October 16, 2011

"We know there must be thousands of clergy out there who have secretly abandoned their faith but have nowhere to turn."

“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.”

Said Dan Barker, a former preacher, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, about the Clergy Project. Richard Dawkins — the atheism proselytizer — is also involved in this project. He writes:
"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."
A farmer who "tires of the outdoor life" is not a fraud, is not deceiving the people he cares about telling the truth to. It's funny that Dawkins didn't put that problem first. That says something about Dawkins, no?

Anyway, it really is an awful problem, to believe you're called into the ministry and then to feel that's nothing at all. And yet, isn't that part of training for the ministry, struggling with "the dark night of the soul" and so forth?

60 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

I have friends who are priests. Have since I was a kid, since my early training in music was delivered by priests.

I've known priests who've left the priesthood to get married. It was a tough decision for them.

My closest priest friend is a Filipino who was ministering to a New Jersey parish until his bishop issued an order re-assigning him to teach at seminary in Manila. My friend was approaching retirement, he made a lot of friends in Jersey, he was revered by his parishioners and he wanted to retire and be happy in Jersey.

We went out to dinner one night while he was agonizing over leaving the priesthood so that he could be happy. He never has lost his faith, so it's not quite the same. He had lived his whole life as a faithful servant, but this time he wanted something for himself.

Ultimately, he obeyed his bishop. He's currently teaching seminary in Manila and hoping that one day he can return to buy a little retirement home in Jersey.

Maguro said...

Ah, a virtual Temple of Reason. I'm sure it's just as open minded and dogma-free as the original.

EDH said...

A farmer who "tires of the outdoor life" is not a fraud, is not deceiving the people he cares about telling the truth to.

Never heard of Pigford?

“Even if you got a potted plant, that makes you a farmer,” Dismuke recalled of the meetings he attended with Thomas Burrell, President of the Black Farmers and Agriculture Association. ”I thought that was pretty odd because I was really a farmer. I didn’t know that was the easy way you could farm and get money!”

ricpic said...

How touching is the concern of atheists for the plight of priests struggling with doubt. It's like the NY Times periodical "concern" for the future of the fractured conservative movement.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

There's a Thomas M. Disch novel, On Wings of Song, about a dystopian future where the most popular religion says there is no God, but we should behave as if there is. Is that where we're going?

ricpic said...

periodic not periodical

EDH said...

As if this doesn't apply equally to a scientists who question climate change.

Mitochondri-Allie said...

Climate change is science, not religion, even though conservatives love to paint it that way.

I suppose a support group is fine as long as s not turned into a quasi church, as Maguro alluded to.

edutcher said...

I have a feeling this is where a lot of priests who were caught molesting kids should have gone when the first urge hit.

Mitochondri-Allie said...

Climate change is science, not religion, even though conservatives love to paint it that way.

Yes, of course, the science is settled.

As they said to Copernicus.

Paul said...

"We know there must be thousands of clergy out there who have secretly abandoned their faith but have nowhere to turn."

How do they know there are 'thousands'? And what do they mean by loosing faith? Faith in a God? Faith in themselves? Faith in humankind?

Now I have no doubt some clergy have lost their faith. They are humans, right? I'd be shocked if there were clergy that had not lost their faith for faith is a intangible thing that is hard to quantify.

My faith in their being a God is based more than on just the Bible. It's based also on the miracles that have been recorded and investigated (miracles that happen even to this day.)

Chip S. said...

I suppose a support group is fine as long as s not turned into a quasi church

Something about finding sanctuary in a quasi church rang a bell for me.

Carol_Herman said...

I remember a rabbi in Glendale. Once a month, his Friday night sermons were devoted to kids. To make the experience more "participatory." And, yes. He made going to temple a worthy excursion.

At the time, I was pretty new to living in California. And, I was going thruogh a divorce. (Plus, kids were welcome.)

And, in particular, I can remember one of his speeches ... where he talked about having a crisis in his own faith, while he was in rabbinical school.

He didn't know what to do.

But he got great advice. His religious instructor told him it's quite normal to have the experience of being alone. And, losing one's faith.

Meanwhile, he pointed out he had been trained to go through the ritualistic motions. Which were there to give comfort. No matter how bleak daily problems became. He was told "just to go through the motions" for awhile. Just to see what happened.

And, he said, he recovered his footing.

You take in stride the doubts that beset you. Because it's "not faith alone," but it's friendships and its rituals that can work on your heart.

For everybody? No.

Because some people get no joys from the rituals.

You can ruin faith for others if you force them to do this as if God, himself, is bidding you! Nope. Just some character. There's no powers in the world that can force you to do something you don't respect. Or like.

ThomasD said...

What happens to participants who regain their faith? Will they then lose their newfound athiest friends/jobs/support network?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

1) Anthropogenic global warming is not proven. If it were, scientists would have no need to create supporting data out of thin air.

2) If AGW is real, there is no convincing evidence that it is a net negative for humanity. It might be making things better.

3) Given either 1) or 2), it is a huge mistake to inhibit the global economy with short-sighted, largely ineffective regulations. Advanced economies (USA) are doing much better at environmental improvement than emerging economies.

4) The left simply doesn't care whether AGW is real or not. It is their opportunity to force the masses into behaving according to leftist paradigms.

J said...

Barker's another moron, regardless if approved by Richie Dawkins, the TH Huxley of the 21st century. Typical A-house pop-intellectual material


Hey "Tyrone Slothrop", phony--remove Pynchon's character, plagiarist swine, you never read GR, or any TP novel

n.n said...

Science is a faith, which is necessarily constrained to a limited frame of reference. Its value can be observed in characterizing our physical world in order to convert its resources for elevating the human condition.

It's ironic that our most objective description of origin describes effects which are predicated on an underlying order.

In any case, I don't perceive there to be any value in replacing one faith with another.

People should acknowledge what they know, don't know, and are incapable of knowing.

Whether they are adherents to traditional religious philosophy, or to the more acceptable secular cult, they should be judged on the principles they engender.

The long-running conflict between theists, atheists, and faux-agnostics is simply unproductive. Let people put forth their philosophy and permit voluntary compliance. The alternative is to repeat the greatest loss of life in human history, as atheists, under the guise of communism, socialism, etc., imposed their order on unbelievers.

Kirby Olson said...

There are probably scientists that no longer believe in global warming, but dare not come out of the closet on it, and people trapped in loveless marriages, but stay there for the children's sake, and soldiers who've become pacifists, and I'm sure there were lots of people in Hitler's administration, or even in Obama's administration who threw in with the boss, and then got stuck. Feminists who began to rethink the thing, and Stalinists who began to rethink the thing. Maybe there are even some atheists who suddenly have a light come on and start to think: God exists! Like rivers, people change course.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

The last few hundred years in Christian religion might be seen to be about that, for examples the Quest of the Historical Jesus and Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, an exploration of religion with reason.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

J is my favorite letter. If you don't stop using it, I will fucking kill your dog.

traditionalguy said...

That is a cry for sympathy where none is needed. Which makes it a trick.

In the Episcopal and Presbyterian Church atheist clergy are the favored ones today.

The merit badges there go to the clergy that heroically take each tenant of the Christian church and publicly unbelieve it.

They preach the apostasy creed instead of the apostles creed, which goes:

I do not believe in:
God the Father Almighty, and
In His Son Jesus Christ, and
In His of the Virgin Mary, and
In His crucifiction under Pontius Pilate, and
In His death and burial,and
In his descent into hell, and
In His resurrection after three days, and
In His ascenion into heaven, and
In His sitting on the right hand of God the Father. and
In his coming again to judge the quick and the dead, and
In The Holy Ghost,and
In the Holy Catholic Church, and
In the communion of the Saints, and
In the resurrection of the dead, and
In the life everlasting.

That is a chain of faith statements that identifies Christians.

Freeing the prisoners of legalism is fine, but to do it by renouncing faith in Christianity at any link in the faith chain is an unnecessary trick.

Mitochondri-Allie said...

