The Clergy Project: Seeking religious leaders who no longer believe in God

May 1, 2012 | By | 8 Replies More

On several occasions, a priest or minister has admitted to me that he (they were all men) sometimes wondered whether God existed. The first occasion was about 25 years ago, and I was surprised to hear this. I now suspect that all honest religious leaders wonder whether God really exists.

I had read about The Clergy Project before, and I note that it is still going strong.

The Clergy Project is a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs. The Clergy Project launched on March 21st, 2011.

Currently, the community’s 200 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’ site published an article on the Clergy Project. Here’s an excerpt:

The Clergy Project — a private, invitation-only “safe house” community of current and former pastors, priests and rabbis who no longer hold the supernatural beliefs of their religious traditions — was started in March 2011 with 52 members. It has now grown to almost 100 “apostates.” Since the unveiling of the public informational website on Oct. 7, 2011, the group expects to attract hundreds more.

“We know there must be thousands of clergy out there who have secretly abandoned their faith but have nowhere to turn,” says Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher who “lost faith in faith” after 19 years of preaching the gospel. “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.”


Category: Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. Adam Herman says:

    I think you can count on your fingers the number of people who truly believe in God. If they really believed, they’d be more afraid of him and do what he told them to do.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    More on the Clergy Project:

    “Today, Barker says the project has about 200 online members, including active and former clergy from Protestant, Catholic, evangelical and Pentecostal backgrounds. There are also a couple of rabbis and a lone imam. All choose pseudonyms and share only as much as they feel comfortable with each other.”

  3. Adam Herman says:

    Why do they stay in their jobs? For the money? What does that say about these people? I mean it’s nice for people to start thinking for themselves and using reason, but it would also be nice if they got some scruples in the process. If you no longer believe, you have a duty to quit lying to your flock. What, they don’t believe in hell anymore so they figure it doesn’t matter if they defraud people?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Adam: Perhaps this is the first step, and it’s better than no step. Perhaps this leads to a less literal version of a sermon, and to more candid comments about what we don’t know. I agree, it’s not like many church leaders are going to walk to the podium and confess that they are agnostics. But it is a first step.

  4. Xtech says:

    I am an active member of a Unitarian Universalist church. We have many many members who were formerly clergy of all types. UU culture is safe for expressing doubts and criticisms of every kind of belief and every kind of institution.

  5. Ronald says:

    Your Google Adsense code is bringing in ads for christians services. Perhaps a different ad service or site monitizing is needed. Just a thought

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