Atheists have become increasingly creative at disseminating their message. Earlier this month, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason and the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced a new, public web site geared toward attracting non-believing former clergy.
The Clergy Project, which first launched as a private, invitation-only site back in March, seeks to bring together religious clergy who have lost their faith. Here’s how the project is described on its web site:
The Clergy Project is a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold the supernatural beliefs of their religious traditions. The Clergy Project launched on March 21st, 2011.
Currently, the community’s nearly 100 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.
Among the issues the group claims will be discussed are: dealing with cognitive dissonance, handling fears about the future, looking for new jobs, telling one’s family about newfound unbelief and finding a way out of ministry, among others.
Already, the group has 100 members, with hopes of drawing even more pastors, priests, rabbis and others who are fed up with faith and religion and are looking to move on as “freethinkers.” The project is a collaboration that comes from Richard Dawkins (who also recently released a new children’s book that touts evolution), philosopher Daniel Dennett, researcher Linda LaScola and former preacher and co-president of FFRF, Dan Barker.
The project serves as an encouragement to get pastors and clergy who are living in secret with their disbelief to “come out.”
“We know there must be thousands of clergy out there who have secretly abandoned their faith but have nowhere to turn,” says Barker. “Now they do have a place to meet, a true sanctuary, a congregation of those of us who have replaced faith and dogma with reason and human well-being.”
Dawkins and others behind the project contend that clergy often have an extremely difficult time leaving ministry. So, this project is an attempt to assist them in doing so. Dawkins writes:
“It is hard to think of any other profession which it is so near to impossible to leave. 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…”
One participant named “Lynn” says that she’s an active Methodist pastor who is an atheist. She said that over time the “truth” became more evident to her, describing the Clergy Project as “a lifesaver.” She writes:
“I resisted my doubts at first, but the nagging in my brain wouldn’t stop. So I embarked on a journey of researching and discovering that what I had believed for so long wasn’t true.
I’m still in the pulpit, as I stated above. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I made a commitment to my church and my denomination to serve this appointment. Second, the financial issue. If I walk away now, my family will suffer greatly…Every week I struggle with the fact that I’m lying when I stand before my congregation. I’m leading a double life.”
Apparently, there are others like “Lynn” who are also living a lie. This new “safe haven” will provide what these atheists say the former faithful need to move forward in their lives and to exit the religious systems in which they find themselves “stuck.”
The group’s members will purportedly remain anonymous for the most part. The screening process to become a member of the community looking pretty rigorous.
(H/T: The Christian Post)