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Goodbye Jesus

Learning To Live

Guest Rob Barnes

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Guest Rob Barnes

Hello there. I'm Rob, a 37yr old born again agnostic/ atheist from the county of Buckinghamshire in the UK. I came across this website a while back and it has been a source of encouragement to me as I move from one phase of my life into a new one.


I have been deeply touched by reading about some of the testimonies on this website. They have resonated very deeply, and I thought I would contribute my own somewhat garbled account. Below is cut and pasted an e-mail I sent to the pastor of my church recently, and an e-mail I have since copied to many of my Christian friends. It says something of how I came to be where I now am, and I thought I would share.






Morning David. I hope I find you well?


I've been reflecting and chatting things through with Joy and we both felt it would be

useful for me to articulate some of the background that has directed me to my present

agnostic state.


First and foremost, I'm naturally curious. My interest was piqued by an article on the BBC website in October 2006 entitled "The God Delusion".

At this time I considered myself a reasonable apologist and noted that there was a discussion forum on the News-night website. I signed in and spent the next three weeks involved in a discussion which ran to a couple of thousand posts before the administrators shut it down. Nothing I encountered shook my faith, but for the sake of being open minded I resolved the read Mr Dawkins book.


The result? Not a whole lot of change. He makes some fair points, but I was well versed enough in the historicity of Jesus to be unshaken. I was challenged in regards to the Old Testament however, and its abundance of teachings that appeared to conflict with my 21st century morality. I put these concerns aside and vowed to investigate these more closely at a later time.

During my foray into secular literature another name kept cropping up. Sam Harris, who turned out to be a 39 year neuro scientist responsible for a book entitled "The End Of Faith", which he started on the 12th September 2001. I found myself watching a number of Internet videos of him in discussion with various theists, and found him to be polite, well spoken, eloquent and clear thinking, What's more, his criticism's of religion in all its guises were based on a 20 year pilgrimage that had taken him around the world. He'd done the mileage, he wasn't some crude atheist reliant on rhetorical fireworks to prove his point.


In short, it became apparent to me that as a Christian I was making explicit, exclusive claims about the nature of the Universe. Claims that no human being alive, theist or non theist could verify. In short, as i read his book I essentially felt my faith challenged on a deep, deep level. There was a voice of reason emerging within me that was stifling the faith I had held so passionately for so long.

To avoid cognitive bias, I ensured I was reading the C.S Lewis classics again, along with William Barclay, John Stott, and a number of other Christian authors. I wanted be as even handed as I could at this time. I wanted to follow the evidence wherever it may take me, whatever the cost.

I read Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great", Sam Harris's "Letter To A Christian Nation", and was a regular visitor to Richard Dawkins excellent website for science and reason.

I was also still reading the Bible and praying, although as you can imagine there was an inner conflict in its ascendancy, and nothing seemed very clear.

The questions I had continued to multiply. They concerned Old Testament atrocity, its acts of ethnic cleansing, genital mutilation, child abuse and mass murder, and I found myself unable to square Yahweh with the latter teachings of Christ. But of course I have no need to for they are one and the same person, So for every healing of a blind man in the NT i saw an act of brutality in the old. For every women at the well I saw a daughter of Lot, or a wife of Lot, or the poor soul who happened to drop the Ark, or the children attacked by bears.

Jesus and Yahweh were one. Fully unified, fully in agreement.

These, as you can imagine, were deeply troubling thoughts to me.

But I'm not not a quitter. Kept praying, kept reading the Bible, kept going to Church.

A also wanted to tackle questions of morality to see whether it was possible for a society to be moral without God. I thought about Hitler, who never formally renounced his Catholic faith and for whom the Vatican said prayers every year. I wondered why the only Nazi ever ex-communicated was Goebbels, for the crime of marrying a protestant rather than anything that might have occurred in the final solution. I thought of Stalin, undoubtedly an Atheist, albeit with a power base built upon the strength of the Russian Orthodox Church. I thought of Pol Pot and others, whose dogmatic regimes exhibited a certainty rarely seen outside religious circles.

It dawned on me that it was unlikely that Atheism had been the sole cause of their appalling crimes. It was dogma. Wherever there's dogma, there's the risk of terrible consequences.

And then I thought about Sweden and Norway, and all the other Northern and Western European nations, the majority of which are largely secular. Is violent crime higher? Are teenage birth rates and STD transmissions more prolific than say, the Bible belt of the United States of America?


They are not. They are lower. Statistically, empirically. Not far short of a brute fact, if such a thing exists.

I continued to meet with my good friends Gareth and Kevin and John Belson on Monday nights. I love those guys. But by this time the questions and the doubts would often create some tension. It became increasingly evident that I was slipping away, drifting from a genuine Christianity into a kind of agnosticism, and there did not appear to be any way back.

I spent some nights on my knees. Many of them in tears, trying to seek something of the presence of God, something which I truly believed I had felt before.

Might I have been wrong? Might my desire to believe filled the cognitive gaps? I began to fear that this may be so. I could go on to to issues such as evolution, but this has nothing to say about whether or not God exists. It studies the empirical. It is mute on metaphysics. I could also go on about my issues with the doctrine of Hell, a teaching I find irreconcilable with everything that my own, albeit flawed morality tells me.


In summary, I have tried to step back from what I wanted to believe and instead asked myself to look at the evidence.

I look at the natural world and I see astounding beauty and incredible cruelty. I look at the lives of others and see inexplicable good fortune and terrible hardship. Much of it seems very arbitrary to me. Patternless.

As an individual I still believe in the historicity of Jesus. The evidence is too strong, and this gives me some hope that there might be something of a spark left. At this time however I seem unable to make any connection, and I often find myself hostile to many of the teachings that I once held in such high esteem.

Spiritual warfare? Perhaps. I'd be very closed minded to rule it out. Its just that I don't see any trace of the divine anymore. And it isn't for want of trying, believe me.

So that's where I'm at. These are some of the issues. Its a bit of a melee, isn't it?

The hardest thing is the way in which this affects the relationships with my Christian friends. I am by default a corrosive influence. You would not have known me prior to coming to Southcourt, but I was fully involved. I worked on Alpha and headed up the drama group for some time and often performed at the Sunday night live services. Joy and I were also committed house group leaders.

It isn't easy taking this road. It might even be the wrong road. But as I said before, I just have to be honest. I have to be true to the fallible man that I am. And as such I find it hard to accept religious certainties in the way that I used to. I'm probably an agnostic, although on a good day you can get me to a soft deism if the wind is in the right direction.

I'd love to be able able to trust in Jesus in the way I once did. It made life easier, of that I've no doubt.

Trust me David, I have doubted the doubts. I've wrestled with them and tried to square them and yet at this time the doubts persist.


I hope this in some small way makes some sense. Sorry to have taken up so much of your time.


I think I'm an Atnostian. Not enough faith to believe, not enough faith to be convinced of my doubts. And just terrible at sitting on the fence.


Take care mate







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Rob, thanks for sharing some excellent insights. Thanks especially for looking at and discussing these "three classical examples of evil"--Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot. So many arguments on here come from science and my brain simply cannot handle science. But social theory--that's right down my ally. I put the link to your post into my folder of special links because time and again these world leaders are raised as examples for some reason or another and I think you shed a lot of light on them--it's the dogmatic unreason at bottom that is so dangerous rather than religion per se. Thanks.


And welcome to the forums!

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  • Super Moderator

Beautiful and coherent writing. Boy, do you fit in here!




- Chris

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Guest eejay

Welcome Rob. While those of us on this side of the fence don't claim to have all the answers, it is still quite obvious that the x-tian faith is far off the mark. I believe that you will become more comfortable in time with your decision to leave x-tianty, but it does take some time for life to readjust after such a major shift. You will still be the same person inside, but you will likely see a lot of things differently than you had in the past with the biases gone. Obviously if you've been checking out the site for a while you've seen many people have similar experiences of deconversion. Glad you decided to come aboard.

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Guest Rob Barnes

Thank you guys. Its great to join this forum and I'm so exited about learning from you all. Its a remarkable and awe inspiring world out here!!

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Hi Rob!

I wish I could be as brave as you have been in writing your pastor and as eloquent. Welcome to a life of freedom and truth. It is a wonderful thing when the blinders of 'faith' come off and you actually start to think for yourself.



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Welcome, Rob, to the nourishing stew of ideas which is Ex-C.


Push up your sleeves and dig in.

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Welcome Rob! I too am curious and that is part of what led me to freedom as well. Great post!

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Hi Rob,


I took much the same road as you, and came to some hard conclusions.


The problem with believing in the historicity of Jesus is that it's difficult to know where to draw the line between the man and the myth. There is virtually nowhere to do it without negating one or discounting the other. If you buy that Jesus "hurried to Jerusalem" to be crucified in order to fulfill the prophecies, and to pay the ultimate sacrifice for humankind, then you are forced into a very difficult intellectual quandary. If Jesus was real, and the events described in the Gospels actually took place, but at at the same time, the entire theology is man-made and spun out of whole cloth, then Jesus was suffering from a massive self-delusion, his followers took a stand and were martyred for a belief system with no substance, there's no salvation, no damnation, nobody's going to heaven or hell, and on and on. I think that's why so many hardcore Christian intellectuals get stuck in a sort of spiritual "demilitarized zone" when they begin to seriously toy with the idea of religious freedom.


What I found was that the greatest step of faith was the decision to embrace the idea that there may be no deity at all, other than the one we invent because we are desperately afraid to be alone. But once I took that step, I discovered that the next step was a bit easier, and then the next, and the next. I can truthfully say that I'm finally happy, and free of guilt and fear; but I also have to be honest and admit that it took 23 years of separation from the church, and 12 years of therapy to accomplish it.


On the subject of the Nazis, their religious affiliations and their willingness to wholeheartedly slaughter their victims in the millions: I submit that many of them believed that they were serving a power greater than themselves, and in that sense, were no different than the Inquisitors, the crusaders, or the Christian right of today. That slavish devotion to a narrowly focused world view is required for any religion to last for 2,000 years. The path you are on is diametrically opposed to that frame of reference, and although it's a lonely journey, it leads to wisdom.







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