A Pastor Who Is Secretly an Atheist Is Getting a Grant to Help Him Leave the Ministry for Good

Earlier this month, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation made a huge contribution to The Clergy Project to the tune of $100,000. The purpose: To help pastors-turned-atheists leave the ministry for good and learn skills that will help them transition into a secular career:

The first recipient of an “Employment Transition Assistance Grant” has now been announced on the Clergy Project’s website: It’s “Adam,” a closeted atheist and current pastor:

For the last four years, I have felt trapped and at times hopeless because I am a closeted atheist pastor. After much reflection, I no longer share the religious beliefs of the faith community I serve. I belong to a fundamentalist, evangelical, Bible-believing denomination, which means if anyone found out about my change in beliefs, I would lose my job immediately and plunge my family into financial ruin.

For the last two years, I have secretly sought a secular job but have been unable to find one. While I have good skills that are transferable, I, like many other job seekers, have been facing tough competition and challenging economic conditions. Not being able to be open with others about my situation and my desires has compounded the difficulty. I became so discouraged that I eventually stopped applying for jobs and wondered if I would ever be able to leave the faith that I no longer accepted. While I longed to leave hypocrisy and pretense behind, I felt I had to put the security and wellbeing of my loved ones above my own comfort and learn to live with the pain of professing a faith I no longer believed.

Fortunately, I became a member of The Clergy Project and, thanks to the generosity of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, I am receiving valuable assistance in finding sustainable employment. Having the services of a professional outplacement service — including a highly trained transition coach, a resume writer, use of personality and skill assessment tools, access to numerous private training resources, and even handpicked placement opportunity leads — has made all the difference. I am once again hopeful.

I know I am not alone in my desire to leave the ministry, so I am very excited not only for the prospect of my own new life, but also for the prospects of my friends currently in ministry who want to lead a life centered on reason instead of faith. Securing secular employment will no doubt be the crucial first step in safely moving beyond faith to a much wider world of opportunity.

“Adam”

I asked the acting Executive Director of the Clergy Project, Catherine Dunphy, if she had any advice for “Adam” and she told me this:

Shortly after the Clergy Project launched in March 2011, Adam and I spoke about the challenges that our members face when leaving ministry and what was needed to help them transition to secular employment. At the top of that list was the need for employment resources; thanks to Todd [Stiefel] and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation we now have the resources to respond to this challenge.

Adam is my friend, peer, and Clergy Project brother and I am tremendously excited about the potential impact this program has to assist him as he takes steps to transition out of active ministry.”

And I’m excited about the fact that Adam won’t be the first and last person leaving the ministry as a result of this program. There are no doubt many more pastors out there who don’t believe in God, yet who stay in their jobs because of the paycheck. If there was a way out, they would take it. Like getting a big inheritance, the assistance won’t solve all of their problems, but it will certainly help.

This is a way out.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • T Money

    Flock.HoOray! Another shepherd Saved From The Click

  • Ross

    How do they verify that these people are legit? I seriously wouldn’t put it past some Christians to fake being an atheist just to screw with the Clergy Project.Yes, I’m that cynical.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      I don’t nieuw

    • Sven2547

      Good question. Let’s look at some potential outcomes:

      * Christian cleric takes Clergy Project money, leave the ministry, then finds another job.
      In this case, the money is still kinda-sorta going what it was meant for: helping people leave the clergy who are unprepared for other careers.

      * Christian cleric takes Clergy Project money, then doesn’t leave his job.

      In addition to suing him for fraud, the media would report the story and he would surely be fired.

      * Scam artist takes Clergy Project money, then disappears.
      Depends. This would be a typical case of fraud.

      • Mario Strada

        It’;s my understanding that they are providing resources, such as a job coach, maybe even some spending money, but nothing that would substitute for an actual job. So if a Christian “mole” wanted to infiltrate the Clergy project they would get to know people on a fake name basis, as far as I remember, not useful enough. Then they would be getting job coaching they don’t need, maybe a couple of grand that, in this economy lasts me about a week in a good month and then they would be able to do what? Proclaim that the clergy project exist? That they squandered some of its resources?

