Contributed by John Bedson.
This note is a reply to Ken Gilmore's posts "Wilfred Alleyne's Flawed Attack on Evolution" at: http://berea-portal.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1155
It is written in a spirit of brotherly love and is in no sense combative.
A recent discussion in the comments section of this Ex-Christadelphian blog between myself and "Asyncritus" (Christadelphian Wilfred Alleyne) concerned the Creation/Evolution theories. As an Atheist/Agnostic Ex-Christadelphian I was putting forward my view that the natural physical laws of the Universe were adequate to explain the origin of the Universe, the origin of life and the development of life into the various species that we now observe. I was giving a simplistic "overview" of the subject because the blog article that we were discussing concerned something else entirely and I was not in a mood to get bogged down in a scientific debate about Evolution.
Wilfred was advocating an opposing view, which appears to be the majority belief of Christadelphians, that God created all of these things. His main line of evidence for this belief was what is known as the "argument from personal incredulity". In other words, because he found it hard to believe that complex and wonderful living organisms could have originated over huge amounts of time by a process of evolution by natural selection; he preferred to believe that these things were created in a finished state by a divine creator.
Despite the fact that the thinking of Asyncritus and I was about as far apart as it was possible to get, I was surprised to find that we concluded our long debate of over one hundred posts by reaching an agreement. We finally agreed that the wonders of the Natural World did indicate the creating hand of some form of god, but not necessarily the God of the Bible. We agreed that this "god" might be anything from a word that describes the physical laws of the Universe, (my preference) all the way up through the spectrum of faith to the God that the Christadelphians worship; which would be Asyncritus's position.
My pure Atheist readers will doubtless scream "heretic" at me for agreeing to use the word "god" to describe the physical laws of the Universe; especially as I didn't even mean it in a theistic sense. I was using it as a label to describe inanimate and unconscious things. But I figured that it was a card that I could afford to give away in exchange for Asyncritus making the substantial compromise that his "argument from personal incredulity" could point to something other than the God of the Bible.
Moreover I have to confess that I am only an Atheist in the sense that Richard Dawkins is a "Six point nine Atheist on a scale of one to seven, with one being a fundamentalist believer in God and seven being an Atheist." (sic)
You could argue that I am therefore an Agnostic. But I prefer to label myself "Atheist" because that description, despite its many shortcomings, most closely describes my position. I don't know of a word that accurately describes what I believe. "Atheist-Agnostic" would not be right; but the made up word "Agnostotheist" satisfies me. In Greek "Agnostos" means "I don't know" and "Theist" means "God." So I would translate "Agnostotheist" as meaning something like "I really don't think that there is a God" as opposed to "Atheist" which means "I am absolutely convinced that there is no God."
So the agreement between Asyncritus and myself was that we will both leave our philosophical doors one inch ajar. I like that compromise.
But to get back to Ken Gilmore:
In the middle of the "pillow-fight" between Asyncritus and me, Asyncritus hurled a few stones at the lads over at "Berea Portal" http://berea-portal.com/forums/ and they picked up some mud and threw it back at the both of us; which considerably added to the fun. Ken (Super-Geek) Gilmore from Berea then exploded into creativity and authored a long, three part rebuttal entitled "Wilfred Alleyne's Flawed Attack on Evolution." http://berea-portal.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1155
My new found mate Asyncritus will hate me for saying this, but I thought that Ken's work was quite brilliant. I only wish that I had Ken's brain to be able to write stuff like that. Ken did what I could not do and neatly answered many of Asyncritus's concerns about Evolution for me.
It's not often that anyone comes to the aid of John Bedson, ESPECIALLY a Christadelphian. Most Christadelphians are too busy arguing about who gets to push me into the Lake of Fire following the return of Christ. (They have decided that my ex-wife will get that privilege.) So he's left me rather speechless for the past few days. Nevertheless, I have regained my composure and I want to thank Ken by giving him a few thoughts of my own. Our readers might find this interesting.
