Pastors, Preaching, Sermon Illustrations, Uncategorized

An Atheist Pastor

NPR ran a story today about a pastor turned atheist (read the full article here). She was raised in the home of a conservative Baptist pastor before becoming a pastor herself. After serving for 9 years, she could no longer suppress her questions about her experience of religion.

She describes it as a moment of realization, “‘I just kind of realized — I mean just a eureka moment, not an epiphany, a eureka moment — “I’m an atheist,” she says. “I don’t believe.” And in the moment that I uttered that word, I stumbled and choked on that word — atheist.'”

I wonder how her conservative Baptist background influenced her spiritual journey and ultimately her attraction to atheism. Notice the paragraph right under the heading “Finding Atheism.” It reads:

MacBain, 44, was raised a conservative Southern Baptist. Her dad was a pastor and she felt the call of God when she was 6. She had questions, of course, about conflicts in the Bible, for example, or the role of women. She says she sometimes felt she was serving a taskmaster of a God, whose standards she never quite met.

I don’t believe in that God either. If that were my view of God, I would be an atheist.

I can’t help but wonder how her view of God would be different if she had received a different view than the one her dad passed down to her when she was a child. This is an intelligent woman who saw the holes in her father’s faith.

This woman’s experience fuels me. One Church is a safe place for people to express their questions and doubts. Why? So intelligent, thinking people can wrestle with their questions and doubts instead of allowing them to build and build until they can’t stomach it anymore.

I wish her dad and his church would have asked more questions about his God.

I hope she continues to question her atheism, as well.

Read my post “A Pastor is Thankful for Christopher Hitchens”

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8 thoughts on “An Atheist Pastor

  1. Stonybrook Digital says:

    I would actually love to hear a sermon from her now. It would be interesting to hear Christianity from her point of view. I would be very raw, revealing, and honest… and would shed a lot of light on what seems to be a very confused religion today.

  2. “I don’t believe in that God either. If that were my view of God, I would be an atheist.”

    I imagine (though I can’t speak for her) that she did more than just reject her specific version of the Christian god before becoming an atheist. There are thousands of version of the Christian god to choose from. I should hope that she didn’t decide to label herself an atheist until she gave more than just the god she was raised with a thorough look.

    I could be wrong, of course.

    • Thanks for commenting. Right, we don’t know exactly what she is thinking, but I imagine that the religious views she was raised with were quite influential to her. She states in the paragraph I quoted that she viewed God as a taskmaster. So, apparently, she did have a specific view of God in mind that she eventually rejected.

      I’m not implying that an atheist would not research various views of religion, God, etc. The atheists I know are generally intellectually curious people who are open to new information. The images of God she received as a child, however, would be very difficult to get rid of.

      • “So, apparently, she did have a specific view of God in mind that she eventually rejected. ”

        Right. But my point is, after she rejected that view of a god, she doesn’t say anything specific about any other views of god she may have rejected.

        “The images of God she received as a child, however, would be very difficult to get rid of.”

        I imagine so. I think the point of my comment was that you seemed to imply that the reason for her becoming an atheist was her not liking her religion. And while that is a good reason for her not to be her old religion, I don’t think it’s a good reason to be an atheist, nor do I hope it is her ultimate reason.

  3. Link to this was sent to me by a friend.

    I was raised Catholic, walked away when I was 18ish, for many of the same reasons she speaks of. I could not justify a Savior who came to set us apart from the law, with the religious teachings of the Catholic church. It took me until I was in my late 30’s to understand the true nature of a Graceful and Loving, Merciful God.

    Going on 41 I still feel myself checking over my shoulder every now an then waiting for the smite stick to hit me when I mess up. Then when it doesn’t I fall down on my knees thanking him for the Loving Mercy.

    The world in general has a warped view of God. Those that try to drive God out of everything point to the task master god created by religion as a reason to drive him out.

    It is a shame that this lady could not rely on Faith and her turning hinged on religion. When I walked away from the Catholic church, I held onto one belief. Jesus is who he says he is… That ultimately brought me to the faith I have now.

  4. This was sent to me by a friend.

    I was raised Catholic, walked away when I was 18ish, for many of the same reasons she speaks of. I could not justify a Savior who came to set us apart from the law, with the religious teachings of the Catholic church. It took me until I was in my late 30’s to understand the true nature of a Graceful and Loving, Merciful God.

    Going on 41 I still feel myself checking over my shoulder every now an then waiting for the smite stick to hit me when I mess up. Then when it doesn’t I fall down on my knees thanking him for the Loving Mercy.

    The world in general has a warped view of God. Those that try to drive God out of everything point to the task master god created by religion as a reason to drive him out.

    It is a shame that this lady could not rely Faith and her turning hinged on religion. When I walked away from the Catholic church, I held onto one belief. Jesus is who he says he is… That ultimately brought me to the faith I have now.

  5. Cressie Downey says:

    i liked Ckroboth’s comments. It sounded like the same story my husband revealed to me about being raised Catholic, leaving home at same age. He went searching for answers to what others believed, done lots of reading on all the religions. He couldn’t understand how they ALL could be right, so he was a self proclaimed atheist until recently, saying he is now an agnostic. Been living with a Christian wife now for 22yrs, and is slowly beginning to see Jesus IS who He says He IS. My husband has seen all the miracles God has done in the lives of family, friends, and church members. Pray for God to speak to him in a way that he can’t deny that it’s Christ’s Holy Spirit seeking to save him.

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