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← Falling from Faith: When Pastors Stop Believing

Falling from Faith: When Pastors Stop Believing - Comments

jsweet's Avatar Comment 1 by jsweet

Secondly, to blame the church or churches because of various actions or inaction as a reason for leaving the faith ignores the individuals doctrinal and theological education, and their ability to employ critical thought. Also, when one disagrees with a church (or entire denomination for that matter), it necessitates a change of venue. The individual church is no different from an automotive service station. When you do not like or agree with how they work on your car, you simply find another mechanic. You don't quit driving.

Just a point about this... I haven't read the original pastor's article, so I dunno how he framed it... but there is an element of truth to the idea that a bad sect can cause someone to let go of their faith, when that same person might very well have persisted in their faith had they found themselves in a "good" sect. This is not because the "good" sect is actually beneficial or has any access to the truth, but simply because all the things that are wrong with religion are more easily visible when you are immersed in a particularly striking example of those bad things.

To use an analogy... Say Alice and Bob both don't wear their seatbelts. They each find seatbelts uncomfortable, and so rationalize away all the dangers. One day, Alice gets in a minor accident. She is okay, but she gets banged up a lot worse than she would have if she had been wearing her seatbelt. It causes her to re-examine her attitudes, and decides that the slight discomfort is worth it for the safety benefits. Bob, on the other hand, is lucky enough to never get in an accident, so he is never motivated to re-examine his attitudes, and persists in not wearing a seatbelt until he dies of old age.

Bob was still an idiot for not wearing his seatbelt. And Alice would have persisted in her foolishness too, were it not for the bad experience she had.

It's the same with "bad" religion vs. progressive religion. Absolutely, "bad" religion drives a lot of people out of the faith who would have stuck with it if they had had a good experience. So what? It's still foolish.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 20:11:20 UTC | #945066

2ndserve's Avatar Comment 2 by 2ndserve

My response to the original post:

I'm afraid there are far too many assumptions here for me.

I personally have listened to the stories of at least four members of the clergy project. I have had the fortune of hearing two other former clergy tell their stories as well.

I realize that sample size is small, but the reasons you give don't fit their stories. Well, perhaps one does: "Some struggle with immature and simplistic assumptions about God, providence, and suffering that persist long after they have pursued a formal education." TRUE!!! And a fine definition of Christianity. Mature faith may simply lead to no faith at all.

Most speak of a gradual de-conversion that eventually led to full fledged denial. None wanted that path, secretly did not belief earlier, or seemed especially immature in their knowledge or learning. Maybe they simply had the courage to look in places most clergy won't.

I wonder, did you listen to their stories? They are readily available with little effort. Most of them have been willing to answer hard questions from atheist and believer alike. Your questions would have been welcome. Their answers would have made for an article worth reading.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 20:46:40 UTC | #945073

Quine's Avatar Comment 3 by Quine

I think Al Stefanelli is giving a very good reply. I often hear believers express their faith that anyone who has had "faith" unravel through reason, did not have the "real" faith to begin with. That is because part of their faith is faith in faith itself. It's circular, self sustaining, and does not require any connection to reality to keep going. I am amused by preachers who accept with glee that preachers in other faiths can "wake up to the truth," but who are also so sure that is not going to happen in their own church.

In fact, the members of the Clergy Project have all the inside information. They know exactly where the public is being misled by both the phony baloney megachurch preachers and the sincere but seriously deluded missionaries. Of course it is problematic for the "faithful" because, if reason does unravel faith, then they have made a terrible error, and can expect this movement to empty the pulpits just as the growing interest in Atheism is emptying the pews, in general.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 21:14:50 UTC | #945080

Universeman's Avatar Comment 4 by Universeman

I scincerly wish that I could still believe in God, but I also know that because I am honest with myself I will never be able to do so. Neither am I an atheist by choice, my curiosity was programmed into my DNA, I simply followed that programming which led me to ask questions which led to subsequently more difficult questions until atheism became the only acceptable response to life's most difficult questions. Atheism is a scary and intimidating thing, for me at least, while I am glad that I am willing and able to accept reality on realities terms, that does not mean that I do not miss the comfort which came from the belief that a loving heavenly father had my best interest at heart. All I have now is the knowledge that I just happen to exist and that the blind and pitiless forces of nature are all there is to reality, just because I accept that truth does not mean I like it, it simply is what it is.

Anyone else here feel similarly? Or am I the only one here who has a soft place in my heart for that time when I was still able to believe in God, like a cherished childhood memory.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 00:00:52 UTC | #945107

mmurray's Avatar Comment 5 by mmurray

Comment 4 by Universeman :

Anyone else here feel similarly? Or am I the only one here who has a soft place in my heart for that time when I was still able to believe in God, like a cherished childhood memory.

No. But maybe that is the advantage of being a "Catholic Atheist". No-one can cherish childhood memories of guilt, fear and confusion.

Director of Spiritual Formation and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

Sounds like something from Monty Python but it's serious isn't it. America is a foreign country sometimes. Or is that unfair ? Is it Texas that is the foreign country ?

Michael

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 00:48:19 UTC | #945115

Sara's Avatar Comment 6 by Sara

Comment 4 by Universeman :

I scincerly wish that I could still believe in God, but I also know that because I am honest with myself I will never be able to do so....

Anyone else here feel similarly? Or am I the only one here who has a soft place in my heart for that time when I was still able to believe in God, like a cherished childhood memory.

No, I don't miss believing in God, but I do miss church sometimes, especially on the big holidays when the music is good. So sometimes I go to listen and sing along.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 02:59:52 UTC | #945136

Universeman's Avatar Comment 7 by Universeman

Its a double edged sword of sorts, there are pro's and con's to both sides of belief and non-belief, its not that I regret having rejected the notion of God, I am far better off now for sure. Its just that in spite of the guilt and the tens of thousands in tithing and the mental gymnastics religion was such a huge part of my life for such a long time, and because of a desire to keep the peace at home it still is a big part of my life, I simply approach it from an entirely new point of view. Having pulled back the curtains exposing religion for what it really is has also eliminated its power to control me, that's the aspect of atheism which means the most to me.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 03:40:35 UTC | #945138

Universeman's Avatar Comment 8 by Universeman

I did however attend my first Mormon temple endowment session as an atheist last week, at the Salt Lake Temple no less (my wife asked very nicely with the hope of reconverting me, but my atheist mojo was far too strong for the Mormon mumbo-jumbo to have any effect), but boy was that a freaking bizarre experience.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The Great Oz has spoken!"

I was like WTF the whole time but I was surrounded by devout believers so I kept my head low and played along for appearances sake. I wonder what the dudes reaction at the vale would have been had I mentioned that I didn't really believe in any of that shit.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 04:08:32 UTC | #945142

theGreatFuzzy's Avatar Comment 9 by theGreatFuzzy

@Universeman: "All I have now is the knowledge that I just happen to exist and that the blind and pitiless forces of nature are all there is to reality, just because I accept that truth does not mean I like it, it simply is what it is.

Anyone else here feel similarly? Or am I the only one here who has a soft place in my heart for that time when I was still able to believe in God, like a cherished childhood memory."

+++++++++++++++++++++

Is the desire more for a sense of belonging to a community than for a belief in god. I think that was the case with me, but that diminished over time and was finally extinguished one wet weekend after viewing Dennett's talk about how religions evolve and Lawrence Krauss's "A universe from nothing".

Regards the "pitiless forces of nature", it seems to work both ways. That is, the universe has no pity but it has no hate either (or whatever the antonym of pity is). The universe, and you and I, came from nothing and will go back to nothing. But it's one hell of a nothing if all we see about us came from it! Alan Watts says it better than I ever could http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssf7P-Sgcrk. If life were for all eternity it would be worth be nothing.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 08:42:24 UTC | #945164

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 10 by rod-the-farmer

Don't you lose the argument if you use the 'No true Scotsman" gambit ?

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 09:39:08 UTC | #945168

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 11 by Agrajag

Comment 4 by Universeman

Anyone else here feel similarly? Or am I the only one here who has a soft place in my heart for that time when I was still able to believe in God, like a cherished childhood memory.

Listen to Christopher Hitchens's comparison of "Heaven" to North Korea.
The whole idea is only warm and fuzzy on the surface; if you think it through, it doesn't make sense, and actually is a pretty awful concept.
Steve

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 13:50:16 UTC | #945193

Anvil's Avatar Comment 12 by Anvil

'No adult has an answer to life's ultimate questions that cannot be challenged, but some abandon their faith in the illusion that the struggle can be avoided, or that certainty is available somewhere else. Others confuse the descriptive power of science with explanatory power. Science is a powerful tool and it can account for the causal associations between the natural forces at work in our world. But it is limited in its ability to explain why those forces exist or why they necessarily interact the way they do.'

This was the paragraph that did it for me. I was going to go through it, line by line, but I really can't be bothered.

88 words of utter bollocks to say 'That's magic, folks!'

Anvil.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 16:44:43 UTC | #945205

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 12 by Anvil

'No adult has an answer to life's ultimate questions that cannot be challenged, but some abandon their faith in the illusion that the struggle can be avoided, or that certainty is available somewhere else.

Yep! - Gazoing!!!!!! - Nothing can match the irrational certainty of the trooooooooo believer!

Science is a powerful tool and it can account for the causal associations between the natural forces at work in our world. But it is limited in its ability to explain why those forces exist or why they necessarily interact the way they do.'

88 words of utter bollocks to say 'That's magic, folks!'

Yep! Science does not have every answer to everything, so "god-it-by-magic" is the catch all explanation, for the ignorant, lazy and deluded who have no idea or evidence at all!

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 18:22:57 UTC | #945213

Gordon Hide's Avatar Comment 14 by Gordon Hide

I was disappointed that the clergy project does not accept those who still have some supernatural beliefs. The retention of such beliefs, while unfortunate, doesn't mean that a person could not become very disillusioned with organised religion and still be in dire need of help.

Sat, 02 Jun 2012 20:41:01 UTC | #945224

asimovomisa's Avatar Comment 15 by asimovomisa

Some does not mean most or all. Even if most clergy deconverted from their faith, it can still be true that some never believed. Furthermore, some does not necessarily imply you or any of the former clergy that you have encountered. Since there is a possibility for some beyond you and those you've met, then the first point of your response is irrational.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 04:52:39 UTC | #947155