Thursday, 25 March 2010

Priests who have lost their faith

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Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

Absolutely fascinating piece of research just published by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola, featuring in-depth interviews with five priests who have lost their faith in God. Just like the disillusioned priest in Bergman's Winter Light (played by Gunnar Björnstrand, right), these pastors find themselves unable to believe the very things it is their job to tell their congregations. The stories are both worrying and moving. Reading these evidently decent fellows agonizing about their own hypocrisy and narrating their intellectual and emotional struggles with belief is psychologically fascinating - but seeing them say things like they can't reveal their new-found atheism because they need the job, or would miss the sense of community, is a stark reminder of the damage done by religion as an institution and the deep cynicism of those who think it's fine to tell the people that Jesus is the son of God, was born to a virgin and rose from the dead, when they themselves know this to be absurd. Download the 28-page report as a pdf, and read Dennett responding to comments from readers here.

3 comments:

Jeff Olsson said...

I was an Anglican priest who left the church because I no longer believed in the supernatural, God or the mission of Church.

My retreat from faith started when I witnessed the reaction of other Anglican clergy to the lawsuits that resulted from residential schools abuse in Canada. Tens of thousands of children were abused in a terrible school system that forced "integration with society" for aboriginal children. 80,000 children were represented in a class action lawsuit against the Government of Canada and the Anglican and Catholic Churches for abuse that was mental, physical and sexual(in some cases).

It as then that I realized that unfettered faith was dangerous.

I lost faith in the institution, then I lost faith in my own calling to it. As time went on I realized that I didn't believe in God any more either.

I left the priesthood and eventually ended up being elected as president of the Humanist Association of Manitoba, in Canada.

Humanism has so many more answers than religion does and it takes no faith at all to see that it does good for society.

AT said...

Why is it always about how much 'damage' religion does? It just seems so on-the-nose. Wrestling with absurdity is fundamental to humans, not to religion, and I just don't see why priests or preachers who turn to humanism get kudos for 'seeing the light'.

Besides, it always seems like their tremendous conversion to humanism after some priest fiddles a kid. As if the legitimacy of a personal god rested or fell on whether or not a robe was a small bean regarder. It's like when jesus freaks say 'there are no atheists in foxholes'. Spurious.

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