Losing my religion: Clergy who no longer believe gather online

Posted: April 25, 2014 at 11:49 am


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Catherine Dunphy came to seminary in her mid-20s, full of passion to work in the service of the Catholic church. By the time she left, for many reasons, she had lost her faith.

"I had this struggle where I thought, 'I don't believe this anymore,' " said Dunphy, now 40 and living in Toronto. "I felt I had no space to move or breathe. I felt like an outcast."

Now, 10 years later, she is part of a new online project aimed at helping others like herself who are isolated by doubt in a sea of believers. Called Rational Doubt: The Clergy Project Blog, it debuts this week on Patheos, an online host of religion and spirituality blogs.

Rational Doubt is an extension of The Clergy Project, a private online community of clergy who, for a range of reasons, no longer believe in God. Started three years ago, the initiative has grown from just a handful of anonymous members who supported each other on online forums and discussions to a current roster of more than 550 priests, ministers, nuns, rabbis and even a few imams.

The blog's goal is lofty: to engage and support clergy and laypeople who are not members of The Clergy Project but who doubt or reject religion and feel they cannot confide in friends, family and colleagues. Clergy Project members -- all former clergy who no longer believe in God -- will write posts, answer questions and engage in discussions about religion, nonbelief and the journey between the two.

"There are a lot of nonbelieving clergy, and the fact that they can't come out is having a negative effect on their lives," said Linda LaScola, a founder of The Clergy Project and editor of Rational Doubt.

"People should not have to suffer that way."

And they do seem to suffer. LaScola, a qualitative researcher, studied nonbelieving clergy with Daniel Dennett, a Tufts University professor. The two researchers found signs of depression, stress and debilitating anxiety.

After publishing their work, they helped found The Clergy Project with Richard Dawkins, the atheist and evolutionary biologist, and Dan Barker, a former minister who is now a secular activist.

"I hope the blog will provide encouragement and support to people who are in the same predicament as the people in The Clergy Project," Dennett said. "I think there are a lot of them out there."

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Losing my religion: Clergy who no longer believe gather online

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April 25th, 2014 at 11:49 am