Ken (and the rest of you brilliant guys over at Berea):
Twenty five years ago, I, was an enthusiastic, middle aged Christadelphian with a CLAS diary stuffed full of speaking appointments across the UK and beyond. After twenty years in The Truth I was at the top of my game. We used to regularly meet up with the Cambridge University set led by brother (professor) Arthur Gibson in the Post Graduate Centre and at Arthur's home. We thought ourselves to be on the cutting edge of Christadelphian thinking and practice. I held Christadelphian seminars on science, archaeology and other subjects in my home and weekly Greek and Hebrew lessons in my lounge. Sunday lunch at my home was always a "Pot Luck" with at least thirty and sometimes fifty Christadelphians attending from various Ecclesias. On Christmas day there were more Christadelphians in my home than belonged in an average sized ecclesia. I gave public lectures without hymns, prayers or Bible readings. I produced a film and over a dozen booklets for Christadelphian outreach work. I produced and publish several million full colour leaflets advertising Christadelphian public lectures. My thinking was so progressive that after one talk on the age of the Earth at my (Solihull) ecclesia the Arranging Brethren met to discuss the suggestion that they withdraw from me. (They didn't and I transferred to the Shirley ecclesia the following week.)
I could tell you a lot more ........... but I won't.
Like you I had a keen interest in science and getting to know the truth of things. I strongly believed in the Scientific Method and I increasingly came to apply that method to my beliefs and to the Bible. The result was that like a receding galaxy, God was pushed further and further into the distant parts of my mental Universe and like a galaxy, the acceleration in the velocity of his estrangement steadily increased.
At first this expansion of my Universe did not trouble me. I had spent half my life apologizing for the Bible as an apologist and the other half scratching around to find tangible "evidence" for my belief in the family (Christadelphian) religion. But increasingly I was becoming suspicious of the prophetic "evidence" because it was too contradictory and only worked if I "cherry picked" the verses that worked and ignored the rest.
The archaeological "evidence" was also mixed and increasingly tended to disprove large sections of scripture as historically accurate.
It concerned me that the moral teaching of the Bible appeared to have no beneficial effect on my brethren and sisters, who actually seemed to me to be ethically below the standard of my business colleagues. I found large parts of the Bible and it's teachings to offend my conscience and natural human standard of good morality.
I became increasingly convinced that Satan in the Old Testament and the Devil in the New Testament did not always mean "sin in the flesh" but instead mostly reflected an existing belief in a literal Devil; just as "Demons" meant literal demons. In other words, the Bible was condoning a belief that I firmly rejected.
My growing, but basic, stumbling understanding of the Hebrew language alarmed me that the "different stories stitched together in Genesis" thesis of the Higher Critics was probably correct. If they WERE right, the entire basis of my faith was blown out of the water. There was no Adam; no sin; no salvation. There was NOTHING left, except my extensive collection of fossils; and they pointed in a completely different direction.
Then one day I woke up and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and realized that God had passed beyond the "Event Horizon" of my Universe and that his light could no longer reach me.
So what has all this biography of an insignificant Christadelphian back in the early Nineteen Eighties got to do with Ken Gilmore's rebuttal of our beloved brother Wilfred Alleyne and why do I say that it was "flawed"?
I say this to Ken, to the guys at Berea and to all right thinking, intellectually minded, free spirited Christadelphians (of which there are very few):
Ken's rebuttal of Asyncritus was flawed in that it did not go far enough. It pulled it's punches. Ken went so far along the path to truth with his proof for Evolution, and then his nerve failed him; because the personal consequences of moving much further would have been psychologically catastrophic to himself. He should have kept going to the logical conclusion of his argument. The conclusion is that there is no evidence in science for God. That's what those millions of fossils are screaming to us.
Ken's work and the wonderful work of others at Berea and the work of other brave minds in rare corners of Christadelphia are breaking down the walls of Christadelphian ignorance and superstition and laying the foundation for a better philosophical understanding of life, morality and the nature of our Universe. You are doing what I did quarter of a century ago and pushing the "God of the gaps" out of his hiding holes and further out into the Cosmos and backwards in time towards the Big Bang.
You do this because you have brilliant minds and the addictive, mentally enslaving power of your family religion is weaker than your own powerful intellects. Deep inside yourselves you KNOW what is right in this World and you are working to reveal truth. You know that Genesis is not right; even if we allow for the nature of its genre which is not historical. You know that large sections of the Bible are hanging by a thread and you are killing yourselves trying to keep it stitched together by straining your intellects to the uttermost.
