Monday, May 7, 2012
Did You Hear About the United Methodist Minister Who Is an Atheist?
"I'm currently an active pastor and I'm also an atheist," MacBain says in the article. "I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday's right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that's totally false."
I understand doubt. And I am comfortable with doubt. Tennyson was right, but he didn’t go far enough when he declared, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” In his great book on ‘The Dynamics of Faith,” Paul Tillich argues that authentic faith is best understood as “ultimate concern,” and that doubt is an essential part of faith. Like Tillich, I believe there is more faith in honest doubt than in all the creeds.
But there was little theological depth in the NPR article
We learn that she was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist family, that her dad was a pastor, and that she felt the call of God when she was 6. She had questions about the role of women, and about conflicts in the Bible, and Hagerty reports that “she sometimes felt she was serving a taskmaster of a God, whose standards she never quite met.”
When she became a United Methodist pastor, she asked more questions. She hoped for answers that would strengthen her faith. "In reality," she says, "as I worked through them, I found that religion had so many holes in it, that I just progressed through stages where I couldn't believe it."
Hagerty reports that the questions haunted her: Is Jesus the only way to God? Would a loving God torment people for eternity? Is there any evidence of God at all?
I wonder why she thought she had to believe that Jesus was the only way to God, or that God would torment people for eternity. On the other hand, the last question matters. It would be very hard to be a pastor if you could not see “any evidence of God.”