Who's next?

 By Jon Morgan

This year I’ve been reflecting on how much I changed in the 2010s. Some of the changes could probably have been expected given my age and stage of life, but leaving religion in particular wasn’t expected by me or by those around me.

It now makes me wonder how many others there are like former-me: People who are young, indoctrinated, dedicated to their religion. Maybe they’re already facing doubts, or maybe they will in the next five or ten years. Maybe they’re already thinking of quitting, or maybe they just view the doubts as things to be conquered.

If I were going back in time, what might I say to former-me? And if anyone feeling these things happens to be reading this post, what might I want them to be aware of?

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7 comments:

  1. Wow. Profound stuff, and beautifully written. What advice would I give? Be gentle with yourself. Be patient. Don't get stuck in one place while evolving out of the religious mindset; try to keep moving while heading toward the exit. Don't let anyone stand in your way. Always be polite in your departure, but firm. Don't burn any bridges you cross over, until you're sure you won't need them for a possible retreat. When you're sure later that you won't need them to retreat upon, then burn, baby, burn.

    Looking back, I can see I never really believed, but was just going through the motions. On some level, it all smacked of nonsense and fantasy and wishful thinking. Always. There were too many inconsistencies, too many contradictions, too many pat answers that were actually non-answers. On occasion, someone would make a preposterous speculation or comment, and I would find myself cringing inside.

    When your instincts make you respond that way, it is important to listen to them. It is then often important to gradually vote with your feet, whether you are reacting to a religion, a job, a relationship, a friendship, a neighborhood, or anything else. I can also see, in looking back, that by being trapped in CD Land, I was also trapped in other dysfunctional relationships that greatly hindered me.

    One member of our ecclesia had severe mental health problems and intruded herself constantly into the lives and affairs of other members. She stalked members on the telephone, going through her address book each day, dialing one member after another in alphabetical order. Very quickly, because the numbers of Christadelphians in the world are small, she was calling every day. We thought we were duty bound to help her combat her loneliness, and we would accommodate the phone calls, and the situation eventually became absolutely hellish. When I left CD Land, I felt free to end that particular relationship and similarly miserable and dysfunctional ones.

    I also felt free to unload some of the relatives. I no longer had to interact with them each Sunday and Wednesday, and was able to free myself from most of my more toxic family relationships.

    There are many forms of bondage in life. Ending one form often assists you in ending others.

    These kinds of changes are always painful, but the pain is best described as "growing pains." I came into Christadelphianism as a beautiful child, and was taught that I had been born evil and was carrying a burden of insidious sin. (Gee, thanks folks.) I left Christadelphianism with a belief, one that lasted for years afterward, that I would undoubtedly one day face God's terrifying wrath for having fled such "Truths." In hindsight, I can see how terribly they wounded me by imbuing me with such crippling thoughts and feelings.

    And even so, I loved them enough to still feel sad for them in their blindness. "I was blind, but now I see," as the old hymn goes. Indeed.

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  2. And Happy New Year. We are glad you are back residing in the land of thinking people.

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  3. "Run, Forrest, RUN !!"

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  4. I was born into a Cd family and was indoctrinated with Cdism - an inevitable consequence. I had pleasant Sunday School years, Youth Circle, Swanwick, and other Youth Gathering events during my growing years. My parents were careful that I attended, though they weren`t over strict with me and there were plant of social activities mixed in with the religious stuff. Almost all my close friends were attendees. I was getting well into the Cd bubble. My baptised early adult life was enjoyable, as all my social contacts were members. Bible Campaigns in various UK locations were engaged in with zeal and enthusiasm. It wasn`t until I moved away from the Birmingham UK area, to an isolated ecclesia where social activities were almost zero, like-minded members few, discussion at Bible class not allowed, that I began to feel that if these were people who believed the same as I did, then "something was quite right", it wasn`t balanced - was it them, was it me, was I in the Truth? I attended less frequently, and at the same time was travelling for business throughout the UK and near continent. The Cd die-hards would say that I was being influenced by worldly matters. I would say that my brain was being gradually freed from my former indoctrination and allowing me to think clearly for the first time in my life. I started to read non-Cd publications widely; to study, to look carefully at what I believed, getting more of an understanding of what I was "in", without the feeling that I was upsetting God, who was watching me. I began to realise that Cd`s were adrift in their beliefs and that I had, well, not wasted exactly, but had spent a lot of my life so far, up the creek of living without the correct paddle to take me in a meaningful and truthful direction. Eventually, because of my non-attendance over several months (I wasn`t contacted and questioned by the AB`s), I was disfellowshipped - not that by this time it upset me in any way. I felt relieved. Anyone leaving the Cd`s will face a mixture of reactions from friends and members still "in". These reactions usually fall into three categories, Good, Bad and Ugly. A few don`t change towards you, most stop contacting you, and the Ugly "pass by on the other side" -literally, and refuse to shake hands when passing by is not possible. Do not worry about it. They are the losers. I was fortunate in the sense that both my Cd parents had died before I left, and my children were still young enough at the time my wife left with me to not get caught in the Cd net, so any family strains were avoided. I did have a Cd aunt who found it necessary to tell me that my mother would be turning in her grave, which did upset me a little, though I wondered about her literal understanding of being "asleep" in Christ. Whatever your new circumstances after leaving, embrace your new wider-horizon of living, and make new friends, and be happy for your release from a controlling sect. You won`t get the Cdism out of your brain - it`s there for all time, but it will start to fade over time (it sometimes still makes me feel cross even now many years after leaving) and you will begin to see it for what it is - which is not the Truth. People leave the Cd`s by different routes. I have a good ex-Cd friend who managed it by exercising his intellect. My route was different, a gradual lessening of influence. After leaving I made a determined effort to check out that I`d done the right thing by leaving. I have friends who are happy to be "in". I remain convinced that leaving was right for me.

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    1. "I remain convinced that leaving was right for me."

      And that's the important thing, isn't it. I may (and in fact do) have a lot of opinions about the benefits and drawbacks of Christadelphia and about what might come next if leaving Christadelphia, but each person has to make their own decisions and live their own life.

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    2. What are some of the benefits? In hindsight, I see very few. A sense of community? I didn't get that there. No one invited us home for dinner. In communal activities, we were only present because their beliefs required them to include us. Uplifting music? Maybe if you're living in 1690. Brilliant biblical insights? No, mostly convoluted nonsense. An inspiring liturgy? You had to prop your eyes open with toothpicks. Nice people? Maybe when you're new, or until you disagree with them or question some of their beliefs.

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  5. My feeling is that if you stay, you also stay in a state of delusion. Permanently. The problem with that is that the result is often an exceedingly stunted life. We all function in small social ecosystems (for lack of a better word); if staying in this cult helps you to survive and gives you meaning, then stay if it's what you truly want or need to do. And by the same token, if you have doubts, you surely should explore them.

    I left because I was expelled. Chucked out unceremoniously as unworthy. I was told I'd be welcomed back when they felt ready to welcome me back. At this point in my life now, if they promised me all the winnings of the national lottery, I wouldn't go back. On one or two occasions many years afterward, I visited temporarily (for funerals, weddings, baptisms, etc.). These were situations sometimes clearly manipulated to draw me back into the faith, despite the previous expulsion. It didn't work. Within minutes of listening to some octogenarian mumbling about the Second Coming of Jesus, I'd be groaning silently in my head. On one occasion, without intending it, I literally let out a loud groan, to my own alarm as well as that of the people around me. It was an instinctive, primal, and spontaneous reaction. In hindsight, I can laugh about it.

    It is a confining and spiritually dead religion that imparts no joy and no wisdom (practical, biblical, or any other kind). The members, I found, do not appear to truly live -- living involves coloring outside the lines sometimes. This bunch is hemmed in like chickens in a pen, and they make just as much noise when you don't conform to the house rules and the pecking order.

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