Thomas D, they would have to be sent to the Lost and Found.

J said...

Bookmarked, neo nazi psychotic, and plagiarist aka Byro. As with Pynchon you don't know shit about AGW either (Dr Mueller of Cal confirmed the temp data)

Dope test time ,phony. Hasta la buh bye to you and yr little gang of morons.

Mitochondri-Allie said...

Traditional Guy, I guess you only like traditional religions when they conform to your own personal brand. Sounding kind of Glenn Beckish there. Didn't he question Obama's faith because it wasn't expressed in his accepted style?

So what Christian religions are on the OK list nowadays? Good Conservatives be kept apprised , so they conform accordingly.

J said...

You're not qualified to discuss religion or politics, Byro Mito, the hs dropout. Even beneath the likes of Kirby O.

Stick to tee-shirt marketing, fraud.

Mitochondri-Allie said...

J are you OCD?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

J, can you respond to my theses, or do you only have the ad hominem? You can't, so STFU. As to Pynchon, sure I picked this nom de guerre because I have never read Pynchon. Putz. As to your dog, well I needn't bother because she's already dying of STD's.

J said...

Byro the failed male nurse you don't have any theses. You're not a scientist. You don't even know what the agw issues are about, and don't know margin of error from yr crack pipe. . Read Professor Mueller--or like pay some one too, and have them explain.

(also sent to digby letting her know yr with the fox denialists now, dreck)

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

A*** T*****'s got the papers ready, rumors are. Yr ..buh bye AZ theatre-faggot. Buh bye yokel--back to the ranch to work on the Osmond medley--and take yr dog-boyfriend too. Heh heh

Tyrone Slothrop said...

You keep saying buh-bye. That means you're leaving. Buh-bye.

traditionalguy said...

Mitochondrie...I worship at PCUSA Presbyterian within the Fellowship group of PCUSA churches.

Where ever you worship, the key is whether or not you accept that Jesus came in the flesh as a man and is now alive and ruling according to the scriptures.

Why don't you pray to Him and see what the Holy Spirit does for you.

Worshiping Jesus in spirit and truth changes everything.

pst314 said...

"But he doesn't risk losing all his friends, being cast out by his family, being ostracized by his whole community..."

That could be a description of what happens to those who dissent from the dogmas of secular leftism.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spread Eagle said...

I have a feeling this is where a lot of priests who were caught molesting kids should have gone when the first urge hit.

It's my belief that there are many people who are drawn to and sign on to the ministry for the wrong reasons. This includes most of these clergy who later "secretly abandon their faith." And it includes most of the priests who are/were pederasts and/or pedophiles. My theory is that these priests were raised in the church, were devout in their faith, but found themselves having these urges in adolescence, and in their naivete believed they could escape from these evil urges to the celibate life of priesthood. Unless they were molested themselves by their own priest, then you have something else.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"There's a Thomas M. Disch novel, On Wings of Song, about a dystopian future where the most popular religion says there is no God, but we should behave as if there is. Is that where we're going?"

In my (never written novel) the big religion is that there is a God but He does not want to be believed in. Try to follow that one.

Ann Althouse said...

@Chip S. Excellent!

traditionalguy said...

Professor...Tommy Altizer beat you to it.

He is convinced that there was a God, but that He decided to kill Himself so that we would be free to live without a god messing things up.

He knows this because Nietzsche and Blake revealed it to him.

Try that one.

Ann Althouse said...

Trad guy. I've had my idea for a long time. Plus it's a different idea. Completely diiferent, actually. God lives but he doesn't want the worship.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Maybe He can't take the responsibility.

Paul said...

Kirby,

That reminds me of what Nikita Khrushchev spoke about when he denounced Stalin. When he rattled off all of Stalin's crimes someone in the audience shouted, "WHERE WERE YOU?"

Khrushchev said, "WHO SAID THAT?" The whole room went silent as everyone was afraid to speak for fear of that may happen to them.

After a pause Khrushchev said, "Now you know where I was."

I sometimes think the Global Warming fanatics act alot like Stalin and expect everyone to shut up out of fear.


traditionalguy,

"That is a chain of faith statements that identifies Christians."

No that's the one that defines the Catholic Church (and I am Catholic.)

Not all Christians toe that whole thing (and I feel you do not have to be a Catholic to be a Christian.)

Skipper said...

What happens to a Democrat who converts to Republicanism? Pretty much the same as the clergy, I expect.

Spread Eagle said...

What happens to a Democrat who converts to Republicanism? Pretty much the same as the clergy, I expect.

It's prolly more like what happens when you play a country-western song backwards.

sydney said...

Carol_Herman,
Thank you for posting the story about the rabbi. My son is going through a crisis of faith now. I was upset when my husband told him to just keep going to Mass even if he doesn't believe it because if he keeps upnthe traditions, then hisbfaith will be there for him when he needs it. That seemed dishonest to me, but I was raised in a Protestant tradition which is more committed to the ideas of Christianity than to Sacraments. Maybe my husband is right. If it worked for your Rabbi, I hope it works for my son.

Ken Pidcock said...

A farmer who "tires of the outdoor life" is not a fraud, is not deceiving the people he cares about telling the truth to. It's funny that Dawkins didn't put that problem first. That says something about Dawkins, no?

These people never intended to defraud anyone. They entered their vocation sincerely, and only arrived in their current circumstances by applying the kind of critical thinking that, in most realms, all of us admire. (I'm guessing that a number of commenters here would like to see more people question what they've been told about AGW.)

And I doubt that many who have finally accepted that they cannot claim to possess extraordinary knowledge are going to gain much by pretending that they do.

caplight said...

We know there must be thousands of atheists out there who have secretly abandoned their faith in the non-existence of God but have nowhere to turn. Now they do have a place to meet, a true sanctuary, a congregation of those of us who have replaced godless dogma and impoverishment of spirit and dogma with the wholeness that comes from knowing their relation to the one who is their creator. It's called the Church.

DADvocate said...

Aaahh, the joys of relativism.

David R. Graham said...

"In my (never written novel) the big religion is that there is a God but He does not want to be believed in. Try to follow that one."

"God lives but he doesn't want the worship."

Well, He doesn't. You're right. If one has to believe or pray or worship, OK, but neither is wanted by its supposed object. Neither is praise or supplication. Intercession is better but still less than maturity.

What He does want is trust and for that belief and worship are impediments. Now, trust is actually self-reliance. And love, which is hollowness.

Operationally: Duty is God. Work is Worship.

Morally: Duty without love is deplorable. Duty with love is desirable. Love without duty is divine.

So yeah, Althouse is a Tillichian Theologian! Who'd a thunk? When the subject-object split is transcended (existentially, in actual experience, however momentary), then and only then is one "religious" because then and only then is one bound back together, not in pieces.

"Clergy" who "lose faith" never were clergy and never had faith. They were not called to the profession. They saw it as a hustle.

The background of this phenomenon is that the structure of the churches we associate with "the Church" has been obsolete since the 1930s. Seminaries and denominations keep trying to maintain that obsolete structure but the membership numbers tell the story. The structure is dead. The Church isn't, God certainly is or isn't, take your pick, that doesn't affect Him, but the churches as developed in the various polity types certainly are dead. Anyone who tries to perform the clerical profession in one of those polity structures has to suppress the awareness that they are trying to resuscitate a corpse. Some make a good show of it, by tricks of entertainment and pop-psych, but their innards accuse them and their efforts ultimately fail.

Christianity, as Bonhoeffer said, is religionless. Meaning, the churches are not the Church, they are not religion, which transcends the subject-object split.

A Dutch Theologian named Hoekendijk caught the essence of the churches post 1930s: they are one's various duties in the regular world. Period. It's that simple, that direct.

caplight said...

"God lives but he doesn't want the worship."
To which David said,
"Well, He doesn't. You're right. If one has to believe or pray or worship, OK, but neither is wanted by its supposed . Neither is praise or supplication. Intercession is better but still less than maturity."

