Been far too long between posts recently. The pressures of teaching in the last term of Junior school. :-)
But I have watched a fascinating program on Channel 4 about religion and the effect on society. Link here.
To its credit, it doesn't use strong arm tactics. Unless you count the 'feeling guilty' method of saying 'No thanks' to genuinely nice people. But there is still the common themes of 'You could be so much happier' or 'You are a sinner' or 'This is the REAL truth.' Not to the levels of catholicism or baptist churches, but in a more... 'nice' way.
The use of a quiet room to make suggestions to the groups, 'sincere' young people (usually female), the pamphlets produced to help the speakers (almost a script), going to an extremely well organised weekend away, questioning people's unhappiness and offering the 'solution' - I am deeply suspicious of these psychological appoaches to converting someone.
Alpha converts seem to have the same profile:
> An unwillingness to even entertain the idea they could be 'unconverted'.
> Total acceptance of scriptures as proof. (Despite contradictions, errors, fantasy, stolen myths, acts of genocide, racism and intolerance.)
> Dismissal of verified and researched scientific data - Sometimes even gross misconceptions about the scientific principles. (eg Evolution, Earth dating, Fossils, Flood myths, Astronomy, Quantum theory etc)
> They are usually, despite all the above, amiable, pleasant people!
I'm pretty convinced that the Alpha course could not convert me. It would be pompous to say that they never could - I am open minded and would be more than willing to accept a god that I thought was worthy of my praise.
For a start, I am happy with myself. I consider myself lucky in that respect. There are too many people who have low self esteem and christians are openly there to offer 'advice' and 'hope'. It was even suggested to me that atheists are too 'smug and self absorbed' to offer others advice. A pathetic statement that I had dismissed with disdain - there are after all, thousands of hardworking volunteers, groups, practitioners that offer help - the majority with no religious affiliation.
Secondly, I have researched both sides of the argument - and I have not come across a single reason for me needing a god, a moral reason to have a god, a spiritual 'hole' to fill and lastly (and it is the least important in my opinion) no scientific evidence for a god.
Oh yeah, and the 'speaking in tongues' was downright hilarious!