That is exactly what I did back in the early Nineteen Eighties. That is EXACTLY what I did and that's how I behaved back then because you guys think like me. We are the same; except that I was so strong minded that when I came to the point where God was about to slip over the Event Horizon, I held my nerve and watched him fall. I stopped trying to save him. I realized that my "savior" could not save me and that instead, all my life I had been trying to save him from oblivion.
Ultimately my brethren, the only way that you can keep your show on the road is by apologizing for God and the Bible by using such mental gymnastics that even you will start to realize that you are performing on extremely thin ice. Some of you, and I don't know who, or how many, are going to follow me to freedom. The more we can get out, the more will follow and the more we can save.
I'm not going to present the "evidence" why the Bible is the work of mere mortals. You people are smart and you know it as well as me. You can read it on this website. It already troubles you deep down in the recesses of your minds when you doubt your own faith. I can see brief, momentary glimpses of it in your own writings, as for a fleeting moment a hiccup of doubt passes through your thinking before you chase it out with yet another band-aid of apologetic jiggery pokery.
Ultimately there is not much to be gained by stacking up the "evidence" for and against what I am saying to you. It's a question of your personal genetic disposition, your own knowledge base, your own environmental influences from birth to now and how that fusion of input comes together in your individual minds to create that illusion of free-will that we fool ourselves into thinking makes our decisions and guides our actions.
As I said in my recent blog article "How to UN-convert Christadelphians", all we Ex-Christadelphians can do is map out the path that you need to tread to reach freedom, warn you of the awful trauma that you are likely going to suffer as you make the transition and do all that we can to support you through making the most difficult decision of your lives.
You will be coming out of a cult.
Yes, I KNOW that you don't think that it's a cult any more than I realized that I was in a cult when I was trapped thirty years ago. But it is a mild form of a cult and like all cult escapees you are going to go through hell if you try to leave.
Not hell from the remaining members, although you will get a certain amount of that. But the hell of having your entire thinking turned inside out and upside down. It will take you years to get over it and it will be incredibly painful. You will have to come to terms with the fact that your entire lives up until that point have been mostly wasted following a bizarre addiction and a weird enchantment. I know because I have been through it all and it was not nice.
It does not trouble the air-heads who leave. Many of those who leave are not intellectual and some are downright cranks. You don't have to see yourselves like them. But for those of us who are cerebral; those of us who fought a fierce, rearguard withdrawal from the defensive positions of our faith until we finally turned and ran; for us it is so bitterly disappointing that we fought for nothing; for a leader that did not even exist in reality.
When I left I was entirely on my own. There were no Facebook forums to comfort me and no Ex-Christadelphian blog to outline the rational, philosophical basis for what I was doing. But it's not like that for you people. You have Corky and me and a hundred+ other brave souls who have made it out beyond the wire to help you. In a spirit of compassion and brotherly love we will welcome you into the Ex-Christadelphian fellowship (there's no such thing - it's a joke) and invite you to join our work in rescuing Christadelphians and getting them mentally back on their feet.
And the purpose of all this trauma that I am proposing that you endure?
The purpose is to get you to a place where your minds are free. (And trust me on this, they aren't free now; no more than mine was in 1984.) To a place where those brilliant minds can soar to new heights of philosophical understanding. To a place where you do good because your own intellect and conscience tells you that it is the right thing to do. Not because of a carrot of eternal life, or a stick of Christ's rejection drives you like a mouse in a maze to behave appropriately. To a place where you no longer have to invent contorted reasons why the Bible does not mean what it is plainly saying, when it makes yet another of its myriad mistakes. To a place where you take control of your own minds for the very first time in your lives and follow evidence and truth to wherever they may lead.
And you can take it from me. From one who has been through it all and emerged triumphant. It is a brilliant place to be. I would not swap this for ANYTHING.
I say again: Don't look at the air-heads and cranks who leave. That is not your destiny. They easily join the religion and easily leave. They will probably join another church to waste even more of their lives.
The smarter you are, the harder it is to leave; because your brain knows the cataclysm that awaits and does all that it can to protect you from that mental pain.
So here is my promise to you. This is what I'm offering if you trust me and make the jump:
- You just get one thing and it makes it all worthwhile: You get your mind back. It is the finest thing in the World. Because although you don't realize it, you DO NOT have it right now. It is firmly held by a high-control group. I urge you to take it back.