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.
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.