Friday, April 27, 2012

The Clergy Project

I read Dan Dennett's study in 2010 on clergy struggling with their disbelief while stuck in their pastor roles for various reasons ("Preachers Who Are Not Believers"), but ran across this podcast today from the Thinking Atheist from this past January. It is an incredible dilemma as people who have dedicated sometimes their entire life to lead others in faith finally realize that they no longer believe and face an extraordinary exit strategy, as their career and friend and family relationships all come crashing down at once. It is probably singly unique in that just a simple change in your philosophy can cause such widespread carnage across all avenues of your life. Many of these people are stuck with theological degrees or certain financial implications that keep them from making a quick transition to some other form of employment. The other huge issue is the reception of the new world view by the congregants and friends and family. Will they be ostracized and rejected from everyone they know and love? I can't help but feel for these clergy. It is nice to know that they do have somewhere they can turn for help. The Clergy Project was set up last year to serve as a safe haven for current clergy going through this cognitive dissonance. It is run and maintained by current and ex clergy and anonymity is respected as they build a community to deal with all of the issues involved in "de-clergifying":

  • 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

  • The Clergy Project website has incredible audio and written testimonials from some of the members and their stories are heartbreaking but also encouraging.

    The Thinking Atheist 1-10-12 Podcast #40:

    (Image by Evelina Kremsdorf)

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