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Your minister could be an Atheist

Posted by Anonymous   + Show Post

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer – Atheist Ministers Struggle With Leading the Faithful

November 09, 2010

Listen to Interview

By DAN HARRIS and WONBO WOO

“I am an atheist,” says “Jack,” a Southern Baptist with more than 20 years in ministry.

“I live out my life as if there is no God,” says “Adam,” who is part of the pastoral staff of a small evangelical church in the Bible Belt.

The two, who asked that their real identities be protected, are pastors who have lost their faith. And these two men, who have built their careers and lives around faith, say they now feel trapped, living a lie.

“I spent the majority of my life believing and pursuing this religious faith, Christianity,” Jack said. “And to get to this point in my life, I just don’t feel like I believe anymore.”

“The more I read the Bible, the more questions I had,” Jack said. “The more things didn’t make sense to me — what it said — and the more things didn’t add up.”

Jack said that 10 years ago, he started to feel his faith slipping away. He grew bothered by inconsistencies regarding the last days of Jesus’ life, what he described as the improbability of stories like “Noah’s Ark” and by attitudes expressed in the Bible regarding women and their place in the world.

“Reading the Bible is what led me not to believe in God,” he said.

He said it was difficult to continue to work in ministry. “I just look at it as a job and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it for years.”

Adam said his initial doubts about God came as he read the work of the so-called New Atheists — popular authors like the prominent scientist Richard Dawkins. He said the research was intended to help him defend his faith.

“My thinking was that God is big enough to handle any questions that I can come up with,” he said but that did not happen.

“I realized that everything I’d been taught to believe was sort of sheltered,” Adam said, “and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies. … I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. Am I believing the wrong things? Have I spent my entire life and my career promoting something that is not true?’”

He said he feared for his salvation and soul. “In that point where I realized I was losing my faith yet I still feared for my own salvation, I asked God to take my life before I lost my faith,” Adam said.

Adam said he now considers himself an “atheistic agnostic.” “I don’t think we can prove that there is not a God or that there is a God,” he said. “I live out my life as if there is no God.”

He and Jack said that when speaking to parishioners, they tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that they still believed in — the parts about being a good person. Both said that they would like to leave their jobs though they can’t afford to.

“I want to get out of the position that I’m in as quickly as I can because I try to be a person of integrity and character,” Adam said. “With the economy the way it is, with my lack of marketable skills other than a seminary education, it has me in a tough spot.”

Atheism Secret ‘Going to Be Devastating’

Jack said that his secret left him feeling isolated but that he would certainly lose a lot of friends when he professed to no longer being a Christian. His wife doesn’t know and he said it was possible he could lose her as well.

“It’s going to be very confusing for her,” Jack said. “It’s going to be very devastating and it’s going to take us a while to work through it.”

Adam said his wife knew that he was struggling with his faith but not that he had lost it completely.

“It’s a very tough situation to be in,” he said. “I can’t think of another career that is so dramatically affected by a change in one’s opinions or thoughts.”

“At first I feared if I lose my faith, I’m gonna become some terrible person,” Adam said. “As I lost my faith … I realized that really had no bearing on who I am and my character and my actions. I live no differently than I did when I was a fervent believer.”

Adam and Jack were included in a report by philosopher Daniel Dennett, a professor at Tufts University and well-known atheist, and his co-researcher, Linda LaScola. They are continuing their research into non-believing clergy. ABC News contacted the two pastors through Dennett and LaScola, verified their identities and positions, and interviewed them separately.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 10, 2012 at 6:45 PM
Replies (31-40):
jamtags
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:49 PM

i have a cat for that


GirlWSlingshot
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:52 PM
1 mom liked this
Been there. Done that. Quit a high paying job in the financial industry because my boss was violating or ethics codes and doing illegal and immoral things. Had no proof so no legal action was taken, but my conscience is clear.

I understand that times are tough, but I believe in integrity. And there are places in this country where work can be found.


Quoting miss_lisa:

I know this might be hard for you, but put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Imagine a local economy where there are literally zero jobs to be had. You are married and have kids who need to be fed. You have a steady job, and while you don't believe in the work you do and you disagree with the basics of it... you have a family to take care of. Do you quit your job and become unable to provide for your children and your spouse because of this?

Would you be willing to watch your OWN children go hungry because you don't agree with the job you have?

Quoting GirlWSlingshot:

 Where did I say that I represent anyone? I gave my opinion, as does everyone on this forum. I don't intend to come off as high and mighty, but I do think that this is a very black and white issue. I have no respect for a person who would willfully pass themselves off as a spiritual leader (in my church or in any other church/synagogue/mosque/temple) but have no faith in what they are preaching. I see that as very wrong.


 I have compassion for the fact that these folks feel lost or caught between a rock and a hard place, but being in that position means that you must live to certain standards. I could not personally handle that and haven't lived a life to those standards, so I would not presume to become someone else's spiritual leader.


 It sounds like you see this as just a job, but that's where we differ. I see it as a calling and a position of tremendous trust and responsibility. It's not just a paycheck to me.


Quoting miss_lisa:


YOU do not represent EVERYONE.


I'm sure in the land of unicorns and farts that smell like apple pie people don't have to do things they don't fundamentally agree with and if they feel like something is dishonest they have the ability to remove themselves from the situation. But this is the real world, and in the real world people have to do things they don't like or want to do ALL the time.


It's funny how high and mighty you are on this, yet you haven't got a single actual CLUE what these men are going through and the real problems they are facing. Your complete lack of empathy is why people DO NOT like Christians in the first place and really... you represent the reason why they are finding it so difficult to leave.


Quoting GirlWSlingshot:


 I am a member of a congregation. If my priest lied for years about his belief (or non belief) in God, I would feel betrayed and rather angry. If he was honest when he had his change of belief and resigned his position I would retain my respect for him and would support him in his search for answers.


 Needing a paycheck does not negate the great responsibility that spiritual leaders have. Why should they be paid to do a job that they cannot do? How can a person preach faith in God if they have none? That is dishonest, period. That goes very far beyond someone doing a job they don't like and fundamentally disagree with.


Quoting miss_lisa:

And what exactly is your place to judge these men? Are you a pastor in the south? Have you done that job for years and have no other marketable skills in a slow economy? Not to mention a family to support as well?

Hate to break it to you but in the real world millions of Americans do jobs they don't like and fundamentally disagree with because all the integrity in th world doesn't put a roof over your head or feed your kids.



Quoting GirlWSlingshot:


 I think it's easy to judge someone based on their actions and whether those actions show integrity or not. I've known of priests in my denomination that stepped down because of issues they took with the church or with their faith in general. No one stoned them or did anything awful to them. They weren't even excommunicated (we don't have a pope), they just resigned their position. It's a job, but it's a job that has tremendous responsibility. Ministers are entrusted guiding their pasish/congregation spiritually. The trust there is that they actually believe or at least attempt to live what they are preaching. Hypocrisy is not attractive no matter the circumstances.



 I have no issue with someone changing their faith or altering their beliefs, not even a minister. What I take issue with is hiding that change and lying about their faith on a daily basis. I think that is incredibly wrong. This isn't just a case of, "Gasp! I don't believe in transubstantiation anymore!" It's a case of ministers who no longer believe in God. That's pretty much the simplest possible requirement one could have of a spiritual leader - do you believe in the deity you are preaching about?



Quoting miss_lisa:

It's easy to judge when it's not you in that position.



Quoting GirlWSlingshot:



 They're examples of hypocrisy. There's nothing illegal about feeding a child McDonald's, and many people think it's just fine.




 I have no problem with a minister changing their beliefs. But to continue to preach faith in God is wrong on so many levels. If they had a sense of honor then they would step down. I have absolutely no respect for anyone who would mislead people like that.




Quoting Anonymous:




Cock fighting is illegal. These comparisons are absurd and yet another reason they fear coming out.




I also read in another article that the reason they don't come out is because they are afraid of destroying someone elses faith and they don't want to be responsible for that.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:




 They aren't just Bible teachers. They're ministers. Their job is to be spiritual leader and offer guidance and prayer to those in need. They are meant to be God's representative on Earth.




 It would be like a PETA president holding cock fights in her garage or a famous vegan chef feeding her kids McDonalds. Not appropriate and not honest.




Quoting Anonymous:




And that is the keyword "teach".




I can teach the Bible because I know a lot about it although I don't really believe most of what it says.




There are "teachers" that teach things in school every day that they don't necessarily believe, but it is part of the curriculum. I don't see any difference.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:




 But it's dishonest to live that way. They need to be honest with themselves and their congregations. There will be some backlash and disappointment, but that's natural. What would be much worse is living a lie everyday and teaching people something you don't even believe in.




Quoting Anonymous:




They do it because they are mostly afraid of being judged.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:




 I don't have a problem with them changing their mind about their beliefs. That's very personal. But lying about what they believe on a daily basis (since their job requires that they instruct others in the faith), does kind of make them a bad person.








 








 








 



 


 




 


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
ButterflyGenie
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:52 PM
1 mom liked this
I am so glad that my pastor does not take a wage from our church. Instead he works 2 real jobs. I know he believes.

Quoting miss_lisa:

And what exactly is your place to judge these men? Are you a pastor in the south? Have you done that job for years and have no other marketable skills in a slow economy? Not to mention a family to support as well?



Hate to break it to you but in the real world millions of Americans do jobs they don't like and fundamentally disagree with because all the integrity in th world doesn't put a roof over your head or feed your kids.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:

 I think it's easy to judge someone based on their actions and whether those actions show integrity or not. I've known of priests in my denomination that stepped down because of issues they took with the church or with their faith in general. No one stoned them or did anything awful to them. They weren't even excommunicated (we don't have a pope), they just resigned their position. It's a job, but it's a job that has tremendous responsibility. Ministers are entrusted guiding their pasish/congregation spiritually. The trust there is that they actually believe or at least attempt to live what they are preaching. Hypocrisy is not attractive no matter the circumstances.



 I have no issue with someone changing their faith or altering their beliefs, not even a minister. What I take issue with is hiding that change and lying about their faith on a daily basis. I think that is incredibly wrong. This isn't just a case of, "Gasp! I don't believe in transubstantiation anymore!" It's a case of ministers who no longer believe in God. That's pretty much the simplest possible requirement one could have of a spiritual leader - do you believe in the deity you are preaching about?



Quoting miss_lisa:

It's easy to judge when it's not you in that position.



Quoting GirlWSlingshot:



 They're examples of hypocrisy. There's nothing illegal about feeding a child McDonald's, and many people think it's just fine.




 I have no problem with a minister changing their beliefs. But to continue to preach faith in God is wrong on so many levels. If they had a sense of honor then they would step down. I have absolutely no respect for anyone who would mislead people like that.




Quoting Anonymous:




Cock fighting is illegal. These comparisons are absurd and yet another reason they fear coming out.




I also read in another article that the reason they don't come out is because they are afraid of destroying someone elses faith and they don't want to be responsible for that.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:




 They aren't just Bible teachers. They're ministers. Their job is to be spiritual leader and offer guidance and prayer to those in need. They are meant to be God's representative on Earth.




 It would be like a PETA president holding cock fights in her garage or a famous vegan chef feeding her kids McDonalds. Not appropriate and not honest.




Quoting Anonymous:




And that is the keyword "teach".




I can teach the Bible because I know a lot about it although I don't really believe most of what it says.




There are "teachers" that teach things in school every day that they don't necessarily believe, but it is part of the curriculum. I don't see any difference.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:




 But it's dishonest to live that way. They need to be honest with themselves and their congregations. There will be some backlash and disappointment, but that's natural. What would be much worse is living a lie everyday and teaching people something you don't even believe in.




Quoting Anonymous:




They do it because they are mostly afraid of being judged.




Quoting GirlWSlingshot:




 I don't have a problem with them changing their mind about their beliefs. That's very personal. But lying about what they believe on a daily basis (since their job requires that they instruct others in the faith), does kind of make them a bad person.








 








 








 



 

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
babie113
by Ruby Member on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:54 PM
1 mom liked this
The pastor coming out as an atheist ....now thats a sermon I would go to (im atheist)
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Cranberrydee
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:55 PM

Have you ever been threatened with death? It makes a strange motivator to do things that you might despise. After reading some of your posts, I realize you are a Christian, or at least religious and have absolutely no idea the fear that comes with coming out. I remember when I was trying to gather the courage to tell even my boyfriend at the time, I cried myself to sleep. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, I bowed my head, I went through the motions while every single night, impotent rage tore through my body that the moment I let slip. my perfectly constructed life would come crashing down, and it did. I lost every single friend I had. I was never threatened with violence, and for that, I am grateful to my former friends, but my life was made Hell. I was still in high school and I would be whispered about, people would call me names, I was referred to as Judas' "Best Friend", which is stupid, now that I look back on it, but it cut deep coming from my friends. You have never felt that scorn and you probably never will, and that's fine, but do not sit there judge other people for wanting to spare themselves. And stepping down for "personal reasons" is not always as easy as you seem to think it is. In the church I attended, there was gossip, lots of it.

Quoting GirlWSlingshot:

 So it would be better to live a lie and tell people to believe in a God that you feel doesn't even exist? Not sure how it's naive of me to expect ministers to actually believe what they preach. If they are scared of the backlash and afraid of violence, then it makes a lot more sense to just resign for "personal reasons" than continue living a lie and waiting for someone to find out.

Quoting Cranberrydee:

You obviously had a very naive view on life, you can be killed for that in some places in this country. I am not exaggerating. And even if you're not killed, look up the names Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler. Their lives were literally ruined because they chose to come out of the closet. So no, you don't get to be all high and mighty and tell me they're a bad person because they were lying because you have never had to walk that road before. Coming out as a religious official means losing friends, family, your spouse, possibly your children, you sense of security, you lose everything because this country is ridiculous!

Quoting GirlWSlingshot:

 But it's dishonest to live that way. They need to be honest with themselves and their congregations. There will be some backlash and disappointment, but that's natural. What would be much worse is living a lie everyday and teaching people something you don't even believe in.

Quoting Anonymous:

They do it because they are mostly afraid of being judged.

