The theology propounded by the Alpha Course is not mainstream; it was developed by the same kind of people who 'discovered' the Toronto Blessing. It has been criticised by both evangelicals and liberals.
The course's homophobic stance has been widely criticised, and there is an analysis of it by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.
It's also deeply manipulative of vulnerable people, being run in prisons, workplaces, schools, colleges and military establishments:
"It was like to talking to a politician of the opposite persuasion. They were all very nice people, but I came out feeling exactly as I did when I went in," said Jill, who asked that her name be changed.It also uses sales techniques to manipulate people:
Among her problems with Alpha was her feeling that other faiths were not given equal status.
"I felt it was biased against other religions, whereas I believe all roads lead to one God," she said.
There was also an element of "therapy" about the style of the course, she said.
"It plays huge mind games with people. You have to be a strong personality to resist, but I did. They were working on me all the time. They said they would pray for me.
"I think they tend to prey on who is vulnerable. The whole thing for people is about being accepted and feeling like they belong.
"It's friendship I want, not spirituality."
Debbie Herring, a former Alpha course leader in Sheffield, told the BBC that the techniques she was expected to use were similar to those of door-to-door salesmen.The course is also mis-sold as an opportunity to explore the meaning of life (which you would expect to offer a genuine philosophical discussion of the various ideas on offer):
“It became clear very early on that what Alpha was really about was high-pressure selling of a very narrow evangelical agenda, which dismisses and denies whole swathes of Christian teaching and tradition,” she said.
It’s at that point you really see what the Alpha Course truly is: it’s not an invitation to explore the meaning of life, but a slickly marketed Christian conversion course. The objective of Alpha is not to educate people about Christianity, but to convert as many people as possible their particular brand of this religion.The whole thing makes me sick, quite frankly.