More People Like Me

I started writing this before the council “closed ranks”.  I have a hard time even wanting to edit this, but I figured you’d want to read it.  Forgive all the errors.

PNF

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I was being interviewed last week by the documentary crew and we struck up a conversation not directly related to the interview but probably key to the film.  The director made a comment that really pushed in me the need to be public about my process.  It was a statement that made me so sad and yet so proud to be part of this film project.  The director has been interviewing TCP participants, those who left the ministry, those stuck in the ministry, and me trying to transition out the ministry.  She said something like this:

Director: I have probably met more TCP members than anyone else on the planet.

Me: I’ve never personally met anyone from TCP and I only know 1 person who left the ministry because they became an atheist.  No one knows we exist!  We don’t even know about each other.  We’re trapped in silence, left thinking that no one understands us and no one has been through what we’ve been through.  This is why I want to do this film.  I want my face and real name in this film.  I want every pastor in America to see my story.  Because there are probably thousands of us who are lonely and afraid, they need to know that The Clergy Project exists.  They need to know that this isn’t their fault, there’s nothing wrong with them, they aren’t broken and they don’t need to be fixed.  We need to talk and share our stories….

Then I went on a rant that will probably be edited out of the film.  Yes I used one single swear word.  Instantly regretted it and looked at the sound guy and said:

Me: Sorry about that.  You’ll probably have to edit that out.

One of things I have said from the beginning, I wrote it on my blog before I had a single reader, I hope my story can help someone else.  And it has.  Good god you all have let me know it has.  What you may not know is that some of your fellow readers are pastors and expastors who don’t believe anymore.

***I’ve been given explicit permission to tell these next stories****

One reader quit ministry a while ago and realized they became an atheist about 2 years ago.  I encouraged him to join TCP.  He did.  Then he found me on TCP, and in my bio he realized that we are from the same state.  Then we realized we lived in the same city.  Then we realized he lived 3 mins from my church and had been there a few times.  And then he knew who K was.  He knows TB’s place of employment.  And holy shit, he’s a coworker with a man who’s wife knows about my situation.

Talk about small world.

So we met at the brewery that is giving me the run around.

Me: Well let’s get you a beer.

Tim: No, let me buy you a beer.

Me: I’m not going to turn that down.

And we talked, face to face.

Tim: I remember when I ran across your blog, and I so connected with what you were going through.  I know my experience was a bit different but everything you were feeling…I remember that.  I know what that’s like, and I was telling my wife about your blog.  And I just really connected with everything you were saying.

Then he told me his story. I get the sense that this might have been Tim’s first time telling his story to someone who completely understands.  Do you know what that feels like?  Do you know what it’s like to suffer mostly in silence, then to come out to people who can never comprehend what you are going through, then after 2 years you find a guy who has a church 3 minutes from your house who knows every pain, fear, and question that you do?  I do.  It’s amazing.  I’m sure he didn’t come there to tell me his story.  It sounded like he came in order to encourage me and support me, but I was privileged to sit and listen to him!  Just saying things out loud is incredibly therapeutic.

I hope to be having dinner with him and his wife in the near future.  It’ll be great for my wife to finally have someone close by that knows her struggles intimately.

But wait, there’s more!

I got a phone call yesterday to my google voice account from a military chaplain who’s been one of my readers.  He kept sending me emails saying he’d love to talk with me, and he kept asking how I was doing.  But low and behold, we get on the phone, and it’s his story we talk most about.  Which is how it should be!  I’ve told my story, I have supporters, he doesn’t!  Both Tim and Chaplain mention that this something they don’t talk to their wives about.  At least I can talk to my wife.

Chaplain explained his struggles and his feelings.  I get the sense he hasn’t talked about this stuff out loud more than a handful of times, and again, perhaps the first time with someone who completely understands him.

Chaplain had a hard time with the “A” word.  He definitely sees himself as more agnostic than determined atheist. I challenged him to examine if there was a practical difference between atheist vs. agnostic.  But I remember how hard that leap was for me.

Me: It was weird for me.  I was lying to Christians every Sunday, but something prevented me from lying to the atheist of the Clergy Project.  I couldn’t sign the disavowment of spiritual beliefs unless I was honestly an atheist.  TCP was offering real help and community, I was trying to leave the church.  But I couldn’t sign that form until I could do so honestly.

Chaplain: Well it’s because if we’re going to move forward in our lives we want to do it with as much integrity as we can.  We don’t want to start our new lives on lies.

Amen good Chaplain.  We need to find room for the truth to grow in our new lives.  We need to do away with lies, not create more.

As of right now Chappy isn’t part of TCP because he’s not sure he’s an atheist, though he definitely is not a Christian.

But what does this have to do with you?

I write because you support me, you have promoted me, and now you are funding me. This blog matters, not just to you or to me, but to the still closeted atheist that live in fear of what people might think of them.  Especially the poor folks like me that are in danger of losing their jobs because they lost their God.  I need to find away to make this blog public again.  I need to find more readers and more patrons.  And even if I don’t make another dime, my story needs to get out there so that people living my nightmare can know that they are not alone.  And you are making all that happen.

Thank you for reading my posts.

Thank you for sharing my links.

Thank you for your one time donations through PayPal.

Thank you for supporting me on Patreon.

And a specially thanks to Friendly Facebook Stalker (FFS) who was *technically* my first patron.  She messed up and had to redo her contribution, and someone snuck in to be the first successful patron.

