Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Alpha? Considering... being converted?

Well, it is my blog. So if I want to rant about stuff... but I also have a responsibility to give a more positive view of atheists. It's too easy for us to poke fun at people who believe in superstition, ritual, chance, planetary alignments, ghosts, lucky charms and stuff.

I do feel, in retrospect, that I did sink to a little bit of 'mocking' religion and that does not do atheism any favours. After all, we have the right to claim a higher morality since humanists care about everyone and we truly believe we are fairer than the harsh black and white laws of what ancient misogynistic priests interpreted from their positions of power.

In my continuing browsings of the web, I came across this wonderful piece of advice for potential worshippers...
"It should be noted that Christianity is a religion based upon relationship, not knowledge. It is a religion of faith not logic. The information provided is to help answer questions, but ultimately you must believe in the Bible by faith. Because of who God is, we will always have questions. In order to have eternal life, we need to believe the words of Jesus that we are sinners and are in need of a Lord and Savior."

Brilliant! It contains all the best bits of religion. Patronising, demanding and a veiled threat.
1) 'Based on relationship, not knowledgee'. A slight put down to education and thinking for yourself. Am I not capable of forming a true relationship with anything?
2) 'Faith is more important than logic'. Because logically, there is no proof or even a real need for a god?
3) 'But ultimately you must believe in the bible by faith'. (See previous post - sorry) What bits exactly? All of it? The 'nice' parts? Do I take it literally or simply as a guide. Well take your pick from the 38000 christian denominations... (sigh)
4) 'Because of who god is, we will always have questions". But to ask them is the wrong thing to do apparently (see section 1) (further sighs...)
5) "You are sinners and in need of a lord and saviour". At least no mention of Hell, but an insult nonetheless.

Anyway, all this came as a result on what someone asked me a few months back. "Would you be interested in going to an Alpha course?" BTW - You can send them a question (be nice!) to be discussed - only 125 characters though!
Anyway, I actually wouldn't mind going. Like I have said before, I am an atheist morally, rationally, socially and all this was after a great deal of introspection on my part. Could religion offer a serious alternative? Would my life be improved as claimed by the brochure? Somehow I doubt it, but I don't want to be accused of being 'closed minded'.
All atheists are open to persuasion (seriously, it's true!) but we quite fairly ask for a scrap of proof - real proof mind! After all, an all-powerful god should be able to provide some undeniable evidence? Or at least NOT provide overwhelming evidence to the contrary!

So we get the 'faith' get out clause. That, my friends, is NOT an argument. It's a cop out! 'Faith' is the blanket stupid answer that I find insulting, patronising and clearly shows that there is no real basis for their point of view.
Just imagine if we said that we had 'faith' there was no god? Yeah, that's right. People WOULD laugh at us! All we can honestly say, is that there is a 'near certainty' that there are no gods. 'Faith' apparently is 100% (often 110%!) - There is no debating with some people... especially when they have a poor grasp of basic maths.

If there was an online version of the Alpha course. (I might suggest it) then I would definitely have a go. Maybe I will go to a session one day... :-)


  1. 'I am an atheist morally'.

    Ooh! I'm not fooled! I just doubt my views.

    Why don't you test your views in a more, shall we say, lively arena? Traditional atheism as I'm sure you are well aware, was set up in opposition, certainly in Western Europe, to various forms of Christianity. As an atheist, no doubt you wish to broaden out and share your belief in the rationality of man (It is still men who run your thing isn't it?) and the non-existence of a deity?

    Instead of smart-arsing around the fringes at a local level, why don't you take your belief to the Regents Park Mosque?

    After all, you're only human aren't you?

    Whether you like it or not, you appear to have a Pope. Richard Boreking apparently. You see, until he reared his head, atheists were to faith/religion what scared sailors were to sea-captains just a while ago.

    'We can't sail any further because we'll fall off the edge.'

    I work on what you'd call a simple humanist proviso: If you're certain, prove it. If you're not, try and prove it. If you can do neither of the above - get on with your life. If you're a Humanist, you must believe that you're increasingly short on sentient time.

    Don't waste it on blogging - just get out there and live your life!

  2. Richard Boreking?!? Seriously, that's a poor attempt at a pun. Hmmm, Dawkins as my Pope? Now that's almost funny! ;-)

    To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what the point of your reply is. Or that you got the meaning of mine. Writing is often subjective and, like many 'holy books' is often misinterpreted. But I'll try to address the key issues...

    'I just doubt my views' - No. But I do have the decency to admit that I could be persuaded. Religion allows no such luxury. :-(

    Trust me, I was an atheist long before I read any books criticising religion. Even BEFORE the internet was accessed on a 14.4 modem! All Dawkins has done is raise awareness about the 'need for religion' and debates (quite fairly) questions that a lot of theists find offensive simply because it questions their faith. Let's be honest, no-one likes to be told that their 'moral scaffold' is actually rather poorly put together! ;-)
    I have a lot of respect for Dawkins, mainly because he has stuck his head over the parapet and takes an awful lot of crap for his point of view. Boring? You either have not read his books or simply not understood them. That's not a criticism of you, but when we have strong opinions, it is too easy to dismiss an opposing view without intellectual balance. (Atheists ARE equally guilty of this.)

