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Opinion: Simon Clare, @Horsham_Skeptic

After a year of running Horsham Skeptics in the Pub, putting on speakers every month without fail, I could not pin anyone down for the October talk.

I took this as a sign from Thor that the time had come for me to do my own talk. At The Tanners Arms on October 8, I will give a talk entitled An Atheist’s Guide to the Alpha Course.

As regular readers of this column will probably realise, I am not a big fan of the religions. Although I tend to criticise Christianity most often as this is the religion I grew up immersed in, I disbelieve the supernatural claims of all religions with equal enthusiasm. Some religions have good ideas, but for me they are all undermined as soon as they are tied to supernatural phenomena. Miracles are tricks. Eternal life is over-rated.

Although I live in a country that has a state religion, fortunately that same country values freedom of speech quite highly so I can say whatever I want about religions. That is, as long as I do not incite hatred or violence. As it happens, I am not a big fan of hatred and violence either.

I will talk about what the Alpha course is, where it came from and how it works. I will cover the entire 10-week syllabus so that by the end of the evening you will know what the course is all about. I will even try to induce speaking in tongues in the same way I witnessed it being induced on the residential part of the course.

I do have criticisms of Alpha, but I have as many good things to say about it too. I was surprised by how much I got out of it and was pleased to have my preconceptions destroyed. I came away with more of an understanding of why individuals come to have such strong faith and how the typical atheist clichés about religion often miss the point. That said, the course did not bring me a single atom-width closer to a belief in deities.

The Q&A sessions after the talks are always at their most enjoyable when people on all sides ask questions, so I extend a heartfelt invitation to Christians to come along and hear what I have to say. I spent 10 weeks on your course. Give me 45 minutes.

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