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 ~

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Winning the lottery of life

Do you believe that only Christadelphians (or those with similar beliefs) will be saved?
Do you believe that God will justly and fairly reward the faithful in the future?
Are your parents Christadelphians?
Have you considered just how "lucky" you are to be a Christadelphian?

Well, let's find out then...

How many Christadelphians are there?

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, there are about 50,000 Christadelphians worldwide.

However, estimates vary, and wikipedia lists the number as about 67,000 in total.
No official membership figures are published, but the Columbia Encyclopedia gives an estimated figure of 50,000 Christadelphians. They are spread across approximately 120 countries; there are established churches (often referred to as ecclesias) in many of those countries, along with isolated members. Estimates for the main centers of Christadelphian population are as follows: United Kingdom (18,000), Australia (10,653), Mozambique (7,500), Malawi (7,000), United States (6,500), Canada (3,375), New Zealand (1,785), India (1,750), Kenya (1,700), Tanzania (1,000). and Pakistan (900). Combining the estimates from the Christadelphian Bible Mission with the figures above, the numbers for each continent are as follows: Africa (21,400), Americas (10,500), Asia (4,150), Australasia (12,600), Europe (18,950). This puts the total figure at around 67,000.
For the purpose of this article I will go by the higher number of 67,000.

How many is that compared to the total world population?

In a world where the total population is above 7 billion people (that's a 7 followed by nine zeros), what are the odds of being a Christadelphian? This is a matter of basic mathematics, and it turns out that only 1 in every 104,000 or so people are Christadelphians. That is, Christadelphians make up less than 0.001% of the total world population.

The vast majority of Christadelphians are simply born into the religion. They adopt the beliefs of their parents, more or less, and continue on in the same religion. In fact all religions all over the world essentially work this way. This is nothing new, and should prompt you to pause for a while when considering your own belief system. Most people hold their religious beliefs with a high degree of conviction. But they cannot all be right. Either all but one religion is wrong, or they are all wrong.

As a Christadelphian you would be forced to conclude that 99.999% of the world's population made the wrong choice. With such an extremely high failure rate, how confident could you be that you did not also make the wrong choice, especially if you also remain in the same religion as your parents, just as they did?

Why are you so special?

Are you to believe that 99.999% of all people alive today have never questioned or scrutinised their beliefs to the level that you have?

Or do you believe that God particularly determined a good outcome for you, but not the 99.999%? In other words, were you specially chosen by God before you were born?

I believe that anyone with this degree of narcissism should be referred to a mental health professional, and I say that in all seriousness. This would result in a fairly dysfunctional view of the world.

For those who converted into the religion, I have bad news for you also. As you would be well aware, the number of Christadelphians who convert into the religion is tiny compared to the number who are born into it. Thus the odds of you converting to Christadelphianism are far lower again! Any notion that you have been somehow "chosen" by God must be balanced against the incredibly large numbers of people who were not so fortunate. It's far more likely that you have been deceived, than that out of all of the non-Christadelphians in the world, you were somehow smarter, or more faithful, or better in whatever metric you wish to use. If you feel that you were specially "chosen", then I again encourage you to join the queue of narcissistic Christadelphians already waiting to see the psychologist. I mean no disrespect. It is simply an extremely dysfunctional view and highly indicative of a deeper psychological issue.

How did you get to where you are?

Any Christadelphian honest enough with themselves should by now be having some serious doubts about what convinced them that Christadelphianism is the One True Religion.

What did you personally do to become a Christadelphian? Anything at all?

Did you research the origins and philosophy of every single religion? There are over 40 major variations among the various Christian religions, and also thousands of other religions, many of which are no longer practiced by anyone. Why assume that a religion must be practiced in order to be true? After all, if popularity were a valid measure of the truth of a religion, Christadelphianism should be dismissed outright in favour of Catholicism, Islam, Hindu, or Buddhism.

Considering the extremely remote odds of you becoming a Christadelphian, you must consider yourself very lucky indeed. You've won the lottery of life! The odds are stacked well against you. How do you reconcile that?

