The Pope is Not Alone: Other Clergy Want Out Too

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“Adam,” a founding member of the Clergy Project, closeted atheist and an active Pastor, is the first recipient of the Employment Transition Assistance Grant.

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation’s generous donation of $100,000.00 is giving hope to Clergy Project members who feel trapped and unable to find secular employment. In his own words, Adam details the challenges he faces and the hope that this new program is giving him, as he works to leave the pulpit behind.

Adam’s Story

For the last four years, I have felt trapped and at times hopeless because I am a closeted atheist pastor. After much reflection, I no longer share the religious beliefs of the faith community I serve. I belong to a fundamentalist, evangelical, Bible-believing denomination, which means if anyone found out about my change in beliefs, I would lose my job immediately and plunge my family into financial ruin.

For the last two years, I have secretly sought a secular job but have been unable to find one. While I have good skills that are transferable, I, like many other job seekers, have been facing tough competition and challenging economic conditions. Not being able to be open with others about my situation and my desires has compounded the difficulty. I became so discouraged that I eventually stopped applying for jobs and wondered if I would ever be able to leave the faith that I no longer accepted. While I longed to leave hypocrisy and pretense behind, I felt I had to put the security and wellbeing of my loved ones above my own comfort and learn to live with the pain of professing a faith I no longer believed.

Written By: The Clergy Project
continue to source article at clergyproject.org

6 COMMENTS

  1. While I longed to leave hypocrisy and pretense behind, I felt I had to put the security and wellbeing of my loved ones above my own comfort and learn to live with the pain of professing a faith I no longer believed.

    I can’t imagine how that must have eaten away at your mind. The mere thought of having to make that choice makes me shudder, though whether with revulsion at whatever circumstances would force me into that sadistic fork, or with fear of how I’d react to making that choice, I’m not sure.

    This is one of the bigger weaknesses of faith and belief in things unjustified. For all that it likes to claim numbers, the moral high ground, and social cohesiveness, it’s fake on every account. Its players don’t play fair, whether intellectually or on a social, political, or personal playing field.

    It claims that the existence of very real and harmless moderates – who are usually far away from its base and practically secular anyway without realizing it – sweep this under the rug and make it OK. It ends up making such decent moderates into unintentional hypocrites when they criticize fundamentalists, uses their goodness to pass itself off as acceptable, and impedes critical thinking that could otherwise prevent a lot of people from falling for superstitious scams.

    It’s one of the big impediments (though not the only one) present in virtually every major political issue today – climate change, abortion, science teaching (more specifically in the biological sciences), restriction of fiscal policy (because of all the money going into the churches’ pockets), international affairs and wars, sex discrimination, racism, corruption and genocide in third world countries, and environmental conservation.

    And then you get people like Adam, put in a bind by their own intolerant community, forced to live a lie because of the threat dangling over their heads and the heads of their family.

    Here is a list of past Clergy Project articles, charting their progress since last spring. I wish them every success.

  2. Quite a problem pretending to believe in religious pretence; but carrying on because of income problems.
    That’s the problem with clergy they have no economic value with which to sustain their family if the reality and truth finally dawns.

  3. In reply to #2 by hellosnackbar:

    Quite a problem pretending to believe in religious pretence; but carrying on because of income problems. That’s the problem with clergy they have no economic value with which to sustain their family if the reality and truth finally dawns.

    Not unique to this situation though, quite a few marriages continue beyond their natural expiry dates for similar reasons, and a large number of us continue in jobs we no longer love because we can’t see an alternative. I fully endorse this great initiative to help newly atheist clergy come out of the vestry.

  4. Being trapped in jobs that one no longer likes in organisations whose ethos is compromising of the individual is not something unique to clergy. People feel they have to stick with it becasue the option is financial annhiliation. It happens all the time and to the majority of people.

    To move on you have to reinvent yourself, and it is possible to do that by learning, acquiring new skills and knowledge. It is surprising how many people function in jobs which have little bearing on their formal qualifications. While having a particular discipline is a start point, employers do not place as much weight on propositional knowledge as they do on the transferable ‘human performance skills’ that a priest might have. However showing you are adaptable by learning new skills must be better than going to an employer and saying I’m a priest and want out, what have you got for me?

    Bon Chance!

  5. While I second the comments above in regards to Adam’s story and any others facing the same dilema, I feel there’s another wider issue to address.
    The role of clergy is partially, if not mostly, to prosyletise and to preach their religion. Of course being trapped in this role when you do not believe what you’re preaching is incredibly tough and would be betraying your beliefs and principles, but what of those you’re preaching to? If you do not believe what you’re preaching you’re part of the problem you now see in the world and you’re perpetuating a false belief in all those you come into contact with, which is surely a bigger problem than yourself and your immediate family. At least if you still share the same concern with helping people that presumably drove you to the church in the first place.
    While this point alone seems unconstructive and down putting, it also brings a small opportunity with it. I wouldn’t condone this in a spiteful manner of ‘infiltrating’ the church, but you could alter your messages subtly to reflect more of a secular nature and encourage a more inclusive view rather than a typical religious message that berates or judges secularism, otherwise as I said you’re perpetuating a lie.
    At least while you’re looking for work outside of the church.

    (While I’ve used lots of ‘you’ and ‘your’ pronouns I’m not addressing Adam specifically, as this post is an excerpt of an article on clergyproject.org I doubt he will read this and suspect he may even be out of the church by now.)

  6. They should also open up to imams and soon. There are millions of them worldwide. Surely some must be tired of leading prayers 5 times a day and preaching hate to thousands for a paycheck.

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