Moving Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg

Moving Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg October 14, 2019

Editor’s Note: Get ready to hear the views of another big thinker.  He’d like to change the purposeful low profile of The Clergy Project to a more outreach-oriented organization.  This guy’s got vision and sees Milestone 1000 as a sign that The Clergy Project could be – and should be – much more than it is.   /Linda LaScola, Editor

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By John Lombard

As The Clergy Project reaches the 1000 member mark, I’d like to take this opportunity not to look to the past, but to look to the future and to challenge TCP leaders and participants as we move forward.

One thousand participants is indeed an important milestone, and as many others will certainly note, indicative of real problems within religious circles. TCP participants are generally far more knowledgeable about theology than the general populace; many of them held prominent positions of leadership, and were respected within their communities. Yet ultimately, every one of them rejected those beliefs.

More than that, 1000 participants does not mean,

“Wow, there are 1000 religious leaders who rejected their beliefs!”

It is very safe to assume that our 1000 are just the tip of the iceberg, and that the actual number of religious leaders who have rejected their beliefs and become atheists is far higher.

One thousand is an amazing milestone. But let’s look at that number more closely. First, the vast majority of those are from Christian backgrounds. I’d like to challenge our leadership, and our participants, to actively seek to expand that, and reach out to non-believing religious leaders from other faiths: Jews, and Muslims, and Hindus, and all those other religions out there. This means not only seeking to make such groups aware of our organization, but also getting away from our own focus on Christian issues.

Quite frankly, the majority of discussion among us tends to focus rather excessively on Christianity, to the point where people criticizing “religion” are actually just criticizing “Christianity”. We need to expand our own language and perceptions, to create an environment more welcoming and relevant to those from non-Christian backgrounds.

Also, the vast majority of people in The Clergy Project are from the US and Canada. While that’s not surprising, it’s time to have a larger vision. People who are in North America have greater opportunities to meet each other face-to-face, and have access to resources (financial support, counseling, etc.) that are more difficult to deliver to those in other countries. Those who are living in other countries can still feel very isolated, and while the support they receive from TCP members is valuable, it is limited.

I’d like to see TCP become a more international organization. For example, instead of one single leadership team, start building chapters in different countries around the world, each with it’s own leadership team (but all under a higher executive team that coordinates all those different groups). Or media coverage – I did a quick Google search, and virtually all media coverage of TCP seems to be North American. Local leadership teams would mean greater ability to get the message out on a more international scale.

Milestone 1000 is reason to celebrate, but it should be less about patting ourselves on the back, than about challenging us to do more.

We have effectively “proven the concept” of The Clergy Project:

  • We’ve proven that it works.
  • We’ve proven that there’s a need for it.

Now we need to expand our vision. From one perspective, 1000 participants is a lot, which is the reason we are celebrating! But from another perspective, 1000 is only a tiny fraction of those who actually need us. For every TCP participant who finds valuable support in addressing the multitude of problems they face in rejecting and leaving their faith, there are countless others who not only have no such support, but who remain entirely unaware that there is even an option like The Clergy Project!

ONE THOUSAND! (Have I said that enough times yet?) My sincerest gratitude and congratulations to those who had the vision to start TCP and the drive to bring it to where it is today. It’s a remarkable achievement.

And I look forward to the day when Milestone 1000 is seen not as a peak accomplishment, but as an initial small step towards something far bigger and more significant.

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Bio: John Lombard is a Humanist and ex-missionary who grew up in Ontario and has been living and working in China for more than 20 years. He currently works as a cross-cultural consultant to help foreign companies seeking to do business in China.  He is launching an exciting new business, ‘The Language of Culture”, to teach Cultural Intelligence, at languageofculture.net.

>>>Photo Credits: By Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46736000 ; By Raphael – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=157666


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  • Thanks, John, good challenging thoughts to expand the vision. Do you think a new name for TCP would help the forward expansion?

  • Jim Jones

    There’s no reason l can see to not have a public council that presents the viewpoint of TCP. It shouldn’t be hard to get the media to see them as a goto for comments on related stories.

    Like the pope telling someone that Jesus wasn’t a god or whatever?

