Losing faith

[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.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    The NPR series is by their religion reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty

    At least she’s reporting on religion here. One time, she got out of her cage and tried to report on “science.”

  2. says

    Mano, I wonder if the Methodism you grew up with is different from the current flavour (at least in the USA). My worst experience when I told a small group of acquaintances that I was atheist was the unexpected and vicious attack I endured from a self-described “liberal, tolerant” Methodist. Her parting shot was telling me I had no right to celebrate any holidays, including Thanksgiving, anymore and neither did my (then) young children.
    Most stunning reversal I have ever experienced. We were not close – before I admitted my atheism, I was a practicing Catholic and guess what? She hated Catholics, too. lol

  3. Mano Singham says

    It could well be very different here. I was never a member of any church in the US and have no idea what Methodists are like here.

  4. James says

    I encourage people to listen to the NPR reports on this topic and send in their own comments/ feedback to the NPR editors. I almost puked while listening to the pathetic complaints of the Christian’s about “biased” reporting.

  5. jamessweet says

    “Hateful”?!? That’s messed up. The story really didn’t say anything bad about Christianity at all…

  6. iknklast says

    My experiences with Methodists have been very mixed. A former boss of mine, a Methodist, was a fundamentalist who tried to talk me out of getting married, because I am pretty sure my ex never cheated on me before the divorce, and therefore, by the laws of God, we are still married (of course, my logic would say that, if we were still married, the minute he had a relationship after the divorce, the same rules would apply – but I don’t care what God says, anyway, because I don’t take rules from a non-existent being).

    My major professor in my doctoral program was also a Methodist, and the most tolerant, easygoing Christian I’ve ever personally known. And don’t attribute it to region – the tolerant one was a southerner from Texas; the intolerant one a northerner from Michigan. It’s a personality thing, I suspect.

    The church I grew up in was similar – people ranged the gamut from die-hard, Biblical literalists who would willingly torture people in hell forever (and on earth now if they get a chance) like my parents, and the minister of the church, whom I suspect was an agnostic, and certainly extremely liberal in his theology.

    Methodism is a religion that allows a lot of room.

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