About Me

I was brought up in a Christian family – not really over the top, no totally wacky ideas, but very cultural, middle-of-the-road CofE. That meant I grew up in a church environment, and it was always part of my life, even if it wasn’t something that had any serious impact on my life outside an hour a week on Sunday mornings.

Occasionally, on those Sunday mornings, I picked up on things in readings from the Bible and thought I really ought to do something about that. I particularly remember being worried by Jesus’ warnings about rich men being unable to enter heaven and the importance of putting him before everything else. Once, I spent a sermon wondering how I would be able to live as a hermit, which I saw as the only way to obey the Bible’s teaching. Those fits of panicky holiness never lasted long, as I came to realise that no one else ever seemed to do anything differently, so I concluded that I must be misunderstanding.

The only times my vague beliefs extended outside church were when I was in trouble or needed something. I used to pray fervently whenever I hadn’t done my homework, and was hoping for some sort of get-out. I often seemed to get away with it in those situations, but that may well be confirmation bias talking.

When I went to university, church might have been something I “just did”, but it wasn’t worth getting up at 10am for – that would be crazy! So I was happily drifting away until I went through a serious life crisis and ran back for some sort of support. I ended up regularly attending not just church, but also the Christian Union, where I discovered a muscular, confident, fun form of Christianity that I’d never experienced before, a world away from the dry routine of the local church.

So I got involved, took the whole thing much more seriously, and for some time was seriously expecting to eventually go into full-time ministry. There was a lot of culture shock, and I had to work through a lot of issues with shyness with people expecting me to tell strangers about my deepest thoughts and feelings, but overall, it was a positive experience, and it brought about a substantial change (for the better, I think) in my character.

After a while, I naively got involved in online discussions with atheists, not going out of my way to convert anyone, but frequently taking the bait when Christianity was ridiculed, and trying to argue the point. It was one of those debates that was responsible for the first breach in my previously impregnable certainty. When historical accuracy came up, I went to research the Gospel accounts and found that the conservative Christian account was surprisingly weak. When I mentioned this to some Christians I respected, they brushed me off, saying that there was more evidence for Jesus than Julius Caesar. That obviously ludicrous claim started to get me really worried.

In hindsight, I think everything else stems from that. Over time, I tried to shore up my shaken beliefs by getting more involved in charismatic churches, on the basis that supernatural experiences could cover for any annoying holes in the rational basis for my beliefs. It worked for a while, and I found a few other ways of staving off the inevitable, but eventually I reached the conclusion that it wasn’t working, and both the conservative theology and the wacky practice was just making me more uncomfortable, so I left.

I wasn’t ready to admit that I no longer believed, so I retreated to a church with a more relaxed, slightly mystical approach, which is where I am now. I steer clear of too much in-depth discussion of belief, especially mine, and view the process as a continuation of my previous distant, cultural connection with the church.

Truth be told, there are parts of Christianity that I quite like in some ways, I just don’t happen to believe that it’s true. My aim here is to work out what I believe and decide on a course of action for the future.

Since writing this, a lot has happened. If you want to know more, check out the category History of Me.

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42 responses to “About Me”

  1. Naphtali says :

    As a Christian who walked away years ago, never to be athiest, but strayed temporarily, I know where you are coming from. However, as I surf wordpress on the Christian tag many athiest/agnostics use this tag.

    As far as I am concerned athiest/agnostics viewpoints don’t belong on a Christian tag. I don’t tag mine in athiest or agnostic tags so why should you?

    If you don’t believe as Christians do why not leave us alone? If you didn’t really believe Christianity is real even for you, then how can athiest continue to fight against something they don’t believe exists?

    Somehow that doesnt’ make sense. Make a decision about your life. Whatever your personal truth is, won’t make a difference to God. His truth exists whether you go along with it or not. There are no athiest in foxholes.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I tag a lot of my posts with Christianity or variations of it because that’s what a lot of my posts are about. That’s what categories and tags are for, right? If Christians want to blog about what they think is wrong with atheism, or why agnostics don’t really exist or whatever, they should do so, and tag their posts appropriately. Where’s the problem?

      I’m not attacking anyone, I’m working through a lot of issues around religion, including things that bother me or don’t seem to make sense. If you disagree with my conclusions, please comment and explain why. But whatever my beliefs, I’m not going to stop writing about religion, or tagging it as such, because it interests me and impacts on my life in all sorts of ways.

      • SciAwakening says :

        How dare you tag your posts as “Christianity” when you know full well good meaning Christians may happen upon your post and be temporarily forced out of their safe, calm religious bubble. Shame on you. Ha, ha, what a bizarre comment. I’m really liking your blog here. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

    • 5ecular4umanist says :

      @Naphtali Why shouldn’t agnostic/atheist blog posts be tagged “Christian” if that is relevant, and it is here?

      Your other questions:
      Why don’t we [non-believers] leave you [believers] alone? Why do atheists fight against something they don’t believe in?

      Because religion poisons society.

      We can all be moral and good without some religious text telling us what to do and what not to do, what to think and what not to think, who to love, who can marry. Humans have an natural evolved sense of morals and we are better to trust those instincts that consult a book written thousands of years ago in a society with some very questionable ideas.

      Like many atheists, I identify strongly with the secularist view of society. Let everyone, of whatever religious beliefs and of none, have equal rights and privileges.

      Let science be taught in schools without the false “controversy” discussion of religious topics such as Creationism and Intelligent Design.

      Let children be given the complete understanding of all the religions in the world today, not some narrow view of a particular set of religious beliefs. Let the children be free to decide for themselves what to believe, based on the facts.

      Keep religion out of politics.

      So you see, atheists have good reason to do what they can to educate people away from superstition.

    • Luca Fancello (@majictreetrain) says :

      Please, at leas,t learn to spell a t h e i s t prior to pontification !

  2. Ian says :

    I got here from ship of fools. Your personal account is nicely written and interesting. There are lots of more obvious reasons for people stepping out of conservative circles. But why go for the ‘historical accuracy….being surprisingly weak’?
    There is all that jesusmyth stuff – but I don’t think this is what you mean? Actually I find the gospels very convincing as literature and the history bit (as far as it goes) works out – some wins, some losses, but overall okay.
    What do you mean?

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Hi Ian, good of you to drop in. I think I might edit that passage very slightly, because it doesn’t quite say what I thought it said, or what I want it to. I think, though, that I was quite happy with conservative evangelicalism as long as the Bible was true and reliable.

      I’m intending to deal with this in a dedicated post eventually, but in a nutshell, I’d previously had a very naive and almost thoughtless concept of the Bible. I don’t *think* I ever took all of it completely literally (it’s surprisingly hard to be certain about what you thought in the past), but I never thought there was any question about the Gospel accounts, and I suppose that was what I actually based my faith on.

      One thing I remember very clearly is being delighted that someone was raising the question of Jesus’ existence and the accuracy and historicity of the Gospels. I thought it would be an easy argument to counter, and felt that it proved they didn’t have any decent arguments. But when I started to look into it, I started to get worried.

      After a spot of research, I acted confident and rattled off references to Josephus, already feeling uncomfortable that the nearest I had to independent corroboration was a vague, unspecific reference from a man who wasn’t even born when Jesus died. So I went off to find out where the “proper” evidence was, and never really found it.

      There’s some good stuff in the Gospels, but if you want Jesus to be more than a cool iconoclastic teacher (and Christianity demands that he must be much more), historical accuracy and detail is important – even St Paul acknowledges that. A lack of any sort of meaningful corroboration of the four officially approved accounts isn’t necessarily a fatal blow for Christianity, but combined with other factors, it doesn’t look good.

      What seals the argument for me is the disagreement between the Gospels (however minor), the existence and suppression of accounts other than the official four, and various elements of the accounts which are either clearly inaccurate or at least indications of a rather loose and relaxed approach to writing history. Even if the stories are mostly a true reflection of actual events, the whole thing falls to bits if the detail is unreliable.

      A post covering this in more detail is most definitely on my to-do list!