You may think you have done the research, and questioned or evaluated your beliefs and concluded that your parents religion is the correct one. But so have most other religious people as well. Why are you different? Perhaps you're not so different. Perhaps you're just lucky...

If your parents were not Christadelphians, or if you never came into contact with a Christadelphian, what religion would you now hold?

What if things were different?

Had you been born into a Muslim family, what are the chances of you being a Christadelphian today? Of course you would like to think of yourself as more likely to switch religions, but first you should take a look at the statistics. Unfortunately I don't know if it's even possible to obtain the relevant statistics, but I think you would agree that the number of people who grew up as a Muslim but later converted to Christadelphianism is vanishingly small. I don't know of any at all. Whatever figure you come up with, that's about the likelihood of you having converted to Christianity as well.

Also, if you haven't switched religions before, then you have no grounds at all for believing that you would have switched to Christadelphianism if you had been born into a different religion.

So clearly your birth or your particular circumstances played an extremely prominent role in your being a Christadelphian. Hooray for chance!

So who gets the praise?

Who or what determined your birth, or the circumstances of your life? Was it luck? or did God guide you? Did I miss any options? Perhaps it was fate? I don't know of any Christadelphians who believe in fate.

Do you believe that God will reward Christadelphians with eternal life in the future?
On what basis can God reward you for being a Christadelphian?

If you are a Christadelphian mainly due to luck (your birth and/or the circumstances of your life beyond your control), then the criteria that determines who will be rewarded by God is also essentially just luck.

If on the other hand you claim you are a Christadelphian due to God's guidance, then God could be accused of playing both sides of the deal. He is essentially rewarding himself.

But the others rejected "the truth"!

I hear this response a lot. It is probably comforting to Christadelphians to believe that those who will be rejected by God are those who knew and believed his message, but who rejected it. I have never met anyone who believes that the Christadelphians are right, and yet doesn't want to take part in the reward.

Like the parable of the sower, it is made to be the fault of the ground, not the sower, nor the seeds. The problem with the parable is that the ground did not choose its surroundings. There was no choice at all. The stony ground didn't choose to be so. Even the good ground did not choose its good fortune. If circumstances really are the decider for who believes and who doesn't, then God is rewarding people for things outside their control, and things that many believe God is ultimately in control of himself. Again, we have God rewarding luck or his own actions.

Before you accuse me of misinterpreting the parable, I am specifically talking here about what defining moments resulted in you becoming a Christadelphian, compared to 99.999% of the population. You may think that in the context of the parable everyone has an equal choice regarding what type of "ground" they want to be. But an examination of the global statistics would strongly count against that. If your parents are Christadelphians, your birth would seem to be the most significant event leading to you becoming a Christadelphian. Had you not been born into a Christadelphian family, the likelihood of you becoming a Christadelphian later, based on statistics alone, is so vanishingly small that you may as well rule it out. If you think God is rewarding people's choices, then you must conclude that 99.999% of people have consciously chosen to be the wrong sort of "ground". If people are so irrational, is it fair for God to expect otherwise? Don't Christadelphians believe that God created all people, which means he created their potential for rational decision making? If so, he would therefore be judging people for something he is ultimately responsible for. Not only is that not fair, it's not very intelligent either.

Even if you did happen to convert into the religion, then some chance coincidences likely played a pivotal role in your eventual conversion. The number of minor events that could have resulted in an entirely different outcome is astronomically large. Can you take the credit for it? I think not.

Got your winning ticket?

No matter which way you cut it, luck (or chance) plays a deciding role in whether a person ends up a Christadelphian, and thus God is rewarding or punishing people based (at least partially) on luck.

It would be just as fair for God to offer eternal life to everyone who happened to be wearing a yellow polka-dot shirt on a particular day. Or was it a green polka-dot shirt? Perhaps you should wear both a yellow and a green polka-dot shirt every day, just in case.

Good luck! It sounds like you'll need it.