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Aug 24 2012

Bible or College?

On the drive into work today I saw an [sarcasm] AWESOME [/sarcasm] bumper sticker. Ready?

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.

*sigh* This is why we can’t have nice things.

Aside from this being a ridiculous premise – (Which is going to help you in the real world: a thorough knowledge of a fairy tale/horror story/slash fiction or a real-world-based education?) – I got pissed off for another reason.

Earlier this month at the American Atheists Regional Conference in St. Paul I had a chance to hear Teresa MacBain, an ex-pastor, speak about how hard it was for her to leave her church. At the Midwest Freethought Festival in Omaha, Nebraska, Jerry DeWitt shared some of his story about leaving the church after 25 years as a Pentacostal minister. He also introduced ex-evangelical preacher Dan Barker at that conference.

Dan Barker heads up The Clergy Project, a confidential online community for active and former clergy who no longer believe in the supernatural. Dan spoke about some of the challenges that clergy members have to think about when they want to quit the church. One of the big ones is career placement. How hard must it be to fill out a resume and have little other job experience to write down than “preacher” for the past 10, 20, 30 years? How well does that thorough knowledge of the bible serve ex-clergy when they leave the church and have to find a new career?

But I don’t know; this is outside my experience. And I had a thought: Does a theology degree translate well to changing careers mid-life? For those of us who go to college, we all specialize in something and that doesn’t necessarily keep us from changing careers. The difference is, I think,  that we don’t have to worry about losing belief in biology, physics, math, business, art, computer science, literature, history. These subjects are based in reality and they prepare us for taking a place in a reality-based world.

But then this bumper sticker isn’t saying a theology degree is worth more than any other degree. I’m betting in this case it falls more along the lines of “if you know the Good Book real good, that’s worth more than book-learning at one of them librul colleges.”

13 comments

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  1. 1
    E.A. Blair

    Back in the early 90s I attended a lecture on Native American spirituality. One thing the lecturer said struck me as interesting: “One question I often face is ‘How can you be sure that you’re carrying on a tradition from your ancestors?’ My answer is this: We do exactly what our ancestors did – we trust our feelings and make it up as we go along.”

    In other words, if you want to be spiritual, if you want to include religious practice in your life, some people at least do not need tradition, dogma, or scripture; all they need are their feelings. The past can be a guide, but it doesn’t have to be a prison.

  2. 2
    smrnda

    Another issue is even if you change careers, people understand that what you are doing is work that has real-world value. I’ve worked at a day care, programmed computers, and worked in finance. I could probably walk into a totally different type of work and they would at least figure that I could adapt.

    Even with the high amount of respect that religions get in the US, most people aren’t going to look at being a member of the clergy as something that translates into ‘this person is going to do work that has a high market value,’ and they might actually feel that being a member of the clergy isn’t even real work and that it’s more like getting a salary and free room and board to spout some platitudes on a Sunday. This perception has probably only become worse with wealthy prosperity gospel preachers having such a high profile.

  3. 3
    Jonathan Delafield

    That bumper sticker traces back to a quote from Theodore Rooseveldt. I couldn’t find it’s context, but it seems out of place for this historical figure who I had thought was enlightened. Maybe I just don’t know my history. Any insight out there?

    1. 3.1
      Anonymous Atheist

      In a brief search, I didn’t turn up any convincing evidence that this isn’t a fabricated quote, but also no debunkings stating that it is fake. A job for Chris Rodda?

  4. 4
    Anonymous Atheist

    Ex-preacher’s transferable skills might align with work as a/an:
    announcer / voiceover artist
    motivational speaker / author
    telemarketer
    car salesperson
    politician
    wine critic

    ;)

  5. 5
    JustaTech

    Depending on the ex-pastor/priest/rabbi/imam/whatever, they might have a future in counseling (with some additional training, of course). Counseling is part of the job for many religious leaders, so it might be a field they are still interested in (and experienced at) even after leaving their religion.

    (I would figure that the religious folks who are terrible counselers wouldn’t quit their religion.)

  6. 6
    nualle

    A couple of reactions:

    1) That bumper sticker is the best Dunning-Kruger Effect demonstration I’ve seen in weeks. From what I’ve observed, the more thoroughly someone knows the bible, the less apt they are to judge it good. Further, any really thorough knowledge of the bible more or less presupposes a college education so the bumper author has inadvertently posed a false dichotomy.

    2) Any preacher worth her salt can sell anything. Their training and experience is precisely in selling nothing, convincingly and well.

    1. 6.1
      Corvus illustris

      (1) Yeah, the ones who came out of a theological school run by the mainline Protestant denominations, RCs, or Jewish have probably had an adequate liberal education, can write and speak well and have other abilities too, and may make out ok. Nonetheless, their sacrifices for the sake of integrity are awe-inspiring. (2) The ones I would really feel for, though, are the ones who just started preaching in a storefront because they felt tongues of fire generated by the Holy Ghost over their heads, but are in so many ways dumb as dirt. As salespeople they would come off like the William H. Macy character in Fargo*, and they might wish they had stayed with their previous con–er, profession.

      *Not Minnesota libel! Mrs Corva (from NYC) could not understand my empathy with those characters, who sounded like so many of the people I grew up with in a neighboring state.

  7. 7
    Rilian

    Someone in a class with me was wearing a shirt that said, “I know nothing but christ.” I wonder how she did on her tests?

  8. 8
    Gregory

    Al Stefanelli did a piece on what Stephen Hawking studied to get his doctorate(s), vs. what a doctor of divinity might study. Slam dunk.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/alstefanelli/2012/04/16/theologians-think-theyre-smarter-than-stephen-hawking/

  9. 9
    busterggi

    Anyone else care to bet that virtually none of the people driving cars w/ that sticker have actually read the bible?

  10. 10
    grumpyoldfart

    How hard must it be to fill out a resume and have little other job experience to write down than “preacher” for the past 10, 20, 30 years? How well does that thorough knowledge of the bible serve ex-clergy when they leave the church and have to find a new career?

    I spent decades in the workforce, picking fruit and working in factories. It’s boring and the pay is low, but it’s a living.

    It was hard filling out my resume for an employer who wanted somebody with a “stable work history” and there I was, listing dozens of jobs that had lasted for an average of three months, and only two that lasted longer than a year!

    Maybe the ex-preachers want physically easy work with high wages – me too – but when those jobs don’t come, you just have to stop whingeing and take whatever is available.

    1. 10.1
      kim

      Could you present it as – even though you had a lot of different jobs, you continued to work? You made the effort to get a job and don’t have gaps in your work history. And they may not have been glamorous jobs, but you still showed up every day and worked hard.
      I was a manager of a women’s clothing store (chain so I didn’t have to do the paperwork and such to keep it going – just manage the store itself). I was interviewing someone for a part time position and she commented that she had never worked in a clothing store before. My response was that I could teach her how to run the register and hang clothes. I couldn’t teach her how to be a good person and how to enjoy working with customers. She ended up replacing me when I moved out of state, and did a good job.

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