The Priestly Bubble June 27, 2011

The Priestly Bubble

Edward Tarte used to be a budding Catholic priest before he eventually because an atheist. He acknowledges being trapped in a bubble during his time in the Church hierarchy, never discussing the issues you imagine priests would talk about — the problem of suffering, why God is so damn evil in the Bible, gay rights, evolution, whether the Catholic Church had any legitimate authority, whether the Bible was divinely inspired, etc.

The video‘s a bit dry, but it’s rare to hear this sort of take on the priesthood from someone on the inside:

I know a lot of you attended Christian schools — maybe some of you even had your heart set on becoming a pastor at one point. Was this the case for you, too? My understanding is that Christian colleges go out of their way to discuss things like apologetics and the culture wars. They want their graduates to be armed to fight against the forces of reason and evidence.

I don’t know if Edward’s story is the norm or an anomaly, but I can understand how someone could get fed up with all that ritual stuff when you can’t even answer the questions non-Christians tend to have about the faith in our society.

If he can leave the Church after becoming one of its leaders, though, there’s hope for everyone else.

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  • SeekerLancer

    As an ex-Catholic I think he’s probably less of an anomaly among Catholics whose apologetic methods tend to be, “We’re right, we don’t need to explain any further.”

    Catholicism is so steeped in traditions and dogma and other such nonsense that I feel Catholics are a lot like Jews where the majority are just culturally followers of the religion and not a lot of questioning goes on. I know I was that way before my rationality caught up with me. When questioning does happen in the Catholic church it’s just met with admonishment or non-answers.

  • Edward Tarte

    Please be aware that, as I say in the video, the time-frame for my five years as a priest was 43 to 47 years ago (1963-1968).

  • Roxane

    Hemant, I just want to say that I really appreciate the fact that you’ve become such an atheist clearinghouse–you really do manage to come up with all kinds of news, issues and information that I just never see anywhere else.

  • MikeGio

    I went to a Jesuit H.S. and a Jesuit university in the States. I can recall having had deep and surprising conversations with Jesuit priests on the nature of evil, rapist priests, and why god is such an asshole in the bible. Most of the time their responses were along the lines of [paraphrasing]:

    People can be really assholes to each other. When we read the bible it needs to be taken with a grain of salt because it has been edited and changed so many times.

    Unfortunately, there were some elderly priests who told my gay friends that they were sinners and worse right to their face. So it wasn’t always a liberal Jesuit paradise.

    If you ever see Bill Maher’s Religulous, the Catholic priest he interviews outside of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome reminds me a lot of the Jesuits I met in high school and university.

  • When I was studying to be a pastor in the SDA church not only were those kinds of topics covered in classes, but my classmates and I would discuss them at length outside of class.

  • PJB863

    Edward, I think things did change a lot since the 1960’s. I attended a small Catholic Liberal Arts college in the late 1970’s and the Religious in that school certainly did not exist in a bubble. I also had the impression that a cataclysmic change had occurred in the past 10 years or so. I know one of those was the admission of men to the school three years before my arrival (I am male FWIW).

    But there was also another change – most students didn’t choose the college because it was Catholic anymore, but because it offered the courses or environment they sought. Not to say it wasn’t a Catholic environment, but it was not intrusively Catholic. You were not required to take any religion courses, attendance at Mass was optional. My only grievance was the fish on Friday thing during Lent – it was horrible fish! The local pizza place and Denny’s did a booming business on Fridays.

    I think the bursting of the bubble that you speak of was happening on a wider scale by the mid to late 1970’s. That seems to coincide with the steep declines in church attendance and enrollment in parochial grade and high schools. But those declines were the inevitable result of society’s loosening and abandonment of age-old taboos and superstitions in those days. That loosening and abandonment continues today.

    People don’t tend to live such insular lives as they used to and that’s a good thing.

  • Hm, interesting…as a recent seminary grad, it was difficult to go even a week without talking about

    the problem of suffering, why God is so damn evil in the Bible, gay rights, evolution, whether the Catholic Lutheran (edited for my context!) Church had any legitimate authority, whether the Bible was divinely inspired, etc.

    in class, and we talked about them all the time outside of class, along with plenty of other relevant issues (and rarely, if ever, in terms of apologetics).

    Of course, this was at a mainline Protestant seminary, and I had a somewhat different experience at my more theologically conservative Christian college, but my experience with many Catholics today is that they are regularly engaging in conversation around these topics. I’m sure it varies person to person, but that’s just my experience.

