Sketches on Atheism

The irreversible tide of rationalism

DefectionHardly anyone reads the Bible. If they did, the whole thing would be in trouble.” Interesting words. Doubly interesting considering they were delivered by Mike Aus, the Lutheran pastor of 20 years at the Texas based Theophilus church. Aus was speaking on MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” as (at the time) one of the newest members of the Clergy Project, a confidential online gathering group for priests, pastors, preachers and ministers who can no longer delude themselves, or their congregations. Started in 2011 the group has witnessed explosive growth and now boasts over 400 former clergymen who’ve discarded the childish belief in a magical, silent, invisible sky being and chosen a more adult, rational approach to life, the planet, and cosmology. Such a rapid exodus cannot be understated. It’s the equivalent of once hardened, unwaveringly loyal military officers fleeing the field and defecting. Here we have the religious analogues of uniformed captains, majors and coronels throwing off their colours because they’ve not only recognised the unsupportable fragility of their beliefs, but also the regressive nature of the war they’d been raging on society. An army cannot survive without its commissioned officers, and the fact that religion is losing theirs at such an alarming rate is a sign the whole rotten (ageing) structure is crumbling from within.

See Mike Aus Video here (Thanks Lady!)

Linda LaScola (co-founder of The Clergy Project) suggests this video as well. It’s a 15 minute clip from a member of Aus’ new congregation who has followed him from the Lutheran church to Mike’s next church to his current atheist church. It’s good. Enjoy.

38 thoughts on “The irreversible tide of rationalism

  1. These brave souls will of course be demonized by their remaining clergy counterparts through character assassinations and liturgical castigations from the pulpit but as you point out, as their number grow, so does the narrow mindset that they promulgated for centuries.


  2. Sometimes am optimistic sometimes am not. The fear of death among other things means the religious will replace these few pastors with other thousands, what with places with names like Divinity College or what is that University where Dr. W.L Craig is a don?


    • Craig is a dean at a Uni? I didn’t know that! Damn, the stupidity 😦 However, I’m optimistic, mate. Church pews are filled with the old, not the young. Yes, we’re a superstitious lot, so there’ll always be something tickling that urge, but I think modern cosmology is really filling that void for honest, rational, adult ‘seekers’


      • I think he is just a lecturer not the dean and the university I think is called Biola [what a name for a university]. Maybe it is the epoch of reason started many years ago by now dead rationalists on whose shoulders we stand.


  3. Sweet, great choice of photo! But do realize that every insurance company claims that people who switch save money (because only people who will save money switch). The more damning statistic is the average IQs of those who remain. Where once the “priesthood” was one of three “professions” (along with lawyers and doctors), it isn’t attracting bright young people anymore. So, while the priesthood may be leaking at the top, I am more hopeful for the bigger leaks at the bottom. I have heard more than my share of stipidity from the religious and it may finally devolve to the stupid leading the stupid and then slowly die away. We can only hope.


    • Great analysis. They’re pretty much boxed into the “stupid” camp, especially evangelicals. This was going to be part of a larger post going into various church responses to the bleed. I was going to start on it straight away then my eye caught something more tantalising and off i went chasing butterflies again 🙂


    • 400 in just 20-odd months Richard is pretty good going. More outspoken ones like Mike Aus’ would be great, but even the silent one’s are having a devastating affect/effect on their flocks. Aus’ church of 80 simply collapsed a month or so after he threw it all in. Little cracks like this are good.


  4. Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t many of the members remain in their positions? Or is this the institution that helps former Church members re-enter society (i.e. finding them jobs, etc.)? I suppose it could do both, but I wonder how many – of the atheist priests – remain with the Church after they have joined this anonymous movement…


    • Can’t give you an accurate number, R.L, but the website testimonials do allude to many members remaining silent, which might indeed mean they stay in their churches. I guess there is a financial consideration to be made. “Preacher, 30 years” doesn’t exactly ring well on a CV.


      • R.L, Here’s the updated information from the Clergy Project. Linda LaScola was kind enough to answer our question, but I’m afraid to say we both stepped in it a little with the ‘spineless’ comments. I’ve since apologised (for both of us) and Linda was gracious enough to give us a pass, but left a friendly warning not to jump to conclusions. Sounds fair.

        Hello, John –

        I’m responding to your question to the Clergy Project (TCP). I’m not a member, but I am a co-founder of TCP and often respond to press inquiries.
        I went to your site and noticed the exchange in the comments section where you agree with “culpeper” that preachers who stay in the pulpit after they no longer believe are ‘sort of spineless.” This implies that you think Mike Aus was “spineless” until the moment he left to form his atheist church.
        Frankly, this doesn’t sound like a friendly position. I hope you consider that pastors, like other people wanting to switch careers, have families and financial issues to consider.
        I also suggest that you attempt to speak directly to Aus or other non-believing clergy before coming to a conclusion that they are spineless. It would be the rational thing to do.
        Meanwhile, in terms of the specific information you requested, I can tell you that of January 31st 2013, TCP has 404 members, including 301 who are former clergy and 103 who are active clergy.
        Regarding gender, TCP is 88% male and 12% female. TCP started in March of 2011 with 52 clergy, (38 former and 14 active).
        Those are the only formal statistics we have right now. If you’re interested in knowing more about the plight of clergy who have lost their supernatural beliefs, I suggest you read the article Daniel Dennett and I wrote in 2010: “Preachers who are not Believers” There are also numerous links on the Clergy Project website that will lead you to articles and podcasts by or about non-believing clergy.
        Please let me know if I can be of further help.


        Linda LaScola


      • Yes, spineless wasn’t an appropriate adjective. That was a reactive comment made with little consideration. I am also attempting to switch careers, so my attitude towards their plight should have resembled the thoughts of an equally cautious individual. Like them, my current career is not conducive with my values, so I am quite ashamed at being so judgmental. Please extend my apologies to her if you speak again.

        Thank you for gathering this information. It’s interesting to see the rate in which TCP has grown since 2011. I had no idea how young the organization was. Also, I’m really glad to see Daniel Dennett is connected to this movement; he is my favorite contemporary philosopher.


    • You’re on the money there, Hansi. Dogma is a windowless cube. If it were more flexible and more accommodating to new ideas i’d be less harsh on it. If it actually sought to study the universe (inner and outer) and advance human knowledge i might even become a fan.


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