo epsiode. "I would have got away with it if it wasn't for you pesky bloggers"

  • Comment number 28.


    I thought you didn't believe in a god yourself? Why are you worrying about the 'sinister' implication of an ad that shares your sentiments??

    Sometimes atheists can't win. If they make a 'clear' and 'firm' statement, then it is 'aggressive' and 'strident'; and if they make a reasoned and qualified statement, they are 'cowardly' and 'milk and water' (Jacobson).

    Eamonn McCann addressed our Summer School a few years ago and told us we were too 'nice' and 'polite' to be effective; the next year Malachi O'Doherty advised us to be less evangelical and intolerant of Christians.

    And both claimed to be atheists themselves!

  • Comment number 29.

    Personally, i'd go for something shorter.
    "Smile, there is no hell"
    we could even use the yellow smiley face popularised by rave culture and claim it as our own.
    Any way, if your starting a collection Brian i'm in.

  • Comment number 30.

    If I were Irish, I'd hope there is no god. Given the hatreds each side has displayed during their lives for the other during the times of the troubles, if either of their religions are true, they're probably all going to hell.

  • Comment number 31.

    Brian (#28)

    It seems to some of us that that the 'New Atheism' does display both aggressiveness and almost 'evangelical' zeal! How come so much effort is being expended to fight against a God you believe doesn't exist?

    Personally, I hope that this latest campaign will encourage people to think seriously about the Creator they have hitherto ignored.

    "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' (Psalm 14:1) Perhaps atheism should be commemorated annually...on April 1st!!

  • Comment number 32.

    pastorphilip #31
    I don't buy this aggressive atheism stuff. Atheists have a long way to go before they match the prosletysing of northern ireland's Christians . Can you imagine atheists standing on bow street in Lisburn with banners and plastic bibs with quotes from the god delusion - I don't think so.

  • Comment number 33.

    Atheists have a more subtle way of proselytising; they use the means of the media to do their brain washing of the unsuspecting viewers and listeners, through the different programmes that are available to the atheistic script writers and programme makers.

    Atheistic politicians also use legislation to liberalise the laws of the land to pursue their humanistic agenda.

    Atheists are a more Machiavellian bunch than the direct and honest street evangelist, what you see is what you get.

  • Comment number 34.


    In its own terms science can or will pretty much explain everything about both the observable world and man as a part of that world. Where I disagree with you is when you assert that what it means to be human is "perfectly explainable" in terms of science. The explanations of science for human behaviour give us some very useful insights but they are not perfect - they are very far from perfect, they are deeply, deeply flawed.

    It is a feature of the rational/scientific mindset that it claims the monopoly on truth. It sees no limit to its remit and applies its methodology in situations where it is wholly inappropriate and produces grotesque results which its unthinking adherents accept as gospel. Science is necessary if you want to make a vibrator but an actual impediment to understanding love.

    The effects of love on the human brain can be studied and understood, the typical behaviour associated with love can be documented and analysed, but anyone who says that science can tell us what love is is a dullard, an automaton, a thing not worthy the designation human. The explanations of science for love are horrors from which every grounded person will recoil with loathing.

    The abject failure of science to explain in any satisfying way something so basic should also call into question its ability to speak usefully about anything outside the description of mechanical process.

    I believe utterly in complexity. Instead of Occam's mean and niggardly law, I propose portwyne's fertiliser - the lex munificentiae, a law of abundance where entities are multiplied with gay abandon ( Complectenda est pluralitas) and the simple explanation is never the right one. Just because science can explain something most emphatically does not mean that its explanation is the whole story or, indeed, even the right story.

    As to instinct and rationality you arrange them into a hierarchy which I would deny. Neither one is lower than the other. The moderation of experience by non-rational processes is every bit as valid as the moderation of reason - in a balanced individual it is only context which will determine which should predominate. I consider instinct to operate far beyond the level of basic survival. Like reason it can be nurtured and developed, and, just as reason can hone instinct, so instinct can temper reason. Perhaps this and my post to Peter will answer to some extent your question about one addressing the other.

    I cannot end this posting without, however, also commenting on your thoughts on suicide with which I profoundly disagree. You say "we only commit suicide when presented with the harsh truths we learn through rational thinking". This gives a totally distorted picture of the reality of suicidal ideation. Suicide is rational as a means of escaping otherwise unavoidable pain, as in the case of a terminally ill person, such suicides are in a very small minority. In the vast majority of suicides there is either (more common) some underlying mental illness or (perhaps more prevalent in younger people) a tendency towards impulsive and uninhibited behaviour which it is currently thought may well be the result of physical brain abnormality, however derived. Suicide is therefore, rarely either rational or instinctive.

  • Comment number 35.

    The Puritan #33

    I hardly think that there is a big atheist conspiracy going on.
    Atheists are generally very up front about what they believe and why. Nobody is being brain washed
    I can't see whats wrong with atheists wanting a bit of public space to express an alternate view.
    The occasional Richard Dawkins documentary on channel 4, plus the occasional forward thinking drama still doesn't add up to all the songs of praise and thoughts for the day that we've had over the years.
    But its true - what you see is what you get with those street preachers in Lisburn. 4 middle age men droning on for hours in the same monotone voice week after week, year after year with not a single person paying them any attention.

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh dear OliverBenen!

    Shudder in fear at this:


    You'll never walk the street in the same way ever again in your life, now will you? Knowing how we atheists are everywhere, controlling everything, manipulating all from behind the scenes.

    Fear us. Fear us! FEAR US!!

    Muhaghahahahahaa!! *evil laughter*

  • Comment number 37.


    This ad does not in any way share my sentiments. I would rather have thought from the history of your postings that, subjected to due analysis, it does not echo yours either.

    I do not actually find that much wrong with the humanist position - it seems to foster engagement with the needs of our fellow man and promotes the notion of forming a moral framework for living - things I value. I might think it a little spiritually impoverished, a little, shall we say, anal; humanists may not exactly bop to the rhythm of life in the way I would advocate but I do not consider them evil in any way.

