The Christadelphian Obsession With Death

By Thom Jonas

Have you ever noticed just how obsessed many Christadelphians are with death? I recently drove past a Christadelphian hall which had a sign out the front advertising an upcoming lecture titled, "What happens when we die?"

Of course, like any rational human being, when I want to find out the answers to such scientific / medical questions I always seek out my local Christadelphian community and trust them to know the correct answers to all things about human biology and natural chemical processes. I jest. What I actually did was type the above lecture title into Google, which linked me to a science article with a handy graphic showing the various stages of bodily decomposition in slightly unnecessary detail.

But why are Christadelphians so obsessed with death?

This is not normal.

Value Distortion

To the Christadelphian, the only significant, worthwhile goal in this life is getting into the next one. Why? Because, they say, it will be so much better than this one. Immortality, perfect health, perfect happiness, perfect harmony, pure joy, and so on, are the kinds of attributes they claim will describe the next life, all promised to them allegedly by the same being who created all the suffering in this life. Don't think about it too hard.

But why would they want to devalue this life so excessively? Is this life not enough for them? If all that we experience is the creation of a loving god, why would it be sinful to enjoy that creation by living this life to the fullest? Surely to embrace this life including all manner of experiences would be the highest compliment one could give to a creator! Yet the Christadelphians want none of it. And they want you to despise it too.

Sure, they will give talks about the "wonders of nature", full of carefully cherry-picked examples of beauty and awe (and omitting any mention of the viruses and terror that plague most of the planet's living creatures daily). But there are rules around what you are allowed to enjoy. Concerts? Music? Only the ones they approve of. Movies? Best to keep that to a minimum and don't tell. Parties? how sinful! Science and technology? it's evil and to be feared and held in suspicion. Career? that depends on your gender, and your standing in the ecclesia (which also depends on your gender, among other factors).

Control Mechanism

Take a closer look. Why is it that so many of the men who stand on the platform and encourage you to give up on the attractions of this life, often seem to have done pretty well for themselves? It's one rule for them, and a different rule for you. Why are your music choices being restricted by their personal tastes? Why are you being asked to dress in a way that pleases them? Of course they'll always tell you that's what God wants. Have you ever wondered why God always seems to want the same things as those who are most influential in your ecclesia? On a related note, did it ever occur to you that all of the words of "God" in your Bible were written by people who claimed to speak on his behalf? Every. single. one.

Christadelphians love to give talks criticising you for how you spend your time, and heaping guilt upon you for not doing enough to please God. They tell you that your salvation depends on this, and urge you to spend more of your time doing activities they approve of, and less of the activities you personally enjoy. By instilling in your mind the powerful, negative voice of criticism, right from when you were a small child, they can ensure that you will always feel guilty for feeling pleasure and for following your own pursuits in life.

This is not normal.

"Do more Bible study", they say. "But it's so boring", you think. "That's the sinful flesh talking", they counter. These voices become internalised until you feel paralysed into inaction and depression. And when you are at your lowest, they offer you forgiveness, and so begins the cycle of abuse. They set an impossible standard for you to follow. They may even appear virtuous themselves when in public (don't look too closely though!). Then, when you fail, they heap guilt on you until you feel miserable and depressed. And then they hold out forgiveness, pretending this to be an act of compassion. It's not. This is emotional abuse. Plain and simple.

This is not normal.

Distorted View Of Love

Have you ever loved someone so much that you just wanted them to be happy? You would give so much of your energy and time for them and be excited for them when they did well in life. Real love is like this.

So isn't it highly suspicious when Christadelphians tell you that you need to behave in a certain way in order to win God's approval? How is a being that is supposed to be "all-loving" incapable of simply loving and accepting its own children for who they are? Why would such a being sentence us to death simply for being human? If that is love, what does love even mean?

They command us to value God's happiness over our own, as if an all-powerful being would need any such thing. But in reality what you are being asked to value are precisely those things the speakers (or those most influential in your ecclesia) care about more than your own needs. The message is clear. Your needs don't matter. Only the group matters. Spend all of your energy helping the ecclesia. This can actually sound like a positive thing until you start to ask who actually speaks for the ecclesia. Why, it's those who are most influential, of course!

