One Man’s Experience Of The Alpha Course

I don’t often write posts waxing lyrical about something I found on the interwebs. There are plenty of freethinking blogs out there who do an excellent job of covering topical issues that are of interest to the non-religious.

However, this case is of particular interest to me.  I have toyed with the idea of going along to a local Alpha Course and asking all sorts of awkward questions. For a while I’ve been badgering yunshui to come along with me, you know, to hold my hand. I thought it would provide an insight into the psychology of believers, both new and old.

Then, a few weeks ago yunshui came up with the perfect excuse. He sent me a link to Stephen Butterfield’s “Alpha Course Reviewed” blog. This is a detailed account of the author’s time as a curious skeptic on the Alpha Course. He was granted permission to make audio recordings of their sessions including the DVD presentations featuring Nicky Gumbel and the group debates which followed. Much of the conversation is transcribed word-for-word, with exception of the other attendees’ names. As a result the 11 blog posts are each rather long, however I found them compulsive reading. The blog shows how thin the arguments presented on the course are, and how nonsensical Christian doctrine is accepted regardless. For example, here’s an extract from the final session which includes a typically protracted discussion of evil and free will.

The long-standing male member is still keen to press the issue. He tells me that God gave us free will because he wanted us to choose whether or not we loved him. He continues:

Long-Standing Male Member: “The argument I could make is that we’d be robots if it were any different. If we HAD to love God then we wouldn’t be free.”
Me: “Are you free in heaven not to love him?”
Long-Standing Male Member: “I’m choosing IN THIS LIFE to love God. I make the choice HERE
Me: “Oh, so there’s no choice in heaven? I gather from that that we aren’t free in heaven, then”

What is especially impressive is the Stephen’s patient questioning, even when he is forced to repeat himself or listen to lengthy heartfelt testimonies. He seems to get along pretty well with the other members of the group – most of whom were already Christians.  He manages to avoid antagonising the other attendees while pressing his points and picking apart their rationalisations.

For those who aren’t Christians it’s well worth reading to understand the Christian mindset. For those who are, Stephen’s questions may help you to understand why so many people find it hard to accept your beliefs as true.

16 thoughts on “One Man’s Experience Of The Alpha Course

  1. Dear Eshu (and Stephen),

    It is an unfortunate state of affairs that not all Christians have really understood their beliefs in full. It is the same with many atheists I am sure.

    Alpha is not (shall we say) the most accurate portrayal of Christianity.

    [And don’t get me started on that robot analogy. It makes me go insane. Free will is not mentioned in the Bible and whilst it does certainly exist, in the West it becomes an obsession for Christians. I wonder why…]

    Where do you live Eshu? I was wondering if I could point you to a Church that might be more adept at answering your questions than one with an Alpha course.

  2. Tim:

    I’m pretty sure most atheists have understood their “beliefs” in full: There is no god.

    That’s it. Atheism isn’t a religious position – we don’t have endless doctrinal disputes about what sort of god isn’t there, about how we can best serve the god which does not exist, about how the nonexistent gods make their will known to humanity, about what a passage in our holy book which wasn’t written by a god is supposed to mean. There is no god. Period.

    That’s all atheists “believe”.

    Christians not understanding their beliefs? I’m right with you there.

  3. Hi Tim,

    It is an unfortunate state of affairs that not all Christians have really understood their beliefs in full.

    Well in one sense we are all the world’s leading experts on our own beliefs. Sorry to be a pedant. I expect you mean, “Not all Christians have really understood my version of Christianity in full”. They might say the same of you. What we can say is that you each understand your own beliefs, but might each mean something slightly different by Christianity.

    Free will is not mentioned in the Bible and whilst it does certainly exist, in the West it becomes an obsession for Christians. I wonder why…

    I think free will is thought of as being essential as a theodicy, a response to the problem of evil. There a humourous take on the issue in video form by Mr Deity. The following article goes into more depth about the problem of evil. I’d be interested to hear your views on the problem of evil, Tim. Perhaps you’ve already written about it and could point me in the right direction.

