Thursday, 5 August 2010


Posted by Graham

As someone who went through the `Alpha Course` two years ago and found it interesting, to say the least, (particularly the follow-up discussions with Nick, our local Rector) I am constantly intrigued by the promotional material the instigators of the course put out and the question they pose;


Certainly it`s a challenging question, but would it be sacrilege, or even blasphemous, to offer an answer;

`The meaning of life is to be found in doing good, irrespective of any religious belief`

I suppose they want us to say the meaning of life is to be found in Jesus, who indeed spent his life doing good and persuading people to love their enemies, but I think of all those people in far-flung lands who have not been brought up in the Christian tradition, many of whom seem to have found the secret of happiness and live blameless lives. Are they all doomed because they have never heard or taken part in the `Alpha Course` ?


  1. Monty Python of course had quite a take on the `meaning of life`. But outside of that wonderfully irreverent shove to address the topic, I guess that too few of us have tried to come up with a meaningful answer to the `Alpha Course` question.I can`t really disagree with your conclusion on `doing good`. I suspect though, that the same conclusion is reached by the vast majority of christians. I also believe that they would reach this opinion irrelevant of the religious background of the `doer; to conclude otherwise would hardly qualify them to be called a christian, in my view.

    The Alpha Course does divide opinion. There are those who are critical on the grounds that it reduces individual expression and opinion, and that it is too dogmatic and narrow in focus.I imagine some Unitarians may believe this. There are others who are enthused (possibly for the first time) to think about the `important` questions of life, often in a welcoming environment that`s a million miles away from those traditional stuffy church environments that perhaps would otherwise deter such opportunity.

    I for one welcome the notion of possible spiritual awakening being prominently advertised, alongside HSBC, SKY TV and BETFRED.It`s a start.There are inherent dangers, and I agree with your inference that a narrow interpretation can lead to the ridiculous assumption by some that half the world must be `doomed`.You are absolutely right; that`s a ludicrous view. But I trust and believe that the majority of course-attenders end up as balanced about these matters as hopefully the rest of us can claim to be, and look forward to a time when Unitarians can once again add their message to the mix, on a similar national scale.


  2. Roger E (Christian Universalist)11 August 2010 at 01:50

    Enthusiasm for the Alpha Course comes very much from the evangelical wings of the traditional Christian Churches. Consequently, one gets the biblically literalist and trinitarian slant in which Jesus is regarded as uniquely divine.

    At the other end of the spectrum is George Fox’s assertion that there is something of the divine latent in all humans. The success of George’s ministry lay, at least in part, in his ability to connect with the divine in individuals in their everyday lives. Does not each one of us have the potential to be part of that divine continuum, irrespective of our awareness of the ministry and perceived status of Jesus?

    By ‘doing good’, I guess that we mean carrying out such acts as feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, nursing the sick, defending the abused and oppressed, caring for the widows and orphans, etc.

    Well, surely, this is at the heart of the teachings, not only of Jesus, but of other great religious luminaries down the ages, who have not been influenced by the Christian tradition. To aspire to follow these teachings is or can be a source of great human happiness and personal fulfilment.

    As Graham’s rhetorical question implies, no one is doomed by a failure to pass the test of creedal acceptance of any particular theological position.

  3. Instead of worrying about 'doing good', I would rather look to the Buddhist teachings and look to reduce suffering through compassion. It may look on the surface to be the same thing. However, without the foresight to see all possible consequences of our actions, we are unable to say whether an action is truly good or not. An action that looks good in the short term could cause harm in the long term.

    I'm not sure what to think of the course itself, as I've only heard about it in the evangelist context. When described to me it does seem to be an method of indoctrinating young people in the literalist dogma, rather than encouraging thought.