While we're on the subject of love, probably the kind of love you need most is self-love. The positive feeling that you are a being worthy of love and friendship. But what do Christadelphians teach? "Without God, you are nothing!" Guilty of sin. Worthy of death. In need of forgiveness. All for the crime of being human. Is it any wonder that so many Christadelphians suffer from severe depression throughout their lives? If you are experiencing feelings of worthlessness, guilt, emptiness, and/or meaninglessness, I strongly encourage you to talk to a qualified medical doctor. A good doctor will offer real help, which may include sessions with a qualified psychologist who can help to reframe your thinking patterns and offer practical strategies for returning to positive mental health. In some cases they may suggest medication, which can be a powerful, temporary boost to provide the energy you need to get back on the path to recovery.

Don't listen to the Christadelphian BS about being weak and sinful creatures. They tell you that because people who think they are "weak" just happen to be the easiest to control and manipulate with guilt. The love you need most is your own, and there are books you can read and qualified professionals who can help you get there. Look inside - there's a strength inside you that has been there all along.

Faux Salvation

So now we return to the Christadelphian obsession with death. Their Bible is full of stories where God allegedly killed people left, right and centre simply for not obeying him. They think this kind of behaviour is normal. Perhaps it was normal for kings to behave that way in the times when the Bible was first written, but it is not normal in 2019.

Those who wrote the Bible had a very different (we might say, "primitive") idea of moral justice, and they ascribed their views to a god, perhaps to bolster their authority. But make no mistake. The fact that the morality in the Bible closely matches that of the societies of the time and place in which each book was written, is no accident. This collection of books was written by humans who claimed to speak on behalf of gods. It was also edited and compiled by later humans who claimed to know which of those earlier writings were the words of the real God and which things were not. And somehow even though all of these things originated in a highly superstitious era, and contain all manner of superstitions we now know to be false (demons and evil spirits anyone?), we are supposed to think they got it absolutely correct when talking about the magic being in the sky. The all-loving being who kills everyone he doesn't like.

The whole Christadelphian message is pretty silly when you stop and think about it. Worship this invisible being so that he can save you from the death he invented in the first place. Because if you don't worship and believe in something you can't see or detect in any way, he will kill you. But he loves you. Really. Those voices in your head can't all be lying, can they?

This is not normal.

Christadelphians are terrified of death, because they spend their whole life devaluing everything that is pleasurable. They convince themselves that people in "the world" have nothing, or that they do not live meaningful lives. But this is clearly yet another false belief manufactured to keep people from questioning the religion. Just like the belief in a future utopia. It's fake. It offers false hope, which just robs people of the one life they could have enjoyed.

Why do they discount this life so much anyway? Do they honestly think that regularly attending meetings with a small group of people to sing together and read stories from a collection of iron age books is going to win them favours with an invisible being in the sky such that it will save them while killing everyone else? Really? Do they actually think that the whole point of this life is to solve this cosmic riddle so that an invisible genie can grant them a role in his magic castle?

This. Is. Not. Normal.

Christadelphians obsess about death because they want you to fear. Because people who live in fear are easier to manipulate.

13 comments:

  1. Look mate, I am not a scholar, just an ordinary woman of some age, who saw your comments, and wanted to respond from a lived perspective. In an Age where there is so much information and personal accounts of near death experiences, Orthodox view of Heaven going, the immortality of the human soul and Eastern beliefs of re-incarnation, the Local Christadelphian takes it upon him and herself to pose a question, " What happens when we die?"
    The question is not aimed at a biological break down of decomposition, nor does it allude to or presuppose a knowledge of a scientific view of death:
    the question invites the thinking passer by to wonder what the Christadelphian view point of death is, delving into parts of scripture that are not commonly viewed.
    i wont go into all the scriptural verses dealing with The grave, the breath of life, falling asleep in Christ, awaiting the resurrection and by Gods grace and Mercy being changed and given a celestial body to serve God upon the earth after the return of Jesus.

    So Dear mate, the christadelphians are not obsessed with death, but are posing
    a question. Im aware this is a site for ex-christadelphians, and I have been away from meeting and fellowshipping for a few decades, God calls us each differently, but I would be sorry if you dismissed that there is indeed a Creator, just because you left the fellowship.
    All the best in your journey.

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    1. Hi nina59, I love your description of yourself as "An ordinary woman of some age".
      Well, I`m an ordinary bloke of some great age. I agree with you that Christadelphians are posing the question about the afterlife in an attempt to enlighten folks about what they believe about it. What seems, to me, to be so sad, is that the majority of them place so much emphasis on what they are looking forward to after death, that they fail miserably to engage and grab hold of the life they have now, in all its opportunities for doing "good", engaging in harmless fun, and generally living a whole life. Instead, they seem to enjoy living a life cramped by restrictions and petty rules, and dismissing those who don`t believe as they do as "outsiders", and when they manage to attract someone to their talks, they refer to them as "strangers". And I think most of those who have followed this site for some time, ex-Cd`s in the main, would disagree with you about your suggestion that it was "just because you (we) left the fellowship" and we "dismissed that there is indeed a Creator". I think it more likely that, after much searching, thought and serious scrutiny of "The Truth", we then left because we found it wanting, to the extent that we felt it was based on a fundamental untruth. We found that the bible was the work of men, and not inspired by the God mentioned within its pages, who was was a creation by them to suit their purposes. I think about these matters frequently, and after a longish time getting to be "a bloke of some great age", I can find nothing to convince me that faith can be the evidence of things not seen.

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    2. Well said, Mancott. If I may reiterate one point, I think many Christadelphians focus so much on their imagined "next life" that they completely dismiss this one or at least squander it and encourage others to do the same. Worse, they reprimand members who seek to have fun and treat any enjoyment of "worldly pleasures" as a sin. I recognise not all Christadelphians do this, but this was the norm in most of the Christadelphian communities I was involved in growing up. Ideas are planted in young minds that end up robbing people of what I believe is the only life they had, and that is a huge violation of the personal freedoms of those people.

      And yes, I find it amusing that believers so often portray us in such an insulting light, saying things like: "I would be sorry if you dismissed that there is indeed a Creator, just because you left the fellowship".

      Firstly, the order of events was not quite like that. I have not "dismissed" any notion of a creator, but rather I have explored what I feel is every avenue in order to rescue a belief in a creator, only to discover there is no compelling evidence at all. The more I discovered, the more the evidence didn't point to a "god". And without sufficient evidence for belief, and indeed copious evidence that the Bible was written solely by humans (as Mancott pointed out), I realised I have no foundation for belief, and thus I don't believe. Belief isn't a choice. The choice we make is in the questions we ask and the information we seek out. Belief (or unbelief) is involuntary based on what we find out.

      I don't know if there's a god out there, but if there is, it knows what would convince me. So far, that hasn't happened. And it's not for lack of trying on my part.

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    3. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4261

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    4. https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/aware-results-finally-published-no-evidence-of-nde/

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  2. Nina59, I understand that Christadelphians are posing a question. The problem is that, like all religion, it has no authority by which to offer an answer to the question. It's just opinion and speculation, the same as always.

    And before you say you know the answers because God told you, consider that every other religion claims the same thing - and you all disagree! So either God is telling you all different things, or (news flash!) we have no reason to believe any of you over any other. So let me repeat, until you have some way to back up the claim that a god told you anything, none of you has any business trying to offer an answer for what happens when we die. You're just offering uneducated opinion - which is helpful to no one (and potentially misleading to a bunch of susceptible people).

    At least if you did tackle the scientific perspective on death, you might have some hard evidence to fall back on. But you don't.

    All you have is an ancient book which, as far as we all know, was written by people. And we know that just as that book contains erroneous claims such as disease being caused by evil spirits or demons (ideas generally held in the era when those things were written), the understanding on medical or scientific matters is likewise outdated. Any claim to the contrary needs to be demonstrated. With evidence.

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  3. The problem with all of this is that Christadelphianism misrepresents the truth of the bible by taking away the one dominant factor that needs to be included. That is, that it is not by OUR efforts, but by HIS on our behalf. He has proved that we need to be in submission to Him instead of our own egos, but the very thing He puts in place to achieve this, being the gift to us of His own Spirit, is denied by cd doctrine. This leaves them on their own with full responsibility for their own salvation, and THAT is too much to bear, it is leaving people on the cross to try and do What Jesus did in dealing with "hell" for us. Many marriages have broken down because of the stress of "trying to be Christ-like" and those that then leave CD usually become atheists because they never had the Christian Spirit to begin with, so when they leave they can take nothing with them, they continue to be "on their own" because this is the doctrine they have been taught. I feel they have some very good ideas but it all comes apart when they fail to see that "it is finished". Finished by Him and not by us. We have to admit that He has finished it in Himself, else it will NEVER be finished in US. "Without me you can do nothing".

