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Old 21st September 2006, 08:13 AM   #1
SusanB-M1
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An Atheist's View of the Alpha Course

Four years ago I attended a full Alpha course, so Thought you might like to hear an atheist's view of it.

Reasons for attending:
- Three dear friends had attended courses; all three changed , closing their minds to discussion on that particular subject.
- I had recently joined the local BHA group and had read the text of a talk given by one of the members on the Alpha course.However, he had attended only the first session and read the book.
- It would not be fair to criticise or comment on something I knew very little about.
- I had recently renewed acquaintance with a colleague/friend whom I had not seen for at least ten years and who was just about to go on a course. She, J, belongs to a local evangelical, somewhat happy-clappy community, but is far more open to discussion on belief than three above mentioned friends.

Course structure:
The package consists of ten, 3-hour evening sessions plus a Sunday, all day social gathering. Videos are provided for each session and a set of books and leaflets. The presenter on the video is the Rev Nicky Gumbel, of Trinity Church, Brompton a good-looking, charismatic, well-rehearsed speaker with considerable acting talent. The course is free, although a contribution of £1 is asked for the book iirc. There is no pressure put on people they say and that is mostly true - there is no need, as they all seemed to me to be convinced before they started.

Each evening begins with a social twenty minutes, followed by a sit-down meal, provided, cooked and cleared up afterwards by those who have previously attended courses and are keen for others to do likekwise. There is a five-minute intro/welcome and a prayer; the video and then discussion groups of about 8-10 people per group. Break up at 10:0 p.m. The group leaders meet once during the week.
The day out is just chat, maybe an organised walk and a restaurant meal, for which we paid, followed by video and short talk, but not group discussions.

My views:
J was always evangelical with a very strong belief that God runs just about everything. She is a genuine, kind and thoroughly nice person. I mentioned my interest and she suggested I join her. I made it absolutely clear that I was (still am of course!) an atheist and that I wanted to see what went on and was the Pastor, John, prepared to have someone who would like to put an opposing point of view. She checked with John and assured me that this was fine. The 30 or so people who attended, mostly local, were all lovely and did not resent my sceptical presence at all!

The first discussion group turned out to be simply agreement with everything said in the video. I waited in vain for any differing view, so made some very mild preliminary comment, which was countered with, 'But what about Noah?' I was just about to say, 'Surely you cannot believe that ....' when the meeting had to break up.

At the start of the next meeting, John came up and asked if he could have a word. He tactfully mentioned that he hoped I wouldn't mind being in a smaller discussion group with him, his wife and J. 'What you mean is I'm a disruptive influence!' I said. He said no, no, no, this was not the case! From then on, I must say I did enjoy the discussions (three against one!), pointing out the mistakes in the videos and so on. John challenged me to read St John's Gospel. Well, I went one better, borrowed the N/T from the Library (audio of course) and listened to the whole thing!! The three were impressed but couldn't understand how it had not changed my life. Well, for a start I said that the St Paul's letter where every other word is 'circumcision' made me laugh out loud!

Conclusion:
There were one or two there who had more open-minded views but unfortunately I was not able to join their froups. However, generally speaking the course only re-affirmed their entrenched opinions. They all said they would pray for me!

The main link from Google is: http://alpha.org/organisation/origins/index.htm

Note: to be fair to the course, it is certainly not to draw people into a cult but the friends I mentioned, intelligent women all, developed an added anxiety about saying anything against God. So it's an area of conversation that never comes up.

The courses are run by C of E, Methodist, etc churches and they are the ones who benefit from the more regular attendance of those who have been convinced. I do not know whether Rev Nicky Gimbel is still Vicar in Brompton but the videos were filmed there and it is C of E. (Well, I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure .)
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Old 25th September 2006, 09:19 PM   #2
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thanks susan-b!

I had not heard of this program before. Not to give the 'enemy' any tips, this direction makes sense.

Every once in a while I stroll over to the local United Methodist Church. They have a lot of community activities going on and once in a while one catches my interest. Here's what happens: There are four or five entrances to the church, they all open to various dimly lit hallways and large echoing rooms. There is a lot of activity going on, but nobody ever has welcomed me or offered to show me where the activity I'm interested actually is.

There are no signs pointing the way.
Everyone seems to assume that the only people who would be there already know how to get around or find their way.

The local Catholic church is the same.

The Unitarians are a little better, but after going a few time I stopped and nobody seemed to notice.

The Quakers are nice but if you do not know anyone it can be very quiet.

The collect phone numbers and email addresses but I never hear from any of them.


I make a concerted effort to look lost or interested, and still people seem to go out of their way to avoid offering help.