    I do consider the subtext, the all-important command-line of this ad, evil, however. The ad tells us not to worry just to enjoy life. It tells us, in effect, to be selfish and, for me, selfishness is the very essence of evil. The words used do not make the kind extension pc3 allows them - the instruction is 'Don't worry' FULL STOP. It effectively repeats Ms Sherine's advice from her blog - 'Live in a dreamworld', ignore pain and suffering, get on with and enjoy your own life. This may well be an atheist ad, but please tell me Brian it is not a humanist ad.

    Note to PC3 - I have just read Ariane's original Guardian article - in it she specifically if somewhat disingenuously relates the form and genesis of this ad to the Carlsberg ad.

    I abhor just about all 'Christian' media advertising - for the followers of Christ all such campaigns are essentially being done on the cheap. The advertising Christ requires is effective, when practised, but, as it is extremely costly, I am afraid we see very little of it around.

  • Comment number 38.


    First of all, regarding your earlier posting, you say that the simple explanation is never the right one.

    I find this curious since you have already dismissed disciplines such as philosophy and economics, which try to understand the complexities of life. In their place, you offer your own idiosyncratic worldview which I suspect most of us, with the possible exception of Peter M, find largely incomprehensible.

    As for spirituality, it is the life of the human spirit. Religion is merely one form of it, and an erroneous one at that  – a statement with which you would half agree.

    Whether or not we believe in a god, we are all faced with the infinite and with ourselves. To be an atheist is not to deny the existence of the absolute but to reject its transcendence. It is merely to deny that the absolute is god.

    As for the bus campaign, you really are reading too much into one sentence. Evil? I think that's definitely OTT.


    Personal insults are cheap and, I venture to suggest, not very 'Christian'. I prefer Shakespeare to the Bible: "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool".

    Actually, in my philosophy, but obviously not in yours, no one is a fool on the basis of one opinion, however mistaken. So, no, I don't automatically think you are a fool. Misguided, yes; but a fool, perhaps not.

  • Comment number 39.

    Oh Brian! Don't be so touchy! You can't have been unaware of the Biblical statement I quoted, which was intended to provoke (it obviously did!) but not to insult.

    Just 'one opinion'? Rather an important one, I think you'll agree. And Psalm 14v1 goes on to describe the type of behaviour produced by such an 'opinion'. One of the problems of atheism is that it provides no sound basis for morality, and no final accountablity.

    We must surely face the fact that "every one of us shall give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)

    Best get things sorted out with Him now!

  • Comment number 40.

    Atheism doesn't claim to provide a basis for morality - it is not a world view in the sense that humanism might be described as a world view. All atheism is, is a position taken in repsonse to the claims made by the religious for the existence of a god.

    Our sense of ethics and morality come from many places and have evolved in a similar way to our physical selves. From the very first time one of our ancestors punched someone else, and that other person punched him back people have realised that there are consequences to our actions. People learn from experience, education and peer pressure about what are acceptable ways to behave in this society, and most of us live by the rules.

    To think that an ancient text which is the revealed wisdom of a vindictive hateful god, is the basis of our moral identity is nonsense. Christians, like the rest of us, are shaped and moulded by society’s mores, and will only cite scripture when it supports these already well established shared standards. You don't hear many Christians still calling for the stoning of adulterers.

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi Pastorphilip:

    Follow your own advice and examine your own conscience.

    So if I call you a fool for believing in such rubbish, I am not being insulting but merely 'provoking'. That is interesting, since humanists and atheists are forever being accused of rudeness. I am a 'rude atheist', you are are merely a Christian 'provoking' thought.

    If I ever went to face your god, it would be I who would demand answers of him.

  • Comment number 42.

    Peter Klaver, I have never seen "Muhaghahahahahaa!!" written down before! Your phonics are quite impressive!

    Portwyne, Having read your last couple of comments I don't think we disagree all that much. I began a reply last night and would like to post it later. I think we will find, again, that there is much common ground.

    Brian, I find the idea that I might to one degree or another grasp something of Portwyne's "idiosyncratic worldview" to be something of a compliment!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Portwyne - I'm still not convinced, that the 'probably' part of the ad is a big success, but your comments in post 24 are much more interesting and just when I thought we were going to disagree, you posted some more in no. 37. To me, these comments shift in emphasis from the style of the ad, words, colour, presentation, association and so on to the substance of the ad, and it is at this point that I find I agree with your thoughts.

    First off though, I am a bit surprised that you used the word demonic. I understand, especially with the association with Eden, what you are getting at, but just didn't expect you to use it. Please don't misunderstand me, I think advertising is powerful, indeed people like Derren Brown have provided us with many examples of the power of suggestion, association and the use of psychology in the media and we should not treat this lightly, I just don't happen to think that this is a very good example of the genre.

    On the use of the word probably for example, I think it's had it's day, and an advertising exec using it ought to think again. I now hear the word ironically, and most certainly not in absolute terms. And to compare it with the Honda ad, which is much better (in terms of being effective I mean) what we have with it is a multi media presentation which associates a variety of familiar and aspirational everyday messages with the product. Rainbows, and bunnies, and the environment, and innocence, all blend to form a kaleidoscopic message which, with every tap of the mind, produces a new and highly colourful perspective, something the bus ad just can't do. It is also accompanied by a happy little tune, something to whistle on our way to work, in a car(!).

    And that links with my point about religious ads in general, and it's related to your comments. I just don't think that ads like this work, certainly the Christian ones aren't much of a success, even if Christians do get all excited by them. Communicating Christianty, works best when people interact with one another, in fact I'd probably go so far as to say that Christianity is only properly communicated in community when words and actions are exchanged. Communicating the 'gospel' is not meant to be done from the side of a bus. As someone once said, 'Once we had The Logos (Greek pronunciation please), now all we have are logos (think Nike tick)'. On this point I fully concur, and might even offer the thought that a 'Christianity' which fails to change our hearts is something other than the gospel.

    Therefore if what you are saying about selfishness is true, then there is even more reason to engage with others (atheists or not) about their understanding of the ad.

    Furthermore I'm not so sure that the greatest 'offence' of the gospel is the eternal damnation which this ad is supposed to respond to; rather, I suggest, it is the challenge to one's own sovereignty, to the narcissism at the centre of one's own being. I for one find that it is this, the call away from self-love, the declaration of war which is to be made on one's own heart, if we were to dare look there, which is the greatest cause for rebellion against God and is paralleled in the "you will be like God/gods" deception you refer to in the Eden narrative.

