Monday, January 30, 2012

Atheist clergymen and belief in belief - Helen De Cruz - international cognition and culture institute

A while ago, Dan Sperber blogged about research by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola on atheist clergymen. Their paper, which is available in open access here, provides a fascinating qualitative study on atheist clergymen from various denominations, all of whom were anonymousmy interviewed about their doubts and loss of religious belief. If found out they risked losing their job at the very least, and being expelled from the religious community that had been their home for so long. Yet, many of them expressed moral qualms about not coming out: was their silence a form of hypocricy, or was it all for the best?

Could Christian atheism rekindle an interest in religion?

"I’m where I am because I need the job still. If I had an alternative, a comfortable paying job, something I was interested in doing, and a move that wouldn’t destroy my family, that’s where I’d go. Because I do feel kind of hypocritical." (Dennett & Lascola 2010, p. 137)
Read more

As a result of the Dennett/LaScola study a group was formed called The Clergy Project with the help of a grant from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. The public site is here.

There are now around 150 members both former and current clergy who are atheist and applications continue to come in every day. Members not only come from Christianity but other "faiths" as well. Anyone who is a member of the "clergy" of any religion who now "no longer believes in the supernatural" may apply.


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