A Christian Rock Band Fired Him for Being an Atheist; Now, He Tells His Story

Back in 2008, the popular Christian rock band Haste the Day kicked out one of its guitarists, Jason Barnes, because he was an atheist.

When I posted about it then, I had no idea what prompted his deconversion.

Roy Culver recently caught up with Barnes and asked him about what made him walk away from his faith (and, therefore, his band) and what it was like telling the people close to him:

And what began that journey to begin thinking more objectively about Christianity? Did that present a crisis for you?

Well, for me it was just bound to happen. I am the kind of person who needs good reason and evidence to believe something, and it became increasingly difficult to square my Christian worldview with reality. The amount of mental gymnastics I had to put myself through to keep rationalizing my religious faith started to get really old. There seemed to be a mental mechanism that I was employing that felt dishonest and didn’t allow me to really address challenges and questions about faith. Once I decided to be completely honest about what I believed to be true and where the evidence pointed, religion naturally dissolved for me.

How has your family dealt with your departure from Christianity?

That was actually the most unpleasant conversation — nobody wants to make their mother cry. The bizarre part of it is, I didn’t do anything wrong, you know? I was just being honest. I would imagine gay people deal with a similar coming out process.

The good news is that Jason has moved on and he’s with a new band (called, appropriately perhaps, On the Shoulders of Giants). Check out the rest of Roy’s interview here for more of the details.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Marguerite

    “There seemed to be a mental mechanism that I was employing that felt dishonest and didn’t allow me to really address challenges and questions about faith. Once I decided to be completely honest about what I believed to be true and where the evidence pointed, religion naturally dissolved for me.”

    Wow… brilliantly put. That describes my own drifting-away-from-religion experience perfectly, except I’ve never managed to word it so clearly. 

    Glad he’s found a new band! 

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna Myra

    Hrm. The full interview says the new band is called Beyond Oceans.

  • eli French

    wow I had no idea about This. I Was The merch guy For Christian hardcore band called bloodlined calligraphy. we Have done shows with haste The day. actually surprised to read This. I vaguely remember Jason But I remember The band Was rather harsh and judgmental when it came to cursing especially. at The time I wasn’t Christian But I wouldn’t say I Was atheist either like I an Now. Was younger than and didnt Put much Thought in much of anything really. But its really nice to see This. hope everything Is going Well For Jason

    • eonL5

      Totally off-topic, but Wow. Bizarre use of ShiFt keY. Curious whether it is deliberate and if so, why? Makes it hard to parse what you’re trying to say.

  • The Captain

    I find it interesting that the band kicked him out for who he was rather than anything he did (he still seemed to want to be in a christian band). It’s just like the calls for Richard Grenell to resign from the Romney caspian. for the christians, it wasn’t for anything he did either, t was just for who he was. 

    And I’m somehow not supposed believe that the majority of christians are a bunch of bigots!?

    • http://twitter.com/ourdailytrain Our Daily Train blog

       ”I find it interesting that the band kicked him out for who he was rather than anything he did …”

      Kind of like how most believers treat gay people and same-sex marriage.

    • JA

      “And I’m somehow not supposed believe that the majority of christians are a bunch of bigots!?”

      I’ve never lived anywhere conservative, so my experience may be different but I’ve found that a lot of people really don’t care that I’m an atheist. Many people don’t even seemed surprised when I tell them. Even religious people. I’ve lived in Southern California for years. I think because it’s so diverse most people have to be tolerant and respectful of each other. Like anything else, maybe we only hear about the bad that happens, so we assume there is a lot more of it. 

      • unclemike

        I, too, live in SoCal, and have for a while. Telling people I’m atheist, true, doesn’t seem to make much of a big deal. But add “gay” to that and all hell breaks loose, as it were.

      • Kevin mays

        Luck i live in the bible belt and if i said i was an atheist it would be social suicide. 

    • Twinsaber123

      I’m a christian and I can understand how him becoming an atheist could create a wedge in their relationship and a strain on the band. I won’t go into any religious reasons for kicking him off but if nothing else it makes sense from a marketing perspective. If the band wanted to market itself and sell their music, merchandise, etc, based on the fact that they are a christian band, they can’t have an atheist on the band. It would undermine all credibility they had and probably destroy the whole band from lack of sales. Religious reasons aside, I think that alone is a good enough reason to kick him off.

  • http://twitter.com/nathanjreese Nathan Reese

    Is he related to the Christian singer Dave Barnes?

  • Flockofchickens

    Then there’s this guy …
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/bassist-unaware-rock-band-christian,407/

    ORLANDO, FL—Brad Rolen, the new bassist for Pillar Of Salt, remains oblivious to the fact that he is in a Christian rock band, sources reported Tuesday.
    The oblivious Rolen (left) and his Pillar Of Salt bandmates.
    “Pillar’s great,” said Rolen, 22, who is unaware of his bandmates’ devotion to Christ, despite playing on such songs as “Wade In The Water,” “Eternal Life,” and “Kiss Of The Betrayer.” “We rock really heavy and hard, but we’ve got a positivity that you don’t see in too many bands these days. I’ve only been with these guys for three months, but I feel like it’s the perfect fit for me.”

    • unclemike

      I can’t believe that’s true.

      No, seriously. I can’t believe it. ;-)

  • DG

    An interesting story.  Christianity was at once the only truth and then not, because to him Christianity was religion, and once it dissolved, there could be no other alternative.   I notice that a lot in atheist conversion stories.  Not always, but usually it’s from the respective religion the convert grew up with, then straight to atheism (or similar secular view).  I’ve heard those who bounced about, but as often as not, it’s almost as if the religion in question was the only option, and upon rejecting that option, there could be no other.  When I talk of my own conversion from agnosticism, I’m sometimes asked why I didn’t consider other religions.  Why didn’t I become a Muslim or a Hindu?  I suppose the same thing could be asked of those who go the other way.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    Unfortunately, honesty can be a very painful thing.


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