Stephen Bates on becoming an agnostic

To the extent that anyone takes the fights in Anglicanism seriously, they are a terrible witness against the possibility that there is any good news to be found in this part of Christendom. Stephen Bates, who covered the religious beat for the Guardian for seven years, got to see the machinations of Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, the whole swath of Christians and for that matter other religious organizations. He finally said "Covering religion for this newspaper left me disillusioned – but not quite an atheist."

Stephen is a skilled writer and from what little I know of him personally a fine person. The work over he got from listening and seeing Christians go at each other, defend outrageous behavior and generally run amok, let him away rather than toward the faith.

Read his witness HERE.

My question: If this stuff we do turned him off the faith, what is it doing to the many many people who wonder if we have any of the love for one another that Christians claim to have, or if we have nothing left but rancor, jealousy, and ill humors. Why would anyone want to come to our house if there was not love, but fear and anger present?

Stephen Bates is Roman Catholic and he has hard words for his own church. But being in England and what with the CofE being established and all, he had some remarkable words to say about The Church of England and Anglicans. Among other things he said,

"What rankled most was the hypocrisy, the fact that the Bible's scattered and random words on homosexuality were uncontestable for all time and yet, somehow, divorce – which Jesus himself appears from the Gospels to have condemned – was somehow only a minor and changeable transgression. The fact that some of the evangelicals, such as Andrew Carey, journalist son of the former archbishop of Canterbury and one of the loudest and most sanctimonious cheerleaders against gay people holding positions in the church, is himself divorced and remarried (by his father) just added to my distaste."

Stephen slices and dices, and finally steps back. I am saddened that this has happened. More, I think it a telling statement about the toxic message that emanates from ecclesial doings.


  1. William Lobdell here in the USA has a similar story, although he is now explicitly atheist/non-affiliated.
    There is an old saying that nobody should watch sausage being made unless he wants to lose his appetite or watch legislatures behind the scenes unless he wants to lose his respect for democracy. Maybe the same thing applies to watching religious bureaucracies.

  2. I understand where Mr. Bates is coming from. I'm not a journalist, but I followed the discussions on the HOBD listserve for awhile. I found too many of the posts and discussions there profoundly depressing and the online atmosphere toxic. There are occasional graceful posts, but far too many spiteful rants. The fact that the postings were a sampling of thoughts and words from leaders of our denomination was even more depressing. The silver lining, I suppose, was in the occasional graceful comments and also in the fact that the number of posters appeared to be a relatively small sample of the HOBD populaton.

    Reading the blogs is also depressing, in that there is too much preaching to whichever choir that might be there, and not enough constructive dialogue. But, at least the blogs, in their own partisan way, come with an advertised or understood point of view, and you know what you're in for when you read them, even if you disagree and get flamed if you dare disagree disagreement with the understood majority view of the site.

    I can understand further that Mr. Bates, whose job it is to cover religious matters, would come away with misgivings about the sausage-making atmosphere brought about by the organizational shortcomings of his journalistic subjects.

    Paul in Dallas


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.