Leaving my childhood religion

By (name withheld by editor)

I am a teenage "Christadelphian", at least to those around me. I have been struggling with faith ever since I was a child, and yet it is only recently that I have found the courage to try and break free from the constrictive hold of my childhood religion.


I have been ignoring the signs for years, desperately trying to find some peace as a Christadelphian, but I've finally accepted that I can't. Now the only thing I'm struggling with is fear, fear of the unknown, fear that I'm wrong and succumbing to my "fleshly way of thinking". I'm also afraid of losing my family, and friends, of being shunned by the society I have grown to depend on. I'm emailing you because I don't have many people to go to, and I know you've been through what I am currently going through. Any advice from you would be wonderful. Thanks.

12 comments:

  1. You don't say whether or not you have been baptised. If not, then you have play the game until you can look after yourself. Turn up for the minimum number of meetings and Sunday schools you can get away with,and avoid "youth" events. Use any delaying tactics to avoid baptism. If you get coerced into baptism, give the wrong answers, etc, and make sure that they understand that you are unsure, still working on it, need more study, etc, etc....turn it round on them. Don't take on roles in the meeting. Listen politely and then walk away from it. Discuss the beliefs with "outsiders" as often as possible. Even discuss beliefs with those of other faiths. Do this to place your own religious upbringing into the wider context. Remember that you can seek counselling from your school if you are in the UK. UK counselors are well used to dealing with religious coersion of various types, this shocked me when I found it out some years ago.
    If you are baptised, things will be more difficult, you may have to go along with it until you can support yourself. The JW's have loads of members that are termed "faders"-they take no active role, but stay "in" to avoid the worst excesses of shunning.

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  2. You may lose your family, almost certainly your friends inside the religion. Personally I left in my early 20s. I had not actually got baptised so did not get too much pressure, however family were terribly upset when I got baptised in mainstream Christainity (it being astray and all that). Thirty years later and I still have my family. Unshackeling myself from the upbringing was hard, for a long time I felt a twinge of guilt when voting for example, democracy being evil and all that. In his booklet on why the religion is not a cult Ashton says any member is free to leave at any time! The biggest herecy they teach is is that you have to be right, get over that and be free.

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  3. Agreed with Anonymous: The correct answer is you *may* lose your family, not you *will* lose your family. It is also possible to hold onto some friends, though it is naturally much harder when not having regularly organised meetings where you see them and hear what's going on. Even if you keep relationships, they will almost certainly change in various ways.

    Much of that depends on your particular circumstances, and some of it unfortunately you will only really know after taking the plunge. Some of it will be in your hands, how you choose to relate to others. And some of it won't. As a generalisation, almost everyone was really nice to me, but I'm certainly aware that isn't true in all cases.

    What I would say is that I let fear control me for far too long, and it wasn't healthy: living in limbo-land is difficult and exhausting in its own right. And like you, I found that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't find a way back. You sound like you are at the point where it has become too painful to stay. That doesn't make it easy to go, and I might not be the best source of wisdom around, but my experience was that the process was not as hard as I expected and I am very glad that I (finally) took the plunge.

    If John sees fit he is welcome to pass on contact details for this pseudonym to you.

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    1. Yep. Artfully disguised as a younger person.

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    2. What a Load of Garbage, I don't think you or anyone else for that matter could say that his family and friends will turn their back on him. I have seen people leave and this has noto happened to them.In fact the opposite is true....people like to check in and make sure others are ok. I really don't know which Ecclesia you belonged to John Bedson but they sound very Archaic and way way over the top. I for one have never had any of things you speak of when you were in the Truth. Either I am lucky or you speak from a place of Bitterness.

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    3. Anonymous January 29th,
      It is not a "load of garbage", it was a timely warning that shunning can happen. I can tell you as fact that Cd`s have been known to completely ignore ex-Cd`s on meeting in the street, even though they were close friends when both in fellowship, sharing happy times both in and out of the ecclesia. That says a lot about the depth of indoctrination that is buried in some Cd`s brains. You, I think, should sit down and very carefully excavate the mire of what you are into.

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  4. Hi there,

    When I left the Christadelphians, my family still stuck by me and continue to do so. I hope you are similarly fortunate.

    However, I did lose contact with many friends, some of them close. The fault is just as much mine as theirs, but when the primary thing your friendship was built on disappears, it's difficult to keep it going. It's not that they are now enemies - I'd gladly still call them friends and they probably would still (I hope) consider me a friend too. But we catch up maybe once a year now.

    If I see former friends at the shops or wherever, I'd gladly stop and chat. I haven't met any Christadelphian who treated me as an enemy in person, but then I haven't met many Christadelphians in person since I left anyway.