        Not to mention that it would be hard for them to go public and not look like a total dick and possibly open themselves up to fraud charges (and I hope the foundation would go after any swindler vigorously).

        Compared to the help it gives the rest of the ex-clergy, it’s a calculated risk.

      • Ross

        It does seem unlikely but could the CP really sue someone for fraud if a pastor took the money and then bailed, donating the money to a charity perhaps? I guess I’m just curious as to how rigorous the screening process can be.

        Another commenter mentioned that it’s not a cash grant, but making resources available for the pastor to help transition. Presumably that would also minimize the chances of a scam.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662168091 Rebecca Davis-Nord

      Once a prospective Clergy Project member completes a detailed application form, one of the leaders of the Project contacts the applicant for an interview, to discuss the applicant’s history and curent circumstances.

  • jason

    He can always write a book

  • Gus Snarp

    This is great. I hope this program will help many more pastors to become ex-pastors.

    And also, I have to say that I harbor a secret hope that at some point, once their future is secured, they will stand in the pulpit and make the case for their lack of belief. Something like the conclusion of Derren Brown’s faith healer show…

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.dorian.359 Michael Dorian

    Ross, there is a strict screening process to vet potential members. No one gets past the Clergy Project’s “pearly gates” without a thorough check. They even have a full-body scanner to make sure you haven’t taken communion lately. (Just kidding on the last bit, but the rest is true.)

    • http://twitter.com/CatherineD_tcp Catherine Dunphy

      Thanks Michael

  • Jon

    Just quit.
    Is there really a foundation pronounced “Stifle Free Thought”?

    • Ryan Jean

      It’s spelled “Stiefel,” although I can certainly see the irony there.
      Todd Stiefel is basically a Humanist Philanthropist.
      http://www.stiefelfreethoughtfoundation.org/about.html

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Ha! It’s pronounced STEE-full

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      snort.

      yeah, my german is pretty bad too. ;-)

  • Aaron

    My nephew is a minister, and I love that kid. He just entered the army as a chaplain. He and his wife have four lovely kids, and they are pretty good parents. We do not butt heads on religion, but if it ever comes up, I don’t think I want to have the conversation. I mean, if I lose the argument that sucks. I don’t like to lose. If I win the argument his entire life’s career goals is suddenly crap to him. His wife dreamed of being a minister’s wife. His job in the army takes a weird turn (I have no idea how they handle a chaplain losing their faith). His expensive schooling (working on his masters of theology at seminary) is suddenly worth much less to him. How could I risk doing that to him?

    • blasphemous_kansan

      That’s a really sad, uncomfortable, position.

      Too often I think we forget that for every one nutbar out there picketing an abortion clinic or bashing on GLBT that there’s probably 4 or 5 good people who are just trying to make the world a better place in the only way that they know how. Maybe somewhere along the way someone caught them at an impressionable place and told them that they needed a certain deity to do this, and then you can get good people who get deeply invested in the wrong stuff, but for the right reasons.
      I have a childhood friend to whom I feel this applies. He was, and is, a great guy, but he was preyed on by some hardcore zealots when he had some serious losses in his life. He’s still the nicest guy I know, but it used to be that %100 of his time was spent being a great person and doing the right thing because it was right, but now he’s the guy who spends %50 of his time doing that, and %50 of his time paying tribute to the imaginary friend that he credits for all his accomplishments. I don’t mean to insinuate that these same feelings apply for your nephew, but I am sad when I have situations with him as you described above for the reason you mention, but also because I’m sad for what I feel is his wasted potential.

      • alconnolly

        @ blasphemous kansan Great comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. I say this because it is true, and to show, that although I disagree with you on other issues below, it is the issues, I agree on or disagree on, not individuals.