    Thanks for the offer but I don’t see myself attending a church, except on occasions out of curiosity. I’m always interested in chatting with believers of all stripes, although my time is rather limited, so it’s probably for the best that we’ll not be attending the Alpha Course.

    yunshui is right about atheism. If I disagree with a fellow atheist or find them behaving immorally, I’m not going to tell them they haven’t understood the true meaning of atheism. Atheism is a simple belief that doesn’t come with any particular baggage. I might as well say they haven’t understood the true meaning of the Earth being round. In some cases I could say that they haven’t understood morality or the law of the land.

    That’s not to say that all atheists agree about everything. Nor am I saying that every atheist understands all the supporting arguments for their (non) beliefs. Why should they? Most aren’t interested in philosophy, they just find religious ideas improbable. I presume Christians don’t spend hours considering the many arguments for and against the existence of Quetzalcoatl, so why should anyone else have to do the same for their beliefs? Unless they happen to be curious.

  4. Hmm… I never got sent the comments feed. Good I saw this. Sorry to keep you waiting guys.

    Yunshui,

    Fair enough. I’m interested though, what atheism’s conclusions are for you? Some people, for example, are atheists so they can do what they want. For some atheism inspires scientific research. What impact does it make on your life?

    Eshu,

    I agree everyone has their own views of Christianity, and they are entitled to that. In terms of “they haven’t understood my version of Christianity” I think Christianity is a bit more difficult than atheism in the sense of we have a specific statement of what should be believed. If we say “I trust in Jesus and I believe the Bible is the perfect revelation” then we should get to know it well. Sadly many Christians don’t.

    In terms of my views on suffering, I agree that is why the free will thing becomes an obsession, well observed.

    I don’t think I’ve spoke on suffering on my blog, but I did recently when “grilled” as part of a “Grill a Christian” event. My view of suffering is prety well exemplified in Luke 13:1-5. Basically Jesus’ argument there is suffering is a warning of the future judgement to come.

    Each of us, you and me alike, have rejected God and are deserving of punishment. Now if we were allowed to have a perfect life on this earth we wouldn’t realise how bad our fate would be. So we have suffering which is meant to sting so much we go “I need to get out of this and return to God”.

    In the same way, elsewhere we learn, the kindness of God is to lead us to repentance. When we see the beauty of a sunrise, look at the vastness of the universe, or feel the love of a friend or lover we should go “Man God created this, I should really get to know more about him”.

    So all things are to point us to Christ. This seems really arrogant, but it isn’t. If Christian truth is true then Jesus is the giver of all good, so to make a whole world that points to him is the most loving thing someone can do.

    That’s the long and short of it, no silly things about God “kind of being in charge, but not really because of free will”. I think free will does exist but I don’t think it needs the cult following it has.

    In terms of why look into Christianity (or any religion other than your own) I guess the following could be valid reasons:

    1) Jesus is almost certainly the most influential man ever. He has influenced a massive amount of people both numerically (i.e. there are lots of people who think him important, even other religions) and in terms of diversity (that is, almost every culture has been influenced to an extent by him). Intellectual curiosity is surely piped to see if he’s true or not. (to a lesser extent the same could be said for Buddha and Mohammed but not for Quetzalcoatl. You’d assume if God was behind someone then their ministry would have some success).
    2) If you see that the people live in a way that is different, you might want to consider whether it’s either true, or there’s some nice ideas you could glean from it.
    3) Someone close to you is into it, so you want to study it to get to know them.
    4) If you think it is harmful and want to quash it.

    What makes you want to look into it my friend?

    Sorry for the spelling mistakes. Thanks for bearing with this long comment!

  5. Tim:

    You said, “Some people, for example, are atheists so they can do what they want.” Do you know this for a fact, or are you just throwing out a prepared line? I ask because atheists hear and read this line all the time. Do you personally know any atheists who fit this description?

    You asked yunshui what impact atheism has made on his life. I can’t speak for yunshui, but I can speak for myself. Atheism has freed me from the quest to reconcile countless conflicts between religious dogma and real world conditions. Atheism has also freed me to consider religious claims in light of the availability or absence of evidence for those claims. I value those freedoms very much.

    I have to ask, is it Jesus who has been influential or Paul? Most of Christian theology is based on the words of Paul rather than those of Jesus. One could probably make a stronger argument about Paul’s influence than about Jesus’s. As for Christian influence around the globe, many cultures have been influenced by Christianity through brute force, not through the persuasive nature of arguments or evidence for it. That’s hardly a flattering foundation for a religion of love, joy, peace and hope. I also wonder why, if God is behind this massive influence, only about 1/3 of the current world population is Christian? .333 is a good batting average in baseball. In a game in which the stakes are allegedly eternal salvation vs. eternal damnation, not so much.

    Your appeal to the lives that are different is laughable. Christians don’t live any more morally than adherents of other religions or adherents of no religion. If they actually did, then your point would be worth considering.

    You asked Eshu, “What makes you want to look into it?” referring to Christianity. I can’t speak for Eshu, but speaking for myself, I don’t want to look into Christianity at all. I had nearly five decades of immersion in it. I’m escaping it now, with a hearty “good riddance” to Christianity and all religions, particularly those of the theistic kind.

  6. You’ve got the cart before the horse there, kiddo. Atheism is a position on the claim of deity existence, namely that the claim is unwarranted. What you should be asking is why an atheist considers your claim for deity existence to be unwarranted. Is he/she relying on logic? Perhaps on a gut feeling? Maybe for similar reasons you feel Thor or Vishnu existence unwarranted? Suggesting that atheism inspires scientific research has things backwards. Instead, you could suggest that perhaps the scientific method inspires one to be an atheist.

    Of course the other key is I said “suggest”, as in present a theory, for which I share the Chaplain’s theory that you don’t actually know any atheists, let alone why they are atheists, so although you state your theories as facts, I find it hard to believe they aren’t just your theories.

    Now as for “Each of us, you and me alike, have rejected God and are deserving of punishment”, well, were it true, then you’re god is a dick. If I deserve punishment because I don’t like him, that’s pretty pathetic. This statement alone nullifies any claims that followed of yours that your god was good or kind. Thank goodness your god isn’t real, huh?

  7. Thechaplin

    Sorry if I offended by using those words. What I meant was so they can be the ones to rule their own lives. Now that doesn’t mean they’re complete hedonists, they won’t just go out and murder. But it means there are certain things they want to do. By saying some, I meant to say it wasn’t all. Some can’t believe because of suffering or because they are convinced scientifically. I was just interested to know.

    In terms of Paul vs. Jesus: good point. I guess despite it being 2000 years since he was on the earth, Jesus and people who called Jesus God (Paul) are extremely influential. All I’ll say is it’s worth a look.

    Has it really been through brute force? Admittedly the Catholic Church controlled with an iron fist in most of the middle ages, but I don’t think a lot of the Catholic Church has been honestly Christian, more European paganism with a Jesus gloss. Other than than most of the preaching of the message of Jesus has been peaceful discussion. Any failures (perhaps the way it was preached in Africa? I don’t know the history to be honest) are lamentable but do not mean that Christianity is false.

    If it is a 1/3 (and let’s face it most of those people are just nominal, you’re being very kind to say it’s a third) yes it is a small amount. I’d just say that it shows that humans don’t want to know about God.

    I would hope that Christians do live better lives, but I apologise if those who’ve claimed to be Christian to you haven’t. I hope you will meet someone who is different.

    If you don’t want to look into it that is your decision. I know Esh does at least want to consider these beliefs, and he does so in a good natured way on my blog. So I just wanted to get to know him a little more :)

    I’m sorry if I caused any offence, and I hope I’ve given a clear answer to your questions, even if you do not agree.