Quoting GirlWSlingshot:

 I don't have a problem with them changing their mind about their beliefs. That's very personal. But lying about what they believe on a daily basis (since their job requires that they instruct others in the faith), does kind of make them a bad person.


 


 


CafeMom Tickers
mom2ljh
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:57 PM
2 moms liked this
While I agree faith or lack of is a personal decision, there is something very wrong with a pastor being an atheist. It's kind of a job requirement that you believe in what you preach. Honestly, I'd be devastated if I learned our pastor had lost his faith.


Quoting SarahLizyB:

They need to come out. There's nothing wrong with being an atheist

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Anonymous
by Anonymous 4 on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:57 PM
I agree. Hostile.

Quoting Anonymous:

She was being straight forward and kind. You sound hostile where does that come from?

Quoting miss_lisa:

YOU do not represent EVERYONE.

I'm sure in the land of unicorns and farts that smell like apple pie people don't have to do things they don't fundamentally agree with and if they feel like something is dishonest they have the ability to remove themselves from the situation. But this is the real world, and in the real world people have to do things they don't like or want to do ALL the time.

It's funny how high and mighty you are on this, yet you haven't got a single actual CLUE what these men are going through and the real problems they are facing. Your complete lack of empathy is why people DO NOT like Christians in the first place and really... you represent the reason why they are finding it so difficult to leave.

PortiaRose
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 8:59 PM
They keep saying how the bible is inconsistant. God has nothing to do with the bible...
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
GirlWSlingshot
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 9:00 PM
I've never come out as an atheist because i've never been one, but I've faced my fair share of scorn. I was the eldest daughter of a lesbian and a gay man in a smallish Mormon community. That was loads of fun. My mom lost several jobs after being seen around town with her girlfriend.

I feel for people that have to go against the grain, it's not easy. But I think living an honorable life is worth facing those challenges.


Quoting Cranberrydee:

Have you ever been threatened with death? It makes a strange motivator to do things that you might despise. After reading some of your posts, I realize you are a Christian, or at least religious and have absolutely no idea the fear that comes with coming out. I remember when I was trying to gather the courage to tell even my boyfriend at the time, I cried myself to sleep. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, I bowed my head, I went through the motions while every single night, impotent rage tore through my body that the moment I let slip. my perfectly constructed life would come crashing down, and it did. I lost every single friend I had. I was never threatened with violence, and for that, I am grateful to my former friends, but my life was made Hell. I was still in high school and I would be whispered about, people would call me names, I was referred to as Judas' "Best Friend", which is stupid, now that I look back on it, but it cut deep coming from my friends. You have never felt that scorn and you probably never will, and that's fine, but do not sit there judge other people for wanting to spare themselves. And stepping down for "personal reasons" is not always as easy as you seem to think it is. In the church I attended, there was gossip, lots of it.


Quoting GirlWSlingshot:

 So it would be better to live a lie and tell people to believe in a God that you feel doesn't even exist? Not sure how it's naive of me to expect ministers to actually believe what they preach. If they are scared of the backlash and afraid of violence, then it makes a lot more sense to just resign for "personal reasons" than continue living a lie and waiting for someone to find out.


Quoting Cranberrydee:


You obviously had a very naive view on life, you can be killed for that in some places in this country. I am not exaggerating. And even if you're not killed, look up the names Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler. Their lives were literally ruined because they chose to come out of the closet. So no, you don't get to be all high and mighty and tell me they're a bad person because they were lying because you have never had to walk that road before. Coming out as a religious official means losing friends, family, your spouse, possibly your children, you sense of security, you lose everything because this country is ridiculous!


Quoting GirlWSlingshot:


 But it's dishonest to live that way. They need to be honest with themselves and their congregations. There will be some backlash and disappointment, but that's natural. What would be much worse is living a lie everyday and teaching people something you don't even believe in.


Quoting Anonymous:


They do it because they are mostly afraid of being judged.


Quoting GirlWSlingshot:


 I don't have a problem with them changing their mind about their beliefs. That's very personal. But lying about what they believe on a daily basis (since their job requires that they instruct others in the faith), does kind of make them a bad person.




 




 


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
evesdrop
by on Apr. 10, 2012 at 9:03 PM

The should come out for no other reason then those they are "leading" and those within their families deserve to be told the truth.  These pastor's are lying to those who look up to them and those they claim to love, that's flat out wrong.  If their "friends" and family abandon them then that's the choice they make but they have a right to make it.  In a way I can sympathize.  I was an atheist for almost 20 years.  When I became a Christian I was terrified to tell everyone, knowing how many atheists feel about and treat Christians, and knowing how my own atheist friends and family felt about Christianity, I wasn't too excited to share it but I did because they deserved to know the truth. My hubbs was peeved.  Most of my friends wouldn't speak to me but at least I knew I wasn't lying to everyone around me.

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