How Can Pastors Believe?

By Lorena

Jannah’s post reminded me of something I knew well when I was a Christian: Pastors know pretty much everything dark that goes on with the flock.

They are usually aware of women who are regularly beaten by their husbands, children who are ,or have been, sexually abused by a caregiver, and extra-marital affairs church members are involved in. The good shepherds are also quite aware of which members are addicted to drugs and alcohol, who struggles with gambling and pornography, and even of people with obscure business endeavors.

The higher a person is in church leadership, the more he or she knows about how un-saintly the churchgoers are. Yet they dare to stand in front of the congregation, twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, to tell the naïve followers of 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare his virtues, who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

I can understand that ordinary people like me can go to church for years believing the deception that most churchgoers are actually trying to live up to the “chosen generation” lie. I can see why someone like me would believe that God changes people. But how can pastors believe it? They know darn well that it is a fallacy.

I maintain that most pastors are atheists deep down inside. I dare to affirm that most of them lost their faith shortly after college, and that they keep at it for the sake of the money or of some other rationalization they have created for themselves.

I'd like to ask questions of the former pastors and leaders who come to this forum after leaving the faith. How you could stomach Christianity after discovering the "sins" and crimes many church goers are involved in? Did you ever feel like a huge hypocrite?

When I was a Christian, I thought pastors “survived” the church because of the love Jesus had put in their hearts. I thought it loving that secrets were kept and reputations were protected. But now I see it as a conspiracy to keep the ignorant masses controlled and willing to dish out the money. If regular Christians were to find out some of the secrets pastors keep, would the religion lose power over people?

Unfortunately, a study would be difficult to conduct, but let’s assume the congregation hears 30% of what’s really happening. That 30% is easy to sweep under the rug. What would happen if the faithful heard the other 70%?

Perhaps most will stay, since believing in the tenants of Christianity requires a fair bit of self-deception to start with. But at least the few sincere followers would be freed to go on with their lives. That would be nice!

Still, I’d like to hear what sorts of rationalizations former pastors and leaders created for themselves to stay in the pastorate. How hard was it to look at yourselves in the mirror every morning, or to preach a sermon and bring people to tears in repentance? Particularly, when knowing that those who cry are usually the ones with the best “record.”

To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .


Anonymous said...

I am an Ordained Minister, not a Paster but I have also given this subject a lot of thought. It seems that a lot of these people do lose their faith while they are being educated but sometimes, by then, they feel it is too late to turn back. Many lose their faith while tending their "flock" but feel they cannot turn back because they are so firmly entrenched in their chosen career and they have families dependent on them. They also may have fears of losing their spouse and kids it such realizations come to light! My ex-husband's family is one such fanatical group of brainwashed sheeple. Believe me when I tell you it just isn't that easy to break away! People take it personally! I know that I intimidated most of the fundies in my family when I spoke out against organized religion. I just keep my ordination for other, mor practical reasons. I work in the medical field and I like to maintain a caregiver/client privilege. Being an ordained gives my clients that extra protection of me not having to be forced to testify in court.

I have no doubt there are many pastors out there who are sick to death of all the deception and lies. But just like being in a bad marriage, they feel trapped! So they just play the game. Maybe that is why so many of them become greedy and have affairs!

Anonymous said...

I must apologize for the many typos in that last post! I have tendonitis and have to wear a brace when I type so it is messing up my typing!

Hellbound Alleee said...

This post is so well-illustrated in the movie "The Silence" directed by Ingmar Bergman. It's shot and sweet, and VERY watchable.

It's been called part of Bergman's (anti) faith trilogy. A great atheist movie.

Jamie said...

I maintain that most pastors are atheists deep down inside.

And I'm sure many pastors maintain that most atheists are Christians deep down inside as well. Certainly, many Christians who frequent this website have implied that deep down inside we really do believe and just won't admit it.

Personally, I think many pastors really do believe, and they keep their faith the same way the rest of us believing our minds just couldn't comprehend the things of God, and other such clichés designed to keep us from using our brains.

But I wouldn't be surprised if there are many, and possibly more than church people would expect, who really do come out of the seminary virtually agnostic just from their studies of the bible and biblical history alone.

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with the main point of this post that pastors cannot believe in what they are saying and doing. I was a pastor and in other pastoral like roles for about 6 years and am now an atheist. However, while I was in leadership I certainly believed everything I spoke. While it is true that there are a number of cases where pastors are just pulling the wool over people's eyes there are also many (certainly the majority of other pastors I worked with) who have a high degree of integrity. The difference is that they (and myself at the time) work from a different frame of understanding the universe. Within that framework, most of what we see from the outside as discrepancies makes sense.

As for knowing about all the corruption that happens within a church (just like anywhere else), that is what is recognized in the church as falling short - it doesn't change the ideals that they strive toward and so does not put them into an internal conflict of interest. Yeah there are some in congregations who are just downright ugly people inside - the good pastors call them on it regardless of what happens to their careers as a result (and yes, there are some out there who do just that).

This is starting to sound a bit like an apologetic which isn't what I intended. I guess I'm just saying that pastors are like people anywhere - some good, some bad, some stupid. Though we can disagree with the Christian philosophy as a whole, it just isn't fair to paint all pastors with the same brush.


Anonymous said...

As an intrigued Christian I want to respond to your post as simply as possible. The church is full of people with EVERY "sin" imaginable. Pastors included. (Although, there are denominations and pastors out there that put on the fallacy of being "righteous") Not a one is righteous- the Bible even declares it- not even the Pope or the late Mother Theresa are excluded. Also, we can never reach a "perfect" sinless life. That is where Jesus comes in. I could go into the details, but then I would be preaching. So, as a shot of an answer, and my own experience, my pastor, and the people of my particular church are aware of a good many sins in the congregation, and our heart is to work together to overcome our weaknesses. That is actually why the "church" is here in the first place, for people to encourage one another, although in conclusion, a great many of them don't even do that, and that is why this webpage exists.

boomSLANG said...

Scott: That is actually why the "church" is here in the first place, for people to encourage one another, although in conclusion, a great many of them don't even do that, and that is why this webpage exists.

No, I beg your pardon, Scott---for a synopsis at to why this webpage exists, please see the site purpose disclaimer, and the thread titled "Dear Believer", by Dan Barker.(for starters)

Anonymous said...

I've thought a lot about the issue of pastors and atheism. I am of the opinion that some of the most immoral atheists around are those in the pulpit.

I would have left it at that, but my brother told me about his pastor who gently told him that he (the pastor) was a non believer. They then had a long discussion in which the pastor talked about how he was able to accomplish a lot in guiding and listening to his parishioners.

I really respect that and I have to believe that there are a respectable number of pastors who have outgrown the mythology and the silly rituals of Christianity and operate undercover as unlicensed psychologists or even double agents for "our" side.

My wife and I were married in a Catholic Church for reasons too twisted to mention. The Priest who married us knew of our disbelief and rather than make an example of us, he held what had to be the least Christian ceremony I've ever attended in any denomination. He has since left the Church and married, but I suspect that he was a non believer years before he left the Church and I believe that he was probably quite helpful to those who suffered and needed help.

How lonely it must be for the few good atheist pastors and how disheartening it must be for them to see the corrupt and powerful atheist pastors, the Bakkers and Dobsons, and Jacksons and Falwells...

Anonymous said...

"How lonely it must be for the few good atheist pastors"

I still think that there are more of them than we think.

I remember several times talking to pastors, in great distress, about my futile efforts to change menial aspects of my behavior. And while they encouraged me by saying they would pray, I could read on their expression that they wanted to say, "Chill out girl, don't take the stuff so seriously."

And there are the catholic priests. I went to a Jesuit university, where the priests--I am sure--were atheists. Their main activity wasn't to preach, it was to help the poor and to pile up PhDs. Their pursuit of knowledge, I think, was what kept them in the priesthood. I loved those guys, in spite of having been a hard-core, anti-catholic evangelical at the time.

freethinker05 said...

"How can a pastor not believe?"= No money from his delusional congregation,(a BIG one at that)=No more living a life of luxury.Damn sure tempts me into becoming a preacher. Roger...p.s. Amen, bendem over and stick it in!

freethinker05 said...

"How can a pastor not believe?"= No money from his delusional congregation,(a BIG one at that)=No more living a life of luxury.Damn sure tempts me into becoming a preacher. Roger...p.s. Amen, bendem over and stick it in!

Pageviews this week: