The world is bigger than Christadelphia

By Phynnodderee

Growing up Christadelphian, my world was pretty small in many ways. But from the inside, the religion seemed big and important. It took me years to get a sense of perspective and realise not only that Christadelphians weren’t the authority on everything, but also just how much I’d been missing out on in terms of what the outside world had to offer.

When I was younger, Christadelphianism was my authoritative source of knowledge and moral guidance. My sense of self-worth depended a lot on being acceptable according to Christadelphian ideas of right and wrong. I thought Christadelphians were the authority on what to think and how to live. I didn’t realise that there were other ways of seeing the world, other ways of thinking, feeling and relating. This was more than just the normal human experience of growing up in a particular culture; it was narrower than that. Christadelphianism presumes to supply all the important stuff you need to know. It acts so big and important. By comparison, the society around us, its learning, wisdom and culture, were regarded as being of little value. Bible teaching trumped all human learning and experience.

This was a long time ago now, and I’ve grown up a lot. Now I can see not only how small and insignificant the Christadelphian community is on the big scale of things, but also how small-minded and narrow.

The fact is that the world is so much bigger than the suffocating environment of Christadelphianism. I don’t just mean that Christadelphians make up a tiny proportion of the world population, that it’s an obscure subculture hardly anyone has heard of, and that therefore it shouldn’t intimidate anyone. I mean that the religion contains your mind and awareness within very narrow limits, denying you so much that could be experienced and benefited from. I mean that Christadelphians are impoverished because they aren’t even aware of the intellectual and cultural wealth outside their narrow belief system. They believe all of human history is following a linear path to a predetermined conclusion, which is a simple magic solution to all the world’s problems. There’s no need to think any further, no need to seriously engage with complex issues; no need to discover how we’ve advanced in understanding them through scientific enquiry, or learn from how people have responded to the human experience through artistic expression. It’s intellectually stultifying – yet you’re meant to think ‘the Truth’ is something wonderful and huge, the biggest idea in the universe, the best news ever, the deepest understanding, the profoundest wisdom. It’s nothing of the kind. The world is so much bigger than Christadelphia.

It took me a long time to figure this out because in Christadelphia you're trained to distrust outside ideas and rely on the religion as your prime source of truth and understanding. You’re trained to believe that worldly wisdom is foolishness.

When I started mentally breaking free from the religion, it lost its power to intimidate in this way. I realised Christadelphians had no authority to tell me, or anyone else for that matter, what was true, right, or good. When I realised this, my horizons expanded. There’s a whole world outside Christadelphia, and it’s rich, satisfying and rewarding beyond measure.

11 comments:

  1. People once thought that the Earth was all there was. Then they discovered the inner planets. Then the solar system. Then the galaxy, and so on.

    This is a fairly good analogy for what it felt like when I started peeling back the layers trying to find out what this life was really about. Discovering more about the Bible, then other religions (past and present), then human history, then biological evolution, then the vastness of deep space, and time, and the physics underlying them... it all led to the realisation that the Christadelphians were just one tiny religion among many. And the realisation that there was just so much else going on.

    The expansion of my worldview went in two directions, both outward and inward. Not only did I learn so much about discoveries of the natural world and the incredibly vast universe, I also learned a lot about my own psychology and why I experience the world the way I do. I learned why I once believed in the Christadelphians' little clockwork world with its little God moving all the little pieces around like a child playing with dolls in a doll house. And my heart breaks when I remember the pain of trying to meet impossible demands placed on me by others and believing I wasn't good enough, and knowing that still others go through this same struggle every day.

    The spell is permanently broken now. Intellectual freedom is, like you say, rewarding beyond measure.

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  2. Even so we all have face the judgment seat of Christ like it or not.

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    1. I have no idea whether you are actually an ex-Christadelphian, but many ex-Christadelphians, including me, also came to reject the Bible, the only source for these threats about "the judgement seat of Christ".

      The New Testament makes it quite clear Jesus' return and judgement were expected soon. Didn't happen then, and 2,000 years later still hasn't happened. I don't think we have any reason to believe it will happen now.

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    2. EC,

      Strange, other religions are telling us that you will join us in hell, or perhaps we'll all get reincarnated as a worm. It can be confusing keeping up with the latest threats from "nice" religious folk.

      Your "all-loving" deities sure have some creative ways to torture and hurt people. And for what? For not knowing whether (or which of) these mysterious, invisible beings existed? Seems a little petty. Why would they care?

      Wouldn't such "all-knowing" beings know exactly what it would take to convince every one of us? If we remain unconvinced, is it our failing or theirs? And if that belief was so important to them, why would they make humans so prone to getting it wrong?

      What a lovely picture you paint of a people living in fear, bullied into submission under threats of judgement from a being who was supposed to epitomise love.

      If you think we will face the judgement seat of Christ then you must believe that well over 99% of people in the world have been misled or deceived. Why not you?

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  3. It's impossible for me to reject the Bible it's just far too convincing.
    The seemingly never ending Heavens & the incredible marvels of Creation, etc.
    And after all, 2,000 years is only a couple of days in Almighty God's time frame.

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    1. You're welcome to believe the Bible, but it's not going to help you with those of us who have found it a completely unreliable source.

      However, a couple of questions to think about:
      1. Even if you decide the universe shows signs of being created, how do you establish that that creator is the God of the Bible rather than some other being or force?

      2. When you talk about the size of "the Heavens", I'm assuming you're talking about what we can see from our Earth - inside this universe and bounded though very large? If so, do you think this God (who I guess lives in Heaven?) lives within this universe, or outside of it? If inside, how did he create it? And if outside, how can we know anything about him? (including giving him a gender...)

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    2. The problem here is that the size of the universe and the amazing contents of it, and the world/ life around us,have no need of a God to be marvelled at, and appreciated. EC has simply constructed a God for his own needs. As do all religious people.
      The Bible's teaching on creation is only convincing to the simplistic, since it offers no mechanisms or explanations whatsoever.

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  4. Well, I wonder if I am alone in thinking that Christadelphians like to hide behind the judgement seat? When Christadelphians behave appallingly, it is "hand waved", and you can expect to be told that "it will all be sorted out at the judgement". Well known Christadelphian crank Don Pearce is on record preaching that the unbaptised children of Christadelphian parents get a second chance in front of the seat....
    Those who issue this type of menace/threat normally do so in such a way as to attempt to convince the recipient that they, the issuer, will be judged, but not found wanting, and will subtilly attempt to shift some guilt away from themselves.
    My late father, who was a devout Christian, simply suggested that in order to live without fear of the judgement seat, all one needed to do was live an honest life, and imagine that the judgement was imminent, and act accordingly. The policy seemed to do him no harm, and he passed away peacefully.
    I think we can safely ignore any religious person who attempts to use their God (or son of) to threaten, control, or manipulate others.

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  5. I'm wondering if the enforced lockdown across the world will cause a few CDs to re-evaluate their lives. Although they are mostly confined to their homes, especially as most are quite aged, for the first time in their lives they are away from the Sunday group reinforcement of their faith. Instead of having to dress in suits and hats and sit through yet another mind numbing memorial service, they can have a lie in or enjoy a lazy morning with an extra cup of tea. And as an added bonus, they are excused from supporting the vacuous public Bible talk later in the day.
    I'm sure the vast majority will meekly return as soon as the lockdown is lifted, but maybe the odd one will be enjoying their new found Sundays too much to give up?

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  6. Joseph, it might depend on how you expected the judgement to work. I always aimed to do what I considered the right thing, but because of the verses about people trying to do the right thing and getting it wrong, I was always concerned that I might end up judged unworthy. Particularly since God/Jesus didn't seem to think good deeds were the only criteria, and many Christadelphians criticised those relying on good deeds rather than, say, knowledge of the Bible.

    It does still surprise me when I hear of people who have preached for years that certain behaviours will lead to judgement and/or eternal punishment in hell, then it comes out they have been doing those things all those years. Did they ever really believe in these dire punishments, or was it just a way of controlling others? Or do they still believe it? (possible, but doesn't say much for the power of eternal punishment as a deterrent).

    But I agree with you - threats of judgement from an entity that we don't have any reason to believe exists can be safely ignored.

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  7. EC,

    Do those "incredible marvels of Creation" include the virus currently impacting the entire world? What about natural disasters?

    Of those things you find to be "convincing", how many would you consider yourself to be an expert in (and would other experts in those fields agree that you are)? Sometimes things can seem more "miraculous" the less we know about them and vice versa. It doesn't necessarily mean there wasn't a god behind it all, but we might be less hasty to make that logical leap once we understand all the facts.

    For example, people once thought the rain was literally sent by God, yet now that we understand the hydrological cycle, God's role (if any) has receded somewhat since we no longer need to invoke the supernatural to explain it. Instead people nowadays might say God set up the natural order and then set it in motion. But even this "explanation" is just the same leap but with the boundary of the unknown pushed back a little. It is known as the "god of the gaps" because such a god resides only in the gaps in our knowledge, or just beyond the boundary of scientific understanding (and that boundary shifts further back continually).

    Of course we can't yet explain everything and probably never will, but it seems that inserting "God" as the one-size-fits-all explanation for things we don't yet understand is a strategy that so far has only been proven false time and again as those "gaps" inevitably shrink. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't actually explain anything. Can you tell us "how" God created these things? If our ancestors had stopped at "God did it", would we have modern medicine and technology?

    Meanwhile, what is it about the vastness of the heavens that makes it any more likely to be the work of a god? One could easily conceive of arguments for a tiny universe being the work of a god, so I find your comments puzzling. A vast universe consisting mostly of emptiness and chaos seems more in line with blind natural processes to me, but I guess it's subjective.

    The Bible doesn't mention a universe. It describes heaven as literally "the sky" in Genesis 1. In those days even the outer solar system wasn't known, much less the galaxy. Only in the last 100 years have we discovered that our galaxy is just 1 among many (2 trillion is the latest estimate), and the further back you go the smaller people thought the "universe" was. I wonder if your interpretation of an iron age text might be a little anachronistic perhaps. The word "firmament" in Genesis 1 refers literally to a solid glass dome and we find support for this idea in other writings of the same time period.

    Do you find other holy books convincing too? And would you be at all surprised to find that devotees to those other books often display the same level of conviction that you hold for your book. Maybe when we see the effects that being raised in a religion has on those of other religions, we might recognise the same effects in ourselves and learn to question it more deeply. Just a thought.

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