Theresa McBain, Methodist minister, came out publicly as an atheist during the Reason Rally weekend. Since then, she and Jerry DeWitt, executive director of Recovering from Religion and first “graduate” of The Clergy Project, have been barnstorming the country with their stories. They were recently on Talk of the Nation and were interviewed by Neal Conan and Barbara Bradley Haggerty. Listen to it here.
Since Haggerty broadcast her first interview with McBain on All Things Considered, she says the piece received 25,000 responses from listeners, many with stories similar to theirs. She also says that the fastest growing religion in America is None. Non-believers make up 15% of the population and that segment of the population is expanding rapidly especially with young Americans.
McBain and DeWitt were asked what they miss most about their religious lives and their answers are instructive. They say they miss the emotional connections, the community and music but neither of them mention missing god. I’d like to see them stay in the ministry by reaching out to other non-believers and showing that you can have all of those things without god. There are some wonderful pieces of secular choral music that still deliver the emotional impact of religious music. And we must not forget that just because a piece of music was written for the church doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by everyone. Mozart might have been commissioned to write masses but that was a different era. For all we know, he composed the Te Deum during an orgasm and the Ladaute Dominum in the afterglow in Constanze’s arms. (How would the bishop ever know?)
Anyway, keep it up, Theresa and Jerry. If nothing else, you are making it safe for the conservative religious to be comfortable with questions and they now know that they are not alone. And that’s a good thing.
Here are my favorite choral pieces that would be lovely at any new community service:
Choose Something Like a Star, Poem by Robert Frost, set to music by Randall Thompson:
and Laudate Dominum by Mozart. Think of all those billions of years of evolution coalescing to give us one perfect, shimmering note at minute 4:39.: