Childish or reasonable ways

Several people think of believers as “naive” and “childish”. In the group of believers you have the ordinary folks and the clergymen and clergy women.  They form a particular group with persons who seem either far away from the world, being put on a pedestal or being part of the world, having problems like anybody else and understanding how the world turns.

Christian Denomination Logos
Christian Denomination Logos (Photo credit: scottlenger)

You have the believers who where so much interested in the spiritual that they wanted to make their profession out of it. Those who followed theology at university learned a lot about how people thought God and His Creation would or should be. They did not much learn from the bible, but concentrated on a lot of worldly writings by the so called saints. They formed their ideas on the dogma’s and doctrine‘s brought in by humans and were not interested to take more contact with other believers or unbelievers, save for the few they met in their “fishing expeditions” at the grocery store or during “seeker services.” Thus, all to often, when they have questions about faith or about the Supreme being they do not find other places to go to than their own bunch of people of the same denomination.  But there are many who by doing their demanding job and by doing Bible reading for the preparation of their preaches, get in confrontation with the Holy Scriptures and what they have learned. Instead of daring to take the Word of God as the real Word of God, they doubt those Scriptures and want to prefer to hold fast on their doctrines. Much too often this brings them in a severe conflict. Like ordinary people trying to keep on traditions they also want to keep to those traditions, but learn from the Bible how wrong that can be.  Everything they have been thought seems to come in the zone of doubtful literature. But when they start questioning those teachings it starts nagging and they do come in conflict with their surroundings. Being interested in the spiritual they first go look with other similar denominations and go to look for other spiritual religions and find much pleasure in Buddhism. Instead of wanting to believe what is written in the Bible, that once we die we are death and cannot think or do anything, they love the idea of the immortal soul they had learned in their teachings. At first they become attracted by the incarnation, but when they go deeper into the teachings of such groups who believe that they do not feel at ease either. As such, they fall outside of the fence of Christian fellowship, there seems to be a complete lack of support. This can be a very depressing place, and it is only exacerbated by the belief that there is nobody else out there who could possibly understand the rather unique situation of being an unbelieving member of the Clergy.

You can ask: “What happens when a clergy person — a minister, a priest, a rabbi, an imam — realizes he doesn’t believe in God? And what happens when he says it out loud? What happens when they find each other; when they support each other in coping with their crises, when they help each other with resources and job counseling and other practical assistance? What happens when they encourage each other to come out? Could this affect more than just these clergy people and their followers? Could it change how society as a whole thinks and feels about religion?”

On March 21st, 2011 in the United States of America the Clergy Project was launched and the question “How can the US motto be “In God We Trust” when so many Americans are Out of the Closet atheists?” came to the forefront.  Former Roman Catholic priest Dr. Stephen Uhl wrote the book “Out of God’s Closet” and got as motto: “Atheists work to make this life heavenly.”

The feeling of many with doubts is one of “Once you’re enrolled in the system, there is a strong incentive not to criticise or rebel: we’re all in this boat together – don’t rock it.”

Tufts University
Tufts University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Philosopher, cognitive scientist and aprofessor at Tufts University, American Daniel Dennett says: ” teenagers glowing with enthusiasm decide to devote their lives to a career of helping others and, looking around in their rather sheltered communities, they see no better, purer option than going into the clergy. When they get to seminary they find themselves being taught things that nobody told them in Sunday school. The more they learn of theology and the history of the composition of the Bible, the less believable they find their creed. Eventually they cease to believe altogether. But, alas, they have already made a substantial commitment in social capital – telling their families and communities about their goals – so the pressure is strong to find an accommodation, or at least to imagine that if they hang in there they will find one. Only a lucky few find either the energy or the right moment to break free. Those who don’t break free then learn the tricks of the trade, the difference between what you can say from the pulpit and what you can say in the sanctum of the seminary, or in your heart. Some, of course, are unfazed by this.” (Read more: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201112/2540123101.html)

English: Daniel Dennett at the 17. Göttinger L...
English: Daniel Dennett at the 17. Göttinger Literaturherbst, October 19th, 2008, in Göttingen, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Linda LaScola, a clinical social worker, qualitative researcher and psychotherapist, and him have been investigating the curious, sad phenomenon of closeted non-believing clergy – wellmeaning, hard-working pastors who find they do not believe the creed of their denomination, but also find that they cannot just blow the whistle and abandon the pulpit. They knew that many churchgoers have lost whatever faith they had but continue their membership for social and psychological reasons, and surmised that there might be clergy who were similarly attached to their church. What is it like to be a non-believing pastor? We found some examples who were willing to tell us, and are now completing a second survey of volunteers.

They wanted to know, ultimately, how this happens, and how common it is. It is apparently not rare – nobody knows what percentage of clergy fall into this category, not surprisingly. Their first study reported on five pastors in different Protestant denominations, who were interviewed in depth and in strict confidence by LaScola. Because it was published electronically (on the website On Faith) and under the headline “Preachers who are not believers” (Evolutionary Psychology, volume eight, issue one), this first pilot study has received considerable attention and brought them a host of new volunteers for their ongoing research.

There are many paths into this predicament, they find, but a common thread runs through most of them: a certain sort of innocence and a powerful desire, not for social prestige or riches, but rather the desire to lead a good life, to help other people as much as possible. The tragic trap is baited with goodness itself. (Read more: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201112/2540123101.html#ixzz219XQR8AC)

” Like reluctant debutantes or privately suspicious Ponzi victims , they button their lip for an abundance of good reasons. (Redundancy is always a good trick; it allows a collection of individually porous defences to overlap into anearly impregnable shield.) Historically, pastors have had slender economic resources, and if they live in a parsonage they build up no equity in real estate. Hanging on until the kids are out of college and one can collect one’s meagre pension is an option that can look better than making an honest dash for the door. But a tentative finding of our study so far is that the economic incentive to hang on is sometimes of less importance than the social and psychological factors. As one of our pastors says, “I’m thinking if I leave the church – first of all, what’s that going to do to my family? And I don’t know. Secondly is, I have zero friends outside the church. I’m kind of a loner.” And what about telling his wife? “It’s going to turn her life upside down.””

So pastors tend to stay put and search for ways of protecting their conscience from the pangs of hypocrisy. Redoubling one’s efforts to take good care of one’s flock is probably a frequent effect, and hence it could be one of the side benefits of this system, a bonus that could almost pay for itself by turning its shepherds into goodness slaves. Guilt is a potent enzyme in many social arrangements, and has been especially promoted in religions.

Your God Is Here
Your God Is Here (Photo credit: sutton_steven)

Religions changed more in the past century than they changed in the previous two millennia, and probably will change more in the next decade or two than in the past century. The main environmental change, as many have suggested, is the sudden increase in informational transparency. Religions were beautifully designed over millennia to work in circumstances in which the people within them could be assumed to be largely ignorant of much that was outside the membrane.

“Now that mobile phones and the internet have altered the epistemic selective landscape in a revolutionary way, every religious organisation must scramble to evolve defences or become extinct. Much has been made of the growing attention to religion in the world, and this has often been interpreted as a revival, an era of expanding religiosity, but all the evidence points away from that interpretation. The fastestgrowing religious category worldwide is no religion at all, and the increasing noise we hear is apparently due to the heightened expenditure of energy by all the threatened varieties in their desperate attempts to fend off extinction.” (Read more: http://www.readperiodicals.com/201112/2540123101.html#ixzz219YCt2Wl)

After the publication of “Towards the Light: A fifth generation minister’s journey from religion to nonbelief.” by John Compere more clergy dared to speak out. When Reverend Michael Aus came out as a non-believer on national television on March 25th 2012 a ball got rolling by his moral support to the Clergy Project. The word got round the world and begin 2012 at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Australia, Dan Dennett spoke about The Clergy Project during his ‘How To Tell You’re An Atheist’ talk.
File:Richard dawkins lecture.jpg
Richard Dawkins giving a lecture based on his book, The God Delusion, in Reykjavik

The respectecd Catholic pastor Jerry DeWitt, who lives in Southern Louisiana, went public last October when he posted a picture of himself with the prominent and polarizing atheist Richard Dawkins, snapped at a meeting of atheists and other “freethinkers” in Houston.

Speaking in March before a cheering crowd of several hundred unbelievers at the American Atheists conference here, he described posting the picture as “committing identity suicide.”

The response was swift. His congregation put him out, friends cut him off and some family members will not speak to him, he said.

“It is not just finances and it is not just career,” he said in the fire-and-brimstone cadences of his Pentecostal background. “It is everything that you hold dear.”

DeWitt’s transition from true believer to total skeptic took 25 years. It began, he said, with the idea of hell. How could it be, as he had been taught and preached, that a loving God would damn most people to eternal fire? “This thing called hell, it began to rock my world,” he said.

Instead of daring to find solace by the non-trinitan Biblestudents, who do not believe in hell as a plac of torture, because it is not according to the Holy Scriptures, he did not dare, like the other clergy men are afraid, to go to such a group of believers where he fought against for so many years. and that is the proble we see by so many clergy men. Once they go and read more in the Holy Scriptures they find other ‘Truths’ than they have learned. They hear the same things as the Jehovah Witnesses, Abrahamic Church or Christadelphians are saying. And this confronts them with theological teaching and boundaries to their institutions.

DeWitt found that there were more people wrestling with the same issues he was.

In The Clergy Project he could find as so many others, a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.

Currently, the community’s 300 plus members use it to network and discuss what it’s like being an unbelieving leader in a religious community. The Clergy Project’s goal is to support members as they move beyond faith. Members freely discuss issues related to their transition from believer to unbeliever including:

  • Wrestling with intellectual, ethical, philosophical and theological issues
  • Coping with cognitive dissonance
  • Addressing feelings of being stuck and fearing the future
  • Looking for new careers
  • Telling their families
  • Sharing useful resources
  • Living as a nonbeliever with religious spouses and family
  • Using humor to soften the pain
  • Finding a way out of the ministry
  • Adjusting to life after the ministry

Richard Dawkins says:  “If a farmer tires of the outdoor life and wants to become an accountant or a teacher or a shopkeeper, he faces difficulties, to be sure. He must learn new skills, raise money, move to another area perhaps. But he doesn’t risk losing all his friends, being cast out by his family, being ostracized by his whole community. Clergy who lose their faith suffer double jeopardy. It’s as though they lose their job and their marriage and their children on the same day. It is an aspect of the vicious intolerance of religion that a mere change of mind can redound so cruelly on those honest enough to acknowledge it.”

“The Clergy Project exists to provide a safe haven, a forum where clergy who have lost their faith can meet each other, exchange views, swap problems, counsel each other – for, whatever they may have lost, clergy know how to counsel and comfort. Here you will find confidentiality, sympathy, and a friendly place where you can take your time before deciding how to extricate yourself and when you will feel yourself ready to stand up and face the cool, refreshing wind of truth.”

It is a pity so many keep in the handcuffs of the trinitarian ideologist who damn the non-trinitarians, so that they do not dare to tackle the idea of those bible students who tke the Word of God for what it says, and not for what people in history have made the so called Bible saying.

We can only hope and pray,that one day their eyes may go open again and they shall find the peace again in the Bible, which can reveal everything, when people are willing to open their heart and mind to it.

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Dutch article: Project voor afvallige kerkleiders

Find:

The Clergy Project

“Preachers Who Are Not Believers” (PDF)

Read:

Pastor’s loss of faith started with loss of hell

Biggest Threat to Religion? Clergy People Coming Out as Atheists

Moody Bible Radio Discovers ‘The Clergy Project’ – interview with Teresa MacBain

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  • Biggest Threat to Religion? Clergy People Coming Out as Atheists (alternet.org)
    A burst of media attention has been focused on atheists of an unexpected stripe — clergy members. Could non-believing clergy change how we see religion?
    +
    The project was inspired by the 2010 pilot study by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola, “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” (PDF), which exposed and explored the surprisingly common phenomenon of non-believing clergy. The need to give these people support — and if possible, an exit strategy — was immediately recognized in the atheist community, and starter funding for the Clergy Project was quickly provided by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
  • 6 Benefits of a Clergy Sabbatical Leave Program (smartchurchmanagement.com)
    It is common for churches to offer sabbaticals for clergy to provide a time for refreshing, recharging and continuing education.  Church leaders have great responsibilities and the many challenges that come with working in the ministry can take its toll on clergy.  Many churches have discovered that providing a time to retreat from the day-to-day responsibilities can provide a benefit for both the employee as well as the church.  When pastors are allowed to take an extended break from ministry they can refocus and recharge their passion and call to lead the congregation.
  • Administration and Spirituality: A False Dichotomy (barefootpreachr.org)
    How can being a good and effective administrator be de-coupled from the type of mature Christian leadership needed as an effective Episcopal servant of the church?
    +
    to go back to Richard Hearn’s comment about losing the clergy:  It was my sense and my experience that clergy morale sank to a deep low under Bishop Bledsoe’s leadership.  Bishop Bledsoe acknowledged that fact himself in a video put out a couple of weeks before the North Texas Annual Conference.  He invited clergy to respond.  I don’t know how many did, but I heard (and I could be wrong) that it was somewhere around forty.
    +
    It involves speaking our own difficult truths, seeking to help one another move to perfection in love, moving to deep repentance when sin is exposed, and offering the fullness of forgiveness to one another.
  • Rev. Frederick Schmidt Has No Idea Why Clergy Members Leave the Faith… but He’s Going to Write An Article About It, Anyway (patheos.com)
    Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. cannot believe there’s so much press about the Clergy Project.First, he blows off the numbers like they’re no big deal
    +
    Check out his grossly misguided reasons for why clergy members leave the faith
    +
    There are probably a lot of reasons for the media’s interest in the subject: Even with a global economic crisis, a few wars, and a presidential election, there are always a few slow news days. “The Clergy Project” probably has a fabulous PR department, supported as it is by The Richard Dawkins Foundation, Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Atheists, the American Humanist Association, The Appignani Foundation, The Center for Inquiry, The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and Recovering from Religion.org. And beyond garden variety religious fervor, there is no religious fervor like that of a former believer. So, it’s the kind of story that always draws a crowd.There are probably a lot of reasons for the media’s interest in the subject: Even with a global economic crisis, a few wars, and a presidential election, there are always a few slow news days. “The Clergy Project” probably has a fabulous PR department, supported as it is by The Richard Dawkins Foundation, Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Atheists, the American Humanist Association, The Appignani Foundation, The Center for Inquiry, The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, and Recovering from Religion.org. And beyond garden variety religious fervor, there is no religious fervor like that of a former believer. So, it’s the kind of story that always draws a crowd.
    +
    It is one thing to study theology, church history, and Scripture. It is another thing to integrate that learning with our faith journeys. Not all seminary programs (and very few churches) make the effort to help students with that process. But in some ways it is both more demanding and critical to the well being of clergy than is the acquisition of knowledge about the subject.
  • REAL NEWS June 17, 2012 (danimartextras.wordpress.com)
    “Things such as theodicy [the problem of suffering and evil], the question of hell, God’s omnipotence yet lack of intervention in heinous events, the historicity of Jesus… all these bubbled to the surface and demanded to be answered,” she said. “My work to answer these questions began with the thought that as I discovered the truth, it would create a stronger faith and give me comforting answers to those in my church who were dealing with the same issues. Instead, the truth I found led me away from faith.”This experience is common among members of the Clergy Project.
  • The Necessity for Daily Practice…?!? (aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com)
    Something that I see an increasing number of pagans and polytheists attempting, and struggling with, is daily practice. I’ve talked on previous occasions on “not being afraid to get bored” and so forth with daily practices. However, I’m also asking another question at present: is daily practice really a necessity for many people? And, I’ve come to a conclusion on the matter: no.In reconstructionist religions, one of the great advantages that has emerged over more general forms of paganism is that there are a variety of possible roles: not everyone is “clergy” or “a priest,” necessarily, in a recon context.
    +
    The notion in many sorts of paganism that everyone is “their own clergy” and thus has clergy status, and therefore must in a variety of ways perform as if they are clergy, is rather erroneous in my view. As much as certain teachers and practitioners would suggest all of the modern pagan/polytheist population have some sort of daily practice (which usually looks like “daily meditation” in most forms I’ve seen it), I can’t really support that necessity from a general viewpoint, either as a reconstructionist or as a general spiritual practitioner who has many strong deity devotions, including Antinous.
  • Major Threat to Religion? Clergy People Coming Out as Atheists (alternet.org)
    Unlike many believers, they actually read the Bible, or Torah, or Koran, or whatever the sacred text of their religion is. They think hard about questions that more casual believers are willing to let slide. After all — that’s their job.
  • The New Atheism: Its Virtues and its Vices (areycorneja.wordpress.com)
    What follows is the text of the 2010 Aquinas Lecture delivered at the church of St Vincent Ferrer, New York. The lecture indicates what makes the so-called new atheism new. It then offers some defense and critique of three authors: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens. The chief criticism leveled against them is that their dismissal of theism is based on an ignorance of classical theistic thinking and the mistaken impression that ‘theism’ and ‘creationism’ are equivalent.
    +
    the new ones tend to lay stress on science as positively disproving what theists believe.
    +New Atheism seems to have a political dimension lacking in the writings of old atheists. The old atheists were all basically what we might think of as ‘armchair philosophers’. They tended to be happy to argue that there is no God and to leave matters at that. By contrast, new atheists appear to have a strong political agenda.
    +
    They often talk about something called ‘religion’ and (especially in the case of Dawkins and Hitchens), they focus on what they call ‘belief in God’. But, we might ask, ‘Which religion?’ and ‘Whose God?’ My impression is that the fathers of New Atheism have not much studied the fathers of Old Atheism or the fathers of theism in its classical Christian form. New atheists (Dawkins and Hitchens anyway) seem to identify belief in God with what is commonly called ‘creationism’.
    +
    In short, much of the ridicule poured on belief in God by the new atheists is one that can be taken on board by someone who believes in God. Unaware of it though they seem to be, in some of their critiques of belief in God (or on forms that this has taken), the new atheists can actually claim support from some serious theologians (Aquinas being a notable example).
  • Facebook, Biblically Speaking (modtheology.wordpress.com)
    Millennials (18-29 year olds) are becoming unaffiliated with their faith* as shown in this article by Robert P Jones on the Huffington Post Blog. What his post made me think of is: does faith truly need to have an affiliation? I think yes. But the reason that kids are leaving their parents church is because a new idea of church is being created. They are communicating their faith and beliefs in different ways. Our classical notion of ‘Church’ is in a state of transformation. Church denomination are shrinking because denominations don’t appeal to the rapid evolution of human morality. Let’s face it, churches are becoming spiritually stale.

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