The Alpha Course says God Doesn’t Exist

I’ve seen this billboard popping up in various places across the UK…

…which I absolutely adore. For those of you who don’t know what the Alpha Course is, it’s explained in Wikipedia (the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit) as:

a basic course on the Christian faith, commonly advertised as “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life”. Originating with the Church of England, the course is currently offered in 152 countries by many different denominations including AnglicanRoman CatholicLutheranBaptistMethodistPentecostal and Orthodox churches.

The aim of the Alpha Course is to put across the ideals of Christianity in a charismatic and friendly manner, not unlike some of the recruitment tactics employed by the Church of Scientology, in an attempt to rope in weak-minded individuals into believing in their particular Big Beard In The Sky. That they’re now using promotional posters presupposing the non-existence of their God delights me to no end.

Incidentally, my blog is less than a week old and already someone has left me a long, rambling, Ctrl+C Ctrl+V comment on the opening post which attempts to promote the ideals of Islam to me by drawing my attention to various passages in the Quran and essentially saying, “See? There is a God. It says so right here.” I can point to any number of books suggesting the existence of any number of talking animals, but that doesn’t mean they exist.


The Thing About Atheism…

Religion, as a concept, strikes me as reasonably but fundimentally flawed.

The problem basically boils down to this: Thousands of years ago, we didn’t know anything about anything. What causes fire? Where does the rain come from? Why does the sun move across the sky in the same manner day in, day out? Ancient Man pondered upon these questions, and came up with a simple answer: A Wizard Did It. Not just any Wizard, of course. This is far outside of Rincewind’s realm of expertise, and Harry Potter, while certainly unique in his field, isn’t really capable of this kind of trickery. No, they decide it’s the Ultimate Wizard, with the Biggest of Beards. They decide that it’s some kind of Divine Wizard. An ethereal, omnipotent, omnipresent entity capable of moving stars, forming mountains, and buying a Truck Stop burger that doesn’t taste like the inside of a tennis shoe. I’m talking, of course, about a God.

Humanity is also scared of death. We all like life. We like living, and the thought of blinking out of existence at the end of it… well, it scares us. That’s more or less part of what makes us human. It stands to reason, then, that our fear-addled minds would concoct this idea of an Afterlife where we can jump and play and frollick, whatever frollicking actually is, with the loved ones who have passed before us. Hell, we might even get a chance to meet that God fellow we invented not too long ago either.

Then other people came in and decided to attach their own agendas to stuff (“Oh, I’m sure this God chap doesn’t want us sleeping with other guys. So there, Steve.“). And thus the basic pillar of modern-day religion is constructed.

The problem is that we have, since these days, more or less worked out that pretty much every one of these beliefs is a load of bollocks. Some ancient religions believed that the sun was pulled across the sky by a God in a carriage, or rolled along by a beetle of some description. We now know better – indeed, we’ve known better for years. So in order for religion to survive in modern times, it has to be willing to adapt. Most of the Big Boys, however – specifically I refer to Christianity and Islam here – refuse to do so.

…Alright then.

I used to believe that religion was more or less alright, so long as your religious beliefs didn’t cause you to hurt anyone and you didn’t try to impose, press or force your beliefs on others. Recently however, after having the opportunity to go to America and see just how absolutely batshit insane people are driven by their religious beliefs alone, I find myself wondering. There are people who let their beliefs control every fascet of their lives, who genuinely believe they’ve been contacted by God, who think they’ve seen the Virgin Mary or the face of Jesus in potato chips and burnt into toast. I submit to you that if these people instead told us that they’d received communications from “Lord Gertrude, Embassador for the Potato People”, or that they’d seen the face of “the Great Space Weasel” burnt into their morning breakfast, that they’d be booked into the Penthouse Suite at Arkham Asylum.

But, no. It’s God. So we allow it.

This leaves me feeling torn. There’s a perception among the Religious Extremists out there (I refer not to Terrorist organisations but groups such as Westboro Baptist Church, and any and all TV Evangelists) that Atheists are little more than Militant dissedents out to destroy the “wholesome” cornerstones of their belief system. I struggled with myself for a while… am I one of those Atheists? I concluded that it was certainly possible, but just because I may be that sort of Atheist doesn’t mean that we all are. Indeed, there’s a huge number of Atheists out there in the world who probably have no real thoughts on religion other than, “It’s not really for me.” And out of most of my friends in the UK who consider themselves “Christian”, most only do so because their parents are Christian – they hold no strong feelings one way or the other.

This is just something to chew on while I decide whether or not to continue with this blog as an ongoing project, or just use it for this single, solitary post. In the meantime I would urge you ot check out some of the links in my blogroll.