Sunday, 26 June 2016
I made a mistake today. I attended a Christian family event. Went to support Joy really, as I knew she quite liked the idea of us going as a family. I got up in the morning with a best foot forward ethos, vowing to be on my very best behaviour. Vowing to be courteous, and something close to respectful. The trouble is that there is nothing about the doctrine of Christianity that convinces me that it is anything other than an atavistic yearning after an imaginary friend. And when I'm surrounded by dozens and dozens of believers, all singing and praying and solemly listening to the generic youthful pastor it strikes me as a wasteful, woeful experience. It isn't that the patrons aren't kindly and generous, and I believe they are truly seeking to be better versions of themselves. It's just that looking from the outside in the experience is weird and disquieting and just so far removed from my own personal experience. I honestly could not wait to drive the two hours home, to clear my head of it all. Perhaps much of this is to do with the fact that I shed my evangelical skin over a decade ago, and in the years since I have rebuilt my life, rebuilt me. The process is ongoing but today reminded me that there's always residue. The past always leaves a mark. And of course there remains the fact that many of my closest family are bible believing Christian's, delightful people on a journey so far removed from my own. Just how do I reconcile this with my instinctive need to value reason and evidence above all else? It is a challenge for me because I love truth. Even when it is blunt and cruel and indifferent. Seeking truth irrespective of how it left me feeling was a game changer for me. It meant that I had no excuse for self deceipt. I wonder if that is at the root of my discomfort? This suspicion I have that religion, in every shape or guise, is the ultimate expression of self deceipt. How do I even say this without causing offence or hurt to those I love? When I get too close to formal religion I just recoil now; I just cannot cope. Which is why my exposure to it will, from this day on, be limited to weddings and funerals and carol services. The week in week out stuff is just bewildering to me, and I came away feeling like I had forayed into an alien world. I deliberately spent the service attempting to surf the net on my phone, but even then you cannot help but hear some of the generic canards. All this talk about God being in control. About how he knew the result of the referendum. The generic preacher talk just kept on coming. I wonder if there were any amidst the congregation going through the transition that I underwent so many years ago? That desperately futile attempt to square the circle, to convince themselves that they don't have to walk away, that if they just pray enough, believe enough, some semblance of faith will return. I hope none of what I have written here comes across as condescending? These are just my very human musings on what was a genuinely weird day. I feel utterly detached as I write this, and I am trying to chart some path that allows me to have some level of respect for those who hold such views. Perhaps it is a weakness of mine that I even struggle in this regard?
Posted by Rob Barnes at 13:06
Saturday, 25 June 2016
After yesterday's epic act of unprecedented national self harm, here's hoping that today is a quieter one. Aside from everything that occurred, the overwhelming realisation for me is that we need to create a society where education doesn't end at the school gates. Where mature adults are taught to disseminate facts and see beyond vitriol and their own cultural biases. When you study the break down of who voted where I was so saddened that the older a person was, the more likely they were to vote out. That tells me that education isn't simply for the young. It is a lifetime project. When I reflect on the ramifications my heart bleeds for the younger generation, seventy five percent of which voted remain. How desperately sad that we would be so quick to hurt our children. I do not think for a moment that this was intentional, but it illustrated that as a society we need to be just a little bit more capable of putting reason and evidence before jingoism. All that said, I still adore the democratic process and hold no ill will towards those who think differently. More than ever, in light of what is coming we need to be brave and willing to endure challenges. So perhaps on the back of a dark day, we British can evolve into a wiser and warmer culture. Irrespective of a persons country of origin we are not so different. We are just people sharing this fragile planet together. Just human beings. Here's to the day when we can see beyond cultural or religious divides. Where disagreements do not lead to conflict or discord, or isolationism. May it dawn soon.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 00:19
Monday, 13 June 2016
So, Florida gunman Omar Mateen saw two men kissing in public a while back and it offended him. At least this is what his mortified father has disclosed. Perhaps this was another ingredient that crept into his delusional and sub par mind prior to his public demonstration of high caliber weaponry in a gay nightclub. Not being a fundamentalist renders me ill equipped to comprehend what informed his murderous agenda, yet we can probably predict with some confidence that his religious inclinations were front and centre. When I stop and think about this I don't make it too far down the road before I encounter a contradiction; on the one hand he would likely proclaim full confidence and absolute certainty that his version of the truth is the only one worthy of acceptance, yet he is also so lacking in confidence that he wishes to eradicate those who represent another way of life. It's a tough balancing act isn't it? Claiming to have all the answers yet terrified by voices of dissent. I cannot be bothered to further examine how easy it would have been for him to obtain the weapons he deployed with such zeal. America has made its own bed on the issue of gun ownership, and until it wants to wake up we shall continue to see mass shootings. Truth is, I'm