  3. Andrew M says :

    Hey,

    Thanks for this blog and the stuff you are covering.

    I have a very similar background and experience, and working through all this stuff myself. I guess I am on the wavering side of Christianity at the moment, but was really interested to see that your crisis in faith and desire to get to grips with the evidence echoed mine, and arose in pretty much the same way.

    I think the problem with much of church today, and certainly with some of the more fundamental strands of church, is that there is little discussion or evaluation of the evidence for Christianity and Jesus. That makes for a weak body of believers, whether or not it’s true.

    That said, I think from looking at this stuff over the last three or four years, I think I’m coming back to faith. It looks like there are arguments to be made for the historicity of the new testament documents, for the philosophical reasons for god, and I think I’m getting my head around a God that uses evolution.

    Will be interested though to follow your thoughts…

    Cheers again!

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I think there are arguments to be had around the evidence, but to be honest, I spent a lot of time trying to shore up my faith by reading books which argued the case for the “historical Jesus”. Even at the time, and much more so looking back, it felt like I was desperately grasping for something firm to rest on, and never really finding it. All I managed was to slow the process down, by spreading enough doubt in my mind to avoid drawing any firm conclusions.

  4. Brenda says :

    I enjoyed reading your story. I look forward to following your blog.

  5. ATC says :

    Gosh. Sorry you’ve had rude comments. I suppose there really is nowt so queer as folk.

    FWIW, I was brought up Roman Catholic, atheist at 13, hedonist til 19, ‘born again’ in 1992 (in a caravan in Northern Queensland… don’t ask) and am now a Christian. Not into denominations, (I genuinely think ‘m actually a bit like God on that one… 😉 ) and I’ve happily worshipped Jesus at Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist, Reformed, Charismatic, etc, etc, churches!

    I value your honesty. We’re not all called to storm the minds of those who simply refuse to believe and – do you know what? – I think God can handle your honesty.

    I came across you (and your tags!) by getting frustrated with Professor Dawkins. I finally decided to read ‘The God Delusion’ and was rather shocked at the lack of serious interaction with the New Testament. He devotes SIX whole pages to it, claims it’s possible to mount a serious case that Jesus never existed (it isn’t), wheels out the Quirinius census (one random site which utterly refutes his statements on it as false and which surely mean Dawkins’ book needs updating is here: http://christianthinktank.com/quirinius.html , and dares to mention the Gospel of Thomas in the same breath as the canonical gospels (untenable for any sensible and unprejudiced person). He might be a master of biology (probably is? I don’t know) but he’s definitely one of the shoddiest theologians I’ve ever read. (Move over Thiering and Baigent). He now seems to be arguing, in the chapter whose title makes me smile (‘Why there is *almost* certainly no God’) that the Universe and life is massively improbable, but we’re here, so it’s true. But God is even more massively improbable… Ergo: there’s almost certainly no God.

    Sorry, I type very fast and have suddenly wondered why I’m typing all this out! I think some of your unthinking commentators on Christianity have forced my hand… 😮

    Anyway, may God bless you.

    ATC, Bristol, UK.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Thanks. I get all sorts of comments, but it’s all good.

      The point about whether Jesus existed is an interesting one. I don’t hold to the “Jesus Myth” theory myself, but I’m not so sure that it can be dismissed as easily as you think. One day I’m hoping to write about that. (A lot of my writing’s scheduled for “one day”!)

      If you disagree with anything that I or anyone else has said, the best way to deal with it is to chip in. I don’t promise to agree with what you say, but it’ll be interesting.

  6. rwzero says :

    I’m just another person who experienced similar things, posting some vague affirmation.

    I’m not sure how you manage to still go to church. I thought I could keep on hanging out there–I thought it would feel cool to be this guy who doesn’t actually accept the tenets of the faith, but keeps showing up on Sundays (and I liked that holiness feel on those sunny Sunday mornings full of empty streets). But I can’t do it. I just can’t sit through it.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      It’s getting a bit more interesting right now, and I think I might not be going much longer. Stay tuned for more information.

