FAQ #2: Why Don’t You Just Quit?

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IF YOU REALLY ARE AN ATHEIST, WHY DON’T YOU QUIT YOUR JOB AS A PASTOR?

Great question, 3 answers: Joshua, Middle Child, and Princess (my children).  My kids need daddy to have a job.  My kids need daddy to pay the house payment, and buy food, and buy clothes (since for some reason they don’t stop growing).  In essence, I’d quit tomorrow if I had a job lined up that would pay the bills.

SO THEN YOU’RE JUST DOING IT FOR THE MONEY?

Yes, but so is every other professional pastor on the planet.  This is why you work for a living, to make money.  If your pastor didn’t do it for the money, then he would have another job and simply volunteer his time as a pastor.  But since your church figures that it’s better to employ a pastor so he can do the job better, they attempt to offer a competitive salary, or to at least meet his financial needs, so that he doesn’t work anywhere else except the church.

BUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS DISHONEST.  AREN’T YOU TECHNICALLY STEALING FROM THEM?

I fully understand that they are employing me under the assumption that my faith matches theirs.  It does not.  It is dishonest to let them think it does. However, they are paying me to be a biblically conservative pastor.  And so, a biblically conservative pastor is what I give them.  Under no circumstances are my sermons and bible teachings in contradiction with their faith.  They are paying for a service and I am providing them with the service as they would expect it to be performed. I am not using my lack of faith to undermine their personal faith.  If they believe in a cross focused Gospel, then they are getting just that; a cross focused Gospel.  I preach Christ crucified.  I preach the Bible in proper context.  I admonish people to place their faith in the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.  I preach what they are paying me to preach, and what I have always preached.  I am preaching and teaching and praying (publicly) the EXACT same way I did when I still believed.  I would find it unethical to subvert their faith or to discredit the Bible while they were still paying me as a pastor.  They are paying for a service, and I am faithful to deliver that service.

BUT HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY LIVE WITH YOURSELF WHILE YOU LIE TO YOUR CHURCH MEMBERS?

I’ll be honest, I hate the position that I am in.  But it’s not my fault God fails to exist. I was sold on a lie.  I was told God existed.  I was told that Jesus died for me.  I was told that the Holy Spirit filled me.  I was told that the Bible contained all things necessary for life and salvation.  When I found out all these things weren’t true, I was stuck.  I built my whole life serving the Gospel, God, his people, and the lost.  I staked my financial well being and the ability to take care of my family on all this being true.  Now that’s it’s not true I am completely unable to provide for my children.  It’s not my kids fault that I don’t believe anymore.  It’s not my wife’s fault that I don’t believe anymore.  And yet here I am, mid 30s, and with no job experience except church work.  How they hell am I supposed to find work?

I apply to jobs sometimes daily, definitely multiple times a week.  No one wants me.  No one looks at my resume and says, “oh your education is in Biblical studies and you’ve worked as a pastor for over a decade! You’d be perfect for our company doing __________.”. So I keep my job as a pastor because my family needs daddy to be employed.

Reality check: Churches are exempt from providing unemployment insurance.

What’s more is that my wife needs surgery.  If I get a new job tomorrow, we’d still have to put off her surgery for 3 months before the insurance would kick in.  My wife is daily losing function and strength in her arms.  I have to plan a surgery ASAP.  Which means I need the Church’s insurance to pay for her surgery so she can function as a mommy should be able to function with 3 small kids.  And what if she needs physical therapy?

I’m sorry but I don’t give a fuck if you’re bothered because I might be lying about what I believe to people you’ll never meet.  I’m doing what they’re asking for.  As soon as I can get a job that will provide for my family and can ensure that my wife can have the surgery she needs, then I’ll quit.  If God existed, then none of this would be necessary.  But alas, he is as made up as the tooth fairy.  Or Zeus, Ra, Thor…

WHY DON’T YOU JUST GET A JOB AT WALMART?

Actually the idea has crossed my mind, but Walmart has more employees on Welfare than the entire population of the some states.  What good is working a job that only leaves you dependent upon government food stamps?

THEN BE A MAN AND WORK 2 JOBS!

Yep, that’s probably what I’ll have to do.  And I’m ok with that.  One thing that Christianity taught me is that a husband/father sacrifices for his family.  I am fully prepared to do what ever it takes to provide for my kids. So I’m sacrificing my integrity now, and I’ll sacrifice my body and time later.  But you can’t blame me for at least trying to find a decent paying job first.

I STILL THINK WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS WRONG!

Then I invite you to pray for me.  If God is real, I’m sure he doesn’t want me preaching. Better yet, if God is real, I’d love to be a Christian again! Pray that the holy spirit would make himself known to me. Pray that I would see Jesus! Please, let me believe again. My world would be so much easier! I could stay a pastor, keep my friends stay in my church, and go back to knowing that everyday God was watching over me.  I’d love to be wrong about God.  But since He has saw fit to completely hide himself from me and never answer my prayers, I’m not too concerned about being an atheist preacher.

Relevant song and obligatory Quiet Company promotion:

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17 thoughts on “FAQ #2: Why Don’t You Just Quit?

  1. This says it all “If God existed, then none of this would be necessary.” This is not your fault and I hope you can find a way to let go of any guilt you are carrying. You are doing the best you can for yourself, your family and your church. You are preaching what they are paying for – job done. I’m grateful you discovered this so young. I’m almost 60 and wish I could have those praying years back. None of them were ever answered. Not even the rosary I would often pray through as a child going to sleep … praying sometimes that my father wouldn’t touch me like that any more. Those prayers were never answered either.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. If there is no God but you are offering your congregation the same service you did as a believer, they are getting what they want and there are no supernatural forces to add into that equation. But if there is a God, then there is a conflict that exists in the supernatural realm. No one wants to be inspired by an agent of Satan, you know 🙂

    So, you are right. You are not being dishonest. If not for your knowledge of why some may disagree, you might have no dilemma at all. You are doing a job you are good at. End of story. I know I said before to take the risk- but if for no other reason than the insurance, feel free to take your time. No one would expect you to give up a ministry career over mere doubt, and believers think we are all simply doubting.

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  3. Re: Wife surgery

    Just wondering what would be the cost involved if you do not have insurance coverage? I’ll be willing to chip in a few hundred when/if you do crowd funding.

    Another lesson that I learnt from my Christianity is that it’s alright to ask for help!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t owe an explanation to the vast majority of Christians.
    If a member if your congregation asks you, then it is a different matter. Your job will be to reassure he/she/them that you are still capable to do your job, are indeed looking for a new one and you understand how they may be upset but your family comes first, as their family comes first to them.

    Above all, should you be confronted by anyone “offline” try to keep it as simple and as short as possible. The more you talk and justify it, the more they can find things to shove in your face.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. There is no perfect answer here. However, I hope that you are able to do your job with a minimum of hypocrisy. For example, the story of the epileptic boy in Matthew 17 can be presented as Jesus reaching out to the needy (and also the importance of taking advantage of medical advances). The two creation stories can be presented as an object lesson on why these stories are not even meant to be taken literally. There are plenty of examples of plural marriage in the Bible. However, as they are almost always riven with jealousy it is easy to present them as a terrible warning against the practice. Similarly, the text “Let my people go” speaks with much more power than the texts that authorise slavery.

    You might be able to delegate some prayers to others. When searching questions about belief come your way you could deflect them by asking the questioner how they would answer the question they posed, and work with that.

    However, to find a new job you might need more training, such as in social work. Your experience as a pastor would be invaluable in any caring role or in teaching. You might also need to accept a pay cut, at least at first. Naturally you worry about the effect that this might have on your children, but I believe that leaving the ministry would set them a powerful example in ethical living (or, perhaps in the danger of the same!) Also, going through hard times could be a valuable lesson for your children in money management.

    I think you need some good career counselling. There must be others who have made the same career change. I’m sure you are not alone in this dilemma.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there!

      Wow, these FAQ posts were incredibly powerful and show just how much agonising is behind someone losing a faith they have held dear for so long.

      I really hope that by speaking with a careers officer you will be able to find that your previous (current) position as pastor has equipped you with ‘transferable skills’ that you can take into the job market. As Michael Glass has mentioned here, social work or anything that involves being directly involved in trying to speak to and help other people, is probably something that you are already equipped to do. You’ll probably have to study for a diploma in that area first (which you can the majority of via correspondence course/home study) but it’s not something that I think you’d struggle with.

      That of course is all dependent on whether or not you still want to work in the arena of public service – maybe after all these years the last thing you want to do is have to to deal with other people’s problems every day of your life! And that would be completely understandable.

      What a lot of people don’t seem to realise is that someone in your position, upon deciding to become a pastor, almost had to burn their bridges in relation to future employment. You changed your major to study something that would lead to joining the seminary and becoming a pastor. You had to bet all your hopes and chances of future employment on your remaining a church leader and believer for the rest of you life.You are now in the unenviable position of only really being qualified to do the one job that you can’t really bring yourself to do any more. Whilst there will be transferable skills learned in the role of pastor for all those years, you know that when it comes to trying to find employment in a secular role, you’re at a massive disadvantage.

      You became a pastor believing that you would always have this faith and always be a pastor. If blinkered idiots refuse to believe that you were ever a true Christian, then they really do not understand the sacrifices you had to make to even fulfill the role of pastor in the first place, never mind the difficulties you face now that you are having to consider what life will be like when you have to leave the church. I imagine you’ve already followed the story of Jerry DeWitt and his transition from being a Pastor to leaving the church? http://www.hopeafterfaith.com/ His book is fantastic and if you’ve seen any clips of him on You Tube you’ll know what a fantastic speaker he is. Maybe this is something you too could think about going in to. If you can speak with the clarity and conviction that Jerry does, you could find yourself making a new career in public speaking too.

