More clergy coming out as atheists

Back in 2006, I speculated in a post titled Is the Pope an atheist? that it was possible that many religious clergy were atheists, with the probability increasing the higher they were in the religious hierarchy. I had no evidence that this was actually the case but was basing my argument on what I thought were plausible premises.

It turns out that the evidence is coming in that this may well be true and thanks to the efforts of the Clergy Project, which seeks to provide ways for disbelieving clergy to transition out, we are discovering that there are many clergy out there struggling with what to do about their disbelief.

Thanks to commenter Henry Gale, I was alerted to this interesting article by Greta Christina where she surveys the current state of affairs.

Nobody knows for sure how many clergy members are secretly atheists (or are secretly on the fence, with serious doubts about their religion). But almost everyone I’ve spoken with in Clergy Project strongly suspects that the numbers are high — higher than anyone would expect.

The surge of interest in the Clergy Project would seem to bear this out. Since Teresa MacBain outed herself at the American Atheists convention in March, 77 new members have joined the project — and as of this writing, there are 86 more applicants awaiting interviews. As MacBain says, “This seems to indicate that there are hundreds, if not thousands, who are trapped in the pulpit.”

Christina says that the increasing numbers of clergy who are coming out publicly as atheists could be a real problem for religion.


  1. smellyoldgit says

    You can be pretty sure there’s an abundance of clergy clinging to the wreckage of their crazy cults, purely because giving up a reasonably well paid job for life don’t come easy when there’s mouths to feed.

  2. Guin Underwood says

    Mouths? There’s only one. They have no children or wife to take care of. Well paid? You wouldn’t believe what little money they actually live off of (depending on the generosity of the congregation of course, which is next to nill these days) normally it’s not worth it when you factor in all the scheduling (they barely have a moment to themselves), upkeep of the parish, buildings, relationships. Always having to answer to the Bishop, the homilies they come up with every single day, not just Sundays, the stress of hearing Confessions, the stress of funerals, weddings, family therapy of all these people you’ve grown to love, and then one day the Bishop tells you you’re relocating because a Priest generally doesn’t stay at one parish too long lest people grow too attached emotionally (he’s only a conduit after all)………..WHO THE HELL WOULD WANT THIS JOB???!!!?? ….Of course I’m only talking Catholic, if you get into some other religions, some are VERY well paid. So in short, if you’re a Priest and you feel yourself turning atheist, maybe you should leave…IT’S A CRAPPY JOB if you don’t believe.

  3. says

    That would depend on which church and how high up you are. Catholic village priests aren’t rich, certainly, and they wouldn’t have dependants. But protestant clergy can marry, and some US faith healers earn as much as film stars, tax free. I’m sure most are somewhere in between.

  4. raven says

    Christina says that the increasing numbers of clergy who are coming out publicly as atheists could be a real problem for religion.

    Sounds like wishful thinking.

    Religion has proven pretty durable. No matter how many times, in how many ways they have managed to shoot themselves in the feet.

    The various crusades, including the Albingensian genocide. No problem, it happened centuries ago and they haven’t done anything like that in…well, its been at least a century since the Taiping rebellion killed 18 million people.

    Giordana Bruno, burned at the stake for Heliocentrism. No problem. Bruno who? Besides he deserved it.

  5. raven says

    Some of the Protestant “clergy” are extremely rich.

    Pat Robertson is a billionaire. He says it is because god likes him a lot.

    Some of the televangelists have managed to skim off tens of millions of dollars. IIRC, the Crouches of TBN own 13 mansions and have 4 private jets.

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