David, you are a remarkable writer. To see one express so many wrong headed notions in so few words leaves me astounded if not envious.

William said...

I suppose a clergyman who is a closet atheist could go through the motions, and maybe even be more effective for it. Many married couples tacitly accept the absence of love in their marriage and thereby reach the golden anniversary. Such spouses do not feel betrayed by neglect. In like way, a non believing clergyman might have more words of comfort to offer the parents of a child who is dying of a painful disease.

John Lynch said...

There are an awful lot of ex-clergymen out there.

Not buying it.

caplight said...

John Lynch said: "There are an awful lot of ex-clergymen out there.

Not buying it."

There are a great many ex-clergy out there and for many reasons. Some left the vocational clergy ministry to better provide for family (medical insurance is a problem), Some came to doubt their sense of call by God, some are emotionally burnt out. They may question God, they may be disappointed in him and many are hurt by the church. But the vast majority of them do not lose their faith.

I think that any statistics from the Freedom From Religion Society or any reports by them of a great movement of faithless clergy should be treated as highly suspect.

traditionalguy said...

The god who does not want worship has broke his covenants with man.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, as Trooper says.

Worship is the wild and crazy part of religion because it contacts the god that is being worshiped.

That act of worship submits man to that god.

The problem is that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob then starts doing stuff and revealing His secrets to his worshipers. And that redirects them into doing God's personal will and not their own.

But He does not break His covenant of loving kindness with them and that is worth the temporary inconvenience.

reformed trucker said...

"Barker's another moron, regardless if approved by Ritchie Dawkins, the TH Huxley of the 21st century." - J

Good gawd, I never thought I'd agree with J...

reformed trucker said...

"I worship at the PCUSA Presbyterian..." - traditionalguy

You should go with OPC... :)

reformed trucker said...

"In my (never written novel) the big religion is that there is a God but he does not want to be believed in. Try to follow that one." - Ann

Best left unwritten. Law professors shouldn't do theology. Stick to what you know. :)

Paddy O said...

And yet, isn't that part of training for the ministry, struggling with "the dark night of the soul" and so forth?

Yep. That's basically what my recent book is about.

"But he doesn't risk losing all his friends, being cast out by his family, being ostracized by his whole community..."

What, is this like 1842? The burnout rate for seminary graduates is something like 50% within 5 years. Meaning there are a whole lot of one time clergy who are out and about in other professions. And it's not even just about burning out or losing faith, there's a lot of moving toward bi-vocational or nonvocational ministry emphases.

"In my (never written novel)..."

I'd read it, I'm curious what direction you'd go with it. From my picking up of bits and pieces over the years, it seems that one of your big critiques of God/religion is the idea that God made people to worship him and demands worship. There are passages like Isaiah 1 and Jesus emphasizing love of neighbor and love of God as essential to the law that suggest there's something to that.

raf said...

We know there must be thousands of clergy out there who have secretly abandoned their faith but have nowhere to turn... Now they do have a place to meet, a true sanctuary, a congregation of those of us who have replaced faith...

You mean like Unitarians? Or maybe the National/World Council of Churches?

John said...

No that's the one that defines the Catholic Church (and I am Catholic.)

Not all Christians toe that whole thing (and I feel you do not have to be a Catholic to be a Christian.)


Actually, there are a number of Christian churches that are creed-based (Lutherans, for one--at least, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod). As a matter of fact, we recite the Nicene Creed every Sunday, and even recite the Athanasian Creed once a year (it's super-long).

The use of the Creed is a way to identify orthodox (small "o") Christian churches. That doesn't mean that other churches aren't Christian in belief or practice, but use of the Creed places a church solidly in orthodox Christianity.

Crunchy Frog said...

John,

My previous church (ELCA) did the Athanasian Creed once a year as well (on Trinity Sunday). Three pages worth. Used to let everyone sit down for it.

Most of the year it was the Apostles Creed. Nicene Creed was reserved for festival sundays and special seasons (Lent, Advent).

It is the position of the church that acceptance of the Creed (in whichever form) is mandatory for one to be able to call himself a Christian.