One year ago, for the first time in her life, Teresa MacBain told the assembled crowd at the American Atheists Convention that she didn’t believe in God… and this is what happened:
I didn’t know anything at all about you [atheists]. I had never seen your faces. You were just “those people.” And I was the one on the right track. And you were the ones that were gonna burn in hell… and I’m happy to say as I stand before you right now, I’m gonna burn with you!
Teresa joined the Clergy Project (for other pastors who were questioning faith or had secretly become atheists), later became the Public Relations Director for American Atheists, and now serves as the executive director of the Humanists of Florida Association.
Quite a run for an ex-pastor.
Kimberly Winston at Religion News Service caught up with her to see what her life has been like over the past year:
Her coming out was national news, and she expected it would cost her her position as pastor of a United Methodist church, and she expected she might lose some friends and family members. In the last year, she has lost all those things.
But there have been gains, too, including a new career, the embrace of a new community that she had been taught to distrust and a newfound sense of confidence.
There have been many such small joys and victories in the last year, MacBain said. Chief among them is the acceptance she found in the local freethought community — atheists, humanists and other nonbelievers — after her former church fired her and locked her out of the building.
“The freethought community just wrapped its arms around us,” she said. “Not just me, but my whole family.”
It’s a beautiful story and the video posted above damn near got a tear out of me. I remember going through that moment myself — thinking that the atheists I was reading were the crazy ones, only to realize not long after that I was one of them.
Teresa will be speaking at the American Atheists Convention this weekend — her “coming out” anniversary — and she’ll talk about what she’s been through over the past year.
What a role model and inspiration she is to so many people who are still in the closet because their professional lives depend on it.
Teresa is living proof that there is an afterlife once you leave the church.