30 September 2008

Alpha Course - see it again, for the first time

Don’t laugh: After years of heckling, belittling denigration by me on the subject, I have reluctantly agreed to accompany my wife to the Alpha Course. Tonight is the first night, an introductory dinner, so nothing will be too painful. Yet.

Before anyone says anything about me being whipped1, I’d like to say that I’m not actually vehemently opposed to going to Alpha. After mocking the course repeatedly (just click on the Alpha Course tag below to see examples) I’d really like to see just what the hell they are teaching beyond what can be gleaned from the textbook and talking with my wife. So I am interested – really - though probably not in the way Alpha organizers hope I’d be interested. Well, there’s that and the free dinner that’s provided. Bribes certainly help.

Actually, the free dinner is the cause of the third reason why I’m going; my wife managed to convince a couple of her friends to go too (both irreligious) due to the food bribes. I feel the need to protect them since, although they are currently skeptical, I don’t understand their thought processes well enough to know how well their Bullshit Detection Kits2 are working, and I want to do something to protect them, just in case.

So with that in mind, I intend to be fully argumentative and bring my reasonably extensive scientific, historical, and biblical knowledge to bear. I’m not exactly sure how confrontational I’ll be since I don’t think I can be an absolute dick and still be an effective debater - or even tolerated at the table, for that matter – but I’ll try to sow some doubt and try to ensure that those who weren’t Christians before won’t become Christians after. I guess the questions are how confrontational can I be and how will it affect my marriage?

Will King Aardvark be sleeping on the couch?3 Stay tuned over the coming weeks and find out…

1 I likely am.

2 Carl Sagan called it the Baloney Detection Kit, but that was in the ‘90s and we’ve progressed linguistically since then.

3 It’s actually a pretty nice couch, so I can swing that if necessary.

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At September 30, 2008 10:15 p.m., Blogger Theo Bromine said...

Best of luck. I attended an Alpha course about 7 years ago, when I was still a (very liberal) Christian. I guess perhaps I thought it might re-kindle my faith, based on how excited so many people were about it. However, I found it to be simultaneously too superficial and too emotional for my taste.

On the other hand, if your skeptic friends have not had any previous encounters with sincere and very friendly religious people, you are wise to be looking out for them. In my case, I went from being a vaguely theistic Jew to an evangelical Christian, based on the friendliness and acceptance a bunch of Christian kids offered to a lonely and unpopular teenager. (Rationalism eventually triumphed, but it took about 30 years.)

At October 01, 2008 8:22 a.m., Blogger C. L. Hanson said...

What is "Alpha Course"? Have you explained this on your blog?

Whatever it is, I hope it leads to some entertaining stories for us out here in cyberspace! :D

At October 01, 2008 9:06 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Hey CL!
I have explained it before (I haven't really talked about it for about a year, so no worries if you don't know. I probably should have linked to wikipedia or something here.)

Anyway, Alpha is an intro to Christianity course distributed on dvd to churches worldwide by an anglican minister named Nicky Gumbel. They bribe you with dinner, then you watch a video about some topic (hoping to convert people or reaffirm them) and then you break into groups to discuss what you've seen. I'll go through the lessons as they happen, I guess.

Theo, thanks for dropping by. You're very right about it being superficial and emotional. Yesterday's sermon (essentially that's what each video is) relied strongly on the minister's perceived "God-shaped hole in your heart" syndrome in (he claims) everybody.

As for my friends, I might not needed to have been so worried. They looked more disinterested than I did. Never even smiled or batted an eyelash during the presentation. Didn't talk about it afterward. They may be ok. I haven't talked to them yet, but they probably won't be continuing with the course. They were just there for the food, I guess.


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