Blog Site

Monday, May 24, 2010

Undercover spiritual leaders

(cc) Andres Rueda,
In my Humanist organization, there is at least one former Catholic priest. In his case, he chose to leave the priesthood after becoming an atheist. Another friend of mine knows a religious leader undergoing several changes of view contrary to his church's core teachings. He continues to preach but 'nudges' the congregation through choice of emphasis, without overtly violating canon. I've read of this happening in other cases; usually involving Catholics, or Anglicans, or other protestant denominations which emphasize scholarship and reason.

It seems that a faith's religious leaders, who do the most studying of their religion's texts, arguments, history, and foundations, are ironically those who can come to question it the most. When this happens they must decide how to deal with the conflict between what their church teaches and what they believe. Some have decided to stay in the hopes they will influence the congregation toward a more open view. Others make more overt ripples by loudly contradicting the church authorities, being controversial, and pushing for change. And some, of course, simply leave. I'm sure there must be others who disbelieve but continue to preach without even nudging the faith, possibly out of some view that "I'm smart and wise enough to handle the truth, but most of the rabble need these beliefs".

It's an interesting situation. My guess is that often times the religious leaders in a faith can be a primary source of its evolution and growth; sometimes openly as controversial reformers, but often as undercover subversives.

Supplemental: here's an interview at with Kate Fridkis, who is an atheist working as a lay cantor in a synagogue in New Jersey: LINK


Comment, Kat:
Some very significant changes started with a cup of coffee or in the back room of a small diner.

Comment, donobo:
In my opinion, a fine adjunct to DT Strain's article, "Undercover spiritual leaders", is a 6.5min video with Daneil Dennett speaking, with heart, to hardships that can befall the clergy that have doubts as to what they are required to preach to their congregations. Google: "daniel dennett (1) la ciudad".
Thanks, DT Strain for the time and the effort you take to communicate your perspectives. Always a learning experience.

Comment, tbrucia:
Unamuno wrote a fantastic 'nivola' about priest caught between his responsibilities to his flock and the truth of his own loss of faith: "San Miguel Bueno Martir". I can only find it on the web in Spanish (for those of you able to read Spanish)... . (It is part of Unamuno's 'Tres Novela Ejemplares)

Comment, Arthur Fay:
I think two good examples of changes within clergy are Bishop John Shelby Spong (Episcopalian) and Dan Barker, once an evangelical preacher and now an atheist. Spong is well known for his book (among others)"Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile" and Barker for "Losing Faith In Faith." Both men exemplify human beings who vigorously question the tenets of their respective religions. While one retains a belief in human divinity and the other doesn't, they both are well worth the read.

Comment, DT Strain:
Wow thanks much for the comments and references everyone! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment