These Clergy Members Realized They Were Atheists and Eventually Left the Church

I was a bit frustrated at the lack of specifics—but interesting articles nonetheless.

This excerpt was a bit underwhelming, but mostly prompted more questions:

But when Luke traveled to India to connect with the underground Christian Church in 2010 and found more Western culture than unadulterated Christianity, the trip served as the culmination of years of quiet questioning and doubt about the Trinitarian God and true biblical practices.

Why would finding Western culture in India be unexpected? Why would finding Western culture in Indian churches be unexpected? I don’t get it.

And why would Christianity be any less likely to be “adulterated” in India then in the USA? Jesus and the rest of the New Testament authors spoke often about “adulteration” coming into the church. So why was this clergyman somehow startled by these basic scriptural concepts? Was he unfamiliar with what Jesus had taught?

I have no doubt that these former clergymen have important stories to tell but I don’t think the articles did them justice----because after reading them I still don’t have much grasp of what happened to these former pastors.


Good points. That bit was a bit weird, but it’s obviously heavily edited. Apparently they visited some long-standing Christian sect? But very hard to understand what the clothes they were wearing has to do with anything. Sometimes culture shock can really hit hard. It would be interesting to hear about it in more detail.

If you are interested here is their website. It is a fine organization and has helped a lot of people and families. The main thing is that a lot of people in the ministry have a lot of good “people” skills and when properly trained and certified can be excellent secular counselors, teachers, and community organizers. What the organization does is to help with secular retraining and certifications by providing assistance and support.

There are two main reasons to sustain an external religious behavior that isn’t the same as the internal belief. One is monetary, the other is relational. Sometimes, the monetary reason is exploitative greed and the person fakes it all along. But sometimes, the person loses her faith along the way and walking away is a very complex proposition.

Somewhere along the line during his Christian music career, Tim Lambesis, frontman of Christian rock band, As I Lay Dying , and at least two fellow band members became unbelievers. They continued to make and sell “Christian music” albums and play gigs as a "Christian band." The band members were afraid if they came out, their sales, and consequently their personal income, would suffer. In an interview with Alternative Press, Lambesis mentioned that it’s not uncommon for non-Christians to produce Christian music using deception and lies of omission.

It might be surprising to some to hear that many pastors don’t believe everything (or anything) they preach. Sometimes it’s small theological differences, but they continue to toe the line because it’s easier and not a big deal. But other times, the pastor no longer believes in any Christian Orthodoxy and might not even believe in god. The simple advice would be to resign. However, for someone who has been a pastor their entire adult life, probably getting ordained after spending much time and money in seminary, leaving is a complex proposition.

The title of “pastor” encompasses the entire spectrum – from an independent, self-taught, self-ordained person, to a denominationally affiliated individual with many higher education degrees and an official ordination and license. Independent pastors with small congregations and a “day job” to pay the bills, most likely don’t stay for the money.

But even when an income isn’t on the line, it’s very difficult to come out, especially when you’re seen as a leader in the faith community. There is also the matter of personal identity. Being an independent pastor of a small community often comes as a result of great sacrifice and loss. Realizing so much of your life was “wasted” is a damaging blow. Pastors who lead larger, established, and/or more institutional churches have much more to lose in a material sense in addition to the existential concerns. They often have homes owned by the church, pensions, a good salary, an established reputation in the community, relationships with leaders of other churches, and more. It’s much harder – logistically and emotionally – to leave than it is to stay and fake it.

Many children in religious communities determine at some point that they don’t believe any or all of what they’ve been taught but continue to act as if they do because to out themselves as agnostic or atheist would have detrimental, far-reaching consequences. It’s obviously virtually impossible to know how many people in religious communities don’t actually believe, but it’s no secret to anyone in the religious world that these people exist, and in no small number.
The internet is now providing a way for people who are closeted nonbelievers to find community and support. There is even an online community for pastors called the Clergy Project, and ex-pastors are even starting to write books about leaving the ministry.

What does this have to do with peaceful science, exactly?


It is a major part of the discussion here. At PS we are not afraid to discuss social topics of interest on the science/faith front lines.


Because PS is a place for discussions between people of all faiths - or none. The discussion about faith is a common topic in understanding how people think about science.


We engage faith topics as well as science topics here. Hopefully it leads to greater clarity and mutual understanding in both arenas of discussion.

Patrick often encourages us to think about faith-related topics, especially with interesting news items.