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10 thoughts on “More People Like Me

  1. I grew up thinking that Christians were the persecuted (don’t get me wrong, there are many who really are horribly persecuted, but not usually in the US) and now I’m finding out how backwards that idea was! It’s great news to hear about the connections you are making. I hope that once you go public my husband and I will be able to meet you in person and publicly support you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read the post yet, but I did notice that the e-mail said nothing about it being password protected…Are you sure you hit the settings right?

    Like

  3. Wow. I haven’t had a chance to read these last two until today. SO much is happening. I’m sure hoping it all goes as well as possible. For whatever it’s worth, you have helped me more than you know. As a matter of fact, a family member that I haven’t seen in 20 years, drove through our city yesterday and came here to spend the night with us on her travels. I came out as an atheist to her … the first family member! The world didn’t end and she (a Christian) didn’t even flinch. Seemed to not matter much to her. It felt good to finally say it out loud to a family member. I realize she will probably tell others, but I’m ok with it. Thanks to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In the spirit of the post I would like to send a Shout Out to Tim and the Chaplain mentioned. I’m obviously getting the information second hand here, but it makes me sad to think that you cannot talk to your own wives about your thoughts and feelings on this, quite frankly, most important change of your life. I can’t pray or send good thoughts, or anything else new age-y, but feel free to email (a total stranger) me if it might help.

    Also, to the Chaplain, do you believe there is a god? If you answer “Yes” you are a theist (or perhaps a deist). Any other answer, including “I don’t know.” or “I’m not sure.” makes you an atheist. The ‘a’ means ‘none’ or ‘without’, literally ‘without a belief in a god’. ‘Agnostic’ is not a noun you can use as an inbetween term, but an adjective used as a descriptor indicating that you don’t believe there can be enough data to conclusively back your belief (a=none/without gnostic=knowledge). So ‘agnostic theist’ (I can’t back it up but I believe in God) or ‘agnostic atheist’ (I can’t back it up but I don’t believe in god). ‘Atheist’ is actually the inbetween noun, meaning you no longer believe in a god, and ‘anti-theist’ is the opposite end of the spectrum meaning you believe there is/are no god/s.

    I’m not trying to be pedantic here, but words have meanings, which is why people get upset or worried about using the wrong one. If you aren’t sure God exists you are an atheist. There’s no two ways about it. The spectrum of atheism covers an awful lot of ground. Essentially all of it except for the two extremes where people believe there is a god and where people believe there is no god.

    A (flawed) political analogy: You’ve voted Republican your whole life. Doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what the party is promising. You are a Republican. But then you have some doubts. You are not sure about a candidate or a policy and for the first time it is not a guarantee that you will vote that way. You are no longer a Republican. Which means you are ‘aRepublican’. But that does not make you a Democrat. You are a swing voter in the middle, critically examine the evidence (he says, stretching the metaphor) to see which way you should vote. Or deciding whether to vote at all. The point is, no longer believing in (the inerrancy of) the Republican Party stops you from being a Republican. No longer believing in God makes you an atheist.

    Happy to discuss it more, and if you don’t want to reply here because of anonymity, then as always, feel free to email.

    Cheers
    Shane

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First — sorry to hear that you will have to find a new employer, although 3mo severance was much more than I expected you would get (frankly, I figured none at all, but that’s biased based on my denominational experience). On the other hand, now you no longer have to preach to a congregation regarding things you no longer believe.

    Second — It amazes me that even in today’s highly connected age that we are still often dealing with our struggles alone. Believe me, knowing that someone else is working through can save other people’s lives.

    Case in point (though from a slightly different angle): I’m a trans woman raised in a reasonably fundamentalist home (not as crazy as IFB, though, thank the FSM!). My dad was a pastor, and didn’t make much, so even when other kids and teens were online and starting to discover BBSes and the Internet (when that started to be popular), there was no way that was going to happen in our household. So I thought that I was the only person in the whole world to have ever felt the way I felt: that my gender and assigned sex didn’t line up. I had no language to use to describe this (trans wasn’t something I knew about), and of course, one is always afraid that family might reject one outright, so the conversation never came up when young.

    It wasn’t until I went to college (oddly enough a Christian college!) where I discovered the Internet. And wouldn’t you know it: that was where I discovered the trans community. And that I /wasn’t/ alone. The first steps were mainly to reconcile it with my faith at the time, but regardless of the faith aspect, finding out that I wasn’t the only one almost certainly saved my life. After college I came out of the closet to family and friends (lots of stories there, but immediate family were supportive), and it was only by discovering that I wasn’t the only one that any of that was possible.

    I’ll admit to being a little peeved when I realized a couple years ago that yes, now I was an atheist and had to deal with coming out of another closet. But this time I could easily find out about the atheist community online, and so I didn’t feel so alone (plus I’d already had practice!). Funny enough, though, what really started settling it for me was precisely what you’re going through now: I searched the Internet for “preachers who don’t believe in God” or the like, and stumbled across Jerry Dewitt and the like. I was hanging on to one last straw: if there were no atheist pastors, then maybe there was still something to it, since who should know better than the preachers themselves, right? And going by experience, I know I can’t be the only one to ask that question, so having your blog available (and several others) really /does/ save lives. [This wasn’t the only reason I deconverted — but I was grasping at straws by the end of my faith.]

    So thank you — and thanks to everyone else who has shared their stories on this blog and on other blogs. You’ll never know just how many lives you touch, and ultimately how many lives you save.

    May the FSM bless you with the tastiest noodles ever! 😉

    Like

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