    Tim

  8. Hi Tim,

    Hmm… I never got sent the comments feed.

    Sorry, I guess subscribe to comments is not working. I’ve disabled it for now while I check it out.

    Some people, for example, are atheists so they can do what they want.

    Maybe some have said that. But if they thought for a minute that they were wrong and going to suffer for it you can bet they’d stop and rethink. Many do and remain atheists as the comments above show. We might suggest that some people are Christians because they’re scared and want to live forever or because they don’t want to have to think for themselves. When I’ve asked why they believe, I’ve heard several Christians reply “Because I find it comforting”. To me, that isn’t a justification for a belief, it’s admitting to wishful thinking. If I’d asked, “Why do you think climate change isn’t happening?” and someone responded, “Because it’s more comforting to think the world will always be a safe place to live.” I’d say they were dodging the issue.

    I’m in no doubt that wishful thinking plays a part in why many of us are drawn to certain beliefs. I’ve noticed it in myself sometimes. However, I don’t think it is a valid justification for a belief.

    My view of suffering is prety well exemplified in Luke 13:1-5. Basically Jesus’ argument there is suffering is a warning of the future judgement to come.

    Hmm, I think Luke 13:1-5 is more saying Earthly suffering is not a “karma-like” punishment for Earthly sins. I don’t think it’s saying, “This punishment is a warning intended to make you come to God”. If it really meant that it could have been much clearer.

    So we have suffering which is meant to sting so much we go “I need to get out of this and return to God”.

    Actually, I think Earthly suffering as a method of encouraging people towards a god (let alone your particular God) has been a notable failure. If anything I’d say it drives people away from religion. I can’t imagine God thinking, “Hmm, I’ll give this kid spina bifida, just to show them I’m serious about this whole hell thing”. Christian apologist William Lane Craig called the problem of evil “atheism’s killer argument”.

    It’s not as if the bad things which happen in the world have “Jesus” written all over them, anymore than a sunset or flower has. It’s not as if Australian Aboriginal people living in the 4th century saw a beautiful sunset over uluru and thought “I trust in Jesus and I believe the Bible is the perfect revelation”. No, if people become Christians it’s because other human beings, or books written by other human beings have found their way to them. Just like, well, just like every other religion in history.

    Each of us, you and me alike, have rejected God and are deserving of punishment.

    Only if you create some special Christian definition of “rejected” which includes “ignoring things you’ve never heard of”. Even for those of us who do hear about Jesus, the claims made about him seem no more likely to be true than those of other religions. Even if Jesus/God/Holy Spirit showed them/himself unambiguously to every person and gave them the choice I don’t think it would be fair to hold individuals infinitely culpable for a simple choice. That is not justice. Well it could be if you invent some special definition of “justice” for Christianity. But then if you can invent new definitions especially for your religion then you’re moving the goalposts and we might as well give up trying to understand it. As the chaplain and PhillyChief indicated, it’s still monstrously unjust by any reasonable standard.

    In the same way, elsewhere we learn, the kindness of God is to lead us to repentance. When we see the beauty of a sunrise, look at the vastness of the universe, or feel the love of a friend or lover we should go “Man God created this, I should really get to know more about him”.

    Yes you see it that way because you’ve grown up in a Christian culture. What you see is a projection of you and your culture, not of anything obvious and external.

    Intellectual curiosity is surely piped to see if he’s true or not. (to a lesser extent the same could be said for Buddha and Mohammed but not for Quetzalcoatl.

    I did used to be a Christian and I have spent a fair bit of time studying Christianity, although probably not as much as you. Yes the Bible has some good stories and I’m a big fan of the good Samaritan, Soloman’s(?) “one divides and the other chooses”. But there’s also a lot that is immoral, nonsensical, anachronistic and just plain weird. Sure, if it is true, I’d definitely like to know, but I’ve not yet found any convincing arguments for any religion.