      • ATC says :

        Hi rwzero.

        I was interested to read your comments about ‘hanging out’ at church; going to church; accepting the tenets of the faith, etc.

        It’s always curious for me to hear of people who say they have come from ‘faith’ and are now going into atheism. My own story is the exact opposite. I was a genuine atheist, never went to church, and had never read the New Testament. But, for me, it was an actual spiritual encounter with Jesus Christ that changed all that. I know for a non-Christian that might make me sound utterly insane (you’ll have to trust me when I say I’m not 😉 but to me that’s what being a Christian actually is. Someone who KNOWS Jesus as a Person, who has a relationship with him. For me it’s not about going to church, accepting tenets of the faith, etc. It’s knowing him personally. That Jesus Christ is not dead and that you can be filled with His Spirit.

        That’s why I’m always curious about people who say they were Christian but now aren’t. There are mysteries of faith and I don’t claim to know it all. But most of the stories seem to be about going to church, or being raised to go to church as a child, and lack a definite ‘born again’ experience. Without saying this to be offensive, they seem to be drifting into atheism from ‘Churchianity’ or religion, or ceremonies or ritual. Not from a real encounter with the Saviour. In other words, they were never real Christians to begin with.

        For me, once you know you know! I know that sounds incomprehensible to a non born-again Christian but it’s biblical. The first Christians were not agnostics! In my own life as a Christian (20 years now!) I’ve had periods of not going to church and basically ignoring God and finding Him a complete pain mainly because, in a nutshell, I want to live my life my own way and not have anyone tell me that I can’t sleep with that person, or punch that person in the face, or carry on taking those drugs. Since that day I became a Christian, though, my pesky conscience has now been awakened, such things make me miserable in the end, and I just know there’s a God.

        I’d be interested to hear whether you ever thought of yourself as a Christian who KNEW Jesus was alive. Whether you would say you had been changed by an encounter with him. Whether you had been born again?

        I know testimonies DO exist where people say the above things. They interest me and I always value dialogue with such people.

        Anyway, I hope you do the simple thing of praying to God and asking Him for what you need.

        With regards,

        ATC, Bristol, UK.

  7. zanspence says :

    Hey Recovering,
    Bless you because actually now you are in a better chance to find the truth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt 5:6, NIV 1984). One must know what they believe and believe what they know. I think apologetics would be good for you and I recommend Ravi Zacharias (www.rzim.org). You can try out his podcast. You have a right to search out whether or not Christianity is the true world view that answers origin, meaning, morality and destiny coherently and consistently. You have a right to settle in your mind and heart if God exisits, is there such a thing as absolute truth, or is truth relative(relative). Why would a loving God let suffering enter the world. I welcome your posts and questions. Have a good day.
    Best, Zan

  8. slynn21 says :

    Hello, I just stumbled upon your blog today, and I wanted to throw in my two cents, take it or leave it. Like you, I grew up in a Christian family. I listened and accepted most everything, based on what those around me believed. Now, that is finally starting to change. Based on all my reading, pondering, debating and such, I made the conscious decision-on my own- to believe in God and that the Son of God did die for my sins and rose again from the dead, and in return for my salvation requests that I follow Him and love people. However, I am still figuring out the technical aspects myself. I appreciate your honesty, and am interested in following you as you determine your own beliefs, whether or not they align with mine. Best of luck!

  9. Louis says :

    When you say “recovering agnostic” do you mean recovering in the direction of atheism or recovering in the direction of theism? Or is that exactly the question that you want your readers to ask themselves?

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      Either or both. I think I might have dealt with this in my first ever post. The original idea was that it’s not so much fun being stuck in the middle, not having any answers, so this was a way to go out looking for them. I can’t dictate where I’m going to end up, because that’s down to what I find.

      Once I’d thought of turning my epistemological adventures into a blog, I didn’t do anything about it for ages, until one day I realised the potential of this name, alluding to the “recovering alcoholic” cliche. After that, I created the blog almost immediately. I think it sort of fits.

