Hundreds of Clergy Reportedly Join Online Support Group for Closet Atheists

An online support group for clergy who doubt their faith says that it has generated hundreds of members.

The Clergy Project is a joint effort between the groups American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation. The site serves as a forum where clergy can anonymously discuss their doubts about their faith and their growing atheistic beliefs, as well as to learn how to transition to other employment. Launched in March of 2011, organizers state that they have nearly three hundred members, the majority of which are protestants.

The first graduate of the group, Jerry DeWitt (pictured), is a former “pastor.” He preached for 25 years in Louisiana as a Pentecostal minister.

“You can either be honest that you don’t believe … or you can pretend that you do,” DeWitt told CNN. “Which is what so many people are doing and that is called faith.”

In 2009, DeWitt became the executive director of the organization Recovering from Religion, which touts the motto “Thousands of organizations will help you get INTO religion, but we’re the only one helping you OUT.”

The executive director of The Clergy Project, Teresa McBain, was also formerly involved with various Christian ministries for decades. She recently appeared at an American Atheists convention and addressed the crowd.

“I [thought] was the one on the right track, and you were the ones that were going to burn in hell,” MacBain told the crowd. “And I’m happy to say as I stand before you right now, I’m going to burn with you.”

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While most of these type of clergy remain behind the pulpits, some have made their atheistic beliefs public. Recently, a Houston area church dissolved after its “pastor” made a surprise announcement on MSNBC that he had converted to atheism.

“Hardly anyone reads the Bible,” said Mike Aus of  the non-denominational Theopholis Church on Up with Chris Hayes. “If they did, the whole thing would be in trouble.”

Aus had been a “pastor” for nearly twenty years. His congregation went into shock.

“Clergy who lose their faith suffer double jeopardy. It’s as though they lose their job and their marriage and their children on the same day,” writes atheist Richard Dawkins on The Clergy Project website.

However, others state that men who do not practice what they preach should not be shepherding the flock anyway.

“[T]hey need to move on,” said Keith Jenkins. “They don’t need to stay with a church and especially use their position to try and take others with them.”

“I would be angry,” a professing Christian woman told KFRC news. “[W]hen I go to church, I expect the word, and I expect the man giving men the word to be in Christ.”

Nonetheless, reports state that many atheistic clergy continue to teach every Sunday, and their members don’t have a clue.

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  • Michael Whitehead

    Every believer should read the Bible in small portions everyday and if there is a passage they do not understand they should get help from mature believers or get commentaries that can help. Maybe these pastors were working on their own week after week spiritually being burnt out. If this is the case they should have had men who were also men of the Word to take some of the burden of preaching at every meeting, their denomination should have in place an over-shepherd who would be there for advice and prayer for any particular problems they have. This may then have prevented the pastors from falling away. Any minister who genuinely does not believe anymore should stand down from his post and humbly get pastoral counseling, maybe this position is really a cry for help. We all need help along our christian walk.

  • Lew Rodd

    “The site serves as a forum where clergy can anonymously discuss their doubts about their faith and their growing atheistic beliefs”,

    Atheism IS NOT a belief, atheism is a NON belief, is not believing that the Loch Ness monster exists a belief?

    Everyone on this planet is an atheist of sorts, if you are religious then you are an atheist when it comes to religions other than the one you believe.

  • me

    if you need someone else to help you understand the bible because they understand god better than you… then you are in trouble. leaving the church for your own reasons is courageous. to thine own self be true