So I think a program like this is a good idea for gaining converts. A criticism of it might be that it can be easily adapted to whatever form of Christianity you desire. So I class it with 'things that are sort of a nice facade to whatever is really inside'.

The Alpha organization seems fairly transparent and was rather easy to follow a bread crumb trail through its origins and how it connects to the world. This is good, and they seem open and not hiding anything sinister.

Something I find mildly amusing is that they provide a homey feel good face to a religious business world that is quite savvy and technical.
Quote:
He quickly worked to give the course the kind of ‘feel’ that would be particularly attractive to non-churchgoers....

Last edited by Kopji; 25th September 2006 at 09:22 PM. Reason: content clipped mid quotes
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Old 25th September 2006, 09:21 PM   #3
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Quote:
The method of welcome, the atmosphere of the small groups, the food, the seating, the flowers, the sound, and the material of the talks themselves were all changed to make them as attractive as possible to the person who walked in 'off the street'.

http://alpha.org/organisation/origins/index.htm
http://www.alphausa.org/
http://www.alpharesources.org/stores/1/index.cfm

Donating directly to alpha links to a silaspartners portal:

https://giving.silaspartners.com/don...ha/default.php

Silaspartners is a top tier internet firm specializing in Christian ministry support.

Quote:
As a non-profit organization, Alpha USA depends on gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations to touch the lives of thousands of individuals each year. Make a donation now, and your contribution will be quickly invested to transform society; one life, one church, one community at a time. All gifts to Alpha USA are tax deductible.

http://www.silaspartners.com/site/c.....CBA3/Home.htm

...While we act as a "virtual team member" for many organizations, other organizations choose to leverage our expertise in a more focused way on a project basis. One organization might work with one of our strategy consultants to develop a comprehensive Internet Strategy Roadmap, while our creative team is working with another client on a Branding Study. Meanwhile, our technology team could be performing a Technology Audit for a third organization, while a fourth has engaged our marketing experts to develop a strategy for increasing their web traffic and their online membership. Many organizations desiring to take their websites to the next level have contracted with our team for one-time site design projects.

...Our parent company, Renewal Enterprises, was founded upon this premise in 1999, over five and a half years ago. Since that time, Renewal has done what few other Internet companies have — flourished. In the process, we have become the leading provider of Web Ministry Solutions for churches and ministry-minded nonprofit organizations.

...Duncan Rein and J. Sebastian Traeger founded Renewal Enterprises because "Good teaching was hard to find online." The name was derived from Romans 12:1-2.

...Renewal acquires Lightsource.com from Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment.

...Renewal acquires Christianity.com, a company that raised $44 million from Sequoia Capital and others and invested heavily in technological infrastructure and marketing.

...Christianity.com domain and website sold to Salem Communications. Renewal spins off software and services division under the name Silas Partners.
http://www.starwire.com/partner/Arti...349520,00.html


Nicky Gumbel, one of the founders of the Alpha program, will be keynote speaker for the National Outreach Convention in the US in November.
Quote:
The National Outreach Convention will be held November 8-11 in San Diego, CA. This is a strategic event with 2000 church leaders and over 70 workshops.

We are thrilled that Nicky Gumbel will be one of the Keynote speakers and provide an Alpha presence. Pray with us that much fruit is born from this conference.
http://www.outreachconvention.com

I really do invite atheists to visit the site and watch the video. It is quite an education into the modern church. This represents the state of the art in religious outreach today.

Last edited by Kopji; 25th September 2006 at 09:23 PM. Reason: more clipping from jref fixed
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Old 26th September 2006, 02:29 PM   #4
SusanB-M1
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Quote:
The Quakers are nice but if you do not know anyone it can be very quiet.
Yes, I know what you mean! I went into one here once. They were supposed to speak only if the 'spirit' inspired them, but the few people who spoke had obviously planned ahead!

Thank you for all the links, which I'll follow. It certainly seems that they are not sinister, but with all the money that must roll in, I suppose they can afford to be up front about what they do.

I wonder if many other sceptics have attended courses and tried to put in a rational, logical point of view.

Last edited by SusanB-M1; 26th September 2006 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 27th September 2006, 02:38 PM   #5
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It looks like Alpha courses mutated when they crossed the pond. Around here they are high pressure sales meetings that are used to try to brainwash people into christianity.

From what I've read, they were originally created to serve as an introduction for people who just "found" Jesus and need to learn the basics of the bible.
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Old 28th September 2006, 02:10 PM   #6
SusanB-M1
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Originally Posted by Dragonrock View Post
It looks like Alpha courses mutated when they crossed the pond. Around here they are high pressure sales meetings that are used to try to brainwash people into christianity.