    Just out of interest, Tim, have you studied Buddhism and Islam much?

    You’d assume if God was behind someone then their ministry would have some success).

    Well actually I think we’d expect perfect success. Plus, in many ways that would be more fair. If you’re going to punish people for not loving you, at least let them all know you exist. As the chaplain pointed out, much of the spread of Christianity probably has more to do with Paul and the Roman Empire who conquered a lot of countries which then went on to have empires of their own a few centuries later, taking their favourite religion with them. That could have been the hand of God, but it’s far from conclusive. There’s nothing obviously supernatural about it.

    In any case, as a means of getting your divine message out to humanity, it’s not exactly ideal, is it? If the exact same religion had emerged independently in different parts of the world, all with the exact same teachings, then that would look like divine intervention. If explorers had arrived on a previously unknown pacific island with the intention of converting the inhabitants, only to find them already quoting Jesus, then you’d be on to something.

    What makes you want to look into it my friend?

    The main reason is that I’m curious to understand why people believe things which seem so illogical to me. Maybe it’s psychological voyeurism?! Sometimes I wonder if some people even prefer to believe things which make no sense, as if it’s more of an achievement!

    Secondary, I do believe that false beliefs can and do lead to bad decisions. Not always, but often.

    Sorry for the spelling mistakes. Thanks for bearing with this long comment!

    I’d be a hypocrite if I complained about either of those things! You’re always welcome here, Tim.

  9. Tim,

    Thanks for your words of conciliation. I can’t speak for the chaplain, but I wasn’t particularly offended, although I did roll my eyes!

    I should point out that many of my visitors (especially those from heavily religious parts of the world) have had unpleasant experiences with Christians and have some justification for being angry and edgy about it.

    Please can we not get into a debate over whether they’re “real” Christians and whether or not you are therefore responsible for their behaviour? If anyone wants to discuss the first, please post on your own blog. As for the second, I don’t think anyone should be held responsible for the actions of someone else, particularly if they’ve never met them.

    Tim, sorry I took ages and crossed replies with you. I think some of your recent points were discussed in my last (monster) comment.

  10. Tim:

    Thanks for your kind response.

    With regard to your suggestion that the teachings of Jesus and Paul are worth a look, I’ll just say that I studied them for years and do not share your opinion of them.

    I also don’t share your view that the Catholic Church was not honestly Christian, nor do I accept that the responsibility for the ugly parts of Christian Church history lies solely or even primarily with the Catholic Church. The Catholic and Orthodox brands of Christianity were the leading branches for hundreds of years. Whether or not you like it, they were God’s sole means of spreading his message for several centuries (I won’t discuss Coptics, Nestorians, etc., here). The Protestant branch of Christianity (which is the tradition of my heritage) is the abode of the most recent Christian upstarts.

    If you think that the bulk of the spread of Christianity has been through peaceful means, it appears to me that you’re overlooking a lot of history. The Post-Reformation Catholic/Protestant religious wars of the early modern era were brutal. The settling of the so-called New World, in which Christians often played key roles (I’m sure you learned the manta, God, Glory & God in high school), was brutal as often as not. The European Imperialism of the 19th century may have been less bloody than previous conquests, but Christianity, along with western social and economic mores, was nonetheless forced on the inhabitants of interior Africa, the Indian sub-continent and the Far East.

    Your contention that “Any failures…are lamentable but do not mean that Christianity is false” has some difficulties. You see, Christianity preaches that God’s Holy Spirit transforms the lives of God’s followers. Now, I know that no one is perfect and that individuals, and even institutions, frequently fall short of their ideals. Still, the fact is that Christian lives usually don’t look any more or less moral, or divinely guided, than non-Christian lives. Sad to say, they often look worse. It seems to me, then, that the incredibly persistent failure of Christians to be distinguishable from non-Christians should prompt serious examination of the entire notion that God can be present in the lives of his people. That teaching, at the very least, seems to be rendered false by the evidence of Christianity in action. As for other teachings of Christianity, I think you would agree with me that they should be examined on their own merit, irrespective of the behavior of believers.

    The claim that 1/3 of the world’s population claims Christianity can be substantiated at many web sites, such as this one. I won’t get into your claim that many of these Christians are “nominal” and therefore probably shouldn’t be included in that total, as I have no interest in splitting hairs over what distinguishes True Christian Faith from False Christian Faith. I take serious issue with your claim that 2/3 of the world’s people don’t know God because they don’t want to do so. The fact that there are so many religions in the world, and the fact that most of the people in the world adhere to some religion, are evidence that most people do seek to know a deity. I believe this quest is the result of a misfiring of some trait that was evolutionarily useful at one time, in combination with the cultural and social transmission of a belief-meme over millenia. I recognize that you probably won’t share these beliefs or anything like them.

    Finally, I want to speak on behalf of the many genuinely good people I know who are Christians. They are not perfect people, but the vast majority of them are good people who are sincerely trying to live out their faiths to the best of their understanding. I disagree with their beliefs, but I respect them personally. There is nothing in their lives that turned me away from Christianity. Therefore, your apology on their behalf, even though offered sincerely, is completely unwarranted. Consequently, I do not accept it. I hope you’ll understand my reasoning on this matter.

    As you did before me, I’ll note that my comment is not intended to offend hyou, but simply to engage in the dialog here.

  11. Wow guys thanks for responding so quick. I’ll try and read and respond but I want to just say something to PhillyChief first

    Firstly, on the horse before the cart thing…sorry! And on knowing atheists etc. I think I explained that above.

    The main thing I want to say. God isn’t a dick. I’m the dick.

    I make non-Christian feel like they’re worse than me, when that’s not what it’s about at all.
    I look out for myself above everyone else, and totally miss their needs.
    I use words to cut down and not build up.
    I am the dick not God.

    God isn’t like that. God offers a rescue plan. But he has to deal with the problem. If he let us into heaven as is, then heaven would be just the same as Earth. He has to save people’s souls and change them so they can stop being dicks. Yet some will refuse to go and that’s that.

    Once more I apologise for the way it gets across to you guys often. The Bible is made to show God as loving, whether you believe it was written by men or God you’ve got to see that is the point it’s trying to make. It’s not because I’m scared of God the giant bully in the sky I go to him. It’s because I see all the problems I’m causing in the world around me and long for a day when I can actually do something right for once.

    That’s my hope, that’s what I’m talking about. Sin is a part of that, because sin is seeing that I am the one ruining this earth not anyone else. But it’s about God saving us from that.

    I know you don’t believe it, but I do hope that this in some way addresses your point.

  12. As an aside, I’d prefer it if no one got described as dicks. PhillyChief was making a good point in his typical forthright style. As he’s not actually insulting one of the commenters, he doesn’t fall foul of the “no ad hominems” rule. Tim, when you insult yourself… erm, I really didn’t expect this situation to come up! Anyway, I don’t think anyone needs to apologise.

    I guess PhillyChief sees the God you describe as unreasonable and immoral, as Jules Renard said, “I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t.”

    Tim, I know PhillyChief has spent a lot of time reading/writing about Christianity. So if your arguments fail to convince him, consider that it may not be your presentation that is at fault.

  13. Guys,

    You have raised some massive issues and I’m thinking that just blasting off the first ideas that come into my head will not do them justice.

    If I’m write the main two objections are these:

    If God were real…
    1) His followers would display him better.
    2) He would not create an unfair law nor eternal punishment.
    3) He would surely save everyone, which he clearly hasn’t done.

    The first one, because of Eshu’s fair rule, we can’t discuss here. The other two, whilst I have opinions on, I am almost certain I won’t do your questions justice in a momentary response. I really want to wrestle with them.

    So if you don’t mind (in a way that is hopefully as non self-promoting as possible) I’ll take Eshu’s advice and blog my thoughts in the not so distant future. This means I can hopefully take the time to respond to you better and also that Eshu’s blog isn’t cluttered with my massive comments. If you want me to contact you when I’ve posted them I will do. However, I don’t want to use the comments section of Esh’s blog as some sort of promotional tool, so I won’t post here when I have responded.

    As for other issues, Chaplain, I never learned that mantra. Is it a US thing? I’m British you see. However, your evidence is fair, Christianity hardly has a great track record for dealing with people.

    Eshu, I have looked into both Buddhism and Islam (as well as Hinduism, Judaism and Sikhism) during my University years. Islam I know a lot about because I have a lot of Muslim friends. However, I feel Islam is fundamentally flawed, as it puts itself up to be the continuation of Judaism and Christianity, despite continuing not of it’s character.

    Buddhism I know much less on (basically we chose two religions to study for the exams and I chose Judaism and Hinduism). My main objection is that it says the solution is inside of me which just seems contrary to everything I see in myself. Nevertheless, I willingly admit that I don’t know enough to comment fully. I have spent more time on Islam, Judaism, Liberal Christianity and Atheism, for the sole reason that I don’t know many Buddhists – not a particularly valid reason I know.

    In terms of the passage from Luke, I do think it’s function is exactly what you say, but Jesus’ punchline is “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”. The point is that looking at suffering we see a picture of our perishing to come, so we must repent.

    If there are any other things I’ve overlooked, please say. I’m sorry working life means much less time to do these things than I’d like.

    Thanks once more for your hospitality and kindness
    Tim

  14. Hi Tim,

    I totally understand you wanting to take some time over this and I look forward to your blog post answering my and my commenters’ questions. Likewise I don’t have as much time to read and write (never mind play sport) as I’d like. You’re welcome to link to your blog post from here, in fact trackbacks or pingbacks (or something) ought to do automagically that if you link to me. I’d certainly see it as relevant and not shameless self-promotion.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that discussion was off limits. It’s not. Perhaps my wording was heavy-handed. You can fling insults at people who aren’t commenting on this blog as much as you like. When God starts commenting then PhillyChief’s insult would be contrary to the policy! I’m not going to ban anyone for insulting themselves, but I am concerned about your apparent lack of self-respect. If this is partly as a result of your belief that human beings are all worthless (forgive me if I’m misunderstanding), then I’m particularly worried by it.

    Well, it sounds like you’re better read than me!

    I’ll keep an eye out for your post.

  15. With apologies to Eshu for raisng the “dick” issue again (sooner or later my porn-filter is going to block this thread), I’d like to say that Tim’s earlier comment is one of the saddest things I’ve seen in quite some time, as well as being an excellent argument against religion in general and Christianity in particular.

    “The main thing I want to say. God isn’t a dick. I’m the dick.”

    Think about that for a moment. Tim’s religion basically requires him to feel bad about himself, despondent even, just so that he can let his god off the hook. One of the (many!) reasons I left Christianity was because of the fundamental idea that humans are flawed, sinful, grovelling little creatures who simply aren’t worthy of their invisible sky-daddy. To which I say, bullshit! We are an amazing species, and every one of us should feel proud to be part of the human race (even you, Tim. Trust me, you’re not a dick).

  16. yunshui,

    You’re right it is sad. I don’t think it disproves Christianity (although I think several other things do), but it certainly nerfs the “Christians are always happier, better people.” Psychologists tell us that self-respect is a basic requirement for being a happy well-adjusted person who can get along in the world. (We also know some examples from the other end of the Christian morality spectrum to Tim who actually are dicks).

    No “Everyone’s evil” doesn’t add up to me. Some people are nice, some aren’t. I’m not saying everyone is perfect, many are misguided, some with tragic consequences for humanity. However, I seriously doubt that anyone gets out of bed and wonders, “How can I make the world a worse place today?”.