    I think for many Christadelphians, having organised events that people regularly attend is a huge part of maintaining friendships. Without that, you have to make an effort to keep in touch with people, and that's hard when you're older I think. Especially for someone like me who is a bit less sociable/outgoing than most.

    If you're still living with your parents and dependent on them, then my advice would be to keep the peace until you are old enough and have the means to move out. Otherwise your quality of life could get a lot worse. Sometimes you have to take the pragmatic approach. But hopefully your parents/friends will be able to understand and show some compassion, realising that you're suffering.

    I want to also say something about fear. The fear of the unknown will probably always be there to some extent. Fear is essentially an illusion, created by your brain as a survival instinct. But it need not reflect reality. Courage is the ability to continue on in the face of fear, not the absence of it. Courage, to be true to yourself and follow your own path, will absolutely be required of you, but the rewards are plentiful. Also be aware that others may be acting out of fear as well.

    As for the "fleshly way of thinking", I'd just like to say that that's all you have, for better or worse. It's all anyone ever had. Whether you believe the Bible is inspired or not, it's your human brain leading you to that conclusion. You can't escape that. There is no such thing as "God's way of thinking", since no human has ever had access to anything of the sort. It's just more human thinking - i.e. humans imagining what a god would think, and pretending it's real. When anyone pretends to speak on behalf of God, it's helpful to insert "I think that" before everything they say. All you're getting is another human perspective, dressed up as if it were something more than that.

    Probably the two most important questions to ask over and over when in discussions with any believer is, "How do you know that?" and "How did you reach that conclusion?". Also, if you want to avoid cognitive biases as much as possible, stick to tangible evidence. Christadelphians spend a lot of time coming up with plausible scenarios and "how it might have been" stories, but rarely do they care about how we might determine whether those stories are actually true. Without any good evidence, there's no reason to believe them.

    That's my 2c. Feel free to contact me directly - my email is listed on my blog here.

    I'd love to help.

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    1. Another thing (I could go on all day, as others here well know)...

      You seem to be dealing with some anxiety over possible outcomes that might happen if/when you tell people how you feel.

      It's important to recognise this anxiety as another natural response and probably somewhat justified, since there is a very real chance that some friends/family may not be able to accept your decision. If that happens, try to see that as their choice in how they respond to you, rather than something you caused. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, regardless of what they are responding to.

      But the thing with anxiety is that, like fear, it is an illusion. It does have a purpose, and it's your brain trying to think of all possible outcomes in order to prepare for the worst. But it can get out of hand, which is when it's a problem.

      What I want to make clear to you is that you cannot stay in this position (I mean figuratively, not your physical position). You need to move forwards, and just accept and deal with whatever consequences arise.

      Your anxiety arises because you probably want there to be a perfect outcome. You want to keep everything you have now, and yet you also want to be true to yourself, and you want to have all of that without any negative consequences. But the reality is that you can't. This is how it was for me. Maybe it's different for you, I don't know. Your anxiety will trap you. The longer you hesitate, the worse it will get. Your best bet is to move forwards in the way that is most true to who you are and how you want to live now, and accept whatever consequences arise. Obviously you would still need to be responsible - I'm not suggesting you leave home or anything drastic like that.

      I assume your friends and family mean a lot to you (otherwise you wouldn't be so worried about losing them!), and it's important to let them know that in any discussions with them about this. Those who take the time to understand how you truly feel, will continue to love and respect you for taking these difficult steps.

      I know it's harsh to say it, but those who don't accept you for who you are, are probably better left behind anyway.

      Just do you, and let everyone else sort themselves out. Don't be a jerk about it though. The people who really matter will stick by you.

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    2. I can testify that discussing with Steve was very helpful.

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  5. I was in exactly the same position as you when I was a teenager. I had been through the usual Sunday school and youth circle/youth day process, but had decided from a fairly early age that it was all nonsense. I found the meetings unspeakably boring and irrelevant and avoided them wherever possible. I wasn't pressured into getting baptized, apart from the odd pointed comment, but that was probably because I showed no interest in it at all. Fortunately I had a good set of friends outside the meeting, so as I drifted away from my peers as they got baptized it wasn't much of a loss at all. In fact it was a relief to escape their baffling naivety!
    My immediate family were thankfully accepting of the fact that I had no interest, and I still have a good relationship with them all regardless. I occasionally bump into my Sunday school peers and have a bit of fun firmly deflecting any suggestion that I should " read my Bible" or other such ingrained banalities that they are programmed to parrot. They just love being confronted with reason and logic! (Not)
    I now live a good and satisfying life, have a good relationship with family and friends and don't have to waste every Sunday being bored to death listening to half baked lectures and pseudo science talks. There is life outside the walls of the meeting room, you just have to take control and go and grab it.

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  6. Name witheld by editorFebruary 1, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    Thank you for taking the time to read my email. The responses helped to encourage me a lot.

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