In 2015, CNN aired an hour-long special called “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-believers.” The goal was to introduce atheists to an audience unfamiliar with them (except for what they might hear in church). While there was so much they didn’t include — and couldn’t, given the time constraints — it was a fairly decent glimpse at what a handful of non-believers have to deal with.
One of the people interviewed by host Kyra Phillips was a pastor named “Stan” who secretly didn’t believe in God but didn’t see a way out of the pulpit. CNN changed his name, disguised his voice, and never showed his face. You can see that part of the special at the 15:20 mark below:
I function as a teacher, counselor, social worker, chaplain, and spiritual guide… I almost wish I still believed in God because it would be easier in some ways. It’s hard to visit troubled people who beg me to pray out loud and say magic words I no longer believe…
… I never thought I’d be lying to take care of my family.
CNN found him through the Clergy Project, an online community for closeted atheists who happen to be preachers as well as former preachers who have since come out.
“Stan” said in the special that he was going to walk out of the pulpit eventually, but he wanted to do it carefully, because some members of his congregation were “vulnerable” and he didn’t want to hurt them. But he’s finally ready to make that announcement.
His name is David Mercer. He now lives in Florida and works as a substitute teacher and writer. He met someone in Orlando and has since married her. And his temporary leave of absence from the pulpit will soon become permanent.
I am still an ordained United Methodist Minister on leave of absence because the denomination wanted me to take time to think things over before I left for good. However, it has been a while since I worked in that role and I intend to respectfully relinquish my credentials this year.
Instead of continuing his journal of doubts, where he kept his thoughts to himself, he’s now writing a blog called Deep Calls. And there’s some really good stuff there. Check out this excerpt from a recent post:
When I was a pastor I never practiced that “faith healing” crap. I was always aware of the power people gave me and I tried not to harm them. I didn’t scream, accuse, or manipulate people. I didn’t claim any special word from on high. And I didn’t let the music go on and on, holding the church hostage until someone came forward to be “saved.”
Yet even with my muted style, I could see people looking at me, waiting for a holy message to make them feel less desperate. It disturbed me to be given so much power.
Want to know a secret? I used to feel inadequate and embarrassed that I got so few responses from my sermons. But now I’m glad I was a failure.
Huge congratulations to him for finally sharing his secret with the world.
(via Rational Doubt)