By John Bedson
It’s not easy. You would think that reasoning with them and showing the false nature of their “evidence” for the truth of the Bible and the existence of God would be sufficient. But that does not work, because they did not get to where they are as the result of a process of logical reasoning. Like all religious people they arrived at their faith as the result of a series of emotional “short cuts” to reasoning that fast tracked them to faith without the necessary intervening steps of logic and careful analysis of the data and evidence.
How our Minds Work
That is how the human minds works. We are actually very poor at processing data logically. Logical reasoning is extremely slow and tedious. In the dangerous African savannah where we evolved over several hundred thousand years, we did not have the luxury of carefully weighing all the evidence for our decisions. We had to make quick decisions to fight, flee, procreate, join a tribe, track an animal or whatever else was occupying our minds. Emotional “feelings”, almost instinct, gave us the answers we needed fast. So if our crops failed and the local shaman told us that this was because the gods were unhappy, we accepted his pronouncement uncritically. If other members of our tribe accepted the explanation, that served to reinforce our belief. So thinking fast, with our emotions rather than with our reason allowed us to gain an evolutionary advantage and it has been bred into us ever since.
Once someone arrives at a belief based on emotional reasoning they then defend that belief using reasoning that psychologists call Confirmation Bias. This is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their existing beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs such as religion. For example, in studying religious matters people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing beliefs. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing beliefs.
Psychologists Jennifer Lerner and Philip Tetlock distinguished two different kinds of thinking process. "Exploratory Thought" neutrally considers multiple points of view and tries to anticipate all possible objections to every particular position. While "Confirmatory Thought" seeks to justify a specific point of view. Lerner and Tetlock say that when people expect to need to justify their position to other people, if the external parties are overly aggressive or critical, people will disengage from thought altogether, and simply assert their personal opinions without justification. Lerner and Tetlock say that people only push themselves to think critically and logically when they know in advance they will need to explain themselves to others who are well-informed and genuinely interested in the truth. Because those conditions rarely exist, they argue, most people are using confirmatory thought most of the time and are not thinking critically and rationally.
N.B. For a more detailed explanation of Confirmation Bias: Click here.
How Christadelphians Think
The overwhelming majority of Christadelphians are born into the religion and they are emotionally conditioned into the same belief as their family. Most other Christadelphians who were not born into the religion have joined for reasons which are primarily emotionally motivated. They don’t realize what they have done; in fact in their minds they have the illusion that they have made an informed, decision based on reason and rationality. But it is mostly an illusion.
The same is true for the members of all other faiths and religions.
It is easy to demonstrate that Christadelphians hold their faith on an emotional rather than a rational basis. If you challenge Christadelphians they almost always react in an emotional way using Confirmation Bias reasoning. They especially dislike us Ex-Christadelphians because they see us as traitors to their cause. The call us "foolish", "willfully blind", "ignorant" and all manner of different things. They threaten us with suffering and death following the return of Christ. The last thing on their minds is to give a reasoned defense of their faith. That is because they are thinking with their emotions and not with their reason.
If you challenge an Ex-Christadelphian like me you tend to get a long, drawn out, tedious, reasoned explanation of why the Christadelphian evidence for their beliefs does not make sense. Christadelphians find this to be boring and reply with fast, shallow, circular, apologist arguments like “God ordered genocide in the Old Testament and condemned people to death for trivial offenses because he is God and he made us and he can behave however he wants…” or “Atheism is no better than Christianity because Hitler and Stalin who were Atheists killed lots of people just like the Christians did” or “If you don’t believe in God you might as well live it up and be wicked” or “The fossils were deliberately aged and put there by God to test our faith in his creation account.”
We Ex-Christadelphians have to listen to hundreds of different variations of these superficial responses. Christadelphians easily remember them and trot them out to us without realizing how simplistic and illogical their reasoning. We patiently work through the errors in their rational and explain why their thinking is not straight. But before we get very far, the Christadelphian apologist becomes bored with our answer and jumps to another one dimensional argument. Perhaps it will be “Archaeology proves the Bible to be true” or “A number of scientists disagree with Evolution.” Once again we Ex-Christadelphians work through the available evidence to show that these statements don’t actually mean anything and once again they get bored by our methodology and skip to some other superficial argument.
