In March of 2012, for the first time in her life, Teresa MacBain told the assembled crowd at the American Atheists convention that she didn’t believe in God… and this is what happened:
I didn’t know anything at all about you [atheists]. I had never seen your faces. You were just “those people.” And I was the one on the right track. And you were the ones that were gonna burn in hell… and I’m happy to say as I stand before you right now, I’m gonna burn with you!
Teresa joined the Clergy Project (for pastors who were questioning faith or had secretly become atheists) and later worked with a couple of different atheist organizations.
It was quite a run for an ex-pastor.
It now appears she’s found God again.
According to her website:
For several years she lived in the public eye as a prominent atheist, until she rediscovered God’s grace through music and the compassion of loved ones. This unique journey led to her life’s mission: helping people struggling with their own faith.
She has a video on her site where she describes that journey back to God. The relevant portion begins around the 16:00 mark.
I won’t pretend to understand whatever logic helped her “rediscover” God, but I would point out that her statements don’t exactly resemble a “born again” moment where Jesus speaks to her. It’s not like she has some litany of logical arguments for God’s existence.
Instead, it appears to be an emotion-driven decision that’s intensely personal, not the sort of thing that would ever convince other atheists to “find” God.
I wish her all the best in this new phase of her life. Given what she’s been through, I have no doubt she’ll be able to help people struggling with their own beliefs.
***Update***: The Clergy Project has issued this statement about MacBain:
After not hearing much from Teresa over the last few months, The Clergy Project discovered yesterday [October 15, 2016] that she has now returned to the Christian faith and is again active in Christian church ministry. Upon reaching out to her and participating in a friendly yet detailed conversation, Teresa made it clear that she has, in fact, returned to belief in the existence of the supernatural. Subsequently resigning her Clergy Project membership, Teresa’s access into our private online community has been deactivated. Due to security of information concerns, it may also be worth noting that Teresa had not logged into the online forum since January of this year.
Some of our membership and of the larger freethought community may feel frustration over this turn of events. But we remind ourselves that such is the nature of freethought itself. Life is a long and winding journey, and our personal experiences and perceptions of the world around us are ever-evolving. Just as we are free to leave supernaturalism for atheism, so we are free to shift our embrace the other way as well. We at The Clergy Project may be disappointed to see Teresa leave our ranks, but we nonetheless wish her well and thank her for her years of friendship.
Linda LaScola, whose blog Rational Doubt features voices from The Clergy Project, added in a message directed at Clergy Project members:
Changing one’s religious beliefs is a phenomenon I understand well. I know how financially difficult and emotional wrenching it is for clergy to leave behind their long-held religious beliefs, their lifelong community and their source of family income once they realize that their once precious religious beliefs have changed. I have difficulty understanding why people changing in the other direction would not take the simple step of informing their non-believing colleagues and leaving their private on-line organization.
I agree that she should have informed The Clergy Project (because it’s a private forum where secrecy is paramount). But she may have been hesitant about letting people know because she lost a lot of her close friends when she came out as an atheist. I could understand if she feared losing her atheist friends this time around. (I would hope atheists wouldn’t abandon her over this.)
(Image via Facebook. Portions of this article were published earlier. The post has been edited since going up.)