  • alconnolly

    Wow, four years not of questioning his faith but out and out being an atheist. Yet he still feels taking money and lying to people week after week about what he believes is acceptable. Because otherwise he would be in the same boat as a lot of other people who are out of work. I get the difficulty of transitioning especially when a person has faith swings i.e they don’t believe but sometimes doubt their doubt and kinda believe and pray for renewed faith etc. But he is essentially admitting “I have been a full blown scammer for four years and I justify it because I don’t know how else to make money”. No one sees a problem with that? I don’t get the cash grant part. It’s one thing to offer all the transition services, and even to give an interest free loan on very generous “pay it back when you are on you feet” terms, but it’s not my money, so if the giver feels like handing cash to a self professed scammer who admits he has been intentionally scamming for four years and seeks sympathy for the fact he is “forced” to make his money as a scammer that’s a call they are free to make just as I don’t understand those who donate to the catholic church, but they can do whatever works for them.

    • jo1storm

      You really suck at reading comprehension. And possibly empathy. He has doubts for 4 years. He is actively looking for job for 2 years. He is probably a pastor for much longer than that.

      Ok, let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine that you have a same job for 4+ years. You have studied your whole life for it. Now, count the number of social interactions, relationships and skills you have gained during those 4+ years. Try to imagine all the respect, the huge part of your identity that is your job. Try to imagine the part of identities of your wife and children that is your job and social status. Count the number of people you got to know doing the job and preparing to do it. Now, imagine leaving it and trying to find a new one without 90% of the skills you have gained. It’s hard, isn’t it?

      I find Adam rational. You don’t start climbing a mountain without appropriate equipment. Personally, I find trying to leave clergy as trying to stop being a drug dealer. All the skills you get in the job are useless when you are trying to find a new one and your old customers would resent you and try seeking you out. :)

      • alconnolly

        First you accuse me of lacking reading comprehension when I accurately read the person self defined as atheist for four years. Not as a person who has had doubts for four years. At some point prior to being an atheist he had doubts. For how long I do not know, but at least (according to his statement) four years ago he decided the correct definition for his religious views was atheist. So your next sentence actually showed you had not read the post correctly. As far as all the imagining, of his circumstance, I assure you I can. I was raised in a religious cult similar to the westboro baptist church and had to endure the kind of shunning they experienced, with no training money or anything, something I only bring up because you seemed to assume that it was likely I hadn’t imagined his position. It was interesting that you offered a parallel situation for a drug dealer. If a drug dealer posted that he wanted to leave drug dealing because he knew he was hurting families etc, but for the last for years he was essentially forced to sell crack to kids because he needed the money man, would there be the same reaction here that his excuse was completely acceptable and he just needed to be given cash and time and money to transition, in the meantime, keep on dealing that crack, we get it you gotta do it for the money. Seriously?

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          the anger you feel about your own personal situation and experience comes thru clearly in your posts. i don’t blame you; if i’d been brainwashed as a child and then shunned when i woke up, i’d be angry too.

          but this is a good project. for two reasons. first, it shows how atheists can raise money and support compassionate work, helping people transition out of religion and into meaningful work. second, it helps people who will experience what you did. and help them be less bitter and angry as they make the change.

          compassion can be hard. try to show some here. there are PR benefits to doing this, as well. “Adam” may lead a famous or large congregation, think of all the attention it will get when he transitions and comes out as an atheist. there may be hundreds or thousands of people of his particular creed who will hear about this and think, ‘Yeah. I want to do that too.’

          edited to add: i lived on the south side of chicago where the Drug War is constant. i met very many very nice drug dealers, who really did deal drugs because there were no jobs for them, as poor young african americans and latinos. they had children to feed. i feel compassion for them too. just like i do for those who join the american military and kill innocents in iraq or afghanistan, because the army offers health care and they have a sick child.

          • jo1storm

            “I was raised in a religious cult similar to the westboro baptist church and had to endure the kind of shunning they experienced, with no training money or anything, something I only bring up because you seemed to assume that it was likely I hadn’t imagined his position.” That actually explains quite a lot. When you were leaving that cult, without skills, did you have to think about anyone but yourself? Did you have wife and family?