I say again; Christadelphians behave this way because their faith is not rooted in logic, reason or tangible evidence. The overwhelming majority of Christadelphians are incapable of thinking this way. Their faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” In other words they believe it because they “hope” that it is true and their “evidence” for this hope is “not seen” with the human eye – it has to be “Spiritually discerned.”
We Ex-Christadelphians know that this method of thinking is the perfect foundation for self delusion. A PHD thesis in which the substance of the essay was what the writer “hoped” was true and his “evidence” for his thesis was “not seen” by anyone would be the laughing stock of his university. But Christadelphians have an emotional “feeling” that they are correct and this leads them into an illusion that their faith is somehow grounded in logical reasoning.
So when you challenge these people you don’t get a rational debate about the evidence, because their emotions rapidly go into a panic mode when they realise that they can’t keep up with you rationally. This causes them to blindly grasp at the first thing that enters their heads, however absurd, to defend their position. When they have used up what little ammunition they have in their mental arsenal their emotions take full control of their brains and out come the insults and the threats that we will suffer and be murdered by Christ at his return.
Ex-Christadelphians Hold the Moral High Ground
I have to say here to my Christadelphian readers that this sort of thing is pretty sickening to us Ex-Christadelphians. We look at such Christadelphians with pity that they are so shallow that our murder is the first thing that enters their minds when they begin to lose the argument with us. We Ex-Christadelphians genuinely believe that Christadelphians have lost their moral compass and need to be reformed. Christadelphian behavior towards us confirms our worst fears.
We say this in humility and with much sadness in our hearts, because we were once like them. We once thought like they do now and it makes our blood run cold to remember what it was like to be a Christadelphian. But, for whatever reason, we have matured beyond that frame of mind and grasped the wonderful truth that there is something far better outside and beyond Christadelphianism.
We don’t believe in God, or an afterlife, or a reward for what we are doing. We believe in rational thinking and reason. We believe in promoting human well-being and contributing what we can to this wonderful Universe in which we live. We work with Christadelphians because we love all of humanity and we feel an especial responsibility to help our dearly beloved brethren and sisters. We LOVE those guys! We LOVE them and we sorrow that their heads are full of such stuff. When we debate with Christadelphians it never enters our heads that they should be tortured and killed for not agreeing with us. But that is how Christadelphians sometimes think of us.
My Own Experience
I was born into a Christadelphian family that goes back generations to the time of the founders. One of my sons and his lovely wife are Christadelphians. My grandchildren are being brought up in the faith. I have a very large Christadelphian family and hundreds of Christadelphian friends who reject me and who are expecting with a contented smile my murder at the return of Christ.
Can any Christadelphian reading these words begin to imagine how hard that is for me? You people were my life; my eternal future - my everything. My childhood Christadelphian conditioning ran through my blood like an addiction to crack cocaine that was impossible to break. I was aged thirty five when I finally realized that the game was up and that my family religion was nonsense from start to finish. It was another two decades before my head cleared and I summoned sufficient courage to return to my beloved brethren and sisters to say that this religion has gone far enough; it has to end now.
How to Un-Convert Christadelphians
I return to my subject: How do you un-convert a religion that is based on emotion, hope, fear and fantasy?
The easy way would be to use their superficiality and their emotionally based method of thinking to tempt them away from their dogma. Indeed this is why so many Christadelphians are leaving to become Evangelical Christians, or are “un-converting” their own ecclesias into pseudo-Evangelical places of worship that remain in fellowship whilst adopting eschatology and beliefs from non-Christadelphian churches. They are moving towards a religious experience that is even more emotional and irrational than Christadelphianism.
