20 December 2006

Alpha Course Christmas Craptacular!

My wife dragged me to a Christmas party thrown by her Alpha Course (for those who don't know, Alpha is a popular introduction to Christianity course that runs for about 4 months - each session includes a meal, a lecture on video, and discussion).

She claimed it was a just a celebratory dinner because it's Christmas and the course had just ended, that families were welcome, and that it was just dinner, no Alpha lesson.

I suspected better: that it was going to be an attempt to advertise the program and try to get family members and friends to join next year. Alarm bells started really ringing when I got there and I overheard someone mention that they had been encouraged to bring as many family and friends as possible. Maybe my wife just didn't put 2 + 2 together there.

It was an ambush...

Dinner was good and the people were friendly, but, after dinner, there were instructions about how to join Alpha next year and they played a half-hour lecture by Nicky Gumbel, the head Alpha Course guy. It was an early video, from 20 years ago, about the meaning of Christmas, ie. Christ. I won't get into details, but there are a few things I would like to address below.

Firstly, I never had any experience with the works of C.S. Lewis before my interactions with Christianity; I just had the impression that he was supposed to be this famous and influential author. In the short amount of study I've partaken, led by sources from both the atheist camp and the theist camp, I can only come to the conclusion that the guy was a freakin' moron of the highest order. In the video, Gumbel paraphrased Lewis, saying, "If Christianity is true, then it is the single most important event in the history of the Earth. If it is untrue, then it is of no importance. There is no inbetween: Christianity can't be of medium importance." This guy must get off on false dichotomies (trichotomies? - see the Liar, Lunatic, or Lord "argument"). What about if it's partially true but overblown/exaggerated, as the Muslims believe? Then it is of medium importance. I think it is untrue, but even so, what about historical and cultural importance?

Second, the next logical step, given the argument of the craptacular C.S. Lewis, is to show that Christianity is indeed true. That is what they attempt to do, though "attempt" should be used loosely. Very loosely. Instead of summarizing evidence, Gumbel goes on to list a dozen or so famous scientists who were Christians, without noting of course that the majority listed were from 16th and 17th century Europe (like Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Boyle, and Newton) while the more recent ones got more and more obscure. This was followed by quoting some guy (who was supposed to be famous but his name didn't ring a bell, so I promptly forgot it - sorry) who said, "there is at least as much convincing evidence for the birth, life, and resurrection of Christ than for any other event in history." Of course, after wasting a good five minutes listing scientists and quoting obscure people, they list not one single piece of evidence.

Ok, let's try this game. I'll look at the life of Christ juxtaposed to a well-regarded historical event, say, World War 2.

Birth - No government record of birth. Only two of the Gospels mention where he was born.
Eyewitnesses - Many eyewitnesses are recorded in the Gospels, including those who witnessed miracles: crazy things such as raising dead, magically multiplying food, and Jesus himself getting executed and rising again. However, the Gospels themselves didn't begin to be written down until a generation or two after Jesus. The most prolific spreader of Christianity, Paul, was not even an eyewitness. Essentially, no one wrote of Christ except by reporting what Christians told them. Arguably, that even includes the earliest Christian writers, as the attribution of writings to Peter and John are suspect.
Death - Again, the only documentation comes from Christian sources. The typically very diligent Roman record keepers do not mention the execution of Jesus.

Birth - The countries involved formally declared war on each other through legislature, with specific dates for each declaration.
Eyewitnesses - Currently, we have many people alive today who claim to have fought in WW2. These claims are corroborated by the service records kept by their respective governments. These people, and others affected, often kept their own writings during WW2. We have film footage, in colour, that shows the events of WW2 occuring. We have archeological evidence in the form of graves, bombed and bullet-holed buildings, and leftover tanks. During the war, and in the decades afterwards, many books were written by people involved in WW2, as well as scholars and historians studying preexisting documents. These documents and witnesses came from all sides of the conflict, not just the victorious side.
Death - The formal surrender agreements were signed by both sides, and the signing was even broadcast around the world.

WW2: 1
Christ: 0

It would be nice if eminent Christians weren't retarded. It would help even more if people considering Christianity did not buy into such crappy arguments.

After the video, the group leader had two of the course participants come to the front and give testimonials. They were both relatively young and said roughly the same thing: that they started out doing the course as atheists but had both become Christians. Though, from what they said, they were more atheists out of apathy than serious thought, it does show that these Alpha Courses are effective at evangelizing. And that's not a good thing.

Finally, though he probably can't help it because he does seem happy, in the video, Gumbel has an annoying perpetual smile that shows way too much of his upper teeth. It makes me want to kick him in the nuts just to wipe the grin off his face. It's okay to not be super-happy all the time.

Christmas was better celebrated at another party we went to immediately after the Alpha dinner - where we feasted on greasy pub food, drank ourselves silly, and reveled in the light of novelty glowsticks. And Jesus was only mentioned as a curse word.

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At December 22, 2006 5:37 a.m., Anonymous Feòrag said...

I like to compare evidence for Jesus with another disputed figure - King Arthur. There is sligtly more evidence for King Arthur - there are even archæological remains associated with him, but still the consenus is that there was no single historical King Arthur, and that he's a mix of old legends and dark age chieftains.

At December 22, 2006 8:31 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

That's definitely a good one. Any bets? Who's more real: son o' God performing miracles in the holy land, or roman-british noble after the fall of the western roman empire trying to defend his lands from the anglo-saxons?

At February 09, 2007 3:39 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you publish your findings without really doing your homework.

There is extra biblical evidence for the existence of Jesus . . .Josephus (Jewish). . . Tacitus(Roman) . . .Suetonius(Roman) . . .Ring any bells? Probably not.

As for Jesus v WW2, I guess that following the same (bizarre) logic the score would be:
Julius Caesar 0 WW2 1
Mohammed 0 WW2 1
Buddha 0 Blah blah blah

Talk about unconvincing arguments, if CS Lewis was a moron what does that make you? How can you can compare the two. I know people who were in WW2!

Then there is weight of evidence.

Caesars’ Gallic War was written (by Biased Roman historians!!) in 58-50BC. There are only 10 surviving Copies and the earliest dates 900AD. No-one disputes that historicity of it.

Compare that to the New Testament with over 5000 surviving Greek manuscript copies with the earliest dated at 60AD then I think you have to at least have some sort of open mind towards it. Either that or stick your fingers in your ears and Go 'Hmmmmmmmmmmm'!

Anyhow, if the Christians did do a sharp pen job on the New Testament they sure did a crap job. It makes all the apostles look like morons for half the time.

I do Alpha courses and the such, about 3 a year. It’s good when people come with good challenges to Christianity and you get good debate.

You however look like your wife has pissed you off, you started popping the happy pills then started typing out of your arsehole!

No-one minds you having a pop at Alpha and the like, bring it on. But maybe you want to read your own blog for half an hour or so, then you’ll see who looks the most craptacular and I think you’ll find it’s you.

At February 19, 2007 4:54 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Dear Anonymous.

I've dealt with your criticisms in a new post here.

Thanks for dropping by. It was fun.

At April 16, 2007 7:02 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your interested in some apologetic material on the subject I suggest the following. select the link and goto podcast for 4,5,6th april.



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