An Atheist Pastor

Question from Pastor Tim:
For the last six years I have been a youth pastor at a church I grew up in. I met my wife in this church and “we” plan to raise our kids in this church as well. A year ago I enrolled in Bible college and I became extremely interested in knowing everything there is to know about Christianity, the origin of the Bible, and also other religions. This is where my current problem began.

You see, the more I learned the more I realized that the Bible is a complete fabrication. At first I just had a few doubts but now I realize just how crazy the whole thing really is. I’m on the verge of being kicked out of school for some of the questions I’ve been asking. I’m trying to save face at church but I teach dozens of kids about a God I no longer believe in. I know you’re probably getting a kick out of this but for me it is total hell (pun intended). Just the other day my senior pastor wanted to know what has gotten into me and I wanted to tell him but it would just kill my wife, her family and mine.

I feel like a robot and I dread Sunday school. It makes me wonder though if there are others at church that feel the same but keep it to themselves for fear of being socially outcast. I have no one to talk to – everyone around me is out of their minds. It’s a holy ghost charismatic church. You know – the whole speaking in tongues – slain in the spirit deal?

I have been trying to teach less about god and more historical significance of stuff in the Bible but I feel like a total fraud and I know this is not what the parents want for their kids. I want so bad to come out but I just can’t; our whole families go to this church. I think if I tell her it will lead to divorce. I love my wife and still believe strongly in a lot of the good values taught in the Bible. Something has got to give, please help!

Answer by SmartLX:
Tim, it sounds like it sucks to be you, and believe me when I say this does not make me happy. I don’t do this often, but I’ve changed your first name in your “question” so that someone in your family or congregation doesn’t stumble across this site and peg you. I’m not saying that “coming out” to your community as an atheist is necessarily the wrong thing to do, but if you go for it you should definitely wait until you’re ready.

The good news is that you are far from alone. May I introduce the Clergy Project, an online community specifically created (partly by Daniel Dennett) for members of the clergy who have lost their faith. They’ll have far better advice than me on dealing with your still-religious friends and family, telling your secret, making a living after leaving the church and so on. They’ve had a lot of good publicity lately, so you can go in with your eyes open. Importantly, they are completely confidential until you decide to go public, which you may choose not to.

I urge you to present yourself to the Clergy Project, because people in your unfortunate situation are the very reason it exists. Dennett conducted a study beforehand which found huge numbers of non-believing clergy, most of them feeling just as trapped as you. I say again, you are not alone.

One thought on “An Atheist Pastor”

  1. Pastor Tim, we are 300+ active & former clergy assisting each other on a Members-only site. You are definately not alone in your struggle, we know the hell (metaphor) your experiencing.

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