But I am not in favor of such trickery. I believe that it is better to patiently working over time to present the evidence for our cause. They have to make the decision on their own. We need to explain to Christadelphians the rational basis for our rejecting their faith. We have to do the hard work of sifting through the Bible passages and demonstrating the error. We have to explain that Confirmation Bias has skewed their reasoning and they need to look afresh at the reasons why they believe and they need to do it with the objective thought processes of an outsider, not from their own narrow point of view. We should do this work with love and respect for our brethren and sisters, even while we scorn the religion itself as ridiculous. It is the belief system that is erroneous, not the faithful.
There is nothing wrong with our beloved brethren and sisters other than the fact that they have been fooled into a delusion. But that is not their fault and it is not a weakness on their part. We were once like them and we are equally to blame for once being naive. We are not smarter than them because time and chance threw us the keys to our imprisonment. Many of these current Christadelphians are going to listen to us and make their escape back to reality. When they do, they may prove themselves to be smarter than us and they will take up our cause with an enthusiasm and intelligence that may leave us in their shadow. I look forward to that happening.
The Slow Death of Christadelphianism
We might think that we are getting nowhere when the Christadelphians chant their empty mantra back to us. But don’t be fooled and don’t despair. Our message is slowly getting through. Religion of all sorts is slowly dying. Secularism is inexorably progressing throughout the World. The advance of human understanding is chipping away at the dark recesses of religion and these fundamentalists are in retreat.
Christadelphianism is no different. Their position is looking increasingly precarious and they are only managing to expand their sect by diluting the original faith of their founders to a palatable mix that can be fed to Africans and Eastern Europeans. This new, superficial, emotion based, non-thinking eschatology is no threat to us and I’m not even sure if it is even worth the bother of engaging. If you “un-convert” people like that they will be no further forwards; they will just go and believe in something else equally ridiculous.
The same can be said for all of the “old dears” in the religion. Their doctors are unlikely to tell them when they develop a fatal illness, so we should not trouble them that their hope of resurrection and reunion with their loved ones is not going to happen.
But even with these broad exclusions it still leaves perhaps thirty percent of the Christadelphians who might appreciate being rescued from the cult.
Leaving the Christadelphians and the Reward it Brings
I have found it to be a wonderful experience, but was a long time before I got to the “wonderful” bit and it was hell getting there. Christadelphians who embark on the un-conversion path must be warned that it is for many an extremely difficult and unpleasant experience. But I and hundreds of other Ex-Christadelphians can testify that it is worth all the hardship. You do end up in a much better place.
It is this “much better place” that needs to be explained to Christadelphians in order to motivate them to break their strong addiction to their dysfunctional thinking and to realign their minds with reality. They see Atheism as an empty, hopeless, pointless existence devoid of moral content. Christadelphians especially like the moral content of their faith.
Post religious Atheism is a powerful force for good in the World. Religion has done a great deal of harm, but by our picking and choosing the less offensive parts from the Bible and from the Koran, humanity has gained from religion. Those “good bits” were not placed there by Divinity, any more than the reprehensible parts were divinely inspired.
Good teaching and goodness itself arises within the human spirit, not from a fantasy God. Humans wrote those admirable parts of our holy books and humans “cherry picked” those good sections and rejected the evil. But human understanding and science has progressed to the point that those holy books are now exposed as being merely the work of ancient forgers. Nevertheless there is no need to reject the admirable morality that humanity has evolved over the years. As Atheists it is our responsibility to take up the mantle of moral rectitude from the defunct holy books and ensure that it continues to develop and be respected by humanity.
It is a great and wonderful task. It far outshines the narrow minded dogma of Christadelphians and of other religions. We must seek to improve ourselves morally and to share our enthusiasm for all things good with humanity in general. We must reject the evil that still lies within the hearts of men and seek to improve the lot of mankind.
Our reward will not be eternal life, or a Kingdom, or any such thing. Our reward is that we are privileged to play a part in this glorious endeavor. We did not see it commence and we will not live to see the end of it. But for one brief shining moment we walk out onto the stage of life and we play our part in this almighty drama. Then we must steel our nerve and bravely face our eternal death.
It is magnificent. The Kingdom of God cannot begin to compare with what we have; because what we have is real. And that Kingdom – It just ain’t real. It’s a fantasy.