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Thread: Clergy who stop believing

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    Clergy who stop believing

    I am in the last few pages of a terrific book which compiles interviews with clergy (Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Jewish) who lost their belief in scripture and often, basic orthodox dogma, in mid-career, and examines their choices and future plans. This is a subject which fascinates me. Ministers/priests, whatever, are a literate bunch overall, whose lives revolve around key documents which most of them study academically before ordination. It stands to reason that many of them would, over time, after propounding the ancient writings, come to question the strange baggage that accompanies those writings. The Bible is full of freakish stuff. One of the ministers talks about a parishioner who questioned him about the likelihood that Samson actually captured 300 foxes, tied each pair together at the tail, lit them on fire, then sicced them on the enemy's fields to burn down the crops (Judges 15). He felt sheepish when he told his questioner that God could make the story possible. Imagine having to tell childish stories for your living, long after you have ceased to believe them. Incidentally, most of the interviewees state that their seminary studies introduced doubt into their faith life.
    The book is Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind, by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. Well written and a fast read.

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    Are you familiar with The Clergy Project, a support group for those who have left the ministry. I've met Dan Barker a couple of times when he spoke at Atlanta Freethought, but it's been years. I think Dan is one of the most outspoken, former members of the clergy. Was his story in the book?

    https://clergyproject.org/former-believer-resources/

    When I was searching for the clergy project, I came across some crazy Christian site that thinks it must be the end times since so many members of the clergy are becoming agnostics and atheists. Maybe it's the end times for religion.

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    Barker is mentioned in the book, but he's been 'out' for decades. The interviewees were either still in place in churches, synagogues, or else very recently transitioned out. The authors are involved in The Clergy Project, and in fact all their interviews came about through the clergy members hearing about TCP and making contact.

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    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    Are you familiar with The Clergy Project, a support group for those who have left the ministry. I've met Dan Barker a couple of times when he spoke at Atlanta Freethought, but it's been years. I think Dan is one of the most outspoken, former members of the clergy. Was his story in the book?

    https://clergyproject.org/former-believer-resources/

    When I was searching for the clergy project, I came across some crazy Christian site that thinks it must be the end times since so many members of the clergy are becoming agnostics and atheists. Maybe it's the end times for religion.
    It makes me wonder how many of the clergy, from any religion and time period, actually believe what they say. The hierarchs of religious institutions often acquire great wealth, power, and privilege. The further up you go the more a person gets.

    Just look at the Catholic Church, Protestant mega churches, and the Saudi royal family.

    Anyway. Do you know the name of that website? It sounds like a fun read.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ideologyhunter View Post
    Incidentally, most of the interviewees state that their seminary studies introduced doubt into their faith life.
    The book is Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind, by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. Well written and a fast read.
    I think this is part of why fundamentalist Christians place less emphasis on a rigorous seminary program. When ordination requires a full-on Master's degree, as it does for the mainline denominations, it's hard to avoid coming into contact with critical ideas and scholarship on your way through, and "beliefs may shift in flight". My own seminary experiences didn't exactly deconvert me, but I was certainly a very different person when I left that calling behind than I had been when I took it on.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Watts

    I still have a cd of him from the 70's

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    A priest at the bottom spends decades making the same sermons over and over. No family or kids, just the same thing over and over.

    I expect for many it becomes a job with benefits and retirement.

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    For me Watts represnts the woo of the 60s and 70s, sometimes called New Age.

    Books, CDs, speaking engagements. Just like Christians.

    A modern mysticism for fun and profit. A current one is Depak Chopra who appears on PBS. He is expert at weaving mysticism with modern physics.

    In the 60s and 70s it was Zen this and Zen that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bullmoose Too View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    Are you familiar with The Clergy Project, a support group for those who have left the ministry. I've met Dan Barker a couple of times when he spoke at Atlanta Freethought, but it's been years. I think Dan is one of the most outspoken, former members of the clergy. Was his story in the book?

    https://clergyproject.org/former-believer-resources/

    When I was searching for the clergy project, I came across some crazy Christian site that thinks it must be the end times since so many members of the clergy are becoming agnostics and atheists. Maybe it's the end times for religion.
    It makes me wonder how many of the clergy, from any religion and time period, actually believe what they say. The hierarchs of religious institutions often acquire great wealth, power, and privilege. The further up you go the more a person gets.

    Just look at the Catholic Church, Protestant mega churches, and the Saudi royal family.

    Anyway. Do you know the name of that website? It sounds like a fun read.
    Sorry, I don't, but if I have time, perhaps I can find it again. Not sure I'd call it fun. To me, it was kind of depressing to see such stupidity.

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    I was just about to post something but realized ... best not to interrupt the flow, and best leave it for a thread title like...

    When (former) non-believing atheists became believers.

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