This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Skeptical clergy a silent majority?

Skeptical clergy a silent majority? - Comments

petermun's Avatar Comment 1 by petermun

"Give us this day our daily bread" - regardless of whether we believe or not.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 15:48:00 UTC | #450224

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 2 by God fearing Atheist

But isn’t it a shame that there aren’t secular communities where those with altruistic instincts can “minister” without hypocrisy or fear?

Here, here. Taking the woo-woo out of religion leaves something valuable - a supportive community with a "social worker". We need to kill the cancer, not the patient.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:19:00 UTC | #450232

Oromasdes1978's Avatar Comment 3 by Oromasdes1978

There is a quote from Coyne's article that has got me thinking

The road to eroded faith is tortuous...

I have spoken at length to a lot of people on this site about how they lost their faith and what really grates at me is the mental torment involved with some who gave up the Holy Ghost as it were.

The hold religion has on people and the horrors involved with giving it up scare me greatly - I have always maintained that I have never had any religious faith in my life so I could not possibly know what it is like for some people to have to givec up such a part of their lives.

This religious vice or padlock trapping people in such a nightmarish existence owes a lot to the terrible teachings of religion - the whole frightening package that has most probably been shoved down their throats from day one, with the whole "hell is a real place" torment thrown in for good measure.

I have been re-reading the Fleabytes thread today and one thing that struck me from that is this the paranoia of the religious when confronted with the alternative to their religion - atheism.

Without religion you will start to believe the universe is uncaring and that when that sinks in the rules go out the window and you become uncaring. Such is the picture then drawn of all atheists - look at how Richard is portrayed in the media - strident, angry, totalitarian book burner etc

What a truly reprehensible thing to inflict on someone, to call having faith like that virtuous baffles me.

These poor people who have to stick to the jobs they are forced to work in, spouting obvious lies and distortions they know to be wrong but unable to get out of it because of the impact it would have on their lives if they did.

Hitchens, as ever, is perfectly right when he says religion poisions everything and I do not think that can be repeated enough.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:21:00 UTC | #450233

Shane McKee's Avatar Comment 4 by Shane McKee

I think this is likely to be REALLY common. I have been sort-of on-off experimenting with a "Church of Jesus Christ Atheist" concept - see - as a means of working both ways - helping non-believers who are still Christians (just run with the oxymoron for now, folks!) to at the very least buy a bit of time to appraise things within their churches without feeling too bad about it, and - who knows - maybe getting to talk about atheism to the people next to them in the pew.

I would conservatively estimate that about 15% of people who attend church regularly do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, or that he *really* was the son of god, and about 10% don't believe in god at all (overlapping percentages there).

To some extent, I would like to see an escape-slide from religious belief; some people are terrified of the jump that many of the rest of us have taken, and would like a gentler procedure for reconciling their lack of belief with what is after all a major lifestyle issue. And much as we may go on about it, churches very often do provide people with a sense of community that is hard to mess with. Just the way people work.

Comments on the CJCA welcome! :-)

[Personally I hope it is deeply deeply subversive, and will just state that I do NOT see it as accommodationist!]

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:33:00 UTC | #450236

bluecastle's Avatar Comment 5 by bluecastle

As Dennett wrote in Breaking the Spell: it is "belief in belief" which is regarded to be a virtue, not belief itself...

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:43:00 UTC | #450238

gr8hands's Avatar Comment 6 by gr8hands

Put down your cross and be free with us.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 16:59:00 UTC | #450243

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 7 by Stafford Gordon


Thu, 18 Mar 2010 17:43:00 UTC | #450248

maryannschulz's Avatar Comment 8 by maryannschulz

'Church of Jesus Christ Atheist' think I'll join..., 'Put down your cross...', 'belief in belief' and all the above thoughts...

Amen brothers and sisters - you are so fortunate to be raised outside of religion or not to have been ensared! But I am likewise fortunate to have this site and others to encourage me to 'be free' of a life long enslavement to religion.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 17:46:00 UTC | #450249

Philster61's Avatar Comment 9 by Philster61

Its a living I suppose.They would have to get a real job otherwise

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:04:00 UTC | #450253

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 10 by Roger Stanyard

I've long believed that Anglican clergy don't beleive a word of what they say about religion - especially the bishops!

Still the greatest mystery in human history is precisely what does one have to believe in to be a member of the Church of England.

Not a lot, if anything, as far as I can make out.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:13:00 UTC | #450257

axeanne's Avatar Comment 11 by axeanne

The loss of faith is different for everyone.

I was born and raised Catholic and went to Catholic school from 1st-12th grade.

In 4th grade, I started thinking the teachings were B.S.

I kept going to church to be with my family.

In H.S., I went to church to play guitar and look a girls.

In college, I never went to church.

It wasn't until I was 38 that I made the intellectual decision to become an atheist, although I was probably an atheist since the 4th grade.

I love it and feel no anguish!

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:26:00 UTC | #450259

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 12 by Dr. Strangegod

Oh. My. Noodles. Thank you Profs. Dennett and LaScola. This is exactly (and I mean freaking EXACTLY) what I have been thinking about and planning to do for a couple years now (although not necessarily on this particular subject) because I am convinced of one thing: only by employing the techniques of oral history can we hope to understand some of the most complicated aspects of religion. Coincidentally (maybe), this is exactly what a certain university has just last week agreed to enable me to do over the next few years as I pursue my Ph.D in Religious Studies. I was accepted into the program partially based on my proposed program of study of (to oversimplify greatly) talking to religious and nonreligious people at length. This is exactly the kind of article, in shape if not particular subject, that you all can expect out of me in the future. Thanks for the template!

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:37:00 UTC | #450260

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 13 by Ignorant Amos

10. Comment #470326 by Roger Stanyard

I've long believed that Anglican clergy don't beleive a word of what they say about religion - especially the bishops!

Our own Flying Goose bears this out....he fits well into the three criteria why non believing pastors stay at it.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:50:00 UTC | #450262

Stella's Avatar Comment 14 by Stella

This reminds me of how a liberal Protestant friend of mine exclaimed to me last summer while sitting in the swimming pool, apparently awed and impressed, "Our associate pastor told me last week that she thinks THE ENTIRE BIBLE is an allegory!"


Yet the very same friend once burst into tears when I said, during a discussion about religion with a group of other close friends, that the concept of the Trinity is "silly." She said it made perfect sense, then started crying, then left the room.

Strange things belief in belief does to the minds of otherwise sane, liberal-minded, compassionate, and intelligent people.

I suspect many, many clergy, especially in the liberal Episcopalian, Evangelical Lutheran (strangely, the "Evangelical" Lutherans are the liberal branch, the "Missouri Synod" being more evangelical), and other liturgical movements, are actually weak atheists or agnostics. Having read so much scripture and philosophical theology (as opposed to, say, an evangelical preacher who studied apologetics and farcical "Biblical archaeology" and the like at some lightweight pastor factory), they must necessarily be aware of the holes in the arguments.

For instance, Matt Dillahunty, host of the fantastic Austin local access program "The Atheist Experience," started out as a Baptist theological student, but his studies turned him into an atheist!

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:51:00 UTC | #450263

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 15 by Ignorant Amos

Didn't I watch Dan Dennett give a presentation on this very subject some time ago?

I must have a wee hoke about to see if I can find it.

Edit: here it is,4547,The-Evolution-of-Confusion,Dan-Dennett-AAI-2009-RDFRS-Josh-Timonen,page2

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:05:00 UTC | #450265

Shane McKee's Avatar Comment 16 by Shane McKee

Ignorant Amos, seeing the words "wee hoke" on this august website is a beautiful thing. You are not so ignorant! :-)

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:16:00 UTC | #450267

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 17 by Ignorant Amos

Shane, I tend to comment how I talk, not really very good grammar or spelling, but hey, just trying to add a bit of colour to this "august" site. As long as the hi brow folk who visit get the jest of what I'm trying to say then it's job done. LOL

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:25:00 UTC | #450268

chawinwords's Avatar Comment 18 by chawinwords

Basically, the whole discussion hinges on one fact I have already mentioned. That fact being how hard it is to question or desert a lifetime of investment in belief, of any sort, religious or otherwise.

I don't agree with the religiously entrapped, but I do understand the human phenomenon of investment, since I witness it constantly when recording sermons and watching the faces of the different congregations during periods of intellectual enchantment.

Even we of the freethinking variety must ever guard against developing an investment entrapment of our own design, and then acting and using rhetoric in the same demagogic absolutist style of a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson, etc. I think of freethinking just like the quote made by Mohammad Ali, something akin to, fly like a butterfly,sting like a bee.

Freethinking should be all about out-thinking, not out sermonizing.

For instance, I did not like the term "Brights."
Which the opposite of it is "Dims." It is time to organize on a freethinking model, perhaps working together to have both national and international models of freethinking that, when organized, works to out good work and good deed the absolutists of any spiritual-other-world variety. Forever changing through a progressive march into the future, and never losing the freedom of further enlightenment through free thought.

It is time for the human species to leave its developmental, fantasy adolescence -- long overdue.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:29:00 UTC | #450269

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 19 by the great teapot

Clergy who don't believe in god.
Whatever next, flying geese?

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:01:00 UTC | #450282

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 21 by the great teapot

Actually, light hearted digs aside, have we heard from flying goose recently.
I always enjoy reading his posts. Hope all is going well with him.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:15:00 UTC | #450285

Denial's Avatar Comment 20 by Denial

Psychologically, belief is more flexible than this study makes it out to be. Just as we can suspend disbelief when we go to the movies, we can suspend disbelief in a ritual while we do it. Many converts go through that stage, they go through the motions until they start to believe.

There's even a group of people who have made this "paradoxical" nature of belief into a way of life, called "Chaos magic".

Hence, I fully expect many disbelieving pastors can still "feel something" during the Lord's Prayer.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:15:00 UTC | #450284

maryannschulz's Avatar Comment 22 by maryannschulz

On a previous thread a few weeks ago I remember Flying Goose saying he was giving up posting for Lent so he could catch up on reading. I like his posts too and look forward to his return.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:37:00 UTC | #450288

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 23 by the great teapot

Fair play to him.
I gave up drinking for lent.
Cheers everyone.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:39:00 UTC | #450289

Corylus's Avatar Comment 24 by Corylus


Coincidentally (maybe), this is exactly what a certain university has just last week agreed to enable me to do over the next few years as I pursue my Ph.D in Religious Studies. I was accepted into the program partially based on my proposed program of study of (to oversimplify greatly) talking to religious and nonreligious people at length.
Congrats - hope you enjoy it. Remember to let them get a word in edgeways :)

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:42:00 UTC | #450290

Shane McKee's Avatar Comment 25 by Shane McKee

Amos, I was just wondering whether you had picked up your Ulsterisms on a tour of our wee country (from your avatar), or if you're local :-)

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:46:00 UTC | #450291

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 26 by Mr DArcy

I believe Flying Goose told us that he was giving up for Lent. What a sacrifice, but better than the one Abraham was about to commit!

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:48:00 UTC | #450292

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 27 by Steve Zara

Comment #470329 by Lucas


Thu, 18 Mar 2010 22:30:00 UTC | #450300

Koreman's Avatar Comment 28 by Koreman

off topic, Retired US General: Gay Dutch Troops Contributed to Srebrenica Massacre | USA | English

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 22:35:00 UTC | #450301

Shane McKee's Avatar Comment 29 by Shane McKee

I try as much as possible to get Christians to read the resurrection accounts in the gospels side-by-side. A very useful way of promoting atheism, and one of the reasons why (I think) so many ministers do make the jump.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 23:00:00 UTC | #450304

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 30 by Bonzai

And how did they get into their predicament?

People change in their outlooks, beliefs, interests and concerns as they grow older.

You entered a profession full of youthful enthusiasm and then after being there for 30 years you get bored and start thinking what might have been. But by then you are too old or think that you are too old to make a fresh start, so you are stuck where you are, going through the motion.

There are many people who feel disenchanted with their jobs but they need the security so they hang on. This is a rather universal phenomenon,-- perhaps except for a few lucky ones like professors doing interesting research. This is not a unique predicament for clerics.

Less cynically, of course even if you no longer believe you can still rationalize (and not without some justifications) that you are helping people in other ways such as giving counseling and doing community work.

Edited Then of course there are some con artists who pretend to believe just for the money, fame and power. The TV evangelists come to mind. I would think that it is a given that they don't believe when they stage such obvious scams to cheat the faithful out of their cash. BTW, these people are called "religious entrepreneurs" by some journalists.

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 23:04:00 UTC | #450307