    Portwyne, you appear in your comments to accept the fullness of selflessness in the Christ metaphor. One might call it cruciform love, as we were encouraged to think on Sunday, and you seem to take seriously the call for us to realise this in our everyday experiences, yet you also seem to stop short of understanding the Christ One (Jesus) as real. Yet for me, the reality of any change in me is grounded in the reality of Him. One might say that He is the Way, the Reality and the Life. In otherwords, the REAL 'real thing'!

    Holy Cola Batman.

  • Comment number 44.


    You say (post 38):

    "Whether or not we believe in a god, we are all faced with the infinite and with ourselves. To be an atheist is not to deny the existence of the absolute but to reject its transcendence. It is merely to deny that the absolute is god."

    You've got me listening.

    Sentence one, I agree.

    Sentence two, can you offer me any development of this thought?

    Sentence three, what do you consider the absolute to be?

  • Comment number 45.


    " One of the problems of atheism is that it provides no sound basis for morality, and no final accountablity."

    Why is that a problem?

    "We must surely face the fact that "every one of us shall give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)"

    That was the view of the primitives who wrote it. Yours too evidently.

    "How come so much effort is being expended to fight against a God you believe doesn't exist?"

    The fight isn't against god, it's against people jamming their religions down our throats. How will you like it if one day the EU Decides all Irish children would be required to listen to readings from the Koran?

    ""The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' (Psalm 14:1)"

    Maybe so but I don't throw my money in the collection plate every Sunday like many believers do with nothing to show for it in return except the delusion that I just made another downpayment on a condo in heaven. Then when it comes time to wet your whistle at the local establishment they need a favor from somone who held on to his money. Who is the real fool pastorphillip? I understand you need to protect your sources of income but c'mon, you don't really expect to fool all of the people all of the time do you?

  • Comment number 46.

    Oh, no, it's happened. I agree with Marcus' post (which backs up the first paragraph of Oliver's post #40 - Atheism is not a world view).

    I had assumed that Pastorphillip was been ironic in his use of bible quotes in a debate with atheists, but perhaps not. Thanks to Marcus for pointing out the futility of this.

    Portwyne, having now read the Guardian article, it's clear that you were wrong. The word 'probably' was used for the same reason Carlsberg used it (to get round regulations) and also because it's impossible to prove that something (even as unlikely as God) doesn’t exist. I think this strengthens my views on the advert, I truly admire its lack of arrogance and I think this makes it stand out all the more.

  • Comment number 47.

    Just think pastorphillip, had people not wasted countless billions of hours attending church but used that time productively instead how much more could actually have been accomplished in this world. For example we'd have far more effective guns and bombs....and far less incentive to use them.

  • Comment number 48.

    Peter (#44):

    First of us, let me make it crystal clear, lest there be any shadow of a doubt about it, the absolute in my view has nothing to do with (a) a master spirit or force outside nature; (b) a spiritual realm existing parallel to nature; (c) a spiritual source of absolute truth or morality: (d) souls that enter and depart the human body; or (e) the Bible or any other Holy Book as the creation of some mysterious spiritual entity.

    Instead, the absolute is quite simply the universe or nature (or even, if you like, truth). In other words, it is what exists independently of us. But it is this 'absolute' or 'nature' that exists before the spirit. It creates the spirit.

    And what is that? it is our human consciousness. It includes our capacity through the evolutionary process to reason, to imagine, to remember, to create, to wonder, to love, to be joyful, to help others. It includes our desire to write poetry, paint the Sistine Chapel, compose a pastoral symphony, built the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal, and discover the process of evolution or the language of genes. It includes our artistic endeavour, our scientific insights, our noblest ideals, our search for truth.

    The former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said: "I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals - being at one with nature". That's fair enough for me.

    Unfortunately, religion has usurped spirituality for its own purpose. But uplifting and ennobling emotions that are satisfied in work or play or friendship, or in the appreciation of art, music, literature, sport and the world of nature do not need a god or religion to justify and explain - they are part and parcel of the joy or sorrow of living as an evolved species.

  • Comment number 49.


    In my view, guns and bombs are a misuse of the 'human spirit'. I agree with some of your comments on this thread, because sometimes you write as if you disbelieve in a god only because he is not an American.
    Please can you not leave your infantile and self-contradictory fantasies about the Great American People out of it?

    An example of confusion: We will bomb the hell out of anyone who opposes us, and do, but at the same our possession of this obscene arsenal means we don't have to use it.

    Of course, if you didn't use it, all those big military companies like Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon would go bankrupt, like some of the rest of the current economy.

  • Comment number 50.


    Third line, 'because' should be 'but'.

  • Comment number 51.



    In my view, guns and bombs are a misuse of the 'human spirit'."

    Gee, from which pulpits in which chruches do you suppose Protestants and Catholics got the idea that it was okay to bomb and shoot each other? Oh, you mean their ministers and priests told them not to and they did it anyway? A likely story. And where were you on January 30, 1972. Oh you say you weren't born yet? What a lame excuse. Got any witnesses?

    "I agree with some of your comments on this thread, [but] you write as if you disbelieve in a god only because he is not an American."

    I think he was sworn in and got his citizenship papers a few years ago after he met the residency requirements. I don't know if he had a green card first. But he converted I'm sure because he was bought off, bribed. After all, what other country lavishes so much money on him, he'd be a fool not to be one.

    "An example of confusion: We will bomb the hell out of anyone who opposes us, and do, but at the same our possession of this obscene arsenal means we don't have to use it."

    Were it not for America's arsenal of democracy, you'd either be a slave of the German Nazi empire or the Soviet communist empire. Many Europeans are angry that the US prevented that so they are building their own version, the EUSSR. But will it fly?

    "Of course, if you didn't use it, all those big military companies like Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon would go bankrupt, like some of the rest of the current economy."

    Think of those big defense contractors as being like little cottage industries that built all of the weapons used in "the troubles" only on steroids....lots and lots of steroids.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hi Marcus

    Thankyou for that penetrating insight to Brian with regard to Irish politics.

    What do you call it, 'The Blunderbuss School of Political Thought'?

    I'm sure you know all about his views on our grubby little war.

  • Comment number 53.


    "the absolute is quite simply the universe or nature (or even, if you like, truth)."

    Brian, is this "absolute" infinite?

    In post 38 you said;
    "Whether or not we believe in a god, we are all faced with the infinite and with ourselves"

    Is the absolute infinte? Because you then go on to limit it, when you say;

    "First of us, let me make it crystal clear, lest there be any shadow of a doubt about it, the absolute in my view has nothing to do with....list of things"

    "In other words, it is what exists independently of us."

    Does it not also include "us"?

    "But it is this 'absolute' or 'nature' that exists before the spirit. It creates the spirit."

    It creates something that it is not? But I thought it was infinite?

    Now these are not supposed to be insurmountable problems. I believe there is an answer, a way in which the infinite can transcend the finite, and yet in which the finite can have its very being in the infinite, so that the infinite is not "one thing among many", but the transcendent source, within which the finite ("things of a kind") inheres

    I suspect you don't accept this, so what is your view? The problem, as I see it, as that your "absolute", as you define it, does not seem to be "absolute" at all. There is no infinity or universality, and you don't even think there should be any transcendence. The "absolute", as you define it, turns out just to be a collection of different stuff, just a sum of a bunch of parts.

    Not very Absolute, is it?

    . To be an atheist is not to deny the existence of the absolute but to reject its transcendence. It is merely to deny that the absolute is god.

  • Comment number 54.

    The idea of the non-existence of God has been linked most directly on this 'probably' ad to personal enjoyment, and so, it could be, as Portwyne pointed out earlier, that this requires some reflection?

    But what should one say? Could it be that to realise lack of worry, and to pursue personal enjoyment is the highest that human beings can attain, or is there another way? A way which might be more costly, more demanding, and yet at the same time, more fulfilling, as I suggested earlier, the 'fullness of selflessness'. I think there probably (!) is.

    "If we think of it graphically, we could say that self-centeredness is to be stationary, static. In self-centeredness we demand that others orbit around us. We will do things and give affection to others, as long as it helps us meet our personal goals and fulfills us.

    The inner life of the Triune God, however, is utterly different. The life of the Trinity is characterised not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the bible tells us. Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. The early leaders of the Greek church had a words for this - perichoresis. Notice the root of our word 'choreography' within it. It literally means to dance or flow around."

    Timothy Keller - The Reason for God.

  • Comment number 55.


    Again, you get tied up in the word 'absolute', as I expected you would be. Naturally, since I don't believe in a god, I would limit the absolute in the way I have. How could I otherwise? As an atheist, I am not likely to say, as Peter does, that the absolute is a triune god (whatever that is!)

    The absolute is only a word to describe nature or truth, or whatever. I used it as a tease because I know you Christians think you can hijack every word in the language for your own use.

    The absolute or nature is infinite if the universe is infinite, and not if the universe is not. I do not know which is correct.

    I includes us, yes, in the sense that we are a part of nature. All I was doing was stressing that there is a universe independent of each individual and that it VAST. we are a tiny speck in this expanse. That is a source of wonder in itself.


    The self-giving love and the dance to which you refer is all in that wonderful film 'I'm not Scared" to which I referred on the Malachi thread. The chief protagonist, Michele, is not so named for nothing, and Filippo asks him at one point: "Are you my guardian angel? (Italian 'angelo'"). At the end of the film, Vivaldi fuses with Michele and Michelangelo as the camera pans around the boy. You have to see it to understand what I mean. It ends with a secular version of Michelangelo's Sistine chapel painting of the Creation of Man. But in this case Michele gives life and courage to Filippo, and he doesn't need a god to do it.

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Brian

    Well there's obviously no point in replying to your thoughts on 'absolute', (you naughty boy!) I guess too that you are teasing with the comment, "As an atheist, I am not likely to say, as Peter does, that the absolute is a triune god (whatever that is!)". You know nothing of the concept of trinity?

    However I do appreciate your reply, (post 48). Paragraph 1 is, I think, a pretty good definition of atheism, and I understand that this is one basis of your understanding of the world. (Which I suppose, contrary to what Paul and Oliver think, would make it a world view!)

    As to paragraph 3, on the human spirit, I think that there are many aspects of it which with I might find agreement. All the of the characteristics of humanity you describe are indeed noble and are very much a part of who we are. I believe that we ought to rejoice in them and celebrate them. There are many many references in literature, art and film to this characteristic of selflessness. Indeed I might go a little further and comment on your use of the word 'spirit'. I most certainly think of human beings as people who will live eternally, yet, and I want to stress this, I absolutely do not think of this in terms of a 'spiritual', meaning non-physical, existence. I do not, for example, look forward in hope to living as a ghost! My faith rather looks forward to a new earth, and a new body with which to explore it! And I think I can go further. I am no longer sure that I hold to the common/popular Christian view of humanity as something tripartite i.e. body - mind - and spirit/soul, which often appears divisive. Rather I have come to prefer to think of humanity more holistically. In other words, whatever I am, I am human. And as a human being I most certainly have a physical dimension, a reasoning and creative dimension and so on, but however these aspects of me are described, they are all still me. And so it is with the spirit, which I consider to be me turned Godward, it is still me. If I might put it in these terms, my understanding of spiritually is the glad recognition that all that I am, all of those aspects of humanity you have described, are given me by the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and to live one's life in light of this is to live a life of worship. And, if I might use a tired old cliche, to be 'born again' is to be made alive to this reality.

    You see, in many ways I suspect, that inspite of our many disagreements, there is much common ground, the critical difference of course is that I have come to see the great cathedral of nature as that which declares the glory of God, and myself as one who bows within it.

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree with the gist of your last paragraph. You have to accept of course that for a non-believer there is much in religion which he cannot understand. He may have words, like absolute, trinity and triune, glory of god and even attempts to explain them, but that does not mean that he understands them.

    I hope that you return to the new 'earth' of Italy as Michele Amitrano and discover the true meaning of life.

  • Comment number 58.

    Third line: "may heard heard or read" words like...

  • Comment number 59.

    pastorphillip seems to have beaten a retreat back to his pulpit (if he really is a pastor) where he is far less likely to have his words challenged. Disappointing but hardly surprising, at least not to me.

  • Comment number 60.


    Some Ulster Christians cannot resist their little 'jabs'. It seems to be in their 'blood'.

  • Comment number 61.


    I'm touched that you missed me! And I hope that is wasn't my absence that kept you up so late!

    Yes, I really am a pastor, and I have no problem with my words being challenged. On this blog, I expect it!

    Brian seems annoyed at our 'little jabs'....maybe there are not a few who need innoculation!!!

    However, I do want to encourage those who do not believe in God to give fair consideration to the evidence, including the fact that people who have come to know God by faith in Christ have a fufillment in their lives they never had before.

    It was Augustine who said, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee."

    Jesus declared that He came to give people an 'abundant life' (John 10:10)
    Christians have discovered He wasn't kidding!!

  • Comment number 62.


    Re post 55, you're missing my point.

    I asked about your version of the "Absolute", because earler in this thread you said; (post 38)

    "Whether or not we believe in a God, we are all faced with the infinite and with ourselves"

    You then went on to talk about the "absolute", and so I assumed that that was part of what you meant; however, now you want to limit to "absolute" in many different ways.

    In what way are we all faced with the infinte?

  • Comment number 63.

    I'll look at your defintions on MOn. I'm not ignoring you.
    Glanced at your Shakespeare book at the library. My goodness, I'm impressed. How much research went into that?


  • Comment number 64.

    pastorphillip, I'm glad you're back.

    That some people find comfort believing in god is not proof or even evidence that god exists. My sister was crushed when she learned at age 5 that there was no Santa Claus. My parents had to tell her the truth because she worried that if Santa can come down the chimney, why can't a burglar?

    Some people believe that taking herbs or certain illegal drugs is good for them or at least OK. They say it makes them feel good. Sometimes they are wrong, dead wrong.

    Unlike Dawkins, I do not begrudge people who cherish their belief in their delusions so long as they do not become harmful to themselves or others. But there's the rub with many religions. Each one thinks and asserts that they have the exclusive inside track on what is right and wrong and not only want to proselytize their beliefs but if they can't persuade people to "come to Jesus" voluntarily, they would impose it on them by force. When dealing with these people in a "civilized society" we resort to the ballot boxes and lawsuits. When they are uncivilized, we send out our military to bomb them in their caves.

    BTW, when it's the missionaries against the cannibals in the movies...I always root for the cannibals. I feel that this is the first useful purpose missionaries have served in the lives. Serving others by being served. :-)

  • Comment number 65.

    Paul (PC3) your posting # 46

    You said: "Portwyne, having now read the Guardian article, it's clear that you were wrong. The word 'probably' was used for the same reason Carlsberg used it (to get round regulations) and also because it's impossible to prove that something (even as unlikely as God) doesn't exist.

    You seem to have accepted what Ms Sherine said at face value - I have found it useful in life (and work) not automatically to believe what anyone tells me. You will note that in my reference to the Guardian article in my post # 37 I said that Ms Sherine's account was 'somewhat disingenuous' - I did not just toss that phrase in as an otiose verbal flourish, I had looked-up the CAP Code (British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing) to see what it actually required.

    Let me quote from Rule 3.1 (Substantiation) "Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.
    I think most people would agree with you that the claim 'There is no God' is "impossible to prove". There is therefore no requirement to hold proof of the assertion prior to publishing it.

    I think it is even possible that Carlsberg were themselves being disingenuous - I suspect best, unlike say strongest, is not capable of objective verification. Chesney's , for example, have long marketed their product as 'The World's Most Beautiful Fireplaces' without any problem from the ASA.

    If the stated reason for choosing the form of the advert is not necessarily the real one then it is surely legitimate to query, as I did, what the real purpose might be.

  • Comment number 66.

    Graham - post # 63

    Brian has written a book on Shakespeare? Tell me more I must read!!

    In my impatience I Googled "The Shakespeare Mastermind for Rude Mechanicals" but he appears to have shunned the obvious in his choice of title.

  • Comment number 67.

    All this discussion leaves me puzzled. Is belief in the existance of god a matter that must be taken on faith, a matter that must be proved, or for those seeking followers, they'll take 'em any way they can get 'em? The problem for people who claim to be able to prove the existance of god seems to me to be that their evidence is highly suspect (to put it generously) and their logic badly flawed.

    If god has to be proved, then why do so many believers speak about their faith? Have they been unpersuaded by proof also?

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.


    I am not sure if your post # 67 was at least in part in response to mine.

    I was simply pointing out the official requirements of the British Advertising Standards Authority. They appear only to require an advertiser to prove something that is capable of proof - quite a reasonable position I must say.

    If one looks at the volume and nature of the religious advertising they seem to have had no difficulty in permitting it is quite clear that they take the position I hold myself: that God is not capable of being "objectively substantiated".

    I really find it really hard to believe how easily people swallowed the line that they would then require Atheists to prove the negative. It is, however, fascinating how quickly how many rational people buy into mythologies.

  • Comment number 70.

    Gveale,Re: post 63. Where did you see Brian's book?

  • Comment number 71.

    portwyne, I was speaking in general about the seeming need for many who want to "sell" the product of their religion to prove that god exists as a scientist would prove a scientific theory based on observation and logical deduction. In the past, I think religion has been sold on faith. Those who sold it asserted that there are some mysteries in life which defy the kind of proof science offers and must be either accepted or rejected without it. I can accept that people feel that way even though I don't believe in god myeslf. But when the creationists try to prove the earth is only 7000 years old and carbon dating doesn't work, or the intelligent design advocates try to prove that the theory of evolution and natural selection isn't valid to justify belief in god, they are way out on a limb they can't crawl back from and sawing themselves off. When their arguments are disproved, their justification for belief in god dies with them.

