10 things I wish someone had told me when I was a Christadelphian


By Phynnodderee

The things I wish I had figured out sooner…

1. People in ‘the world’ are not all shallow, immoral, selfish or hedonistic. The world is full of generosity, compassion, and people dedicated to the welfare of others.

2. We’re not helpless to prevent suffering and evil; trying to make the world a better place is not an act of faithlessness or human arrogance. Nor are such efforts inevitably doomed because they are initiated by mere humans.

3. Reality is complex and the human situation can’t be reduced to simple formulas. Often there are no clear answers or easy solutions to moral dilemmas or real-life problems. We need to think things through based on rationally worked-out principles, not slavishly obey a set of prescriptive rules. Sometimes we need to be prepared to accept a degree of uncertainty.

4. There is no conspiracy to persecute disciples of Christ or keep people from learning ‘the Truth’.
 
5. Life without the Christadelphian faith isn’t empty, pointless or despairing; your life can be as full of meaning and purpose as you choose to make it.

6. It is OK to question and criticise Christadelphian beliefs and practices. Christadelphians are not privileged possessors of truth. Their claims, like everyone else’s, must be scrutinised and subjected to the same requirements for evidence. No rational, honest person claims to possess the whole truth; humanity is still figuring it out and we need to be prepared to change our minds when new information becomes available.

7. Men are not superior to women. There are no rationally justifiable reasons for a gender-based hierarchy. Nor does everyone fall into a neatly defined gender category, and gender stereotypes are just that: stereotypes.

8. Humans are not inherently evil, worthless and undeserving. We are full of potential and are capable of truly remarkable virtue that comes from within ourselves, not from a divine source.

9. Emotions and emotional expression are not obstacles to acquiring wisdom or becoming a good person, or something to be ruthlessly eliminated in the search for truth; they are essential aspects of being human.

10. It is perfectly OK to trust your own reasoning and intuition (so long as you are aware of the ways in which our brains can let us down, such as confirmation bias). If rational thinking tells you something different from what the Christadelphians are telling you, it’s a good idea to consider the possibility that the Christadelphians have got it wrong.

15 comments:

  1. Hear,hear. Well stated. It is amazing how you view things differently when you can take off the blinkers of smugness, arrogance and "I got the whole truth and you don't"ism.

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  2. I wish all Christadelphians would read this, so true and well stated. Number 6 reminded me of something I would have liked to have been able to do. "10 bible stories I wish I could have questioned my Sunday School teacher about, presented to me as fact."

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    1. It still amazes me that Christians believe all those animals could fit on a boat made by humans, the size it would have to be... And how would a Galapagos Tortoise have gotten on there?

      I was watching a religious debate and a scientist had calculated that the dung and methane produced would have killed everything on board pretty quickly. :)

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  3. No. 11
    Stating that evolution is " just a theory" is not a good argument, and anyone incorporating this phrase into their bible talk should be beaten over the head with a dictionary.

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  4. Hi - very good stuff and like the comments.

    A word comes to mind - hegomony. Hegomny means that you are thinking in one way only and that you are incapable of thinking in any other way. Cults like the Christadelphians act in a very hegomonic way. This is why it is not ok to question and criticise the Christadelphians and when stuck in this hegomonic bubble it really feels like the person questioning is automatically wrong. It follows that the evidence - no matter how strong and compelling is irrelevant. George Orwell called this "doublethink".

    Let me give you an example of this hegemony in action. I gave an evening lecture about science and the Bible. During that evening lecture, I presented a considerable amount of evidence to show that the Earth is much, much older than 6000 years. I gave the opinion that the Earth is billions of years old.

    In a (naive!) appeal to the more traditional Christadelphians, I pointed out that Dr Thomas believed the Earth was millions of years old and a much older Earth was the status quo for Christians and Christadelphians until The Genesis Flood by Whitcombe & Morris came out in 1963.

    After the evening lecture no one, wanted to discuss the evidence and one Christadelphian said to me "you are wrong but I don't want to talk about it"!!! Their hegemony was challenged and it felt uncomfortable for them - but they were incapable of thinking any other way - irrespective of the strong evidence for my case.

    Growing up in a scientific family, being a rebel and very bright saved from this hegemony nonsense. I am so grateful to have survived that hegemony nonsense and be able to think for my self!

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    1. I have also been surprised by the lack of Christadelphians wanting to discuss evidence with me. There have been a few, but mostly they simply quoted common creationist/apologist talking points that showed only vague familiarity with the subject matter. Again it comes back to Christadelphians being raised to uncritically accept their internal dogma and to fear any challenge to it such that they rarely, if ever, question it seriously. I can look back and see it in my own life.

      When you grow up surrounded by Christadelphians and related culture, it feels "normal", and it becomes your whole identity. The thought that any part of it might be wrong is actually pretty scary, because there is so much resting on it, from support groups, to friends/family, to mentors, and obviously one's perceived future/afterlife. This is why so many people cling to their beliefs rather blindly, and refuse to question it. It offers comfort and meaning to their lives and naturally they want to protect that at all costs.

      I've long been fascinated with this and have wondered what it is that causes/allows some of us to start questioning and look beyond the village walls to see if what we were taught was really true, while most Christadelphians never do.

      So far my best answer is that people may become more curious about their beliefs all on their own but only when they feel safe to question. This means both finding a way to ask questions without criticism (the internet has been fantastic for this) and also just as importantly, feeling reassured about their life and circumstances should they find a different answer than they hoped. In my own case I expected things to be difficult externally as I changed my beliefs, but this was outweighed by the possibility of reduced cognitive dissonance and not having to lie to myself and others.

      Apart from the fear of ostracism and isolation, one of the bigger issues that seems to keep people holding onto their beliefs is the fear that if they leave the religion they may miss out on salvation (i.e. perhaps there was one critical piece of evidence they missed - and so they hold on just in case). Ironically they are not the least bit worried about burning in hell, should other denominations' beliefs be correct instead. This shows the difference between indoctrination vs rational skepticism about other people's beliefs.

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    2. Thom, I think ex-Christadelphians have become enabled to "look beyond the village walls" from different starting points. My peep over the walls was from a little time before the twelve months during which I had literally placed myself outside the ecclesial walls. This was classed as "long continued absence" and, in the AB`s eyes worthy of such a person being disfellowshipped, even though they didn`t ask me to explain why I wasn`t attending.
      During the time prior to absenting myself, I had become frustrated with the closed-shop attitude of the ecclesia, and their unwillingness to discuss anything other than long-time CD accepted beliefs. And so there had elapsed a period of around eighteen months, during which time my long-years of concentrated coat-of-one-colour-indoctrination-dosage, became diluted and wore thin. (Who said you can`t mix metaphors?) so, I gradually found I was able to question my beliefs without feeling I was upsetting God. Once free of such an irrational fear, I then read what I had been discouraged from reading, and to discuss belief in the bible (or not) with others from a questioning standpoint, rather than from a defensive one.
      It quite quickly became clear to me that the reasoning part of my brain had been stifled, from birth, and not been allowed to exercise itself in the normal checks and balances of what is rationally right and what is not, both for the norms of engaging in social activities and also in any debate about religious understanding.
      It was all one way after that, seen as downhill to some. But, frustration soon comes, I found, in being unable to accept why my friends still in the bubble can`t see the wood for the trees.

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    3. You raise a very interesting point, Mad Max. Some people seem very uncomfortable with any degree of uncertainty. They need everything to be settled and clear-cut, and any kind of ambiguity makes them upset and defensive (as you noted). Some people would even be unhappy if the layout of the chairs in the meeting room were changed - they need everything to be familiar, and that includes the thought patterns in their heads. Why some people are more able than others to handle uncertainty and explore unfamiliar ideas, I am unable to explain. But I think the good news is that when one person does so, it can give others the courage to follow suit.

