A (slightly) new direction for the ex-Christadelphians Website - Part 2

In part 1, I discussed my early impressions of this website from when I was a Christadelphian, as well as my own failure to do any better on my own blog. The point of raising the issue of tone is to become aware of it in order to do better. No doubt we will make mistakes in future, but it's good to remind ourselves of why we're here and what we hope to achieve.

So what do I hope to achieve with this website?

Goals for the website


I've updated the About Us page with some basic goals for the website, but I want to elaborate a little here as well.

1. To support ex-Christadelphians, especially those who have recently left

Probably first and foremost, the purpose of this website is simply to wave the banner so that anyone who has left the Christadelphians or is facing the prospect of leaving, knows they are not alone and that others have walked this path before them.

Adjusting to life outside the religion can be pretty tough, and if you've grown up within the religion, as I did, it can be extremely disorienting to find yourself in an unfamiliar world, and it can sometimes feel like having to re-learn life skills for getting by in the world completely from scratch. For many of us, the Christadelphian lifestyle was all we knew. Our support network consisted almost entirely of Christadelphians, and our social life was also predominantly within the bounds of the Christadelphian community. Yet we suddenly found ourselves either outside this network of people, or treated as second-class citizens within it, and all for simply being honest with ourselves and curious about truth, or perhaps some other reason.

We typically don't choose our beliefs about the world, but rather we choose where to look and we reason about what we find. Our beliefs are merely the product of that process, but not something we choose directly. Basically, our beliefs change either in response to new information, or in response to better reasoning ability or critical thinking. So it seems quite strange to tie one's social structure and even one's identity to a set of beliefs, especially when that is likely to change as we get older.

2. To publish information about the Bible from modern scholarship that we think Christadelphians should be made aware of

As mentioned above, our beliefs often change involuntarily in response to new information. Thus, one of the best ways to influence belief is to make people aware of this new information. Obviously the information needs to be investigated, and this aspect is still up to the individual, but once the seed is planted it can grow (to borrow an analogy from the Bible itself).

There is a huge amount of information now known about the Bible that is widely available via the internet and via books and other media, but in my experience most Christadelphians are both unaware of what scholars believe about the Bible, and also unaware that such material is even available. I hope to change that, even for just a few people.

3. To encourage critical thinking, especially regarding religious belief

The second part of changing beliefs mentioned above was about improving our reasoning and critical thinking abilities. This includes recognising and avoiding logical fallacies, and formulating logical arguments. By doing this, we become better at discarding beliefs arrived at through flawed reasoning, and we also become better at spotting such flawed reasoning when offered by others. By applying more rigorous standards in our search for truth, we are more likely to steer closer to it.

However, truth by its very nature is not something that can be found absolutely. Given our finite senses and access to information about the world, the very best we can hope to do is to try to falsify our existing understanding of the world in order to lead us closer to the correct view. But there is no way to prove our current view correct because it could always be the case that we are wrong but have simply not yet discovered the evidence that would tell us so. Every discovery of new evidence causes us to update our beliefs, and leads us ever closer to the truth, but we can never be completely certain if/when we have arrived. This is the same for everyone.

Appealing to sacred texts does not get around this problem. Rather, we rely on the very same reasoning ability and evidence in order to verify the truth of a text, and there are often multiple ways to interpret it. We can never be completely certain that any particular interpretation is correct, and further we would need external verification in the form of evidence in order to know that the text is accurate to begin with. Not only that, but many claims in religious texts are not testable, meaning that there is no way to verify them, and thus no mechanism for determining whether or not they contain any truth at all.

4. To encourage doubt

Wait, what? Why would we encourage doubt? Isn't doubt a bad thing?!

This is sadly a misconception held by many believers. Doubt may well be the enemy of faith, but it is not the enemy of truth. In fact, doubt is probably one of the best tools we have in the quest for truth. Doubt is the beginning of curiosity, and it allows us to recognise and thus correct any errors in our beliefs. If we never doubted anything, we'd never recognise our own mistakes, and thus we would rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn the truth.

It is far easier to achieve the feeling of having the truth than it is to actually grasp the truth. We've all at times felt certain of something only to later discover we were wrong. If we instead refused to question or revise our beliefs because of that false certainty, then our false belief would have persisted, with potentially dangerous consequences. We should proportion our belief to the evidence, and no further, and any time we feel absolutely certain about something, consider that a red flag and an opportunity to question the belief and test whether the certainty is warranted. There are very few things in life about which we can be absolutely certain.

"In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life, to doubt, as far as possible, of all things."
Rene Descartes, Principles of Philosophy

Many religions promote faith in the context of being certain of a belief, often in the absence of evidence or where the available evidence is inconclusive. Yet faith is obviously not a reliable method for finding truth, as can be demonstrated by a simple experiment where the truth can be later discovered (and thus any faith-based intuition can be tested). For example, have someone place an item in a sealed box without your knowledge, and attempt to use faith (rather than evidence) to deduce the contents. Now repeat the experiment but use evidence rather than faith. Compare the results.

The fact is that most of us don't use faith in almost any other area of our lives. We don't use faith to determine if it's safe to cross the street. Nor do we use it when determining how things work. We might hope for a particular outcome, but hope is not a substitute for belief, and is irrelevant for determining what is true. We might have a reasonable expectation of an outcome based on prior evidence, but such an expectation should be in proportion to the evidence, as mentioned earlier. This is rarely the case for faith, which is often mentioned in terms of bolstering a conviction in the face of incomplete evidence. How does such faith differ from self-delusion?

Therefore, it is important to maintain humility in the search for truth, and be ready to doubt in order to discover whether we have been mistaken.

Doubt is the beginning of curiosity, and an invaluable tool in the search for truth.

Where to from here?


In the short term I plan to occasionally publish new content, whether articles or videos, along the lines of the goals listed above. This website is essentially just a side-project for me, so feel free to contribute your own content if you would like to see more updates. Even just suggestions or links can be useful. If there's anything you'd like to see here, just let me know.

And as always, I will be pointing new ex-Christadelphians to the Facebook group, which has been an invaluable resource for myself and many others.

Thanks for your support. Let's help create a better future for (ex-)Christadelphians.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with all that Steve has said. The combative tone set by Almon McCann and later by myself as editors was to a large extent counterproductive to the purpose of this website. But it was not in my nature to be patient and understanding with Chrstadelphians. To be honest I can't stand them. My purpose in handing this website over to Steve was to hope that he would steer it in a direction that would be more conducive to opening people's minds to alternative conclusions and I have every confidence that this is exactly what he will accomplish.

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  2. I for one prefer the collaborative approach to the adversarial, even though it is more cognitively intensive. Most, if not all, people who no longer describe themselves as Christadelphian still have relationships with people, often family members, who do describe themselves as Christadelphian. Navigating these relationships can be problematic, especially if there is an antagonistic, dare I say tribal, approach. Everyone's brain has a lymbic system which includes the amygdala and this is where our emotional, and tribal responses arise. When this happens we stop listening to ‘the other' and start fighting for our own team/tribe/group and reason goes out the window. I think it better that we try and keep the amygdala quite when talking about worldviews, then we can engage our prefrontal cortex, the seat of conscious reasoning, to more rationally work through the problem longhand without jumping to our preferred conclusions and therefore finding a more robust answer which may or may not be what we originally thought. I know from personal experience that this can be hard, especially when ‘the other' comes from a completely different premise and seems unable to ‘get’ what seems obvious to you, but the more practice we have a keeping a cool head the easier it gets. We are, after all, all human and each of us swims in our own pool of knowledge, doing the best we can with limited information. None of us can take someone where they don’t want to go, but we can provide new information that may then lead others to update the low fidelity model of reality they carry around with them in their head and hopefully build some understanding of each other in the process.

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  3. Welcome aboard, Steve. I can see you're doing good work already, and this plan sounds good to me. I like your commenting policy too :).

    I suspect you are right that most believers will not read this site. I read and commented extensively here while a believer (often defending Christadelphia), but suspect I am an outlier in that. I'm sure some lurkers will read without commenting, and that may have an effect, but past experience shows the majority of commenters will be ex-Christadelphians.

    I know that while a believer I was easily able to dismiss this site if I perceived that the author was overly negative, or if an article had a single mistake. I wasn't so easily able to dismiss the new information that it exposed me to (as did your site and a few other places). And the really big changes only happened once I was willing to stop assuming God existed and privileging the Bible over other sources of information. Once I was willing to listen to my doubts rather than just trying to fix or ignore them. So your four points all make sense to me.

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