From what I've read, they were originally created to serve as an introduction for people who just "found" Jesus and need to learn the basics of the bible.
I believe they are still quite high-pressure over here too, but I can only speak for the course I attended. There was no need for brain-washing because as far as I could see the others had no contrary opinions and just soaked it all up like a sponge ... brain-washing themselves, I suppose.

Last edited by SusanB-M1; 28th September 2006 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 3rd November 2006, 04:52 AM   #7
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great thread. it's tough when you are younger and wondering wtf is going on in the world. Then you just get older, you still wonder wtf is going on, but are used to it.
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Old 4th December 2012, 08:59 AM   #8
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I am also an Atheist but had a much more positive experience of the Alpha Course. I approached a church and asked to attend, which when I arrived I found was a unique as normally people are invited. I suppose I went after, the midst of a traumatic breakup, family death and several impending deaths, and so would be easy pickings for a cult (which is what some people say the alpha is) but it meant I was actually seeking a moral dimension to life and so was a legitimate attendee. I have stayed an atheist but do understand this branch of Christianity much more.

Teaching was particularly good as they were allowed to present the lectures themselves rather than just use a DVD. The books by Nicky Gumbel were free and provided with a bar of chocolate (bless 'em), but you could always buy other books (no pressure). The meal was nice but cooked by the oldest couple you had ever seen which caused me some guilt (they now use a pub for food so have imprved this aspect although food won't be as nice).

After the seminar we had coffee and joined a seminar group of about 8 people. Everyone on the table was lovely, but as it turns out all of them were Christians already. I don't want to destroy anyone's faith so asked questions basically to see what they thought, and the answers I got were always totally different from each person. Some people quoted the bible back at me (utterly pointless if you're dealing with an atheist as every bible story can be reframed to mean anything), some an emotional explanation (very effective, but requires the recipient to already have a moral framework). These weren't planned or staged, but reflected that the variation in why these people were Christian. As a result the discussion and experience of every alpha course will depend totally on the church you go to and even the table you sit on after the presentations. The presentations were good but didn't really answer the questions I had. It would be intersesting to compare the courses to NLP techniques as they did seem very similar.

This diversity of views about the talks by the church members themselves on my table is great and suggested to me that at the Church I went to at least is not cult like in the slightest. BUT I also found the teachings differed greatly to what I thought the Christian stories were. Bread and fishes was always taught to me at school (and everyone I have asked) as a story of Christ inspiring people to share, but on my discussion table at least it was a literal magician producing food. Prayer to me was always something done for others but the pastor/priest told of how you should pray for things you want and gave the example of his wanting a new car. This is contradistinction to what I believed prayer should EVER be used for. It reminded me more of spells. Also on my table, at least one person didn't consider Catholics as Christians - thats how ad hoc and how variable the courses are!

So, bizarrely for an atheist without a church background, my main criticism about the alpha course is actually on Christian doctrine! I think the courses were originally intended to be for new Christians to get a basis on how to live as Christians, and so as an evangelical tool, they are weak as they are really getting lifestyle Christians or basically failing to convert people like myself.

I felt happy enough after the course to even attend a home group for a while. I felt guilty about going whilst not believing, but the people were genuine and were happy enough for me to attend on the jokey condition that "I didn't pray for Satan in the corner". They were all laid back chilled peeps. In fact it is the Home Group leader and his family that is the best advertisement for the faith and not the course.

I feel that I learnt a lot more about Christians and now feel a happy to enter churches. So my advise would be is to choose the church and people carefully as the course is a tool probably by genuine people as well as dodgy cults
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Old 4th December 2012, 09:25 AM   #9
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[Just add that I'm largely unconvinced by Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as well apart from some of the confusion methods seemed similar and given the similarity when both were created...]
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Old 4th December 2012, 06:50 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by SusanB-M1 View Post
At the start of the next meeting, John came up and asked if he could have a word. He tactfully mentioned that he hoped I wouldn't mind being in a smaller discussion group with him, his wife and J. 'What you mean is I'm a disruptive influence!' I said. He said no, no, no, this was not the case! From then on, I must say I did enjoy the discussions (three against one!), pointing out the mistakes in the videos and so on.
What they meant is you were a disruptive influence.

This is the only bit I find mildly disagreeable. If this was meant to be a discussion for novices of what Christianity actually is, they did their audience a real disservice by pulling away the only person who questioned the whole thing. One of the quickest paths to establishing impenetrable groupthink is "frank and open" discussions where everyone already agrees with each other. That way when they happen to meet an atheist at a party later, they'll be that much more resistant to listening having already "thought it through."
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Old 4th December 2012, 06:56 PM   #11
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Wellcircumcision I'm gladcircumcision to seecircumcision that circumcision everyonecircumcision there circumcision was very circumcision nice circumcision to you !!!!
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Old 4th December 2012, 09:01 PM   #12
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Whoa. Like, a time warp. (Thread started six years ago.)