    People speak of someone as being rational or irrational but life is not so simple. We can be rational about some things, irrational about others. Scientists can rationally argue the theory of relativity at one moment based on observations and mathematical equations and irrationally argue the existance of god based on their unsupportable beliefs the next. And that is the point. Is belief in god to be the result of rational or irrational thoughts? Thoughts ruled by emotion or intellect? In the past, dependence on faith as the persuasive method asserted that it was not meant to be a rational conclusion despite the efforts of some philosophers to prove otherwise. Now we have the opposite. So which is it, rational or irrational? Can it be both? Is that presumption irrational in itself? Getting caught in this trap is what made Andy McIntosh look so foolish. You wouldn't know it until he blurted out what was either a blunder of sheer blind ignorance in his supposed field of expertise or an argument which he knew flew in the face of facts. Wilder-Smith on the other hand struck me as someone who is rarely if ever rational.

  • Comment number 72.

    I can't help wondering if this discussion is straying a bit far from the side of the bus!

    Besides, any debate about the existence of God must sooner or later confront the Person of Jesus Christ. How do you explain Him without reference to the God He claimed to know as His Father?

    Paul wrote, " In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9) No other explanation makes sense.

  • Comment number 73.

    It should be too trivial to have to point it out to believers like pastorphilip, but apparently it's not: spelling words with capitols isn't really a valid substitute for sound arguments. 'His Father', 'Person of Jesus Christ', duh.

    Quoting bibble verses isn't very convincing either, your pastorship. :D

  • Comment number 74.

    pastorphilip - of course it's possible to discuss god without even referring to Christianity or "the person of Jesus Christ".
    It's very presumptuous to think that we are just talking about a Christian god.
    It's possible to be a deist who believes in a notion of god as a first cause and still reject all the different flavours of theism.
    It's one thing to think that a god created the universe, but to presume to know what that god thinks and that he impacts on our lives and responds to our prayers is an even more outlandish notion.
    "in him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily - no other explanation makes sense"
    Are you trying to tell me that that makes sense.
    Any way where's pb ?

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    pastorphillip, this makes no sense to me. First of all, many biblical scholars take issue with Colossians even having been written by Paul. Then there is the fact that the epistle may have been written as late as between 70 and 80 AD probably by someone who didn't even know Jesus first hand. There are many theories including that it was written by Timothy. Anyway, this is the conclusion of a mortal man and a primitive one at that. How can it possibly be relied upon unless you take it on "faith" that it is true? Belief in god based on the teachings of the bible relies on circular reasoning. The bible is the word of god, god's existance is attested to in the bible. That is not a valid logical argument and there is no reliable independent evidence or test to prove it. So we are left with faith alone.


    " Unlike the Twelve Apostles, there is no indication that Paul ever met Jesus before the latter's crucifixion."


    So we are not even talking about someone who had a first hand experience with Jesus. Now how do you propose to convince me? So far I'm unmoved.

  • Comment number 77.

    Mark - your post # 71

    I can almost completely agree with you here though I would go a little further. I would say it is not only possible but healthy to have, on occasion, both rational and non-rational thoughts even about the same thing or matter.

    I feel modern society has too readily and too absolutely bought into the the supremacy of reason as interpreter of experience and environment. I absolutely endorse reason and science in their place: I simply impose limits on that place. I think creationism and intelligent design are rationally speaking nonsensical and the result of a category mistake by religious believers. Instead of arguing - or indeed just asserting - the bounds of rationality they are embarking on an impossible, fruitless and ultimately impoverishing argument. Science has nothing important or useful to say about spirituality and equally the spiritual man has (from that perspective) no especially useful contribution to make to science's quest for knowledge.

    PeterM - I find we agree about the effect what I might clinically call the religious experience should have on a believer's life, how it should shape his attitudes and actions. I think Brian is right in suggesting you understand and perhaps sympathise with my position on a lot of issues. Your post # 43, with most of which I can agree, nonetheless highlights the one, absolutely central, tenet of my world-view which you either have not quite grasped or cannot accept. You suggest that I do not think Christ was real but, on the contrary, I think he was and is totally and transcendently real.

    For me reality is not bound up in historical narrative; in a religious sense, reality is where the seen and unseen realms collide and in their collision chime a resonance which vibrates though human perception undiminished by constraints of time or space. I see such a resonance in the person, ministry, teaching, and self-sacrifice of Jesus the Christ.

    Jesus is sublimely real.

  • Comment number 78.

    Brian - post # 38

    I wish just to comment on one point - you said that I "have already dismissed disciplines such as philosophy and economics, which try to understand the complexities of life". That is absolutely true and absolutely consistent with my thought processes. I have no desire to understand the complexities of life - quite the opposite - I have been trying (obviously with very limited success) to assert that the understanding is an inadequate instrument with which to approach the tapestry of existence. I wish rather to embrace complexity - to dance with it and indeed (if I can borrow PeterM's metaphor) all around it.

  • Comment number 79.



    You are hardly dancing with complexity on the joke thread, linking a radio humiliation of a comedian who has stood for 'humiliation' (get the joke?) to attacks on old people. This is crass transference of the worst kind. In fact, that thread reveals that, behind all the apparent freethinking hippy god talk, you are actually a puritan at heart.

    Perhaps a bit of philosophy would sort your mind out a bit.

  • Comment number 80.


    Actually I don't get the joke you're trying to make, unless of course you think humiliation is funny. Personally whether it's Faulty Towers, or Ross or Brand, I don't find humiliation funny. There is one possible difference though, and it lies in the fact that Manuel was fictional, Mr. Sachs is real. However even though this is the case we ought always to consider the sub-text.

    Maybe we can pick it up on the joke thread.

    One thing did make me laugh though - Puritanical Portwyne - screamer!!

  • Comment number 81.


    When I speak of the historical reality I do not mean less than, Jesus the Christ was and is totally transcendently real; what I mean is that he who has always been real, also became real (flesh like us) in order that we like Saint John the Apostle might say, "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth."

    I can therefore also agree that, "reality is where the seen and unseen realms collide and in their collision chime a resonance which vibrates though human perception undiminished by constraints of time or space. I see such a resonance in the person, ministry, teaching, and self-sacrifice of Jesus the Christ."

    Please understand that when I speak of history I do not limit God to the dust of Palestine, but what I will say is that God has chosen to overlap heaven and earth, the unseen and the seen finally and fully in the person of Jesus the Christ. That God in Christ is both imminent and transcendent, that he brought significance to both the washing of dust from dirty feet and to prayer lends dignity and meaning to all aspects of our lives.

    If I might refer to NT Wright, "God's future has arrived in the present, has arrived in the person of Jesus, (and) not only heaven and earth, but also future and present, overlap and interlock. And the way that interlocking becomes real, not just imaginary, is through the powerful work of God's Spirit... Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what's going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It is not a matter of doing things to earn God's favour. It is not about trying to obey dusty rule-books from long ago or far away. It is about practising, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God's new world.

    Yes indeed Jesus is sublimely real.


  • Comment number 82.

    hi pk

    i would have thought that using capitals for words like, father, his, lord, christ, jesus, saviour and so on would probably make grammatical sense if written in something like the following order, lord and saviour jesus christ, our advocate with the father, (although i suspect that jesus being a popular south american forename might always warrant a capital ‘J’ in the same way that you and i warrant a capital ‘P’)

    but you are right about one thing, CAPITALS don't make an ArGuMeNt, although i doubt that pastorphilip was relying on uppercase letters to make his point.

    Hi Oliver

    Of course is possible to discuss god, God, or gods, without referring to Jesus, but I don't think that was the point. I think the point was that 'sooner or later' we might have to say something about it. And we might!

    You then go on to say, "It's one thing to think that a god created the universe, but to presume to know what that god thinks and that he impacts on our lives and responds to our prayers is an even more outlandish notion."

    Even more outlandish? Why?

    I actually am a christian and it's the god bit, you know that idea that there actually is one that, from time to time, bothers me. You see, you have a false premise in that last sentence. It's one thing to say that god might impact our lives (which he might want to if he made us) but to think that we might 'presume to know what that god thinks' is a presumption I do not make. People keep telling me that they find it impossible to accept events like, the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus and the resurrection as true, frankly, when I doubt, these are not the things I doubt, when I doubt it's the concept of God I doubt, full stop.

  • Comment number 83.


    I wasn't trying to defend Ross or Brand, who were wrong and have been dealt with. I was merely pointing out their thinking. The reaction has definitely been OTT: too much moralising and not enough morality.

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm glad to see that - irrespective of the authorship of Colossians and my use of capitals (!) - some consideration is at last being given to Jesus Christ and His claim to be divine.

    Christians contend that the only logical explanation of His virgin birth, sinless life, His teaching, miracles, death and resurrection, is that what the gospel writers were witnessing was nothing less than 'God manifested in the flesh'
    (1 Timothy 3:16)

    To hold on to atheism surely requires a credible alternative explanation for the person of Jesus Christ - and there simply isn't one.

  • Comment number 85.


    Your last paragraph is obscure and needs clarification. All anyone needs is a bit of historical accuracy, surely?

    Virgin birth? Like Osiris Etc? It's a common myth, surely? 'Sinless life'? How do you know? Apart from anything else, there are long gaps in the life story as told in the Gospels. His teaching? Not original. Check Confucius, the Buddha, Isocrates etc. Miracles? Don't believe them. Death. Surely. Resurrection? A likely story.

  • Comment number 86.


    Points about Ross and Brand taken, ignore my comments on the relevant thread.

    I'm sure pastorphilip is more than capable of dealing with your points in post 85 so, for now, just a few quick comments.

    Virgin birth? In the bible we are dealing with historical people. 'Sinless life'? We could discuss biblical authority! How does he know? We could discuss biblical authority!! There are long gaps in the life story in the gospels. We could discuss the authors', purpose, intention and audience. His teaching not original. I think its the bits which actually are unique which are the problem. As in I am or even 'I Am' (the capitals are important here!) the way, rather than I teach a way. Miracles? You don't believe them. OK let's not discuss them!!! But then that sort of rules out virgin births, sinless lives, biblical authority, unique teaching, and resurrection!!! (see my point to Oliver above) Resurrection? Well if there's probably no God then he probably didn't die and he probably didn't rise!!!!

  • Comment number 87.


    Thank-you. I am delighted with the thought of myself as a puritan - I cherish your notion and will try to refrain from imagining the undoubtedly vibrant inner life which gives you such a perspective.

    I am slightly annoyed at the attack on my hippy credentials nonetheless. I am totally at one with "peace and love" as a mantra for life - I am glad though that I cannot see the love (as I failed to see the joke) in humiliating an elderly man for amusement and money. I would not have thought there was a lot of humanism in it either - if you see it, well, that sort of philosophy I can well do without.

    Peter - I would probably phrase some thing differently and see some things from a different angle but essentially would arrive at the same conclusion as in your post # 81.

  • Comment number 88.

    pastorphillip, the credible alternative is that I don't believe any of it. I don't have faith. My mind does not work that way. It takes a leap of faith to buy into this story even if the people who wrote it were not primitives or did not rely on second or third hand accounts. There is no way to prove or disprove it. This is why it cannot be explained within the realm of science or a pseudoscience trying to masquerade as one. There is no evidence for it, just a story in a book. I've got videos of what people swear are flying saucers. Some were hoaxes, some were weather balloons, some were rare but explainable optical phenomena, and some had no explanation at all but I do not believe space aliens have visited earth (except for Wilder-Smith :-) This is why I ask if those who tolerate the young earth creationists or the intelligent design advocates are looking for converts any way they can get them? Would you call someone who relies on that type of badly flawed science for their belief a true Christian?

  • Comment number 89.


    Peter, thanks for your comment.
    what i think i was trying to say was that the more we atttribute to a god the more unlikely it seems. A god creator seems the simplest of ideas, but then more and more has to be added to this basic principle for us to end up with the Christian god.
    as an atheist i don't even believe in the creator god, so i wouldn't presume to know what your faith leads you to believe.
    Marcus, i'm sure that some of the theists on this site would agree that it is not possible to prove god scientifically, and that science doesn't deal with religious matters.
    So what i want to ask is, what standards of proof do we apply to religion if we aren't allowed to apply the scientific method ?
    We can hardly rely on religious texts to validate their own truth - as Sam Harris says - you end up with an epistemological black hole.

  • Comment number 90.


