The Clergy Project’s own statement is even more blunt, describing itself as “a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.” Most people, believers and unbelievers alike, are no doubt in the habit of thinking that the Christian ministry requires supernatural beliefs. That assumption is what Richard Dawkins and the Clergy Project want to subvert. More precisely, they want to use the existence of unbelieving pastors to embarrass the church and weaken theism.
Atheist clergy may be the last step in the corruption of people of the cloth, but it certainly isn’t the first. The saga of the fall of the Episcopal Church began when its clergy began to doubt and cast off the essentials of the Christian faith. The rot then spread to the laity. Denial of doctrines such as the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection and other key beliefs antedated the controversies that engulf our times. That may be hard to remember for some, but it’s a fact. And I have heard snippets, over the years, that certain Episcopal clergy didn’t believe in God.
That, of course, makes atheist clergy an interesting situation in liberal churches:
Dennett and LaScola made a very interesting and important observation in their research report. They acknowledged that defining an unbelieving pastor is actually quite difficult. Given the fact that so many liberal churches and denominations already believe so little, how is atheism really different? In the name of tolerance, the liberal denominations have embraced so much unbelief that atheism is a practical challenge.
From a Christian standpoint, the only way something like this and the unbeliefs that led up to it can stand is when the church is characterised as a social agency and not the Body of Christ. Once you do that, the church is no different from the ill-starred Komen Foundation.
I also found this distasteful as well:
Why didn’t they just resign? Most shockingly, some openly spoke of losing their salaries as the main concern. So much for intellectual honesty.
The truth of the matter is that atheist clergy who stay are no better than the likes of Robert Tilton, for whom the money was the deal both doctrinally and personally. They can set themselves up in the usual liberal self-righteousness but in the end if it’s all about the money and a career it’s no different.