            It also explains some of the way you’re thinking. He is scamming them, you say. He is taking their money but he is secretly do not THINKING like them. He might be DOING everything that is expected from him, he might be doing his JOB to the best of his ability, but if he is not BELIEVING, he is a fraud. He might be giving as good advice as he can give, he might be running his church so it flourishes, but still…

            You are actually a good example of how the members of his congregation will feel after he is gone. And also why all those clergy members are having codenames and not using their real names. Atheists are having a hard time in the real world. Former clergy members have it even harder. There’s a saying in my country: “You have to be smart two times in your life: When you are choosing your career and when you are choosing your spouse. If you mess either of those, you have to be smart for every day the rest of your life.” I’m always for giving people second chances, with either choice. Adam is trying to change his career choice and that is a hard thing to do.

            • alconnolly

              @jo1storm Your second paragraph shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what both the pastor and everyone in the congregation consider to be the job. You say: “he might be DOING everything that is expected of him.”
              As far as I know, adhering to a statement of faith is one of the most fundamental obligations of a pastor in every church I have ever heard of, and certainly a fundamentalist one. Taking an oath that he believes and will abide by it is almost always a prerequisite. The fact that he states if people knew he was an atheist he would be out of there shows very clearly he knows that he is not doing the job that the congregation is paying him for which includes abiding by the statement of faith. that is not even to mention, that lying in almost every single interaction you have with your flock for almost a four year period, has got to violate the job description and statement of faith. The “job” of a pastor has some belief peculiarities that most jobs in the world do not have, but this aspect of the job description is well known and agreed to.

              • jo1storm

                No, it shows that he is sick of doing a job he doesn’t like. It doesn’t mean that he is doing it badly, only that he doesn’t want to do it any more and is looking for options to leave it with minimal problems all around. Now, the point of disagreement between two of us is that you think that believing in things he is preaching is part of the job, while I actually disagree. Now, I can’t actually think of any job like that, including being a pastor. I guess that it is actually socially expected that those “belief peculiarities” are fulfilled, but they are not needed to do the job, only to do it with job satisfaction. As I said that’s the only part in which we disagree: you say that belief is the part of the job, I say it is not necessarily so.

                I think that we can both agree with the following: it is to the best of everyone in the situation (the church, the preacher, his flock, atheist community) that said pastor leave for other job as easily as possible, as is with every job that a person feels (s)he can’t do any more. The difference is, you didn’t have help leaving your job. That’s the reason the Clergy Project was founded. And we don’t know when exactly Adam joined it.

                • alconnolly

                  @deed357a5ba1f7917df070ea0902eac3:disqus You are correct that we will have to agree to disagree on the job qualifications. The only thing I would note is that your understanding of the job qualifications is in direct contradiction to the understanding of those paying him. He knows this he knows that almost everything he says is deceiving the people who are paying him, and that they would not hire or pay him under the terms you lay out. He even implies he agrees that belief in what you preach is part of the job description. Referring to his current behavior as: “hypocrisy and pretense ” If I were a mailman and took a job to deliver mail. Left each day with the mail and dumped it in a lake, returned and said a I delivered it. My employers may be very satisfied I was doing my job until they found out otherwise. So the current satisfaction of the flock, is not relevant if they are being deceived. A pastors job is supposed to be a calling. Something he claims he is compelled to do, not only if he wasn’t paid, but even if he was jailed or martyred for doing it. This is what the flock think they are buying. He knows this and deceives them anyway.