    Atheism is the default setting. You've got to face the facts: children are born with no belief in gods and it is only due to social or family pressures (usually with good intentions) that we become a believer in whatever superstition seemed to give us the best advantage in life. YOU were born an atheist. Do you recognise what made you a believer (that's if you are one - I'm not entirely sure)? Epithany? Family? Socially acceptable in your community?

    As for going to Regents Park Mosque... I believe my time is spent better debating with people all across the world. Anyone can access this blog. Anyone can (even anonymously!) put their views against my posts. AND I WELCOME DEBATE! It's challenges my opinions, encourages thinking on both sides and I think everyone benefits. Small steps are usually more effective than grand gestures. (That's one of MY philosophies BTW.)

    'If I'm certain, prove it.' I don't have to prove unicorns, the FSM (blessed be his noodly appendages), Bhaal, Ra, Holy Spirit, the Greek Pantheon etc... I am pretty well convinced they are fictional. You try to disprove something (Try prove Australia exists! That's hard enough!) All I feel I have to do is point out where religion affects people for the worse, the prejudice it brings, the moral dilemma it causes, the hypocrisy and level of control it has over its faithful. I also discuss the better side of religion and the fact that there are a majority of very good people who still follow their religious ideals.

    Wasting my time? Clearly not. Enjoy my life? I clearly do!

    Thanks for your post - and I sincerely mean that.

  3. I'm not even sure I followed that comment. Was there something delightfully British I missed?

  4. Well it certainly was an interesting one! It was an interesting blend of Dawkins-bashing, a dash of 'leave us poor christians alone', a sprinkling of mild abuse and a heavy dollop of assumption about humanists/atheists.

    Now I'm hungry... :-P

  5. No need to waste your time with the Alpha Course - I was tempted a while back, but then I discovered that Stephen Butterfield has helpfully gone through the purgatory of Alpha and documented the process - so we don't have to!

  6. That's an excellent link! Cheers :-)

  7. Randomfish, I believe I might even have been the long-haired born-again that suggested an Alpha course to you.

    It's not like you have anything to lose, anyway :-p

    re: 'based on a relationship, not knowledge'
    It always makes me smile that people get so OUTRAGED that the Bible is younger than Jesus, or at least most of it. That it's been *gasp* ADDED TO(!!!111) over the years. Of course it has. Ours is a living God. He didn't just speak once 6000 years ago (you heard right, DB!) and that was it. If you develop a relationship with your living God, he will speak to you. And he will tell you do not have a religion based on laws, you have a new life based on His loving gospel.

    'Faith is more important than logic'

    Don't pretend that you have faith in nothing, that faith in itself is ridiculous. You have faith in love, if nothing else, surely. Logic tells me that you can't get evolution from one species to another, only within species. Science tells me that even after thousands and thousands of generations of fly mutations, a fly is still a fly. So how did every living species in the world evolve from a fish? Including, presumably: turnips, scabies mite, chinchillas, sharks etc etc? Are you not putting your faith in a straaaange theory of evolution, hmmmmmm? ;)

    'Because of who god is, we will always have questions'
    Of course. And let's face it, when Jesus came and proclaimed himself the Son of God, not many people believed him, and what more proof could God really give us? Perhaps you would like a book full of graphs and diagrams, haha.

    "You are sinners and in need of a lord and saviour".
    Hell for you probably isn't the same idea of hell for me. I think there is a cartoon idea based on lakes of fire with a little red devil with pitchforks. In reality, to me anyway, hell is death; it is separation from love and joy; from contentment and safety and the Lord. For me, now that I know the Lord, no pit of burning sulphur could ever hold as much sadness and fear as separation from His love. But that's just me.

    Love ya, JL x x x

  8. I like that you quote, but not necessarily what you quote. One website doesn't sum up Christianity, just as the views of one athiest may not be the same as yours. So called "Christian websites" can often give very misguided, ill informed, unintelligent arguements, much the same as some Christians do. I like that you are athiest and not agnostic, I like that you care enough about religion to blog and to explore these ideas. Theories that you obviously spend time pondering.

    FYI Nicky Gumbel does an Alpha course on the TV (one of the religious channels on Sky), you could probably find it on Youtube too. Unfortunately although you can ask the TV questions, you are unlikely to get a response.

    Keep striving for truth

    K x x x

  9. Hello Kezia and welcome.

    I totally agree about websites as you do only get a narrow band of information, opinion and it is really hard to convey 'faith' in mere words.

    But the diversity of humanity is a wonder to behold: the hard core nutters such as Pastor Phelps; evangelical money makers; death threats to atheists (tencommandments.org) and then you get some truly inspiring sites about people doing their 'christian duty' and they are the ones who make me think... is there something to this?

    Thanks for the link idea - there are quite a few YouTube post to browse through.


Comments are unmoderated (free speech and all that) but I have decided to take off anonymous posting. If I can stick my head over the parapet, then common decency suggests that anyone wishing to debate should at least introduce themselves. :-)
Thanks. And feel free to comment about anything!