Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Pastor Throws in the Towel.

The online support group for former clergy, The Clergy Project, consists of over 500 members as of the last update on their homepage.  It explains itself thus:

The purpose of The Clergy Project is to provide a safe haven for active and former professional clergy/religious leaders who do not hold supernatural beliefs. It originated from a growing awareness of the presence of these professional clergy and a concern about their dilemma as they moved beyond faith. 
There were three sources of this awareness and concern:
  • Stories of the life experiences of former clergy that Dan Barker of the Freedom from Religion Foundation has been collecting over the years; 
  • A preliminary study of “Preachers Who Are Not Believers,” by philosopher Daniel Dennett and researcher Linda LaScola, published in March, 2010 in Evolutionary Psychology and The Washington Post;
  • Ongoing discussions between Dan Barker and Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion” about the need to help clergy who want to leave the ministry.
The Clergy Project was made possible through a donation from The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The Clergy Project seeks ongoing donations as it expands to meet the needs of this rapidly growing community. 
The Clergy Project launched a private, invitation only, Forum on March 21, 2011 with 52 members. Currently it has over 535 members. The Forum is an on-line meeting place where former and active professional clergy can talk freely among themselves. Terry, John G, John C, & Lon are moderators; Adam, Dennis, & Terry are Site Administrators.
It is, by all accounts, a wonderful resource for current and former clergy who have gone from believers to doubters to unbelievers.  Many pastors who have realized that they no longer believe the very thing they are employed to teach are in a quandary - how does one maintain one's integrity while still providing for one's family?

Remember - Christianity teaches that the man is responsible for being the breadwinner.  HE is responsible, yet, if he continues to do the only thing he has ever been employed to do, he is deceiving the very people he is being employed to minister to!  Besides, how can one fully and adequately talk about something you don't believe?  How can you be a counselor to people when you no longer believe yourself?

It is a terrible position to be in.  The Clergy Project is just what these folks need to help.

But, how does one get to that point?  How can the most trusted and knowledgeable of the Christian brotherhood possibly fail in their faith?   Don't they know Jesus best?

Weeelll, therein lies the problem.

Don't get me wrong.  There is no one way to lose one's faith.  The ways are myriad and often convoluted, fraught with all kinds of land mines along the way.  Many people have their own unique stories to tell.

But the clergy has one fairly unique land mine that lay persons don't have to confront, or shall we say, the lay version of that land mine isn't as powerful or potent.  That land mine is the Bible itself for the layman.

For the clergy, the list is long and for some, ultimately telling.  An example of the subjects clergy are taught in seminary:

Ancient Near East History
Bible Hermeneutics
Greco-Roman Religions and Cults
History of Christianity
Intertestamental History and Theology
Modern Theology
Literary Criticism
Textual Criticism
Theology-Philosophy Interactions

I don't pretend to know what all of these are, much less understand what they teach!  But what I do know is that under the influence of the knowledge introduced in the above subjects, seminary students often find themselves weighing the evidence thus presented against what they are being taught to actually teach the public, and find the latter sorely lacking in integrity.

Why does this information destroy faith?  The same way as when many laypersons read the bible.  They see through the mumbo-jumbo, the propaganda and the contradictions and realize that it not a reasonable basis for belief.

Seminary students see through those subjects that the bible is not a god-inspired novel of some kind, but is a man made compendium of books written thousands of years ago, by many different people, for many different reasons, for the illustration of many different agendas.  Much of which we only partly understand, and often just don't know at all.

They realize that it is, in the end, a religious tract - or a collection of religious tracts - which is why much of it sounds to so different and often contradictory.  The proof is handed to them almost daily on a silver platter - the platter of education.

So, why do I categorize this post under Harm from Religion?

Because the seminary students who go on to graduate and become the next generation of clergy have one of two major flaws.

Either they understand the truth and press on to teach bullshit anyway or cannot bring themselves to let go of their upbringing, which allows them to go on and keep teaching bullshit - which at some level, they HAVE TO know and understand is bullshit.

Either way, they are knowingly teaching, as truth, a theology that is false and leads people to base their lives and future decisions on false information.  If they were doing that as anything but religion, they'd be arrested as con men and jailed for fraud.

This is inherently harmful.  The money they collect is taken from the pockets of people who often need it for other purposes - basic necessities, for many.  They use that money to buy property that could be used for actually productive purposes, or for political influence, and often just for big houses and fancy cars.  Sometimes, they spend it to build a television or radio empire that bilks even more money from the vulnerable.

Worse, they do it TAX FREE.  Which means that ALL OF US pay for it.  Billions and billions of dollars that we do not have, as a country, to feed the poor, house the homeless, or teach our children.

If that isn't harmful, I really don't know what else might be.

At any rate, I came to write about this because a very brave and honest guy has finally come to the inevitable conclusion of his personal journey, and published a video log (vlog) about the fact that he is no longer going to be a pastor because he in now an atheist.  His name is Justin Vollmar, and he has run the “Virtual Deaf Church" online for the past four years.

It is an interesting vlog, and I'll let The Friendly Atheist tell you about it.   Go and read, you'll be glad you did!

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