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

Why did I once 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 mistaken.

One thing I particularly disagree with is the teaching of religion to children who have no defences 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.

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.

Sometime in my late twenties I started to wonder if all the things I had been taught really were true. I asked myself how I could possibly find that out, for certain. Or at least as much certainty as was humanly possible. I quickly discovered that there were many other viewpoints out there and many other sources of information that often disagreed with what I had been taught. Finding out the real 100% truth was going to be a very difficult task. I also realised that I had so many biases that I had inherited from my Christadelphian upbringing, and that I would need to work hard to eliminate these biases as much as possible, in order to allow the truth to shine in.

Over time some patterns emerged, and every one of them bothered me a lot. The evidence did point to some clear answers, but those answers pointed directly away from everything I previously believed. As the cards fell, my worldview began to cave in, not all at once, but in small, incremental chunks. Looking back, it was a very difficult time for me. But it was unavoidable. This is the course that every child who grows up as a Christadelphian will need to walk, if they truly want to know and understand the reality around us. They may well reach different conclusions than me, but the work they will need to put in will be the same. After a couple of years I was ready to walk away from my former religion and put it all behind me.

However, when all you ever knew was the Christadelphian community and lifestyle, moving on is...scary. Everything is new and unfamiliar. I had to learn how to fit into an unfamiliar world, and that process continues today.

One reason why I created this blog was to show others who walk this path that they are not alone, and they can always count me as a friend who will help them walk this path. Life is an amazing journey, and although I have lost much, I believe I have gained so much more.