  • Lonborghini Funghini

    Thank you John. I couldn’t agree more. Really, i tried, and i just can’t do it. Yes Milestone 1000 is a notable achievement, but only a small step in the right direction, and a very small tip of an enormous iceberg. We have participants in all fifty states and in nearly as many countries around the world. Yes we are primarily from the USA and Canada. If we are the elephant in the room, we are a very small elephant in a rather small room. We have former rabbis and imams as well as a former Hindu here and a former Buddhist there, but among us are former Christians are everywhere. Certainly all religions everywhere are equally incredible to educated religious leaders in all cultures who dare to think freely and question sincerely, if only within the relative safety of their own minds. In a world of seven and a half billion, there are untold millions of non-believing religious leaders who are still untold about TCP. Millions are striving to survive in adverse circumstances. Yes, John, it’s time to thing bigger and dial this thing up to eleven. Maybe we’ll get more comments right here. Cheers!

  • John Lombard

    Lon — It’s not going to be something that you, or any other particular individual, does. I’d suggest some of the following strategies:

    Reach out to Humanist, Universalist, and other such groups in countries around the world. Tell them that we are looking for individuals or small teams who want to represent and promote TCP in their region. Once they have a certain number of members willing to form a leadership committee, they can be recognized as a distinct chapter. These individuals must, obviously, be ex-religious leaders of some kind…but I’m sure that among those groups, there will be more than enough people ready to do that.

    Set up a specific schedule of articles to be written, with specific topics for each one. Make TCP members aware of that, and get people who want to contribute (just as Linda has members contributing here, often contacting them with suggested themes and topics). This not only makes our efforts more organized, but also means more regular articles going out there, AND the ability to guide topics in the direction we want (ie. talking about ex-religious leaders from non-Christian backgrounds).

    There’s tons of other stuff, too…the general theme here is that it is NOT you doing it all, or any other individual. it is sending a clear message to OTHERS who may want to be involved. There’s a big difference between “Join The Clergy Project as a member” and “Help start your own chapter of The Clergy Project in your country!”.

    I’ll contact you privately to talk more about some of this 🙂

  • John Lombard

    Hmmm…I’d see problems with any particular ‘council’ that ‘presented the viewpoint of TCP’. Fact is, aside from the fact we’ve rejected the existence of god, there is very little that we all agree on. Some are aggressively anti-religious; some are very passive towards (and even welcoming of) some kinds of religious belief. Post practically ANY topic in the TCP forums, and you’ll almost certainly get responses from people who disagree with you.

    The only REAL message of TCP is simple — “If you are a religious leader, or ex-religious leader, who has rejected their belief in any kind of god, and is an atheist, then you are welcome to join us, regardless of your beliefs or opinions in other areas.”

    I’d be worried that the moment we start talking publicly about MORE than that, and saying that “This is TCP’s position on this issue”, we’d end up alienating potential members who’s own position is different.

    After writing the above, I think there are certain positions that we CAN say TCP stands for. We are opposed to racism, sexism, etc. But I don’t think that THOSE are necessarily the issues that we should be getting embroiled in.

  • John Lombard

    Yeah…that’s a possibility, but I’d consider it a relatively minor issue. There are a ton of other things we’d need to do first, before we would need to even begin to think about that.

  • Jim Jones

    Maybe just messages like “If ytou’ve been preaching religion but now find you’ve lost yours, there are ways forward”?

  • John Lombard

    That would certainly be great as a billboard, or Facebook ad, or something like that. But not something I think we’d need some sort of separate public council for 🙂

  • mason

    John, It’s great you paused in your looking forward theme to emphasize that “We’ve proven that TCP works.
    We’ve proven that there’s a need for TCP.” I joined in 2012 and it’s been quite a thrill to hear and read about the appreciation expressed by so many who’ve been helped with their transition, with being caught in the pulpit, and the many other difficult things our participants deal with. I can’t count the many times I’ve read posts like, … “TCP is the only place where if can find support and people who really understand”, or, “TCP is the only place I can really be myself.”

    Tip of the iceberg is for sure. My question is how many of the many tens of thousands of apostate clergy are so socially and culturally frozen in their clergy lifestyle career that they’ll never dare allow the flame of intellectual fortitude to burn any brighter and melt the ice than the tiny birthday cake size candle they hide in deep in their heart now. Many TCPs are some of the bravest humans and have suffered greatly for their transition into a secular freethought life. I think many clergy, probably, most lack that degree of bravery. Some are so locked into financial obligations with spouses and children and have their age working against them for a new secular career. They will likely stay in the iceberg. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8520119daea2479e431dd6430af7c20554c74d3d09c9f8f1826d7252d976bde0.jpg

  • John Lombard

    @disqus_GbXjFCBTpb:disqus I’d consider the question of ‘how many will remain locked in their current life’ to be largely irrelevant. Let’s say that of the ‘tens of thousands of apostate clergy’, if only 20% want our help, that’s more than double what we have already.

    And I’m also confident that as our numbers grow, and more people know about us, that there will be more of those people who will feel emboldened to get out. It’s one of those self-fulfilling prophecy things…the more success we have, the more people will gain the courage to join us.

    It’s not about convincing the people who don’t want/need us to join…it’s about making those who do need us aware of our existence.

  • See Noevo

    John Lombard is a Humanist and ex-missionary who grew up in Ontario and has been living and working
    in China for more than 20 years. He currently works as a cross-cultural
    consultant to help foreign companies seeking to do business in China.

    John,
    Do you also work for the National Basketball Association?

  • John Lombard

    Ummmm…no…

  • Jim Jones

    BTW, I understand that some people have difficulty in finding work after exiting. I assume that most all are comfortable with public speaking. I can recommend these books. Most libraries have or can get them, and there’s eBay, Amazon etc.

    Books on Seminar sales and presentations

    How to Run Seminars and Workshops: Presentation Skills for Consultants, Trainers, and Teachers – Robert L. Jolles

    How to Develop and Promote Successful Seminars and Workshops – Howard L. Shenson

    Maybe you could pass this on?

  • mason

    NBA might need your services right now

  • mason

    Good, especially “there are ways forward” … yes, but I’d prefer skip the word “lost” … we really don’t lose it, like a wallet, or a watch etc. … discard, dump, it or just no longer believe it … the Evangelical like to say, “Oh he lost his faith, poor soul”… like it’s a pity like someone losing their lifesaver in the ocean …

  • mason

    thanks, I posted the info about the books in the TCP forums, Jobs, Careers, section

  • Jim Jones

    I own both myself. They’re a very good place to start, with really useful information.

  • Raging Bee

    And your choice of a new name would depend on all those other decisions anyway…

  • ctcss

    John, sorry if this hijacks your conversation thread, but I was looking for some basic population info about TCP as alluded to in the following quote, and I thought you might have the info.

    Quite frankly, the majority of discussion among us tends to focus rather excessively on Christianity, to the point where people criticizing “religion” are actually just criticizing “Christianity”. We need to expand our own language and perceptions, to create an environment more welcoming and relevant to those from non-Christian backgrounds.

    Is there a quick summary of the population breakdown of the TCP? Carolyn recently stated that Catholics comprise slightly less than 10% of the TCP members. Do you know the percentages of the rest of the sub-groups? Based on your quote above, I get the feeling that the discussions focus on the viewpoints common to the majority of the TCP population. For instance, people here often seem to refer to everlasting punishment as though it were a universal concept. But Jews, for instance, don’t have such a concept. So it might help to shed light on why the discussions/complaints always seem so one-dimensional. If the vast majority are ex-fundamentalist, that would explain a lot. But it also points out that different theology camps may not feed as directly or as frequently into the TCP, depending how constrained or distressed the adherents feel within their home faiths. It might also suggest where the next 1000 might come from.

    Just curious.

    Thanks.

  • John Lombard

    I can’t give you any specific numbers, I’m not in a position to have access to that data. And I have to be cautious about revealing more detailed info about discussions within the privacy of the forums.

    But I have found (and pointed out multiple times) that a great many posts that reference the problems or evils of ‘religion’ are actually talking about Christian (or monotheistic) religion, and that many other religions may not actually fit the description they are giving. I think it is natural to equate ‘religion’ with the actual religious experience that we ourselves have had…but I think that’s one of the biggest reason why we need to actively be recruiting members from non-Christian backgrounds, so that we can benefit from that wider range of experiences and perspectives.