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 ~

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Have your say: Why do you believe?

I was raised as a Christadelphian and was taught to fear God from a young age. I was taught religion at an age when I did not have the faculties to reason whether or not it was true. My knowledge of the world was tainted. I simply inherited the beliefs of my parents and teachers, who had each inherited their beliefs from their parents and teachers before them.

I lived in a bubble, an alternate universe, allegedly created by a supreme deity who loved everyone, but who was always just, and always watching. In my bubble, all of the "facts" I was taught pointed to the truth of the bible. I had so much evidence, or so I thought, in the form of fulfilled prophecy, detailed history, incredible consistency despite many authors writing over hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Not one verse in the bible contradicted any other. I had a copy of the very words of God, and he had chosen ME out of all the billions of people on earth, many of whom were much less fortunate. It was great for me, but it sucked for them...

I had a pretty typical Christadelphian upbringing. I lived a happy childhood and mostly enjoyed my teenage years too. My experience of Christadelphian life appears to have been quite typical and corresponds closely with most others I have spoken to since. I have no issue with most of my Christadelphian life. I believe most Christadelphians are good people with good intentions. However I believe Christadelphians are deluded.

What I do take issue with is the teaching of religion to children who have no defenses against it. Children are taught that concepts such as God and resurrection are true (despite not being offered credible evidence) and often told not to question them. They are conditioned to fear and obey authority figures and threatened with punishment, sometimes physical, if they disobey. Does this sound like the kind of environment where a child might discover truth?

Let's replace the word Christadelphian with another religion. Now re-read the above. What is different? How will such a child grow to learn the truth, if they were taught falsehoods in this way? How do we determine what is true, and what is not?

Are children really being taught truth via this method? or are their teachers merely transferring their own faith onto impressionable minds who are far too young to suspect that an adult might lie to them, or worse, that an adult might not actually know the answer to something, and instead is speaking in ignorance?

Why is it so important to teach kids religion at such a young age anyway? are Christadelphians afraid that children might not believe if they were not taught about the bible until they were old enough to reason and doubt? If the bible's message is so clear and powerful and so obviously true, why do the beliefs need to be reinforced so strongly, and from such a young age? What are they afraid of?

When it all boils down to it, I believed because I grew up as a Christadelphian. I believed because I trusted the people who taught me, and I accepted it as true. I believed because I researched it the way I was taught to research it, and I used all of the evidence I was taught to use, and was thoroughly convinced by said evidence. I believed because I was naive and overconfident about knowing the answers to life, the universe, and everything. I believed I was chosen by God. I believed that many others in my school and workplace were not. I believed I was different to them, and separate from the world. This is not a healthy way to live. I suspect this may be one reason why a large number of Christadelphians suffer from depression.

Thank goodness for modern psychotherapy and modern medicine. Science - it works!

Christadelphians are taught to be sceptical of other religions. They are also taught how to "prove" their own beliefs using the bible. However many simply do not understand why "outsiders" don't take them seriously. Why don't people in the world believe when it all seems so obviously true?
While Christadelphians are routinely taught how to preach, and "always be ready to give an answer", they are not taught how to listen, and to understand other people's points of view.

I am no longer a believer. I am an atheist. Why? Well, because I no longer believe.
Atheist (noun): a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
I dared to question. I went where I was told not to go. I challenged the accepted view. I decided that if my religion were really true, it should stand up to scrutiny. I asked 'why?'. I followed the truth, wherever it led, and it led me away from religion. I don't know all the answers, but I no longer live in fear.

Christians say they are nothing without God. I am finally complete without God.
Christians say they are weak and erring creatures. I am strong and I believe in myself.
Christians say they are sinners, and in need of salvation. I am free like no Christian ever will be.
Christians concern themselves with living to make God happy. I live by my own values, and I strive daily to be the best I can be, and to make this world a better place.
Christians believe in life after death. I believe in life before death.

So enough about me.

I want to hear from you in the comments below...

WHY do you believe? and what would change your mind?