not sure what makes me despair more; the lunacy of the gunman or the lunacy of a nation that makes such events not only possible but probable. Religion will always subvert reason and prostitute itself on the alter of nonsense, for this has long since been its default. And America seems committed to continue to lack the moral courage to legislate sensibly on the matter of gun ownership. What a perfect storm this whole thing has been. What a cluster fuck case study we have on our hands. I realise that I have not mentioned the victims yet. We shall hear their names and pay our respects in the fullness of time. Exactly what business did Omar Muteen have interfering with the life choices of the club patrons? God's business, I expect he would answer. And once more I roll my eyes. Dear religion, by all means practice your faith; celebrate it and share your convictions, even. But do so in the knowledge that we live in a society that more often than not say's no thank you. More than this, understand that we are not obligated to automatically imbibe your truth claims. I am not a Muslim because I happen to think that Islam is a nasty and bigoted pile of festering horse manure. I think its claims are absurd and its doctrines inane. I reject your truth claims. I want nothing to do with them. And i'd really appreciate it if you'd see your way to understanding that my choices will differ from yours. And America, for God's sake can you reach tipping point when it comes to gun control. Stop this madness. Be brave. This isn't the wild west any more. To close, I want to extend my condolences and sadness to the families and friends of the deceased. I stand beside you. I want to recognise and acknowledge your pain and bewilderment and immense sense of loss. Please know that you have the love and tears of billions at this moment. I also choose to celebrate the sexuality of every person on the planet who seeks to explore who they are and has the bravery to live this out. To live true to oneself is to live genuinely. To ignore societal pressure to conform is a testament to your strength. Never apologise for who you are. Never give an inch. You are beautiful, and you have a special place in this beautiful world. The likes of Omar Muteen are ugly scars, pustulant blisters of violence and bigotry. We will brush them aside and live on, live strong, by values of tolerance and dignity that his kind will never understand.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 00:04
Monday, 6 June 2016
I've been flip flopping. Then I asked myself why? It came down to wanting tighter border control and concerns over national infrastructure. Only then it occurs to me that these aren't actually great reasons. I welcome all overseas nationals whom want to come to our shores and make a better life for themselves. I count many of them as colleagues. And if this helps the national coffers to grow then this to me is positive. Concerning infrastructure, I already think government should be doing more so I can't pin this on overseas workers. We already had social housing issues and an NHS choking under its own weight. Without realising until late in the day, I think I was being influenced by a subtle xenophobia, and having identified this I think I'm seeing a little more clearly. Europe isn't perfect. Democracy isn't perfect. People, irrespective of creed aren't perfect. This is just the way of the world. So to conclude I'm voting in. And doing so because I don't want to succumb to tribalism, and also because I think unity is preferable to seperation. All that said, I remain respectful towards those who think another way.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 23:39
Thursday, 26 May 2016
Last night I met with a group of friends. It was such a lovely experience, yet it left me kind of melancholy. I was surrounded by people I have nothing but warmth and affection for; people with whom I’d been very close to before my rejection of evangelical Christianity almost a decade ago. I have no regrets over the choices I made back then. In fact I’m proud that I was able to act on conviction despite the massive emotional cost. I’ve written before that it meant walking away from a lifestyle, a safe haven, a group of friends whom I adored. I was a toxic brand, actively speaking out against beliefs dear to them. It was never my intent to cause people pain. I just had to act with personal integrity and be honest with myself and the wider world. I no longer believed any of it. Ten years on there are no wounds, but I do sometimes feel the undertow of sadness that our lives went different ways. I suppose that will always be there. I’m also acutely aware of how my decisions influenced Joy’s life and that of my children, all of whom still hold to religious views. My absence from that environment was a grieving process for her, and many things we once would have shared we no longer can. I do not inhabit that world. The real miracle of it is that as a couple we have rebuilt our relationship into something else, an ongoing process that has required honesty, often brutal honesty from both of us. But then who said relationships were easy? In fact nobody ever did, as I recall. However close you are to a person you’re still coming from a different point on the map, so I suppose the skill of it is to communicate in a way that enables you to chart a path together. I think we’ve negotiated a few rocks along the way, and we have learned things about each other, about ourselves, that have surprised us both.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 00:35
Thursday, 19 May 2016
The biggest danger facing America now is thinking that Donald Trump cannot go the whole way. The 2nd biggest would be failing to recognise that he has tapped into some of the nations arterial concerns. Is he the answer to the issues? No. Should he be given a little credit for having the bravado to raise them? I think yes. We live in a world where to say the wrong thing at the wrong time is to risk swift retribution. I dislike this climate, because whilst it intends to make the world a gentler place it actually creates the kind of space where the Trump’s of this world can rise from mediocrity and command a level of attention otherwise unthinkable. People tend to play it safe, treading a line that ensures the horde does not dissent, and for me this breeds a social timidity, a culture of fear reminiscent of ages past. It was only a few hundred years ago that to speak against the church was to risk some unpleasant consequences, and whilst we may no longer burn dissenters at the stake I do sense a troubling drift towards a climate where to speak the unpopular aloud is to risk incurring a status of social pariah. In my vision we would create a climate where people understood that disagreement does not have to equal discord, where to speak in controversial tones is perfectly acceptable and just a consequence of living in a free and democratic society. I cannot honestly say that I feel as free as I would like to. I have some strong views on a number of social issues, many of which I have blogged about, but there are some topics that I have to step back from. For example, I have a raft of things that I would like to share on the behaviour of the Traveller community, but if I venture even commonly accepted statistics then I would expect my employees would take me into an office and censure me. Same goes with some of my attitudes towards Islam. To speak my mind here is to risk transgressing some unseen code. There appears to be a politically correct bubble expanding ever further into the public consciousness, choking the life out of free discourse and in some cases strangling the free exchange of ideas. Speaking as an atheist I am used to being perceived in derogatory terms in some religious communities. This is ok. I’m not offended by such opinions. I welcome living in a space where my detractors can speak freely and I want this to persist. And the reason why Donald Trump commands such a following, however ill judged, is that he speaks into people’s concerns. It doesn’t actually matter whether there is any validity to the concerns themselves, but at least he gives voice to them. Would I prefer that the public discourse was a little more refined? On a personal level yes. But would I ever wish to inhibit free speech, or render it difficult, or foster a culture of fear? No. Of course no. Always no.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 17:47
Monday, 25 April 2016
I blog on impulse. That way I get something raw and real and unsanitary. Its the undiluted me. When I read some of my older posts I see when I've held back because these are the least engaging. Its when I share what I really think when the wheels get greased. Today I am reflecting on the canard that the genders are equal. This is to say that our respective qualities perfectly balance each other out to create a harmonious synchronicity. All I need do is glance at the amount of gender inequality in the world to know that this is bullshit on a quite spectacular scale. We are not equal. We have fostered a patriarchy that has prevented women from equal opportunity for as long as I can recall. When I take pause and consider, honestly and without fear, whether I think one gender has superior qualities than the other, then as hard as I try I always reach the same conclusion. I put to you that women are better creatures on the whole. More capable. Less prone to wanton destruction and acts of pride. I spend a lot of time ashamed at my own gender. At the violence, at the lack of perception, at the wasteful inanity. At the simple inability to listen. I find women to be more refined, more together, better equipped to facilitate and bridge build, and I do wish that more of them recognised the power they have within. I also wish they would appreciate that they are sometimes guilty of allowing traditional imbalances to persist. Now I do want to say that there are a lot of very capable men in the world, those of mental and physical strength, with presence of mind and of creative disposition. Listeners, thinkers, reflectors. I just doubt that there are as many. I've often noted that males are not always great listener's, and I consider myself a sinner here. I wish I used my two ears and one mouth proportionately. Perhaps then I would make fewer mistakes. On a different tact I suspect that many women, dare I suggest the majority of women have no idea just what powerful beings they are, and how they have the ability, should they choose, to captivate and influence a man in ways that would greatly enhance their happiness. It saddens me when I see Facebook posts from people I know that recount how the latest male has walked all over them, treated them poorly, failed to respect and honour them. Yet at the same time I just know that if these same women had greater awareness they would, at the outset, set the tone of the relationship and make clear that they have a level of expectation which any guy needs to aspire to. These women, I'm loathed to say, appear to be natures doormats. Too accepting of the traditional, going in with low expectation. I am of the view that with a little escalation in self awareness, combined with just a smidgen of self confidence, many women could enjoy more successful relationships. And they would attract better men because they would be more attractive themselves. Know what you want, set your standard, shape the mood music. You'd be surprised. And the more capable men will be drawn to you. And finally a brief word on the phenomenon of the "New man". He's a boring creature invariably trying too hard to be sensitive and ends up being a cardboard cutout. Real masculinity is strength under control, strength refined, strength channelled. It can be funny and raucous and ever so frisky but it is essentially a force for good. Now it isn't for me to pick you a partner but you'll be better off with this kind of guy, a man who represents the best aspects of the male gender. Hold on in particular to the words "Strength under control", because this kind of guy isn't the wet blanket new man that I personally despise so much. He's got way more to offer. But I digress. Without wanting to preach I would love to see a world of strong and confident and expectant women, because this would make for an amazing world. Go make it happen.
Posted by Rob Barnes at 02:33