Thoughts from a doubting Christadelphian

Dare to doubt
By "Doubter"

John: I thought you might want to publish this. If not, it was still useful writing down the thoughts that have been running through my head for a long time. Yours, "Doubter"

Why I Doubted

This blog seems aimed at intellectuals.  It presents a balanced diet of intellectual reasons for unbelief, counters to intellectual reasons for belief, and good, old-fashioned ridicule.  That was how I interacted with it.
When Corky was running it, I used to occasionally stop by and correct bias and misreadings of scripture. John Bedson was the same: one hole, one wrong assumption, and I could dismiss the entire argument without touching my faith. I could have argued the apologetics all day without needing to change my mind.

So what changed?  

I couldn't see God's hand at work in my life. I couldn't feel his presence, and prayer never felt like it got anywhere (not even when asking God to help me to pray). Fellow believers talked about giving a decision "prayerful consideration", and I realised I had no idea what that meant.

When people told me to remember everything God had done for me, I had no specific examples to fall back on. Eventually I gave up private prayer, followed by daily Bible readings.  

Apologetics kept me going, particularly appreciation of the design of the world. But slowly, the doubts increased. I began to see flaws in my arguments, and sense in opposing arguments. 

But those intellectual arguments didn't start the doubt. It was realising I couldn't see and feel an invisible God working in my life like everyone around me could. No amount of intellectual brilliance or knowledge of the Bible could compensate for that.

Family and friends still hold me to the group. In my ecclesia, I am involved in hymns, prayers, and Bible reading. I can even speak if I choose my topic carefully. I may show less enthusiasm and more doubt, but no-one seems to have noticed. 

If I can fake it, how many others are like me? It would be sad if the confident sounding brothers and sisters who drove me to doubt actually struggle with the same hidden doubts.

Maybe abandoning private prayer was the worst thing I could have done.  Maybe if I committed myself to a strong course of prayer, reading, and looking for fulfilled prayer all the right emotions would come back. That has worked in the past, but never for long. 

Intellectual arguments can easily be worked round or ignored. Emotional issues are harder to ignore, and struggling with them reduces the motivation to ignore competing intellectual arguments.


  1. Doubter writes "how many others are like me?"
    A friend (ex-CD) went to a CD`s funeral recently, and many of the Cd`s there confided that they were "fringe" Cd`s only. Only time will tell whether they "come out", but it seems likely that many will.

  2. Hi Doubter

    This can be a very disconcerting time to doubt the things that have been taught to you as "truth" for so many years from so many trusted sources.

    Although not Christadelphian, I HIGHLY recommend this series - call From Theism to Atheism by a YouTuber called Evid3nc3. I like the way it carries on a conversation & is non confrontational - very sensitively done. I think it may refer to hell now & then, so ignore those parts - the main thing is that he explained the process he went through - very well produced.

    Kind regards


    1. I eventually got around to watching this. It's certainly interesting, as I find most personal stories are interesting. Also as with other stories, I find there are some things that I strongly identify with, and some things that are completely different from what I've thought and experienced. It takes all sorts to make a world.

  3. Hi Doubter. I managed to fake it for some years. It was probably easier for me being female, also I was able to be myself at home as my husband isn't CD. I could've probably carried on indefinitely but I quite suddenly found that I just felt too ridiculous pretending and too irritated by everyone else who were just carrying on, not questioning the faith and pushing it onto their children. Also I had a sneaking feeling that I wasn't the only one to feel like this. I thought if I left maybe it would give others the confidence to.
    I can't say it was easy leaving. I know it upset a lot of people including family members, but l can't understate how liberating and life changing it has been for me. It is great to develop my own ideas and opinions on things and take part in things like voting and campaigning. I feel like I have only just started my life.
    The problem with Christadelphia is that it's an all or nothing religion. There is no way that you can question or debate things honestly and openly. You either accept all of it or you have to leave. Better to do it on your terms than theirs.

  4. The pressure to conform and avoid upsetting your family and friends is a very powerful form of control over the waverers. I know of at least three CDs who are merely going through the motions, in order to avoid rocking the boat and losing their circle of friends and social life. I spoke to one very recently who told me that it was much easier to go along with the madness than it was to leave and upset their spouse and children who are all committed to the ecclesia.

  5. Thanks for the comments, recommendations, and links. I’m sure there are other doubters round, but none have confided in me – maybe my shield is too good for them to trust me. That would also be sad.

    This article was written at a particular time with a particular goal (“It’s not all about intellectual understanding”). The “where I’m at now” was an after-thought and I’m sure it will change in future. But as it is a journey that has taken years I don’t expect any final step to be taken in days.

    Re intellectual honesty / telling lies: I think about those things frequently. I do think there’s a difference between having doubts about the religion and having moral failings, though there may be parallels in living a lie. I still feel I have a lot in common with other Christadelphians, so it’s not a complete deception. There are also times when I genuinely believe what I’m saying, even if I look back later and think “What did I just say?” Much of the culture is ingrained in me and comes out in the most unexpected ways.

