A Christian acquaintance studied ancient languages and New Testament history. With limited options after graduation, he went to work for a mega-church with beliefs and materialistic values in opposition to his own.
His desire to escape was only partly offset by a sense that he was doing some good, bringing some sense to the naivete and madness he saw in the church where he worked. Escape never came, and nearly 20 years later he is still trapped, and his family with him.
My acquaintance’s role is not as a pastor (or minister, or priest), but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of pastors, ministers and priests who lose their faith but continue in their role. I’m familiar with this concept from my years as an evangelical Christian, many years ago the concern is sometimes expressed for the students in theological colleges, Bible colleges and seminaries taught “liberal” ideas, and “falling away from the Lord”. I hadn’t thought of it from the perspective of those individuals, and what a terrible, lonely experience that must be. As Daniel Dennett states:
“They’re like gays in the 50s without gaydar. They don’t dare raise the issue with other clergy they know whom they suspect are just as much non-believers as they are.” Source (6 min video).
It may be that they continue to hold the same values and see good in their work, but they are also likely to feel trapped, with a lack of experience and training that would make it difficult to find other employment, and a necessary secrecy that makes it very difficult to seek support.
In response, The Clergy Project has been established – a confidential online community for current and former religious leaders in vocational ministry who do not hold supernatural beliefs. I wish them well.
If you wish to find out more:
- This book looks very interesting: Caught in The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind
- Also see The Clergy Project‘s YouTube channel.
Finall, here is one former pastor describing his own journey: