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.