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  5. Yes - I remember a very trad Christadelphian who belonged to the Christadelphian meeting I grew up in. And the meeting had the very radical (radical for this meeting!) idea of putting the chairs in a circle so we would talk to each other in a discussion as part of a Bible class. Oh dear! - this trad Christadelphian could not handle this - he went and sat outside the circle in one of the straight rows!!

    It is, in one sense, a minor example but it does illustrate the degree of fear and conditioning that keeps hegemony going in the Christadelphians.

    One of the hangovers from my Christadelphian upbringing is that I feel a lot of shame - false shame given to me by them. One of the things I wish someone had told me when I was a Christadelphian was that toxic shame would have a profound effect on my psyche setting me up for depression and trouble. But I would not have listened until I was ready to hear this stuff.

    I feel profoundly betrayed by my parents for bringing me up in a religion that taught me I was born a bad person (original sin).

    But, I am going into storytelling and the Christadelphians provide some pretty surreal and weird material.

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  6. Max, I wonder if the outside-the-circle-sitter was exhibiting a deep-seated fear of being face to face with others, being frightened and uncomfortable about meeting others gaze? Some people seem unable to mentally cope with change, it makes them deeply unsettled.
    In all the ecclesias I "belonged" to, there was hell to pay if someone sat in another`s regular seat position. I don`t know about today, but years ago the congregation in churches had their regular pews.
    But then, I`ve known families where the husband had a favourite chair at home, and nobody else was allowed to sit in it.
    Humans have a lot of mildly psychological hang-ups, which come out in odd, unusual, and seemingly abnormal behaviour.

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  7. Hi Mancott - I knew this chap quite well as he was my Father's accountant. He was definitely, afraid of being face to face with others, was very emotionally disconnected and was one of the least imaginative and boring people I have ever met.

    Speaking more generally of the culture of this ecclesia, it was & is known for being very conservative and at the moment, they are trying to get the members to sign up to only, accepting a literal 6 day creation.

    Their ignorance on science is frightening - they actually think the Earth is 6000 years old!! My Father tried talking to the then Rec Bro but it was a complete wast of time - talk to the hands the face ain't listening!

    This terrible scientific ignorance tends to go with this emotional autistic style of church worship and culture. As I have posted elsewhere, this did me a lot of psychological damage when growing up (Sunday School). I will be going to a funeral of my Father soon and will be meeting some of these Christadelphians at the funeral - I am not looking forward to it but am doing this for my Father and Mother. I find being around Christadelphians enormously triggering as does my wife.

    This is the ecclesia that referred to "emotionalism" in a purely & solely derogatory way - it made me want to scream!

    I am so glad to be free of this madness!

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    1. Max,
      Sorry to read of the reason for you going to a funeral. If you feel it would be appropriate, it might help you when there to pretend you are taking part in a play, and that the Christos around you are actors.

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    2. Max, I'm very sorry to hear about your family's loss. I hope the funeral manages to be something that helps everyone say goodbye and that the day doesn't have too many emotional triggers of the CD type. Wishing you (and your wife) peace in the days ahead.

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  8. Thanks for your support and encouragement - it has not been easy. And further more, my mother is not in great shape either.

    Having reflected upon why I will be at the funeral (I want to be to pay my respects) I have agreed to do a reading from the Bible at his funeral which so happens to be my favourite chapter in the Bible and one I can feel happy reading while being true to my self.

    As regards pretending to take part in a play - that will be easy for me as I have done some semi-professional acting and experience disassociation all of the time! Although I can think straight, my dissociation tells me that I have anxiety and being around Christadelphians is anxiety inducing!

    I wish they had told me before, becoming a Christadelphian what a terrible price I would have to pay by joining. If only I could turn back the clock ....

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