As an atheist, I'm gonna give Christians a useful tip: Act like you care about people who walk in your doors..

I go into churches once in a while and am usually completely ignored. My daughter, looking for some like minded people, attended a few sessions of Unitarians over the summer - after a few weeks they changed back to winter hours and she showed up just as everyone was leaving. Embarrassed that nobody told her of the change she has not returned.

So on to the Alphas, supposedly better at the evangelical than maybe UU is. In six years I've not heard of you since your introduction to Jref in 2006. Your nearest 'workplace activity' is over 450 miles away. You claim to make an income difference of $67,000 per 100 'converts', and that is based on a 50% attendee-giving-themselves-to-Christ.

The calculations sound nice but they really are so much nonsense.

Here is your link to the 2011 Ministry report that says so:
http://www.alphausa.org/Articles/100...ry_Report.aspx

Your churches are dying, and not because of the 'message' not getting out. It is because people who think or dress differently than you make you uncomfortable. You call us lost.
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Old 5th December 2012, 12:05 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Kopji View Post
Whoa. Like, a time warp. (Thread started six years ago.)
My goodness, so it is. And here I posted unironically, not noticing. Feels kinda icky.
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Old 5th December 2012, 12:29 AM   #14
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Saw my name in some early posts and gee, I was being all seriously reasonable an' all. Then I realized it was six years ago. How time flies.

The Alpha program seems to have evolved into a more focused evangelical program of 10 lessons. This does not seem very controversial, I suppose power to them - teaching and converting people in a systematic way. Not as annoying as saying you believe in this big power God, and then dwelling on petty stuff like which dirt is more sacred.

I was a bit interested in their Catholic program page; views about Catholics and Jews can be more or less an indicator of how fair minded a site is. The Catholic page is not negative, but curiously deceptive. The links to Catholic leader comments is 404'd, and there is only one 'testimonial' that sounds more like an evangelical Catholic. Maybe they just don't have much marketing effort there. I suppose there are some out there, but the Catholics I've known don't really view the Bible like evangelicals do. I guess that knowing about the Bible is what the Priests and Popes are for.
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Old 5th December 2012, 01:41 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by greenlightinabox View Post
[Just add that I'm largely unconvinced by Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) as well apart from some of the confusion methods seemed similar and given the similarity when both were created...]
Interesting to read about your Alpha Course experience. It is quite worrying that so many people believe in the literal truth of the biblical stories!
Originally Posted by Beelzebuddy View Post
What they meant is you were a disruptive influence.

This is the only bit I find mildly disagreeable. If this was meant to be a discussion for novices of what Christianity actually is, they did their audience a real disservice by pulling away the only person who questioned the whole thing. One of the quickest paths to establishing impenetrable groupthink is "frank and open" discussions where everyone already agrees with each other. That way when they happen to meet an atheist at a party later, they'll be that much more resistant to listening having already "thought it through."
I agree with your views. I have become much more positive in my opposition to the suffocatingly cottonwoolly views of blind belief since then and take opportunities to promote reality whenever I can!!


Oooh! And I see that's my 2,700th post!

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Old 5th December 2012, 02:25 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by greenlightinabox View Post
... BUT I also found the teachings differed greatly to what I thought the Christian stories were. Bread and fishes was always taught to me at school (and everyone I have asked) as a story of Christ inspiring people to share, but on my discussion table at least it was a literal magician producing food. Prayer to me was always something done for others but the pastor/priest told of how you should pray for things you want and gave the example of his wanting a new car. This is contradistinction to what I believed prayer should EVER be used for. It reminded me more of spells. Also on my table, at least one person didn't consider Catholics as Christians - thats how ad hoc and how variable the courses are!...
They were all laid back chilled peeps. In fact it is the Home Group leader and his family that is the best advertisement for the faith and not the course.

I feel that I learnt a lot more about Christians and now feel a happy to enter churches. So my advise would be is to choose the church and people carefully as the course is a tool probably by genuine people as well as dodgy cults
Oh, myy[/Takei]

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Prosperity theology landed here.

Did they mention 'seeding', greenlightinabox?
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Old 5th December 2012, 03:32 AM   #17
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I'm a Christian and active church member in the UK, who's pretty dubious about the Alpha Course. I dislike the fact that it presents itself as the introduction to Christianity, when it's actually about one particular type or view of Christianity. Many (most?) Christians would disagree with Nicky Gumbel's views on the work of the Holy Spirit, for instance, and there are honest disagreements about, for instance, homosexuality or other moral issues which are not touched on in the course materials (which present one view as the normative 'Christian' way of thinking about the issue). That said, I know lots of churches, including many which are not evangelical or charismatic in orientation, are finding the course useful, and it seems thereby to get adapted somewhat from its earlier, more 'cultic' incarnation into a more mainstream Christian view.

And I was interested by the people who said that most of the attendees were Christians already - the Alpha people like to bandy stats around about the impressive number of people they get attending their courses every year, but when you dig beneath the stats, apparently the vast majority are already committed churchgoers and/or have attended the course many times previously. So in effect it's more a social group than a conversion exercise. Which isn't a bad thing at all (I'd argue it's a good thing), but the central Alpha people should stop claiming it's about making converts, in my view.

To sum up: I very much dislike much of the Alpha rhetoric and am dubious about the whole Holy Trinity Brompton thing and its central structure. I'm not an evangelical and disagree with much of the theology presented. But on the ground I've seen people take a very pragmatic approach to Alpha to fit in with their churches and their communities, and this seems to work quite well, though also quite differently from how Alpha was originally envisaged and is still presented from the centre.
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Old 5th December 2012, 04:05 AM   #18
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Interesting dissection of the Alpha course phenomenon. Appears to be a desperate attempt by evangelicals to lure in younger people to a dying religion. Be interesting to see the demographics of course attendees. Is it strongly supported by the CofE hierarchy? Often seen it advertised outside churches and in local press.

Do not want to derail this thread but did search forums to see if anything on The Family Church as well? Seems TFC is a more pernicious and possibly cultish outfit and one that majors heavily on the prosperity message.
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Old 5th December 2012, 05:29 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by SusanB-M1 View Post
Four years ago I attended a full Alpha course, so Thought you might like to hear an atheist's view of it.

Reasons for attending:
- Three dear friends had attended courses; all three changed , closing their minds to discussion on that particular subject.
- I had recently joined the local BHA group and had read the text of a talk given by one of the members on the Alpha course.However, he had attended only the first session and read the book.
- It would not be fair to criticise or comment on something I knew very little about.
- I had recently renewed acquaintance with a colleague/friend whom I had not seen for at least ten years and who was just about to go on a course. She, J, belongs to a local evangelical, somewhat happy-clappy community, but is far more open to discussion on belief than three above mentioned friends.

Course structure:
The package consists of ten, 3-hour evening sessions plus a Sunday, all day social gathering. Videos are provided for each session and a set of books and leaflets. The presenter on the video is the Rev Nicky Gumbel, of Trinity Church, Brompton a good-looking, charismatic, well-rehearsed speaker with considerable acting talent. The course is free, although a contribution of £1 is asked for the book iirc. There is no pressure put on people they say and that is mostly true - there is no need, as they all seemed to me to be convinced before they started.

Each evening begins with a social twenty minutes, followed by a sit-down meal, provided, cooked and cleared up afterwards by those who have previously attended courses and are keen for others to do likekwise. There is a five-minute intro/welcome and a prayer; the video and then discussion groups of about 8-10 people per group. Break up at 10:0 p.m. The group leaders meet once during the week.
The day out is just chat, maybe an organised walk and a restaurant meal, for which we paid, followed by video and short talk, but not group discussions.

My views:
J was always evangelical with a very strong belief that God runs just about everything. She is a genuine, kind and thoroughly nice person. I mentioned my interest and she suggested I join her. I made it absolutely clear that I was (still am of course!) an atheist and that I wanted to see what went on and was the Pastor, John, prepared to have someone who would like to put an opposing point of view. She checked with John and assured me that this was fine. The 30 or so people who attended, mostly local, were all lovely and did not resent my sceptical presence at all!

The first discussion group turned out to be simply agreement with everything said in the video. I waited in vain for any differing view, so made some very mild preliminary comment, which was countered with, 'But what about Noah?' I was just about to say, 'Surely you cannot believe that ....' when the meeting had to break up.

At the start of the next meeting, John came up and asked if he could have a word. He tactfully mentioned that he hoped I wouldn't mind being in a smaller discussion group with him, his wife and J. 'What you mean is I'm a disruptive influence!' I said. He said no, no, no, this was not the case! From then on, I must say I did enjoy the discussions (three against one!), pointing out the mistakes in the videos and so on. John challenged me to read St John's Gospel. Well, I went one better, borrowed the N/T from the Library (audio of course) and listened to the whole thing!! The three were impressed but couldn't understand how it had not changed my life. Well, for a start I said that the St Paul's letter where every other word is 'circumcision' made me laugh out loud!

Conclusion:
There were one or two there who had more open-minded views but unfortunately I was not able to join their froups. However, generally speaking the course only re-affirmed their entrenched opinions. They all said they would pray for me!

