Catherine Dunphy Speaks About Pastors Who Lose Their Faith

Catherine Dunphy, Executive Director of The Clergy Project, recently appeared on State of Belief, a radio show hosted by Rev. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance. The interview is short, but full of good information about pastors who lose their faith and need a way out of the church.

In particular, I would draw your attention to this exchange near the end:

Gaddy: [It's] very possible that someone is listening to this program who’s going through that kind of [loss-of-faith] crisis. What would you say to that person?

Dunphy: I would say that they should reach out. They should contact us and talk to some of our screeners. And if The Clergy Project is not the right fit for them — say they don’t consider themselves to be non-believers — then there are other resources that I would recommend, such as Recovering from Religion, or also, possibly talking to someone through the Therapist Project. So I would say contact us, because even if this isn’t the community for you, we want to do what we can to help you. So please visit our website, then, at

Gaddy: I think equally important— and maybe even more complex: what would you say to the people surrounding that clergyperson? Friends, family, congregation: What do they need to know?

Dunphy: I would say that the person that you love and know is still the same person. Their worldview has changed, and it’s their personal perspective. They most likely don’t want to change your position; they don’t want to have you migrate your beliefs away from how you believe; they only want you to remember to continue to embrace them; continue to see them as the person that you love. Because those things have not changed.

Beautifully put.

(Thanks to Ray for the link!)

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.

  • Mick

    They spend their whole preaching career proselytizing; actively seeking out innocent victims who can be drawn into their church and frightening children with stories of hellfire and damnation. And then they just walk away and leave those ruined lives behind them.

    • allein

      A lot of them probably were those innocent victims when they first got into it.

      • TCC

        Seriously, this. I think too many of us have this notion that ministers are cynical hucksters fleecing their flocks of their hard-earned money by deluding them with religious mumbo-jumbo. While there are certainly some instances of this, ministers are more often sincere people who have bought into the myths way more than their congregants and who genuinely think they had the truth to share with one and all. Christianity in particular is designed such that the imperative to evangelize is strong, for the ordinary believer but even moreso for the clergy, and so you also can’t blame them for enthusiastically proselytizing – it’s what their faith has told them they should be doing. I was never particularly evangelical (whereas my minister father would witness to people he barely knew on the street, which the introvert in me was always taken aback by), and I know how much it took for me to finally jettison belief; adding to that the notion of someone’s vocation – literally, a calling – to be the promulgation of the faith would make that journey so much more difficult. There’s no need to add another layer of guilt onto that by insinuating that they have so much to make amends for.

        • allein

          The true hucksters aren’t likely to be joining the Clergy Project, either.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      You can’t mean you’d rather they continued ruining lives.

      Not much chance they’d be allowed to attempt reversing the damage. Not by the church hierarchy, not by the children’s parents, not by anybody involved.

      Best time to plant a tree would have been twenty years ago. Second best is today. Same thing here.

    • meekinheritance

      Yes. It would be best if they had never started. But at least they stop doing more harm, even if there is some short-term trouble for their current congregation. Have no doubt that another pastor will gladly step in.

      • StOoPiD_MoNkEy

        What would have been best if they never started? One cannot call when they will lose their faith.

        • meekinheritance

          I am commenting only on Mick’s suggestion that some lives might be ruined when preachers lose their faith. If you accept that, then those particular lives might not have been ruined if the preachers had not started preaching in the first place. Personally, I don’t buy the claim that “lives are ruined” when some else loses of faith. It’s also possible that other lives benefited during the time of faith.

          • StOoPiD_MoNkEy

            I understand that, but it seems like the implication is that they are purposefully hurting people. When is started my mission work I had no clue that years later I would become an atheist. Should I have never started mission? Losing ones faith can be one of the most devastating loses in life. especially in our American culture.

            • meekinheritance

              There is no implication. Mick clearly claims they are, and I was saying that it would have been better if those had not started. As with all human endeavors, there certainly are some who “actively seek out innocent victims” as he put it, but the vast majority are trying to do good.

    • Devin

      You’ve been deceived Mick. Please turn to Jesus. If you reject Him, you will perish. I send this message with love and peace towards you.

      • StOoPiD_MoNkEy

        Devin, Tell Jesus to give me a call. He should have my number. We’ll discuss salvation during that call. Thanks.

  • Robster

    What a conundrum. The comment regards these failed clerics spreading nonsense and scaring kids with their hellfire crap is a good point. But, realising what they’ve been spreading is silly nonsense is a good start and getting assistance to help escape what is a carefully created belief system that’s continued existence depends on defrauding new takers is something that those unafflicted with the nonsense need to consider and respond positively.