    You aren't the first to be sceptical about the resurrection of Jesus Christ: so was Frank Morison....until he examined the evidence for himself.(see his book 'Who Moved the Stone?')

    Of course, miracles - such as the virgin birth or the resurrection - are impossible....unless God was involved. Obviously He was!

    As to the Gospel records themselves, it is worth remembering that there is abundant documentary evidence to support their authenticity - much more than books of similar antiquity, and whose provenance is never questioned.

    Christians have nothing to fear from an honest examination of the evidence. I accept that evidence is not 'proof', but the facts are clearly on our side!

  • Comment number 91.


    Just a couple of questions for the moment.

    1. Was Osiris resurrected?

    2. What is the evidence that supports the authenticity of the Jesus resurrection?

  • Comment number 92.


    "What standards of proof do we apply to religion...?)

    I don't know. That's your problem not mine. I don't have a religion. Therefore it is of no concern to me. I just want to know from a pastor's point of view if god's existance is justified by faith alone, must have some sort of scientific explanation, or if any method of persuasion that works is alright. I merely point out that if it requires a scientific explanation as some attempt and that explanation is discredited as many scientific theories are, where does that leave you? Is badly flawed science like ID better than no science at all if it sells the product?

  • Comment number 93.

    Hi Brian,

    Pardon me for butting in but,

    "Was Osiris resurrected?"

    I think the answer is:

    Isis briefly brought Osiris back to life by use of a spell that she learned from her father. This spell gave her time to become pregnant by Osiris before he again died.

    (or 'no', for short)

    So I suppose we could say he went out with a bang.

    And of course coming back to life is NOT the same thing as resurrection!!


  • Comment number 94.


    its not a problem for me either - i was just throwing it out there as a line of enquiry for the theists to respond to, from what i can gather i think we were making pretty much the same point.

  • Comment number 95.

    pastorphillip, I'm the test god sent you. You're flunking badly. You haven't even come close to convincing me I have a soul let alone succeeded in saving it. I hate to break it to you but you are going to hell when you die :-)

  • Comment number 96.


    You say that "Isis briefly brought Osiris back to life by use of a spell that she learned from her father. This spell gave her time to become pregnant by Osiris before he again died". Do you actually believe this? Or are you being mischievous?

    The word 'resurrection' is open to interpretation. There are, of course, nuanced differences in different myths and within these myths. The Jesus one disagrees about it. In some versions he appeared in human form; in other versions he appeared as a spirit. But in neither did he return to earth to live as a human being.

    Neither did Osiris. In the usual form of his myth, Osiris was thrown into the Nile in a coffin by his brother Set who had tricked him into it. Isis, his wife and sister, found the body and hid it in a marsh. Set found the body, tore it into thirteen pieces and throw it back into the river. Isis found all the pieces, except his penis which had been eaten by fish. She bandaged the body together and fashioned a phallus out of gold. She then sang a song around Osiris until he came back to life. They conceived Horus and Osiris then went to the underworld to become king over and judge of the dead.

    If Osiris was able to conceive without real genitals, then I think we can truly say he was more resurrected than Jesus!

  • Comment number 97.


    You asked about evidence for the resurrection of Jesus - if I may summarise....
    1. The tomb of Jesus was empty on the third day after He died.
    2. No credible alternative explanation has been found for why that was so.
    3. Many eye witnesses saw Him alive.
    4. The Disciples of Jesus were transformed men, subsequently preaching fearlessly the Gospel of the Risen Christ. Most went to their deaths with that conviction, and not one confessed that their preaching had been based on a lie.
    5. The existence and survival of the Christian Church.
    6. The setting aside of Sunday as a day for regular Christian worship.
    7. He changed lives then; He still does now!

    I respectfully suggest that Jesus Christ desreves rather more attention than Osiris!!


    (You do keep late hours, don't you?!)

    Love to know your opinion of the above, since the 'test' for all of us is how we respond to Christ and what He has done. Knowing Him personally is what life is all about, and also delivers from the fear of hell!

  • Comment number 98.


    I can't really believe you asked me if I was serious about believing the Osiris story. You called me a fundamentalist - remember?

    There is a significant difference, which you overlook, between the Jesus narrative and what we popularly call myth and it can basically be summed up in this way. The record of Jesus speaks of him, eating and drinking, washing dusty feet and having dusty feet, sleeping on a cushion/pillow, doodling with his finger in the dust, and post resurrection cooking and eating fish. In other words there is a surprising amount of the ordinary in this God story.

    Of course you wish to set various aspects of the record of Christ's resurrection in opposition to one another, but as I said in another post a while back, if you are up for more biblical interpretation, I'm more than happy to travel the road with you.

    C.S. Lewis put it this way, "I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legend and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of this (the gospel) text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage...or else, some unknown writer...without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic realistic narrative."

    I'm glad though that you recognise the difference between resurrection and merely coming back to life to die again.

  • Comment number 99.


    You say, "pastorphillip, I'm the test god sent you.

    Em, no you're not.

    But perhaps Obama is the test God sent you!

  • Comment number 100.

    pastorphillip, I don't believe any of it. But if by some improbable circumstance (I don't believe in probability except as a mathematical abstraction as I think it has no place in the real world but this is merely a manner of speaking) someone could demonstrate that these events happend as they are said to have, I would not believe the explanaton in the bible or what theologians have to offer. I do not take the word of primitives who thought the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. Those people knew nothing, they had no actual knowlege. Even a child today could easily fool people of their experience with countless tricks.

    I am not afraid of hell because I do not believe it exists except in the imaginations of those who were frightened as children to believe in it. But if there is a hell and I go there, I'll try to send you a postcard, preferably a picture postcard so that you can see what you are missing... unless you beat me to it :-)


    If Barack Obama is god's test of me, I'm surely going to hell because once I get past his slick talk, he has not proven to me through any accopmlishments in his life except getting a diploma from Harvard Law School and persuading people to vote for him that he has accomplished anything of merit and is qualified to be President. Because his opponent was equally incompetent for entirely different reasons, I did not vote for either of them. I voted NO! At least I will have the satisfaction of not having endorsed the captain of the Titanic for his new assignment. The difference is that the ship has already hit more than one iceberg and is taking on water before he even takes command.


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