      Also (and forgive me for telling you more stuff you already know – I only discovered your blog today) there’s http://clergyproject.org/ who were set up to help people in exactly your situation. And of course http://recoveringfromreligion.org/ who have a hotline where you can speak to someone anytime you feel as though you need to talk to someone who understands exactly what you’re going through.

      Thank you for creating this blog, documenting your story and doing these two FAQ posts. I’ll be following you as you progress on your journey and wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

      Lots of love & luck

      Bex

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for taking the time to drop an encouraging note by here on my blog, it is always helpful to know that other people understand me.

        I am a member of the Clergy Project and I’ve been featured on Ex-Communications (the blog of RFR). Part of the reason why I’m blogging is to make my story, which is not uncommon, more public and to promote the Clergy Project. I’d love to get my story before every pastor in America, because I know there has to be hundreds of other pastors in my shoes. I’m also hoping to be an encouragement to other closeted atheists who may not be pastors. Finally I’m hoping that at least some Christians can be better informed about why people are atheists.

        I think people like Jerry DeWitt are rare. Many of us may not have the opportunity to take our deconversion experience and use that as a source of income while actually helping people understand deconversion. Obviously I’m open to being more public, but I still will need to find a “regular” job.

        Again, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to be awesome! I really appreciate all the support I can get.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Perfect. Your response to these jerks on their moral high horses is exactly what they need to hear.

    The problem is that so many people won’t take even 30 seconds to envision themselves in your position before spouting off. It’s especially frustrating to see just how many of these people who claim such perfectly unassailable integrity for themselves (yeah, right…let’s just open their closet doors shall we?) are fellow non-believers. This is an assault you’re getting from both sides.

    Don’t they realize that it accomplishes absolutely nothing, except to make an already miserable situation even worse? I don’t get why we feel such a need to publicly shame people.

    For what it’s worth, just know that there are many lurkers like me who are on your side, and who hope you keep taking your own path in the best way you see fit for you and your family. Fk the b-strds who think they’re in a position to tell you how you should be doing things…if anything, it’s they who should feel ashamed of their own lack of empathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of the big practices of evangelical Christians is to demand adherence to a principle, without the least, remotest tiny hint of compassion, mercy, or empathy for the extreme suffering that being forced to adhere to that principle might produce in the lives of the person they want to force. For them, The Principle Is Everything, and the human suffering is nothing. Incidental. Irrelevant.

    In other words, for them — man was made to twist into the sabbath no matter how many bones you have to break and mangle to do so. No way, no way, no way was the sabbath created to help man.

    And of course, it’s always someone else they demand get twisted and mangled and bloodied to fit into their pet principle. If it were themselves, they’d have all sorts of justifications for why it doesn’t apply to them or to this one exceptional case.

    Do exactly as you are doing. You are following the highest principle of all — caring for your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “I’d love to be a Christian again!”

    My thoughts exactly! I would give anything to know God. However, it has to be real! I will not settle for just religious exercises. I desperately want to know the risen Lord Jesus Christ … but it has to be real. Religious exercises are not enough. I have spent so many hours praying to the One Who Is asking Him to reveal Himself to me. No answer.

    One of the cop out answers Christians give for God not answering prayer is to say that God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is “No”. (I have to point out that when he says “Yes”, it is not Him at all, but other people, or circumstances, or just coincidence.) I have noticed that He never says “No”, He just doesn’t say anything.

    I’ve learned that when my wife asks me something she can handle the situation if I say “No”. However, she gets furious if I just don’t answer, and especially if I simply ignore her. The fact that God treats me with that level of disrespect doesn’t seem to bother her. She says that He is just saying “No”.

    One final thought: I hate living with unanswered questions. That is fact. However, I find it even more unsettling to live with questionable answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. One more thing I would like to say to you is that I have been out of the pastorate for 12 years now. However, if I were in the ministry now, I truly believe that I would be a better pastor than I ever was when I was in the ministry. Back then I was a party line fundamentalist. I was under great pressure – from myself and others – to get people saved and grow the church. Without realizing it, I cared more about making the church grow than I cared about the people. If I were in the ministry now, I would care about the people and work to meet their needs first and foremost. That is what I do now even though I am no longer in church.

    I suspect you are a better pastor now than you were before your deconversion. The simple reason is that now you are free from unrealistic expectations to get people saved and make the church grow, and are free to care about the people and work to meet their needs. Ironic, but I suspect true. You have absolutely nothing of which to be ashamed as long as you love and care for the people in your charge.

    Liked by 1 person

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