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Tuesday: There’s something happening here

Theresa McBain, former Methodist minister, new non-believer

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.

Jerry DeWitt, former Pentacostal minister, now pastor to the non-believer

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.:

10 Responses

  1. Everyone has their own path but I think that six is too young to make any decision more complex than choosing which T shirt to wear.

    • I don’t know, Brooke was 9. She made up her own mind without any assistance from me but I suspect that even at 6 she had her doubts. She says she believed in Santa Claus a lot longer.

      • I see a huge difference between six and nine. When I was six, I was consumed with the desire for patent leather shoes, chocolate pudding and a Barbie doll. By the time I was nine, I wanted to be a teacher and travel to Hawaii and Europe. That McBain wanted to be a minister of the gospel at six seems to me to be more a function of wanting to be like her daddy than as a result of a spiritual experience.

    • I have a young friend at 11 who is quite comfortable not being a Christian (her parents do not identify as such) in our Bible belt, while her 8 year old brother believes in heaven, God, and Jesus as the son of God. A minister, influential in my religious quest, said that he thought one’s beliefs often reflected one’s personality.

  2. RD, thanks for his post. I really enjoyed the YouTube, and even more the NPR interview.

  3. Axlerod musta put a bee in Obama’s ear about his sinking poll numbers because he came out for same sex marriage tonite.

    • Typical Obama. He thinks gay people are too stupid to understand that he has no intention of doing anything about it. He’s been dragging that Lilly Ledbetter law around for 4 years now, hoping women wouldn’t realize their paychecks are smaller or not at all.

  4. Although I’m sure the Clergy Project is open to clergy of all religions, it seems to predominantly, if not overwhelmingly, attract Protestant clergy. I find that interesting.

    • I think I’ve heard Dan Barker say they have muslims and even a Buddhist. For muslims, it’s especially tricky. There are muslim atheists in Iran for example who need to be very careful.
      It’s not really surprising that protestants are the dominant demographic in The Clergy Project or that so many of them come from the south. Pentacostalism and fundamentalist evangelicalism result in very harsh religion. A lot of people can be hurt by sticking to the rules so fiercely. I think that’s what turned off some of these clergy, the idea that they needed to believe that flawed human beings were going to be condemned to hell for eternity and that the congregation needed to enforce that belief no matter how much it hurt people. Well, you can only do that for so long before your conscience starts to rebel from asphyxiation.

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