            • alconnolly

              @jo1storm Just noticed your question about whether I had a wife and family. I had a wife and four young children when I left, I had zero training experience and a sixth grade level of education on most subjects, less in others. One skill that is easily transferable for a pastor or someone who had go go “witnessing” his whole life, is sales. It is also an area that education is irrelevant I have done well for myself despite a rough start. I am glad to see someone get a leg up, I just don’t like that after four years he continuous to nonstop lie for money, and actually feels sorry for himself in the process. There is also one are that would make me give him a pass on any of it, but he has not indicated that it is in play for himself. That is if his wife was a true believer who would try to take the children and he knows it would become a war that would destroy the children s lives. If took me several years of working on my wife to get her to agree to leave with me. However in the meantime I resigned form all pastoral duties and cleaned toilets cooked food and became for all intents and purposes the maid. Rather than have to counsel anyone or “witness” to anyone things I knew to be lies.

          • alconnolly

            @ chicago dyke. Thank you for your reasoned response. First you should know I would never have brought up my own past, but did so only in relation to the accusations that it was unlikely I could feel for a person in the pastors situation. It may seem that anger showed through my post, if you knew me you would know that it was irritation with the assumptions people make that I have little empathy when I have a problem with people behaving in the manner the pastor is doing.
            I actually do empathize with the position a drug dealer might be in, but I do not think anyone here would just say “keep doing it until you find money to move on”. In point of fact the drug dealer is not in any way deceiving his customers, although his behavior is usually detrimental to society.
            I agree the clergy project can do a lot of good. The transition period from believer to atheist can be long and se-sawed for someone in his position. But at some point four years ago, there had already elapsed enough time for the individual to consider himself an atheist. That is an awful long time to continue to daily look people in the eye and lie to them about issues that many consider to be the most important in their lives, and say to yourself “well I need the money”. A person doing that for so long can and does habituate themselves to that behavior until not only do they no longer feel a twinge of guilt, but they actually feel sorry for themselves, as this individual showed with comments such as this:

            “While I longed to leave hypocrisy and pretense behind, I felt I had to put the security and wellbeing of my loved ones above my own comfort and learn to live with the pain of professing a faith I no longer believed.”

            In addition, I realize that although the term “scammer” is accurate on a definitional level for this individual, it can carry a stronger implication of approbation than might be appropriate. I cannot think of a term that has the same level of accuracy, but carries less condemnation, but if there is one, it would be more appropriate. That word alone may have shut down people processing the point being made in a visceral reaction to the perception of the “judgmental” nature of my post.
            I will admit that my past has an impact on my reaction. The impact I feel it has is that I react negatively to any perception that people are closing ranks behind any idea because they emotionally identify with it. I want everything dissected logically whether it would please me more to have one side or another of an issue “win” is irrelevant when considering whether it is correct.
            So when it feels like someones reaction to seeing those asshole religious people suffer a blow is that they shut down any criticism of the mechanism by which it was delivered, it really peeves me. No “right or wrong my family” for me. Just lets figure out whats right. I tend to be liberal, and agree with the main thrust of most Michael Moore documentaries, but they bug me as much as right wing radio in their manipulation of issues, regardless of the fact I usually agree with the end point. That is the irritated tone that people attributed to anger at the pastor.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Man, bummer, I thought the thread might make it for twelve hours without one of these pedantic-as-hell, peal-clutching, moralizing ‘honesty’ judgments.
      “I have been a full blown scammer for four years and I justify it because I don’t know how else to make money”

      Your words are interesting, but I’m more interested in the interpretation of the person who is living it. Maybe you read this, but chose to discount it:
      ” if anyone found out about my change in beliefs, I would lose my job immediately and plunge my family into financial ruin.”

      That’s not quite equal to what you said, unless you’re doubting the factual veracity of the statement. Do you have some evidence of a malicious motive, or should we take your interpretation as totally full-of-shit?

      I’m sure that you are a paragon of honesty, in every aspect of your life. How else could you have the gall to hurl these stones at others?

      • alconnolly

        He is the one who defined himself not as having doubts for four years
        but as being atheist. So there’s that. The idea that he would be plunged
        into financial ruin if he stopped lying to people and taking money
        under false pretenses is not something I denied. It is possibly true, so
        I suppose you would congratulate someone who took your money under
        false pretenses lying to your face for years if they explained that they
        needed the money right? No one said his motive was malicious, unless
        you count knowingly lying to someone to get them to give you money under
        false pretenses because you want money to be malicious. He claims his
        motive is money. I do not dispute that as almost certainly being the
        case. Someone further up worried about people who might lie to the
        foundation to get money but not really be atheist. Well the worry is
        that the person who is currently lying to other people to get money
        might lie to you for the same reason, or rather might not be lying to
        other people to get money (which you feel very understanding about), but
        lie to you instead (which would be a real weaselly thing to do) is this
        logical? As far as hurling stones at others, have you never made a negative statement about the many religious scammers that abound?

        • KMR

          Meh. What harm is the guy doing except to himself? He’s probably a good speaker and knows the verbage well enough to give his congregation what they want. Plus, he’s probably a genuinely good person who cares about those in his community and I’m assuming still enjoys that part of his job. Sure his church would be pissed if they knew he was an atheist but rationally speaking it doesn’t make a bit of difference to them. One speaker is as good as another. Anyway, it’s a pain in the ass to find a new pastor – my church has lost two in as many years. You could easily make the argument that he’s done them a favor by staying in the position so long.

        • blasphemous_kansan

          “I suppose you would congratulate someone who took your money under false pretenses lying to your face for years if they explained that they
          needed the money right?”

          -What are you talking about? Because it’s certainly nothing that I was talking about. Nice misdirection attempt, though.

          “No one said his motive was malicious,”

          -I think that you did when you explicitly called him a “scammer”. Multiple times.

          ” unless you count knowingly lying to someone to get them to give you money underfalse pretenses because you want money to be malicious”

          -I think that many would agree that the above action sounds malicious, but, again, it has nothing to do with the topic. Unless you are the one trying to paint this person as malicious, which seems like a good assessment so far. Misdirection attempt #2.

          I also have a hard time following your logic, or the point, to your rambling about lying that follows. Perhaps you’d like to rephrase?

          “As far as hurling stones at others, have you never made a negative statement about the many religious scammers that abound?”

          Please see my comment again. I was talking about how awesome it must be to be so ‘honest’ in your life that you can feel free to pedantically judge someone else about their level of ‘honesty’ in a situation that is completely foreign to you. That has nothing to do with any negative comment I might have made to any religious “scammer” (whatever that word means to you) in the past. Another clever attempt to misdirect, though. Come back with those goalposts!

          Multiple good attempts at misdirection: 7/10
          Pedantry: 4/10 (Sorry, the “OMG!! HE LIED!!” thing is just getting old)

          • alconnolly

            blasphemous_kansan Repeating the word “misdirection multiple times does not make it so. You may not have been talking about someone taking money under false pretenses, but do you deny that is what the pastor does daily? The pastor himself doesn’t deny that. He says if his flock knew the truth he would be out of a job, and that he is doing it for the money.

            Please define the word “scammer” in a way that it would not apply to the pastors actions. Since you consider it an inaccurate term.

            I appreciate that you admit you have a hard time “following your logic”. Lets remove the redundant term “your” and read your confession once more.

            You assumed the situation I was commenting on was foreign to me. Wrong assumption. In addition, you sarcastically denigrating my disagreement with this pastor behavior has everything to do with whether you have expressed disapproval of such behavior yourself. But with your self confessed issues with following logic, I will compassionately give you a pass.

            You have used pedantically a lot. Maybe you should look it up. Your usage does not indicate an understanding of it’s meaning.

            Your last line indicates a very hohum ethical approach your reaction to someone expressing disapproval of lying for a living continuously in almost every interaction for four years, is “this is just getting old”.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          let’s keep in mind: NO ONE is forcing his flock to give him any money at all. his church is paying him, but it’s also not paying any taxes or unemployment benefits like other businesses; they can afford it i’m sure.

          if the flock’s faith is so strong, they’d be able to perceive “he’s not one of us anymore” and they’d start going to another church. which i’m sure are located on every other block in this town, like so many in amurka.

          but they choose to put $$ in the collection plate. he must put on a good Show. that’s mostly what they are paying for anyway, like people pay to see singers and rock bands and get rich quick speakers.

          no one is being harmed here. or rather, people are spending money for what they want, and he’s giving it to them. he just wants to do something else for a living, and compassionate atheists are helping him do that.

          • alconnolly

            @chicagodyke:disqus You are correct no one is forcing anyone to give anyone any money. If this fact was the relevant point, then you would have no problem with the TV preachers convincing little old ladies to send their social security checks for vials of “holy water”. They do so of their own volition and they get some level of satisfaction from doing so meeting some need to feel right with God or something. But of course neither you or I would approve of that behavior Making the voluntary nature of the gifts given under false pretenses irrelevant to the ethics of soliciting donations under false pretenses.
            You are also correct that if the flock actually had some supernatural “discernment” they should have caught on by now. We are both in agreement that they do not, also not relevant to ethics of taking money from people through deceit.

            As far as no one being harmed here, if you are referring to the present time, the flock itself does not think it is harmed, but when the shit hits the fan there will be extreme emotional trauma, not least of which will be from knowing for years the pastor lied to their face for money. In addition many fundamentalist doctrines are quite damaging and he is perpetrating them. Of course the flock would find someone else to do so if he were gone, but just because there will always be another drug dealer if one stops doing it, does not change whether a dealer is doing harm when he deals drugs.

        • Mario Strada

          I think Adam is still earning his money. He may be an atheist, but a vast part of his responsibilities now and in the past 4 years were not focused simply on his faith. He probably managed the building, made sure his congregation had all they needed to worship, he probably counseled those in need and so forth.

          If anything, there is a good chance that when giving advice he was careful to give real practical advice as opposed to “pray more”.

          I was once in a situation, nowhere near as head as yours or Adam’s, where I could have followed my dreams and take a job that paid nothing but would have given me a lot of satisfaction, or take a boring job, dead end job elsewhere that paid much better.

          If I were single at the time, I know exactly what I would have done, but I had a sick wife and a very young child. There was no question in my mind what my duty was at that time. I had to make sure my family didn’t suffer because of me.

          Adam’s position is not very different. Sure, in a perfect world we live by our principals and courageously choose what is ethical and moral, but in reality the cost for that may be too much.

          Some time ago, after looking for over two years my wife (who’s doing better now) found a job with a Washington Lobbying firm. It was a great job with benefits and good salary. However, the firm itself and just about everyone that works there are all die hard Republicans and one of her first jobs was to go around and organize business owners against Obamacare.
          In addition, their tactic was to lie, lie lie. My wife even called them on it. She said that she didn’t feel right in perpetrating a lie (she knew it was because she is Canadian and it had to do with Canada’s health care). They pretty much told her that the lies were for the greater good and it was her job.

          At that point, I had been the only one earning money and I was very tired of it. But my daughter no longer lived at home and I had the option to continue working hard until the next job offer, so I told her she was free to quit if she wanted to.

          And that’s what she did. But that’s a decision we made together knowing that we could survive, just not as comfortably. It felt good that we would not be complicit in spreading lies, but had we been just a bit worse off, she would have had to take that job.

          • alconnolly

            @cconti:disqus Your story is excellent, and point well taken. Notice in your wife’s position although she would be required to lie, every person she would communicate with would know that where she is coming from is that she is being paid to advance a particular position regardless of her personal beliefs, so in a sense they should be able to suss a personal obligation to fact check her work for themselves, not that it would be right, and I would not be comfortable doing it. But with a pastor there is no understanding that he is being paid to advance a perspective whether he agrees with it or not. There is an explicit understanding, that he does not have just a job, but a “calling”. That his mission would be to spread this “truth” not only if he did not get paid, but even if he would be jailed and possible executed for doing so. That even if he did not have what it takes to be a martyr he hopes and prays he has what it takes to be one if/when the time comes. This position makes the lie more damaging when the truth comes out, then if the person knows that if you weren’t drawing a paycheck from saying your piece you would not be saying it.

        • TheBlackCat13

          I don’t see where the scam is. He is hired by a group to provide a particular service. He is paid for providing that service. He, apparently, still provides that service to the best of his abilities and in a way that satisfies his clients. Where is the scam here?

          Getting people to pay you for services that are not actually rendered would certainly be a scam. In religious contexts this may be making you rich or curing illnesses. But there is no indication that this is the case here.

          • alconnolly

            see my reply to jo1storm. It involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what both the pastor and flock would define as the service he has agreed to provide. As indicated by the pastors open acknowledgement that it the flock knew the truth he would be out of a job.

    • George Wiman

      The question of pastor’s honesty always comes up, as if utterly sincere belief were the most important part of his job description. But it isn’t. Pastors do lots of stuff other than “believe”. They counsel people who have relationship problems, which is about the same process whatever the rationale behind it. They handle donations to food kitchens, visit sick people, lonely people, and people in prison. They chair committees (an activity which, trust me, has not a whit to do with faith, except perhaps faith in staying awake). They take part in civic life – there are pastors hereabouts who protest wars and volunteer for recycling events.
      .
      As for preaching, I could do a decent job from just about any standard bible verse. If the word is good, it’s good, and the belief of the one speaking it is secondary.
      .
      People go into the ministry from Christian communities at a young age and often hadn’t imagined life outside it. Many years ago, I studied for the ministry, but could no longer believe. Guess what? Everyone you know turns their back on you, so you have no contacts, basically no friends, no one to even write a recommendation for you. Also, resume writing for a secular job is neigh impossible if your experience is “pastor”. Maybe the way I did it was more “honest” but you’d think churches would be happy to have the Clergy Project give any of their pastors with doubts a merciful exit – one not lined with razor blades.

    • Ohtobide

      Well said! And this liar will have been lying to many other people, some in great pain, some bereaved, and for all these years he has been telling them lies he does not believe and we are supposed to feel for him, because he does not want to be out of a job?

  • alconnolly

    Are comments removed? If so are there some guidelines that explain the criteria for that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=662168091 Rebecca Davis-Nord

    As an “out” member of the Clergy Project, I appreciate you sharing this news – thanks, Hemant (and thanks, of course, to the Stiefel Freethought Foundation!).

  • http://twitter.com/CatherineD_tcp Catherine Dunphy

    Thanks for the positive feedback!
    I see that the Clergy Project’s recent announcements are raising some questions. Michael Dorian is right, to become a member of the Clergy Project you have to first make an application via our website clergyproject.org and then go through our screening process. The question of “moles” has been on our mind from the beginning, so yes we scrutinize every applicant thoroughly. Our new employment resource program, made possible by the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, also has an application process, but we don’t give the money to the applicant; we have a signed agreement with RiseSmart an Outplacement Agency to provide the services that are need to our members.

  • ImRike

    alconnolly, do you truly believe that all preachers at those Mega-Churches, who own million-dollar homes and their own airplanes, are true believers that are sincerely interested in their flock’s wellbeing – other than being able to live beyond their means?

    • alconnolly

      @ImRike:disqus I do not think those pastors care about their flocks. They are most definitely scammers. From the tone of your comment, it seems you would have no problem with that description, but you do in regards to this Adam fellow. If that is the case then the question is why? What difference can be articulated? BTW in case it wasn’t clear to you, I am an atheist who finds organized religion does a great deal of harm in the world.

  • Dr Daniel Marley

    Mr Mehta you did good to go where you belong. You can’t belong to the Devil and Belong to God. You can’t Serve to masters. You can’t belong to the Prince of Darkness and belong to God at the same time, you had to choose out of the two. Being a Pastor does not prevent you from earning a leaving, but you were a Wolf clothed in a sheep skin. But ”people who are cowardly, unfaithful, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will find themselves in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation. 21;8. Repent therefore and come out of darkness.


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