Alpha is for Suckers
My wife was talking to me a bit yesterday about the retreat she went to for her Alpha course, and we started discussing the contents of the course itself. I think I blew her mind that I already knew about all sorts of this stuff, like C.S. Lewis's crappy "God, liar, or madman" argument. I pointed out that I read too much, and went to a catholic highschool for 5 years, so I've heard all this stuff before. Anyway, I'm sure she's still trying to convert me. She started telling me about Nicky Gumbel, the lawyer turned vicar who started the modern version of the Alpha course back in England in 1990. She explained how he was as serious an atheist as possible, but had a Christian roommate in university who he liked to debate religion with. According to Gumbel's story that he tells in the Alpha videos, in doing all this research into the claims of the bible to argue with his roommate, the evidence he found convinced him that Christianity was true so he converted, and later became a vicar.
Now, because a) he's an evangelical Christian, b) he's sold over 750000 books, and c) he's a former lawyer, I figured I probably couldn't trust him as far as I could throw him (Looking at the picture of him on the back of one of his books, he looks like a decent-sized guy. I'm average-sized without any fighting training, so I probably couldn't throw him very far.). I challenged my wife with the following question, which she didn't come close to answering:
Given that Alpha is intended as an introduction to Christianity with the desire to convert people, and that Gumbel has alledgedly researched historical data that proved to him that Christianity is true, then why do the topics of discussion in Alpha stick to fluffy topics like "How does God guide us?" and "Why and how should I pray?" and almost entirely avoid issues of proof?
You hear it out of almost every evangelical with something to sell, how you were a militantly atheist sinner who looked at the facts and found Christ. Throw in random comments about how you used atheism as an excuse for all manner of moral depravity, like sex and drugs. I don't know if Gumbel ever claimed wickedness as a result of his atheist, but others like Lee Strobel come to mind.
How many ever really were atheists? How many found a persuasive talking point that they could use to help sell books to the easily impressed?