The main link from Google is: http://alpha.org/organisation/origins/index.htm

Note: to be fair to the course, it is certainly not to draw people into a cult but the friends I mentioned, intelligent women all, developed an added anxiety about saying anything against God. So it's an area of conversation that never comes up.

The courses are run by C of E, Methodist, etc churches and they are the ones who benefit from the more regular attendance of those who have been convinced. I do not know whether Rev Nicky Gimbel is still Vicar in Brompton but the videos were filmed there and it is C of E. (Well, I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure .)
I have to admit my key take-away from this is that I can get a sit down dinner for a pound if I can suffer listening to religious nonsense for a bit...how was the food?
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Old 5th December 2012, 06:28 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
I have to admit my key take-away from this is that I can get a sit down dinner for a pound if I can suffer listening to religious nonsense for a bit...how was the food?
If that's your aim, you'd do better going along to your local Sikh temple. The food is probably better, and it's free.
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Old 5th December 2012, 06:38 AM   #21
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Oh I agree with that! Gurdwaras are wonderful places. Anyone can turn up and get fed, usually a really good curry cooked from scratch, and everyone sits on the floor together to eat.
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Old 5th December 2012, 06:51 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
If that's your aim, you'd do better going along to your local Sikh temple. The food is probably better, and it's free.
Why was I never told this???
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Old 5th December 2012, 11:43 AM   #23
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I forget, are Sikhs commonly vegetarian?
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Old 5th December 2012, 11:53 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
I forget, are Sikhs commonly vegetarian?
I don't think so, but the meals served at the Gurdwaras are.
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Old 5th December 2012, 12:15 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
I don't think so, but the meals served at the Gurdwaras are.
Right, let's see if I can't find my local curryhouse Gurdwara...
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Old 5th December 2012, 12:58 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
I have to admit my key take-away from this is that I can get a sit down dinner for a pound if I can suffer listening to religious nonsense for a bit...how was the food?
Well, the original course I went on, after the first evening's two-course meal, they apologised for not providing a first course and said that they would be providing desserts only!!!

A couple of years ago, when I thought I'd join another course to see if things had become any different, I went to a CofE church, where there were only 5 people on the course. It took place at the Vicar's house (it's a well-to-do area) and we had excellent home-cooked meals! However, after three weeks I couldn't continue as all my questions - assertively but in no way combatively asked, were responded to with evasion, Bible quotes and an inability to acknowledge up-to-date scientific knowledge. Pity really, as the food was so good, but it would have been hypocritical to attend just for that, I felt!

I think, well, I know, the vicar was quite sorry to see me go because it made the discussion more lively and he quite enjoyed the challenge I think!
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Old 5th December 2012, 01:29 PM   #27
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I've seen them advertised around here- "Are you a Christian who wants to understand faith better? Are you an atheist who want to know more about God?" They give me the creeps.
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Old 6th December 2012, 04:19 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Madalch View Post
I've seen them advertised around here- "Are you a Christian who wants to understand faith better? Are you an atheist who want to know more about God?" They give me the creeps.
I think the tagline should be 'Are you hungry?'
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Old 7th December 2012, 09:42 AM   #29
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The one alpha course I attended was years ago and very different from this. It was presented sort of like a party. There were refreshments which consisted of generic store-bought snack trays and several 2 liter bottles of soda. We watched a video, maybe 20 minutes long, then I was approached by people in ones and twos who questioned me about what I thought about the video. There was a relatively continuous stream of people so I was never given a moment by myself to think. Two things helped me through it; mentally comparing it to an experience I had when a couple of jewelry salesmen tried to rope me into buying an ugly and expensive necklace for my mother for mother's day and relying on my ADD to come up with marginally related anecdotes to share to prevent me from getting overwhelmed.
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Old 10th December 2012, 12:26 PM   #30
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Not worth going for an evening just for a meal! Anyway, the one time I ate at a Sikh temple it was actually nicer.
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Old 30th October 2013, 08:15 PM   #31
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I joined a group five weeks ago and as an atheist was convinced I couldn't be convinced. However on the fourth week there was a very good DVD and a talk which convinced me that these oeople weren't pushing religion down the throat, they were trying to say that Jesus just wanted a relationship with us as a friend. This week there was a comparison with science as opposed to religion and it totally made sense. I am becoming a believer.
I never believed in Moses, thinking it was a fairy tale but the scientific reason is this.... There are no vowels in aremaic or hebrew so the Red sea would be written as the rd s. This was translated as the red sea when in fact it is the reed sea. The reed sea is at the shore of the meditteranean on the curve from Egypt to Israel where the start of the Suez canal is now. When Moses went to cross there was a volcano on Santorini causing a tsunami. The sea withdrew and Moses crossed. The sea came back in, drowning the chariots. There were flames in the sky which were seen by Moses and his followers that thought this was God's wrath when in actual fact it was the volcano which couldn't be seen by them because of the curve of the earth. So all in all the details of their experience is actually describing in detail a tsunami but they thought it was God. Because the details are so accurate, I now believe Moses existed. I didn't before. Only because I never believed anyone could part the RED sea.
I then began to believe a little in the scriptures.
Tonight there was a talk on the bible and science and I am becoming a believer. They talked about evolution and the disputes between scientists and creationists but they said what if God created evolution. It speaks for itself, mind boggling. I can't wait for next week. Plus they talked about Genesis which I always put down as a fairy tale but I read it again tonight and the sequence of how God created the world in six days matches with what scientists have proved happened... I.e how water was formed and in which order it came as opposed to the animals/plants etc

