When I left the Christadelphian community, I felt completely alone. I felt like the only person who had ever taken this step. I also found myself in the horrible predicament of having to rebuild my worldview almost from scratch. The purpose of this article is to reach out to people in the same situation. It is aimed at those who have recently left the Christadelphians and who are feeling disorientated or isolated as a result. Basically, it’s the kind of supportive advice I wish I could have received when I was going through that phase.
This article is based on my personal experience, so it might resonate with you or it might not. At the very least, I hope it reassures you that you aren’t alone and other people have gone through the process of adjusting to a new life outside the Christadelphians, and have emerged stronger on the other side.
You’re not the first
The first thing to be said is that you are not the first person to leave the Christadelphians. (Sorry if that’s obvious to you!) In fact, people have been leaving the Christadelphians since the early days of the community. Sometimes they left to form splinter groups or join other churches, but increasingly as time went on, they left because they had lost interest in religion altogether. The number of leavers has increased as the general level of education and access to scientific knowledge and alternative ideas has increased. The Internet has amplified this effect, as it’s now much harder to prevent people being exposed to outside ideas. So you’re following in the footsteps of many brave souls who were unimpressed by the Christadelphian dogma and chose instead to think for themselves. Leaving a closed and socially isolated group like the Christadelphians is a courageous step to take, and you should feel proud of yourself for taking it.
Feeling doubly isolated
As a Christadelphian, you are to a large extent secluded from the rest of society. When you leave, you can end up feeling doubly isolated because you don’t belong to the Christadelphian community any longer – the community in which you may have spent your whole life so far – but you don’t feel as though you belong to mainstream society either. This was certainly true for me. As a Christadelphian I felt like a bit of a weirdo among my peers, but at least I had the friendship of the people in the ecclesia. When I left, I was suddenly isolated from both. I had not been prepared for life outside Christadelphia; it was like being thrown into the deep end and having to figure out how to swim on the spot, with no instruction or training.
Since then I’ve slowly been adjusting to an outside world that I was always taught was shallow and immoral. I have started to feel like a full and normal member of society. The way I relate to my Christadelphian family and friends has also had to be adjusted. And as for my relationship with myself, I’ve had to learn to cope with being knocked off my divinely chosen and cosmically important pedestal. It is entirely possible to achieve all of this, but in my experience it takes time.
You might find yourself experiencing doubt and anxiety. Have I done the right thing? What do I believe now? Where do I go from here? Above all, who am I now? Your identity may have been closely tied up with your religion. My advice is to trust your own instincts and your own reasoning. Stand firm and be true to yourself. Don’t allow anyone to pressurise or emotionally blackmail you. You are your own person and you have to make your own decisions. Your instincts and reasoning guided you in the right direction (in my opinion) when they prompted you to leave the
Christadelphians; let them continue to guide you. They are a much better guide to life than a brother waffling from the platform about a world he doesn’t even know anything about.
Give yourself time to adjust
On top of the isolation I mentioned above, I found myself having to cope with other things, like experiencing a fear of death for the first time. I went through a lengthy process of coming to terms with the loss of my faith. When I say lengthy, I mean many months – and although I’ve worked through the worst stuff, it’s still an ongoing process. For some people it might be less, especially if you’re young; for others it might be longer, especially if you were actively committed to the community for many years. Accept that the path may be long and difficult. But however long it takes, allow yourself time to come to terms with this new life. Leaving a high-commitment group like the Christadelphians can be profoundly disorientating. You can’t be expected to deal with it overnight and immediately move on. Talk to other ex-Christadelphians (e.g. on the Facebook group, link in the menu bar above), read some of the articles on this site, explore other people’s thoughts and experiences. I found Steve Pryde’s blog (http://www.exchristovoiceofreason.com/) extremely helpful. You might have a lot of unhelpful ideas or misconceptions to get rid of (I certainly did). You need to uninstall the Christadelphian software (should that be malware?) from your head. Every day of this process is a small triumph.
And if you have any serious issues, such as clinical depression or severe anxiety, I urge you to seek professional help of the secular kind. There are good, caring people out there who are trained to help you.
Now is a great opportunity to learn as much as you can about the world. Educate yourself about the natural world, human thinking, how our minds work, and about religion. I found it very enlightening to learn about the origins and history of Christadelphianism. Far from being a pristine expression of truth, a group of uniquely enlightened individuals, it became just an oddity, a group of ordinary, flawed human beings. I used to hold them in awe; now I can laugh at them or even feel sorry for them.
If you no longer believe in God, read about atheism and find out why other people don’t believe. You might find it reassuring to have your own ideas expressed in other people’s words, and to discover how non-believers can lead moral and meaningful lives. The Bible exhorts people to be always “ready with an answer” – by educating yourself, you can be ready with an answer should anyone demand to know why you resigned from the meeting or how on earth you can have any meaning in your life now. Know that there is a sound intellectual foundation for atheism. Having said that, don’t feel that you need to know everything or have an answer to every question. Allow yourself time to grow and develop your thinking, and don’t be in a rush to label yourself. Check out atheist humour and satire too – laughter is powerful medicine.
Enjoy your freedom
When I left the Christadelphians, the greatest of the positive emotions I felt were relief and a sense of freedom. Relief that I no longer had to perform mental gymnastics to make it all make sense, and freedom from all the toxic ideas I’d been exposed to over the years, which had caused me such emotional pain. Your life is your own now. Make best use of your freedom. If you ever feel low, anxious or disorientated, just remind yourself of one thing: You are free. And you never need to listen to another boring exhortation ever again. HA HA HA!!!
Reaping the rewards
For me, the process of building a new life without the influence of Christadelphian thinking has been hugely rewarding. I am stronger and more mature for having left that strange, misguided group behind and having shed so many of their ignorant and harmful ideas. I am so much happier and my life is richer and brighter than ever before. It was like emerging from a shadow into the light, or from a black and white world into one resplendent with colour. I hope it will be similarly positive for you.
If you feel like it, why not share your story on this site, so others can benefit from it?
Congratulations on making the brave decision to leave the Christadelphians. Your life is yours now – make the most of every single day.