  • Kent Schlorff

    As an ex-Catholic (and a recent attendee of Catholic high school), I can offer a bit of insight. Prior to Vatican II- which, judging by Tarte’s apparent age, happened after he became a priest- Catholics were, like many Protestant churches today, more than content to ignore intellectual arguments and the logical fallacies of their faith. Vatican II came about as a result of the newly elected Pope John XXIII realizing, “Holy crap (ZING!)! People are leaving the faith! TO THE POPE CAVE!”
    Among the changes implemented were various things that atheists and reasonable people would not see as important: simple things like having the priest face the congregation during the Mass, saying the Mass in the vernacular, and having more responses and music. Somehow, the Pope got something right, because the churchgoers loved it. Catholicism has now reverted a little bit to the way it was before. Many young people I know who are deeply involved with the faith see it as this great, massive hipster movement about love. However, they continue to ignore the completely idiotic things the Catholic Church says about birth control, gay rights, and abortion. Yet somehow they claim to be intellectuals because they accept evolution (but only in conjunction with intelligent design) and decide to attach “scholarly” arguments to fake bullshit.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Edward Tarte is dry… and AWESOME. He is a no-frills, no-nonsense, YouTuber who makes me wish I had a wise father or grandfather like this. At least on YouTube, vicariously via Edward Tarte, I guess I do!

    He cuts right to heart of the matter, i.e. usually pointing out that there is no credible evidence/proof for theists claims. Everything beyond that seems like a song and dance, dodging this point.

    Perhaps modern seminaries do a better job of discussing these topics, BUT… have any of them actually come up with answers that are not just BULL?

    Also, beyond the BIG question of whether God (any god) exists, it is VERY helpful to have former insiders discuss SPECIFIC church doctrines which, when dismantled or examined, show that THIS SPECIFIC church is CRAZY. Edward does this in a number of his videos. Former believers from EVERY church should publicly critique their former church’s specific doctrine…. it helps weaken the church’s spell on current believers who may come across it.

    I subscribe to a bunch of atheist YouTubers, and Edward Tarte is certainly among my favorites.

  • Christian

    “They want their graduates to be armed to fight against the forces of reason and evidence.” I am not sure what to think of that statement. Is anyone that disagrees with you and teaches ideas contrary to yours against reason? There are many scientist, theologians, and philosophers that believe in Jesus Christ (or a god)…so by what criteria are you using to make that statement? Or because they believe in Jesus Christ/God/whatever…they are simply against reason? The Christian position would historically say that the Christian faith is reasonable. If I misunderstood please let me know…it is late after all.

  • Edward Tarte

    Peter, thank you so much for your comment, and thank you so much for subscribing to me on YouTube. Could you please message me your YouTube name? Thanks in advance.

  • The Christian position would historically say that the Christian faith is reasonable.

    Really? Believing in a God you cannot physically prove exists is “reasonable?”

    I was a Christian quite recently, and even then I knew that making the required faith jump (belief in God without proof) is, well, unreasonable. There are lots of reasons that people make that jump (many of them valid, IMHO), but I wouldn’t say its a reasonable jump.

    Undoubtedly, you believe that its reasonable because it’s the culture you live in. When everyone is telling you that what you believe is normal and right, of COURSE you will believe that it is normal and right.

    The greater issue here is that there is a distinct divide between the difficult and often nonsensical issues in the Bible and the idea that the church’s members are taught to oppose things they don’t agree with (gay marriage, divorce, premarital sex) with rhetoric like “fighting” and “war”, as if they are part of a divine battle with no just cause.

  • Scout

    Just a silly little story to tell; I was raised Lutheran and as a kid, I watched “The Flying Nun” and the movie “The Singing Nun” and of course “The Sound of Music”. Well! That was enough for me. I wanted to be a nun, no doubt about it. Then my mother told me I couldn’t be a nun; why not? I was Lutheran and we don’t have nuns! What a disappointment! I think that was the first time I realized there were differences in the world of religion; that was my “mustard seed”.

  • I’m surprised that there are so many former Catholics and Lutherans here (at least based on the comments)! For my part, I attended a conservative Evangelical college, where students often assumed that, since the faculty sounded so smart, then they had probably dealt seriously with the objections to the faith. In reality, though, they only gave a rarified version of the same pseudo-logic I had heard growing up, the kind of false rationality that explained away the problem of evil, etc. (Subjects like homosexuality were verboten, mainly because we all *knew* that the gays were sinful deviants).

    In retrospect, I can see that none of us really wanted to ask serious questions that would undermine our faith. My world, I thought, would collapse if I ceased believing in god, that I would be hopeless and bleak; and so I avoided asking questions with any seriousness. I’m glad I finally rid myself of such fearful thoughts.

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