I don't choose to dwell on it so much. It's just that, well, that was my life for over 30 years and it shaped pretty much everything about me. It's all well and good to think I should be able to just "move on" and enjoy my life doing other things. But what other things? And how do I go about "moving on"? Moving on to what? How do I know what I enjoy? More to the point, my whole identity was tied up in the Christadelphian world. Now that that's gone, who am I? What's left of "me"?
The hardest thing
For me, the hardest thing about leaving the Christadelphians is that I feel like I've been trained for the wrong job. The pieces don't fit. I don't belong anywhere. I had to rethink my own understanding of who I am and what my life is about. I'm still not there yet.
That might sound strange to some of you. You might be thinking, "well then why did you leave? Isn't this what you wanted?" Well, no, it isn't. What I wanted was to find out what was true, or what I could be reasonably sure was true. I didn't choose what that "truth" was. When I set out on my quest to learn more about whether or not the Bible was really true, I wanted to renew my faith and remove my doubts, but above all I just wanted to know. Or at least to know whatever there was to know. But time after time the evidence I discovered pointed away from the Bible. At each step I managed to reconcile my beliefs and continue on, but eventually the evidence in favour of the Bible had virtually disappeared, and I became agnostic. I didn't set out to become agnostic. I was just being honest with what I found.
Letting it all go
One of the main reasons I write this blog is to process things, and to put everything that's in my head down "on paper" so that I no longer need to carry it around with me. Most of the content on this blog is based on my research while I was still a Christadelphian, before I eventually deconverted. All I've done is flesh it out a bit and link to external references etc. Putting all of this online has been extremely liberating for me, but it's only part of the battle.
But...what if I missed something?
Since becoming agnostic I've spent so much time thinking about how I might be wrong, what might change my mind, what evidence I might have missed, things I might have overlooked, and much more. I do this partly because I'm very analytical like that (who knew?), but also because I'm thorough and wanted to leave no stone unturned. I no longer believed in a future kingdom or future judgement, but sometimes I imagined being wrong and standing before Jesus and him telling me, "Aha, you missed this verse", or "but you missed this piece of evidence here". Those "what if" moments still bother me sometimes. But at the end of the day I feel that I really did give it my best shot. Even now I still read some Christian material and occasionally watch debates online. If the evidence for the Bible's alleged truth is out there somewhere, I haven't found it yet, despite having searched harder in the last five years than many believers do over a lifetime.
So much has changed for me in the last five years. Some of the biggest changes have been in the way I view the universe, and other people. I have developed a much greater appreciation for the size and complexity of the universe, and for how much (and simultaneously how little) scientists know about it. Likewise, the planet we live on has become so much more fascinating to me in every detail. I feel deeply connected to it, as well as to all of the other people upon it. After leaving the Christadelphians I felt a much stronger bond with humanity as a whole. I felt more "human", and even though my Christadelphian past still makes me feel alien sometimes, I started to see other people more like "family" and less like "the world". I started to care a lot more too.
These are huge changes from the way I lived and felt before, as a Christadelphian. Back then, my life was simply a mission to solve the biblical riddle and do whatever it took to be saved, and to do my best to meet expectations surrounding that. Part of that meant helping others to be saved too, but my worldview was narrow and rigid. Personal growth wasn't a big deal - God would solve that "in the kingdom" (along with every other ill in the world, thus absolving me of any personal responsibility). Likewise there was no reason to strive for a better job, or pursue a more attractive career beyond what was necessary. Those were all just selfish pursuits that might distract me, so as long as I had "enough" then there was no reason to try harder. The worst part was that instead of feeling good about my achievements and feeling excited about life, I lived with constant guilt and fear that I wasn't good enough for God, or wasn't doing enough to be saved. I was constantly criticised by Christadelphians, whether it was ABs, the older generation, my generation, peers, so-called "friends", or even my own parents. Knowing how the Christadelphian culture works, they probably only criticised me in order to feel better about themselves (and quieten their own critical inner voice). It pains me to think that I might have treated others the same way, and for the same reasons :(
I have battled depression and anxiety a lot throughout my life, and I think a lot of it is at least in part due to the amount of criticism I have encountered over the years. For reasons I still cannot figure out, Christadelphians often expected things of me that I felt unable to deliver. I could never live up to their ideals, and so I beat myself up over it. I thought I was broken. I constantly put myself down, having internalised the criticism.
Probably one of the best things to come from that (if there were any positives), was that I eventually sought counselling for depression and started reading books on how to deal with it. I learned useful techniques for managing my moods, and I have made a lot of progress over the last few years. I took medication for a while, which helped as well. Leaving a religion like the Christadelphians feels like sink or swim sometimes. And I've done my fair share of sinking and swimming along the way.
Something my psychologist told me has stuck with me ever since. She said, "Be kind to yourself". It's something I definitely don't do enough. It's helpful to imagine someone else going though the same thing, and think about what I'd tell them and how I'd help them - and then use that as a model for how to look after myself.
As I mentioned earlier, the one thing I have struggled with the most is the feeling of being a stranger in a strange world. Leaving the Christadelphians made the familiar become unfamiliar. I felt like I was starting life over again, but as an adult. I lost friends. It just feels like the radio is damaged and there's not enough signal strength to communicate any more. We're also operating on different frequencies and there's very little overlap. Making new friends in one's 30's is hard.
Despite all of the difficulties, there are many positives. Being an alien on a foreign planet is great if you like exploring and learning new things (and I do). Everything in life has a new significance, and new meaning. It is difficult adjusting to the fact that life is finite, but it does make it more valuable. I am far more curious about the world, and I'm also more open to doubt and uncertainty. I'm ok with saying, "I don't know". A good day is one where I learned a little more about the world. A great day is one where I became lost in something I enjoy. Life may be short, and full of sickness and tragedy, but there is also beauty and wonder, and for all the bad and the good I'm thankful to have the experience. I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity to experience reality more closely, outside the Christadelphian bubble. I feel so much more authentic now, and so much more free.
Well, hopefully this helps to shine more light on what it's like for one person to leave the Christadelphians after growing up in the religion. It may be very different for others. I don't know. As bad as it may seem, I have no regrets about deconverting and only wish I had discovered the evidence sooner. The world is an amazing place, and the cosmos just captivates me. To live more authentically, and to be truly me, is the best thing in the world.
Always be kind to yourself and others. Thank you for reading.