Atheist ministers leading the faithful (redux)

Thanks to John Loftus over at Debunking Christianity for this one. There's a great article over at ABC that focuses on a couple of atheists in the clergy. I talked about this a few months back, and I sincerely doubt it's an isolated phenomenon. Not only do I think that the incidence of "closet atheists" in the clergy is likely much greater than the small number with the courage to speak out belies, but I think that there are just as likely many atheist parishioners as well. And beyond those who have flat out stopped believing, there are most certainly many more who struggle with a great deal of doubt, and who tire at being told to "just have faith."

Some of the comments in the ABC article very much hit home for me:
"I realized that everything I'd been taught to believe was sort of sheltered," Adam said, "and never really looked at secular teaching or other philosophies. ... I thought, 'Oh my gosh. Am I believing the wrong things? Have I spent my entire life and my career promoting something that is not true?'"
He said he feared for his salvation and soul. "In that point where I realized I was losing my faith yet I still feared for my own salvation, I asked God to take my life before I lost my faith," Adam said.
The question that instigated my own critical examination of Christianity was the realization that there were many world religions – some older than Judaism – and that in humanity's roughly 200,000 years on Earth, the supposedly one true religion that I followed wasn't given to mankind until some 194,000 years into our existence, and it was only given to a relatively small population in tribal Bronze Age Palestine. It seemed rather ethnocentric to think that I was just that lucky, that my religion was the one correct one and everyone else's was, to one degree or another, false.

I too began to view my own upbringing as being deeply sheltered. I realized I knew little of other world religions that hadn't been taught to me by evangelical church leaders eager to explain why they were wrong. More disturbingly though, I began to realize that I knew very little about Christianity. I'd so eagerly and emotionally repented of my sins and accepted the lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior that I realized I had virtually no understanding about how, exactly, the whole thing was supposed to work. Unfortunately, the more I studied it, the more holes became apparent and the more difficult it was to believe. Like the minister in the article, the Bible itself was the greatest detriment to my faith. In fact, I didn't read polemics like The God Delusion until after I had long rejected belief in gods. And after many years spent as a self-proclaimed "theistic agnostic" (I admit it... I was a big Deepak Chopra fan... I know, I know... ugh...), it ultimately was a growing fascination with science, and particularly Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, which led me to see the folly of clinging to a belief in god as a meaningful answer to any worthwhile question.

I very much love the final quote that closes the article:
"At first I feared if I lose my faith, I'm gonna become some terrible person," Adam said. "As I lost my faith ... I realized that really had no bearing on who I am and my character and my actions. I live no differently than I did when I was a fervent believer."
Morality does not come from gods or religion. It comes from our innately gregarious and necessarily codependent, cooperative nature. It's deeply embedded in our humanity through millions of years of evolution from our most distant group-living ancestors. For me, shedding religion has deepened my sense of morality. Rather than doing what is right because I am trying to please (or avoid displeasing) an invisible and intemperate deity, I do the right thing because I recognize the kind of world I want to live in, and that is best for all of us, is one in which we all do right by each other.


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