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Old 30th October 2013, 08:37 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
I never believed in Moses, thinking it was a fairy tale but the scientific reason is this.... There are no vowels in aremaic or hebrew so the Red sea would be written as the rd s. This was translated as the red sea when in fact it is the reed sea.
You do know the bible wasn't written in English, right?

Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
The reed sea is at the shore of the meditteranean on the curve from Egypt to Israel where the start of the Suez canal is now. When Moses went to cross there was a volcano on Santorini causing a tsunami. The sea withdrew and Moses crossed. The sea came back in, drowning the chariots. There were flames in the sky which were seen by Moses and his followers that thought this was God's wrath when in actual fact it was the volcano which couldn't be seen by them because of the curve of the earth. So all in all the details of their experience is actually describing in detail a tsunami but they thought it was God. Because the details are so accurate, I now believe Moses existed. I didn't before. Only because I never believed anyone could part the RED sea.
I then began to believe a little in the scriptures.
Well, this is all speculation. You're speculating yourself into belief. That sounds just so incredibly strange to me.

But think of this. If Moses really existed, and led such a huge uprising, why is this never mentioned by the Egyptians? Why is it never mentioned by anyone, outside the bible?

And why is Ramses II's mummy in the museum of Cairo, when he supposedly was drowned in the middle of the Red, sorry, I mean Reed Sea? And for a tsunami from the Mediterranean Sea to hit the Red Sea, or Reed Sea, it would have to travel across land...

Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
Tonight there was a talk on the bible and science and I am becoming a believer. They talked about evolution and the disputes between scientists and creationists but they said what if God created evolution. It speaks for itself, mind boggling. I can't wait for next week. Plus they talked about Genesis which I always put down as a fairy tale but I read it again tonight and the sequence of how God created the world in six days matches with what scientists have proved happened... I.e how water was formed and in which order it came as opposed to the animals/plants etc
Ah. You're pulling our legs, right? Which Genesis sequence of events? There's not just one.

And which scientist have proved that humans were created before all the other animals?

What I take from all this is that I suspect you never reasoned yourself into atheism, you were brought up as one or was never exposed to religion much. Because if all the above was enough to convince you to believe, you didn't have much knowledge of the world, or history, or science, to begin with.

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Old 30th October 2013, 09:37 PM   #33
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I'd be more impressed if someone created a new religion entirely rather than repackaged an old one.
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Old 30th October 2013, 10:24 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
I joined a group five weeks ago and as an atheist was convinced I couldn't be convinced. However on the fourth week there was a very good DVD and a talk which convinced me that these oeople weren't pushing religion down the throat, they were trying to say that Jesus just wanted a relationship with us as a friend. This week there was a comparison with science as opposed to religion and it totally made sense. I am becoming a believer.
I never believed in Moses, thinking it was a fairy tale but the scientific reason is this.... There are no vowels in aremaic or hebrew so the Red sea would be written as the rd s. This was translated as the red sea when in fact it is the reed sea. The reed sea is at the shore of the meditteranean on the curve from Egypt to Israel where the start of the Suez canal is now. When Moses went to cross there was a volcano on Santorini causing a tsunami. The sea withdrew and Moses crossed. The sea came back in, drowning the chariots. There were flames in the sky which were seen by Moses and his followers that thought this was God's wrath when in actual fact it was the volcano which couldn't be seen by them because of the curve of the earth. So all in all the details of their experience is actually describing in detail a tsunami but they thought it was God. Because the details are so accurate, I now believe Moses existed. I didn't before. Only because I never believed anyone could part the RED sea.
I then began to believe a little in the scriptures.
Tonight there was a talk on the bible and science and I am becoming a believer. They talked about evolution and the disputes between scientists and creationists but they said what if God created evolution. It speaks for itself, mind boggling. I can't wait for next week. Plus they talked about Genesis which I always put down as a fairy tale but I read it again tonight and the sequence of how God created the world in six days matches with what scientists have proved happened... I.e how water was formed and in which order it came as opposed to the animals/plants etc
Very interesting.
I like how the Moses story makes sense to you when it's a natural phenomenon, no God needed. But then the Genesis story makes sense to you even with God in the mix. So in the one case, it's the lack of a miracle which sells it, but in the other, the miraculous is tacked on to the scientific explanation and that's convincing too.

I suspect something else is happening underneath. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is working to open your eyes?
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Old 31st October 2013, 12:08 AM   #35
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mstricky

May I recommend remaining as impartial as possible? This is what I wrote after attending an Alpha Course some years ago.
http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/index.php
Later, as I learnt more about it, I wish I had been more severe in my criticism! There are so many flaws and inconsistencies in it.

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Old 31st October 2013, 01:39 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
I never believed in Moses, thinking it was a fairy tale but the scientific reason is this.... There are no vowels in aremaic or hebrew so the Red sea would be written as the rd s. This was translated as the red sea when in fact it is the reed sea. The reed sea is at the shore of the meditteranean on the curve from Egypt to Israel where the start of the Suez canal is now. When Moses went to cross there was a volcano on Santorini causing a tsunami. The sea withdrew and Moses crossed. The sea came back in, drowning the chariots. There were flames in the sky which were seen by Moses and his followers that thought this was God's wrath when in actual fact it was the volcano which couldn't be seen by them because of the curve of the earth. So all in all the details of their experience is actually describing in detail a tsunami but they thought it was God. Because the details are so accurate, I now believe Moses existed. I didn't before. Only because I never believed anyone could part the RED sea.
I then began to believe a little in the scriptures.
Believe what you like, but there is no evidence that the Jews were ever slaves in Egypt, nor for their "exodus," or for the migration of a million people through the Sinai peninsular.

There is lots of evidence that the Alpha course uses subtle brain-washing techniques to facilitate conversions.
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Old 31st October 2013, 03:50 AM   #37
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Ryocan. The Reed sea as I said was at the shore of the Meditteranean where the coastline curves between Egypt and Israel. The Med must have been called the Reed sea in those days. Lava has been found in the area. As Moses got there, the tsunami drew the sea out. They would cross and when the sea came back it would swamp/drown the Egytians.
I know the Old Testament was not in English, it was Hebrew whilst the new testament was Greek.
The example I gave....i.e.....rd s for the Red Sea would be of course written in Hebrew but seeing that I don't know the equivalent in hebrew, I had to give the English version.

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Old 31st October 2013, 04:46 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
The example I gave....i.e.....rd s for the Red Sea would be of course written in Hebrew but seeing that I don't know the equivalent in hebrew, I had to give the English version.
Here you go:

Red
Reed (10th from top)

As you can see, they have no characters in common, and certainly don't look identical.

As far as Genesis being in the correct order goes, right from the start, it says that God created the Earth first, then other stars, then the sun and moon. Well, the stars were around long before the Earth, the sun was around long before the Earth, and the sun was around long before the moon. So that's completely wrong, for a start.

It says that water existed before land, yet the heat of the early Earth means that it would have been a long time before there was liquid water, so that's completely backwards.

It says that birds were there before land animals, but that's wrong.

As has been pointed out, there are two accounts of creation in Genesis, one which says that animals were created before humans, and the other which says that humans were created before animals.

It has light existing before the sun and stars which, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, is nonsense.

It has all plants evolving before the creation of the sun, which couldn't be more wrong if it tried.

Are you sure that this is "mind boggling"? Because it doesn't actually fit unless you really, really want it to and therefore ignore 80% of what Genesis actually says.

As for "what if God created evolution?", what if Odin created evolution? What if Vishnu created evolution? What if the Jagroth created evolution? Saying "what if?" is easy. But is there any actual reason to believe it to be true, other than wanting it to be true?
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Old 31st October 2013, 05:03 AM   #39
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Squeegee I don't know what you mean by no characters in common. Hebrew/Aremaic language do not have vowels so red would be rd. in transalating the bible to English the translater must have assumed it was red but it could have been red/rud/rid/rod/rude etc etc it should have read... Reed
I get your point/info on Genesis and agree with you having considered it again
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Old 31st October 2013, 05:09 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by mstricky View Post
Squeegee I don't know what you mean by no characters in common. Hebrew/Aremaic language do not have vowels so red would be rd. in transalating the bible to English the translater must have assumed it was red but it could have been red/rud/rid/rod/rude etc etc it should have read... Reed
I get your point/info on Genesis and agree with you having considered it again
Yes, but as you yourself point out, it wasn't written in English. Squeegee gave you links to show you how both Red and Reed are written in Hebrew, and that the words don't look or sound alike in that language. The fact that Red and Reed are similar in English has no relevance.
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