Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Friday, April 22, 2016

Measuring the success of this blog

As some readers will know, this blog has been running for over 2 years now. I've added nearly 100 posts including over 60 articles of my own. I've received a number of comments and emails from both Christadelphians and ex-Christadelphians, some even thanking me for my efforts.

But should I consider the blog a success? Let's explore a little further...

Since the blog was created, it has received over 35,000 views.

Granted, a number of those are no doubt my own, and probably the vast majority of them were not first-time visitors. Of the unique viewers, I would estimate that again the majority of them were non-believers, or at least non-Christadelphians. Having said that, I know for certain that the blog has reached many Christadelphians. Perhaps you are such a one.

But if I'm generous and imagine that even as many as half the total number of views were from Christadelphians, would that make the blog a success?

It probably all depends on how you measure it.

On the one hand, it would have reached a significant number of potential (de-)converts, but on the other hand it surely failed to deconvert almost all of them!

If my goal was merely to raise awareness and get people to think (something I've mentioned often), then my success rate would surely be much higher.

But the fact remains that the Christadelphian movement remains largely unaffected by this blog, if I'm honest.

If you are a Christadelphian, perhaps you may have scoffed at the amount of effort that has gone into this blog (and other blogs) by an ex-Christadelphian, and laughed at the miniscule dent it has made in the Christadelphian world.

Lamentably, I'd have to agree. Whatever hopes I had for the blog, it has failed to reach many Christadelphians, and of the Christadelphians it has reached, almost all of them remain unconvinced by the arguments I have put forward.

Why have so few Christadelphians deconverted?

It's tempting for me to want to blame the Christadelphians themselves. After all, I have put forward what I believe to be quite solid arguments, and yet so few Christadelphians have even tried to discuss them with me, let alone agree with me.

Or perhaps the blame should rest with me. Perhaps the reason few have converted is because I'm wrong, and therefore unconvincing to the vast majority of Christadelphians. Perhaps I've been wasting my time.

What do you think?

Do you think this blog has been a success?

Perhaps it's time to give up.

Or...


(drumroll please)


...maybe it's time to turn this entire article on its head and lead you, dear reader, to think more deeply about what I believe is a fundamental gaping hole in the Christadelphian belief system.

Yes, that's right.

Because if you are a Christadelphian, you almost certainly believe that:

1. A perfect, extremely powerful, all-knowing deity created all of us, and wrote a book, intending to save everyone who read it and believed its message. 

2. Your interpretation of this book is the only correct interpretation, and indeed that your particular set of core beliefs (or something very close to them) are essential for salvation.

Now, putting these two points together, and realising that only a tiny fraction of God's alleged creation actually hold these beliefs, let me ask the critical question.

Has God's book been a success?

Take a moment to think about that.

What are you saying about the god you believe in if the best he could do is save the relative few that make up the Christadelphian movement? Did he lack the capability to do better? Did he not see this result ahead of time? How do you account for this shortcoming?

Of course my Christadelphian readers will want to place all of the blame for God's apparent dismal failure to communicate, on the wider public. All 99.9999% of them! But were these same readers so ready to blame themselves for my failure to convert them? I highly doubt it.

With numbers like these, if this blog had influenced just 1 single person who eventually deconverted, my success rate would be about 3x better than a deity who only managed to convert ~60,000 people out of the 7+ billion people alive today.

Do I really think I could achieve a greater conversion rate than an all-powerful deity capable of creating a universe? er, no. I don't. Do you?

Let me be explicitly clear

The argument I am using here is not intended to disprove the existence of God. Nor is it intended to disprove the Bible.

This article simply offers what I believe to be a fairly solid argument that the Christadelphian belief system, as it is most commonly believed, is indefensible.

Specifically, the belief that one must believe what Christadelphians believe (or similar) in order to be saved, simply cannot be reconciled with the idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing deity having written a book with the express intent to convert humans to these beliefs.

Either you believe in a deity who is more capable than humans, in which case you need to explain why the results are so dismal, or you believe in a deity who is far less capable than some humans, in which case why would you trust it to save you?

For the sake of completeness, I will also mention a third option, which is that maybe God actually did not want to save 99.9999% of the population. Besides being in direct conflict with 1 Tim 2:4, it's also decidedly not what I would call "all-loving". If you do insist on going with this option, then perhaps I should just claim that I actually intended not to deconvert anyone* via this blog, and then I can call this blog an overwhelming success. Hooray!

* This does not mean I intended to deconvert people. My reason for creating this blog is given here.

By the way, even if you grant that all Christians will be saved (not the Christadelphian view, and specifically rejected in the DTBR), that still only lifts God's apparent success rate to about 30% or so, which is still an F grade by most grading systems.

7 comments:

  1. Steve, I think that you should, without any doubts on your part, continue with this blog. You can`t count the appreciation of CD`s, ex-Cd`s or others who don`t respond and comment, but they almost certainly would be left diminished by a cessation of the blog.
    Admittedly I, as an ex-CD, have found your articles and comments to be thoughtful, apt, and helpful in delving usefully into subjects of a puzzling nature.
    You should keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks Mancott.

      While my time is taken up by some more interesting endeavours these days, I still occasionally come up with ideas for new articles on the blog. I have no plans to shut it down. I enjoy writing the articles. It's interesting to explore different topics now and then.

      The number of Christadelphian readers actually does not bother me. I personally think this blog has gone very well and I'm pretty glad I created it.

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  2. I think you've heard my views before: I find places with open discussion helpful, and this blog has been one such place. But to have a discussion there needs to be content that is interesting to discuss, and you have provided plenty of that with well-reasoned articles and a different approach from mine.

    You have certainly affected my views on life with well-reasoned articles and discussion. One influence among many, but a valuable influence. Even disagreements have remained amicable.

    I actually thought the first half of this article sounded unlike you. It did lead to an interesting twist, though.

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    1. Thanks JJ.

      Well, the first half of the article was actually just intended to build up the case so I could do a bait and switch.

      I don't for a second think that this blog has been a waste of time, and I don't think stats are the full story. I just happened to be thinking about how difficult it was to actually reach christadelphians, and realised there were parallels with the view that God really wanted to save humanity but somehow failed to reach all but the 60,000 or so christadelphians. Effectively the christadelphians who hold this view (that they are the only ones who interpreted the bible correctly) are suggesting that God either could not have saved more people if he tried, or didn't want to. Neither option agrees with the idea of an all powerful, all loving god.

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    2. The verse I remembered today was the verse about the narrow gate and the broad way. I've heard people say (in essence) "I'm glad we're part of a small group, because it would be really hard to be sure we were on the narrow way if we were part of a big group".

      Continuing with that thought, the idea of God having standards and people not wanting to meet them could account for some of the number. I realise that even if you accept that, there is still a concern about all the people who haven't rejected it, but never had the chance of hearing about it. And the smaller the group of the "blessed", the bigger the group of those who are likely to have heard about it. Unless you assume everyone ever reading a Bible carefully should have turned into Christadelphians.

      Have you come across the classic GK Chesterton quote?
      "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

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    3. //The verse I remembered today was the verse about the narrow gate and the broad way. //

      That verse was written when Christianity was still a (growing) minority. Coincidence? I think not.

      //Continuing with that thought, the idea of God having standards and people not wanting to meet them could account for some of the number.//

      How would God not be responsible for that??

      So an omnipotent god has "standards" that it somehow cannot change, or refuses to change, and those standards are not met by at least 2/3 of the population (or 99.9999% of the population by Christadelphian measures), who this god supposedly created.

      How does a large portion of the blame not fall on the god who created the beings that didn't meet (and were very unlikely to meet) his own standards?

      Don't give me the "free will" defence either. Free will of that kind either doesn't exist or is irrelevant. What we're talking about is a probability that these created beings would meet his standards, and that probability is very low. I don't see how this god is off the hook here.

      Now add in the idea that this god is supposedly all-knowing and all-powerful - i.e. it could see the future and if it wasn't happy with the projected result, it could do things differently until it was happy with it - and the whole thing is just an epic failure.

      //I realise that even if you accept that, there is still a concern about all the people who haven't rejected it, but never had the chance of hearing about it.//

      Clearly the chosen method for getting the message out is deficient. Any god worth the title could have anticipated that in advance, even without being all-knowing.

      //Have you come across the classic GK Chesterton quote?
      "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."//

      Hadn't seen this before. But again, how do people accept this sort of answer? For a start, it's pretty obviously false. Many people don't find Christianity difficult, they find it utterly ridiculous.

      There are about twice as many non-Christians as Christians, and if you surveyed them all you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who actually believed Christianity was true, but "too difficult".

      If Christianity was a "hard sell", isn't that God's doing? It's easy to see how either changing the message, or changing the inherent make-up of the created beings to be more receptive to such a message would have solved the problem without violating free will. If the argument is that the deck is stacked against people being saved, who stacked the deck?

      If someone thinks the reason people don't believe in Christianity is because they found it difficult, then the same applies to all religions.

      Further, in the context of Christadelphianism, that still doesn't explain how God only managed to get his true message out to a miniscule fraction of his creation. Or why that's somehow an acceptable result for an all-powerful, all-knowing being.

      When God is the supposed mastermind playing all of the strings, there's only so much blame you can place on the puppets.

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    4. I don't know what the context of the GK Chesterton quote is, but I would guess it was in response to an accusation like "why would you believe Christianity when all Christians are hypocrites?" Christianity has typically tried to associate itself with higher moral virtues, at least officially, but has also had to recognise that no follower is perfect, and many are just social Christians rather than dedicated Christians.

      Maybe the "narrow way" quote has to do with Christianity being a growing minority. But I think it's more likely to be associated with the hard demands that are being made of believers. It is part of the sermon on the mount, and comes directly after "do unto others as you want them to do unto you". I think that's a thing most people recognise as a good idea, but find hard to actually do. And that's just one of the many moral demands made in the sermon on the mount. As presented in the gospels, Jesus knew he was holding people to a very high standard that the existing religious leaders had been unable to meet. In that context, saying that the way was narrow and hard and not many people could find it sounds like a healthy dose of realism...

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