    Geri, for me sometimes work is a haven. It’s a long time since I tried to convert any of my co-workers (not that I was good at it). They are happy with me being a friendly, reliable person, not a religious nut.

  6. I claim this as mine. I wanted to keep it separate from "Jakarta Jack" so I could keep that voice positive and so the discussion could be about my thoughts rather than who the writer was. However, as it turned out, just having forced myself to put the thoughts into writing probably made Jakarta Jack more negative as well. Thanks once again for the thoughts here.

  7. Steve,
    I realise your "do you have any suggestions" was primarily for JJ to reply. So please forgive me for putting in my two-pennyworth.
    As this is an EX-Christadelphian site, any curious Christadelphians dropping in should be able to read and understand what Ex-Christadelphians think now, the thought paths they have taken to get to being Ex-Christadelphian, and any replies that Christadelphians have felt they should make in reply.
    Further than that, an ongoing rummage amongst the glaring (to us Ex-Christadelphians) biblical errors and areas of doubtful meaning might be useful to air to provoke discussion and to provoke those Christadelphians who are having honest doubts about their beliefs to give serious examination to the computer software in their brains, which was possibly installed from their early years and then reinforced through childhood and continued as they grew older, which may need to be updated.
    I don`t think that the main purpose of this blog should be to deconvert Christadelphians. That has to come from within a Christadelphian, not from an external harangue.

  8. It's a good question, and I don't think there is a lot that can be done. I don't think this site can provide deconversions on demand, nor should it: that's a personal thing. There are various aspects of my journey and things that I learned that I would like to write down and share at some point. Some have already been shared in this post and in various comments over the years. But I can't imagine they will have any influence except on people who have already taken some of the steps I took.

    In principle, people should be able to look at the facts and come to conclusions just based on the facts. In practice, as we know, this doesn't really happen. The pre-conceptions we approach a discussion with really affect the outcome. Simple pre-conceptions like "God exists", "The Bible is an accurate record of his message", and "There aren't really contradictions in the Bible - they just show we need to work harder to understand it". Or on the other side "If God exists, we should see some evidence" and "If the Bible was written by humans it probably contains errors, and could well contain contradictions". What changed for me was that I suddenly realised there might be problems with my pre-conceptions, and then slowly started questioning them (I still catch myself making snap judgements based on pre-conceptions that I then realise are inconsistent). The sudden realisation was not caused by this site, and I'm not sure it can be. The slow questioning of them was helped by articles and discussions on this site, on Steve's site, and reading a number of other books and sources. But before all that, I had to be receptive to the fact that I might be wrong and that I did need to investigate further.

    I have said before that one of the key things this site provided me is a place where I felt safe to discuss (semi-)anonymously. That discussion wasn't usually about agreement, but disagreement, and sometimes heated disagreement (a genuine seeker more thin-skinned than me might have left long ago). I think it is only likely to provide discussion like that if there are new articles - the old articles present facts, but do not generally promote discussion. Some of my most interesting times here were when John was very active, and I think at that point I was well into the "not seeing God's hand at work", while still maintaining a fair degree of faith in the Bible and rejecting most arguments here.

    But have I got a magic bullet? No, I don't, and I can't assume my path is typical anyway. If anything, I'd say present the facts (preferably not in a dismissive way), encourage discussion (somehow) and leave God to do the rest. :)

    1. Steve, I think the answer again is preconceptions. Believers know we've made a mistake somewhere, so the only possible approach is to try and bring us back. Maybe that requires bravery? Or maybe it requires skill and seems ineffective? I know from experience on both sides that it's particularly frustrating when something makes perfect sense to me, but the person I'm talking to starts from such a different starting point that I can't even begin to persuade them.

      However, it might just be an instance of the 1% rule. People who contribute heavily (like you or me) are a very small percentage of the overall population. That's not specific to Christadelphians - it's the internet generally.

    2. Yeah, I had similar times where I realised that things which I had assumed and been told had equivalent explanatory power actually didn't. Common design vs common ancestry being the one that comes most obviously to mind. But, even if you are the type of person who will respond to that, you still need to come into contact with the evidence, and my experience is that that typically won't happen unless you go looking for it. Or at least won't happen in enough areas to make a difference. I came across a few interesting facts by chance years ago, but I filed them away in a "to be investigated later" drawer, because there wasn't enough of them to outweigh my confidence in my existing beliefs or to push me to investigate further. As for what triggered me looking harder at my beliefs, that too is somewhat gradual and hard to know. But for a while not even disbelieving the existence of God was enough to push me into it...

  9. John,
    just in case we make no difference at all to Christadelphians reading this blog, I`ve started to save up my Soda Bottles.
    //surely the discussion is still valuable,no?//


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