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    1. MeHere, every Christian has a take on "the truth of the bible". Everyone has the perfect solution to avoid leaving the faith, and accusations that those who left never truly had the faith are common.

      Just for the record, though, before I became atheist I considered the teachings of some other denominations. Ultimately, though, I found I had no reason to believe the Bible. After that, trying to determine the correct interpretation of the Bible is like shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic.

      It goes further, though: Even if the Bible had a unified, coherent message and the Jesus of the Bible existed, I don't need to be put in submission to him. Period. The Bible can assert it, but it can't prove it.

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  4. It is the submission to love, that we might gain that love, by the internalisation of His sacrifice, that we become one with it, with Him, because out heart testifies to the truth of love. Christadelphians, no matter what other truths they may have gained, have by Thomas and Roberts been deliberately steered away from the living heart of it all into accepting a pseudo Christianity that is little different to Judaism. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, once again 'denying the saviour' and leaving Him alone on His cross of shame lest they have to admit to His truth and turn, and be healed of their own. It is "understand with the heart" first and then the mind will also understand. The intellectual approach will continue to hide the truth in legalisms because it follows the rule of law, not the 'rule' of grace, of love.

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    1. MeHere, you've used lots of words, but I don't know if I'm in your target audience because I can't figure out what the words mean. In particular, "submission to love" seems like a very odd concept to me. It still sounds like submission, and it makes the love seem awfully conditional. Similarly, I doubt I'm the only one here who questions how arranging the killing of your only son is the supreme symbol of love, let alone something that we should aspire to be one with.

      As for the rest, I see you quoting lots of scripture. Christadelphians are familiar with scripture. This is exactly what I'm talking about - you think they interpret it wrongly, they think you interpret it wrongly, and I personally am pretty sure you both interpret it wrongly.

      One scripture stands out, though - not only do you seem to mention Judaism negatively, but you also seem to be alluding to a slur from Isaiah which was so popular that it was appropriated by all four gospels, Acts, and the epistles. And in my opinion it's an unwarranted appropriation in every case. They were words for Isaiah's time: They can't be applied in the days of Jesus, and they can't be applied to any denomination today.

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    2. Thanks Jon, for the insight from scripture. I am afraid that some of MeHere's words relating to "love" just pass straight over this now atheist's head. I often wonder what form this love takes, and how it is manifested. Ask and you will normally just get even more windy words that do little other than imply that it is somehow your fault that you do not understand.
      I do not see MeHere's comments as particularly negative towards Judaism, and I think I get his point. As a formerly trinitarian Christian prior to joining the Christadelphians, it always struck me how many of them seemed to think they were "Jews", I've mentioned before how some of them even went to the shops wearing stars of David around their necks, and how all of their concentration was on old testament prophecy, etc. While they talked about Jesus' return, compared to normal Christians, they seemed to treat it as a bit of an "add on" or that it didn't have relevance to the here and now, only to the future. It's hard to explain, and I think MeHere is just expressing the view that Thomas and Roberts pushed a salvation by works agenda rather than a salvation by grace one.
      As ever, don't take my comments too seriously-I certainly don't!

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    3. Joseph, my side of the denomination was certainly pro-Jew (and pro-Israel-the-nation because God gave them the land), but I don't think to quite the extent you describe (yes to OT prophecies, though not as much as some of the more conservative ecclesias here, but no to things like wearing the star of David - at least, as far as I recall). It was a shock to me post-deconversion to discover how much of the New Testament was subtly or openly anti-Judaism and tending towards anti-semitism, and maybe as a result it's a theme I stress too much now. It wouldn't be the first time my response to a commenter says more about me than about them...

      So yeah, grace vs works is probably a reasonable reading.

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  5. If you are seeking an absolute truth you will not find it. Only truth that applies to you

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