  10. befuddled2 says :

    Wanted to thank you for following my blog. I always go and look over the blogs of those that follow mine. That is always interesting seeing the variety of interests. Occasionally though I come across one that I in turn would like to follow. Yours is one such.

    So thanks for following my blog and for creating such an interesting blog about your explorations of your beliefs.

  11. Alex says :

    Get well soon, hope you overcome your need for an imaginary friend.

  12. Robin Brunskill says :

    I am really enjoying this debate. But when I read comments that are personal and designed to hurt others, I remember why I got out of Evangelicalism so many years ago. It destroys the goodness and tolerance in people, and brings out the competitive bully who needs to bitch, and “win” an argument at all costs, especially if people attack Christianity.
    I would say that involvement in Evangelicalism, destroys the inner integrity of a person, their sense of contentment, joy, sensuality and creativity, mainly because it is designed to be intrusive, and people are encouraged to judge others.
    Its a killer.
    It will take a person’s life, in the same way that heroin does.. and I think its harder to shake off the effects of Evangelicalism, than it is to shake off the effects of drug or drink or any other sort of abuse. Why? Because it is subtle.
    I saw good people, turn paranoid, mean, nasty, and I saw them suspect others and try to destroy them with lies. I saw sexual, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. I saw no dignity or integrity. No pride or self respect.
    And all this time, people were turning up and waving their hands around and singing truly embarrassing rubbish like “Shine Jesus Shine”. I saw relationships, friends, marriages crumble under the abuse that is Evangelicalism.
    Taking a step back and thinking “Ok, this isn’t Christianity” is the only thing to do… but.. by that time, you’re so sick of the entire thing, you don’t care what IS Christianity.
    Lastly, what I saw was the daylight robbery of people’s lives.
    That was what made it all so very evil and sad.

  13. violetwisp says :

    “Those fits of panicky holiness never lasted long, as I came to realise that no one else ever seemed to do anything differently, so I concluded that I must be misunderstanding.”

    Oh, brilliantly stated, it brought back a whoosh of “panicky holiness” memories that left me scratching my head as a youth.

  14. Barbara Backer-Gray says :

    Great post. And it cracks me up that Christians’ reaction is that you aren’t tagging your posts correctly. That’s just hilarious!

  15. Pastor James Miller says :

    Now when you say “true,” what is that? If, as the atheist must affirm, life is merely a product of materialism and evolution, there’s nothing that makes our perceptions jibe with ontological reality. All you have to do to survive is the four Fs: fight, flee, feed, and reproduce. But that doesn’t in any way require your senses to tell you the “truth” about anything. In fact, psychologists will tell you that mild paranoia is better for survival than realism, thus making it more plausible that all perceptions are in fact paranoid delusions. Thus to claim the position of naturalism is to say your thoughts cannot reveal the truth, meaning that you don’t actually perceive naturalism to be true.

  16. Donna McBrayer says :

    It’s interesting reading your thoughts. If I may recommend 2 of the most recognized, top selling books for answering questions along these lines? Basic Christianity, by John Stott, and The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. The Case for Christ was the first thing I thought of when I read your about me section. His journey sounds so much like yours, and so he investigated Christ thoroughly, traveling the world to find answers. I know you would find it very interesting and enlightening.

  17. porjo says :

    Interesting blog, and one that obviously is finding a large audience of like-minded people.

    I come from a different angle in that I am convinced there is a God and He is the god of the Judeo/Christian tradition. In contrast to a lot of other people, I’ve found that the study of nature and science is just as compelling a reason for my belief as any supernatural encounter, or philosophical argument.

    Where I struggle is reconciling my faith in God with a world where He seems to be largely absent and Christians appear to be completely ineffectual. Or perhaps the former is a result of the latter: God works through people, rather than bolts of lightning from the heavens…and while his people are busy navel gazing, the work isn’t getting done! (message to self)

    I’ve personally found C.S. Lewis’ writing on the topic of the journey to/from faith very helpful.

  18. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon says :

    Your “About Me” hit a few good points I believe we all think or feel from time to time. Searching for what is true or not of The Gospel. I myself was raised Catholic, but we as a family didn’t all go to church. My parents dropped us kids off, then picked us up after. I never understood this about my parents. I was Baptized, made Communion and made my conformation, which is so I could be married in a Catholic church if I met and married another Catholic.

    Later in life, and within my addiction, I resented this about my parents, including all the other verbal & physical abuse by the hand of my parents. this only added fuel to my Entitlement to my addiction. Looking back now, as a Believing Christian, the lord still does perform *MIRACLES* if you chose to see them. I’m one of his miracles, as he took me off my knee’s and hopelessness, and pulled me back from 2 attempted suicides and has shown me what HIS Purpose of my Life is for.

    It’s to help others and be of Recovery service to others from my Addiction of Compulsive Gambling & from any addiction. He also helps me Advocate for those who suffer from Emotional & Mental Health illness & Disorders. When our ears and Hearts are Open to him, you can hear what it is he wants to do for you in your Life. He has answered my prayers of a little Peace & Serenity in my Life from the Urges & Triggers of addiction.

    As far as a Rich Man having it the Hardest to get into HEAVEN…..That is a misunderstanding I believe. What he was trying to say is, If you have an over Abundance of Wealth, we should share and help others who need help. We can not take it with us when we enter the Kingdom, so make others who suffer or struggle a little easier for them. To help our family and neighbors who may have less. Caring, Helping, and doing for others is what he is all about.

    It’s pretty Simple the Three things we need to SHARE of Jesus and God the Father. That god is our Creator and we BELIEVE in Him, that god sent his SON to die on the Cross Of Calvary for yours, mine, and ALL SINS OF THE WORLD, and that he is THE ONLY MAN in History who Came back to Life after he died. He went to be with HIS FATHER to Prepare a The Kingdom of Heaven for US!

    A Fantastic Guide & Bible Commentary book to read with your Bible is by Jon Courson from Calvary Chapels. He really is educated and explains all of the bible in detail in all it’s meanings. I really enjoy it. I hope you find the answers
    your searching for. May God Bless and Guide your Heart,

    Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon 🙂

  19. dental eggs says :

    Never a christian, jew, catholic, etc. Just always believed in me. That’s a good feeling.

  20. jumbledwriter says :

    Some very interesting ideas on this post–and you have generated a solid discussion from readers. Congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed.
    –JW

  21. arnab8 says :

    I am not a Christian. I believe there is God. And it is perfectly possible to get a hint of the glories of the Lord if we observe ourselves and our surroundings. What seems to be your case is that you have lost faith in the institution. Faith in institution has nothing to do with the teachings of prophets. History is full of examples where institutions have come and gone. Many institutions tend to sway under the current of popular culture and beliefs.
    But the teachings are eternal. You must pursue your questions and doubts and one day you will find the person who can deliver you a perfect understanding of God to you. Sincerity is the only price we must pay.

  22. coastcontact says :

    From Merriam Webster on-line

    Agnostic: a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not

    Synonyms: Doubter, Disbeliever, Atheist, Nonbeliever

    You do not appear to fit into these definitions. You appear to be a confused Christian. That can be attributed to your upbringing. Try thinking about the existence of God. Where is the proof? Books written by man proves nothing.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I have no idea what point you’re trying to make, but to tell me how I may or may not describe myself comes across as quite rude. You don’t know me, I’ve written extensively on the subject of agnosticism, I don’t consider myself bound by any particular dictionary definition, and in any case my handle reflects both my position when I started this blog, my expectations of where I was heading and my love of lame wordplay.

      • coastcontact says :

        I am an agnostic. Thanks to your blog my confused position is reinforced. The mere fact that you created this blog says you too are in the same position. Believers do not question. The most certainly do not create a blog titled Recovering Agnostic.

  23. naturechaplain says :

    As a former Christian (and once-upon-a-time Minister) I greatly appreciate your honesty here. Debates are often pointless, but asking the sincere questions and telling our own stories is critically needed. I continue to write, teach and work with these issues and interests in mind. All the best!

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