[Update: NPR got a lot of letters about this story which were quite interesting including one who said it was a “very biased and even hateful story clearly aimed aimed at those of us who love Jesus”.]
Starting yesterday, NPR is having a series of stories on people losing their faith. The first one is about a Methodist minister Teresa MacBain who realized that she was an atheist and came out at the American Atheist conference on March 26.
I was a bit surprised that the Methodist Church that she was a pastor of was so abrupt in cutting off all ties with her and shunning her after her revelation. That does not sound like the easy-going Methodist Church I grew up in in Sri Lanka which likely would have at least tried to talk her out of it first and if that failed then slowly eased her out while maintaining cordial relations. Maybe it was because she came out at an atheist conference rather than telling her superiors first. Or maybe it is because she lives in the south, in Tallahassee, Florida, where they recoil more strongly from apostasy.
I suggested over six years ago that clergy may actually be more likely to become nonbelievers than lay people because they are more likely to ask the kinds of questions that lead to disbelief, which is what occurred with MacBain. So the increasing numbers of active and former clergy (now over 200) who are sharing their disbelief via the Clergy Project does not surprise me in the least.
The NPR series is by their religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty who usually annoys me because she is so deferential towards religious beliefs, but she does a sympathetic profile of MacBain.