VB: Catherine, tell us more about your project and how it approaches faith, atheism and feminism.
CD: The Clergy Project is a confidential online community for active and former clergy who are non-believers – our members identify as secular humanists, atheist, agnostic and freethinkers. I identify as a secular humanist. The Clergy Project provides a safe house for unbelieving religious leaders of every persuasion. Inside the virtual walls of our community we are free to interact and to share our stories.
Our private member-only site was created in March 2011 with 52 members – we now have over 500. As a virtual community the Clergy Project works to protect our members’ anonymity, especially given that many of our members are still in active ministry.
All of our members came to us after they had already decided they are no longer believers. Our members come from a variety of backgrounds, denominations and religions. Currently we count active and former Pastors, Chaplains, Rabbis, Imams Nuns, Monks and Priests as our members.
VB: How did it all start?
CD: I ‘m often asked how the Clergy Project came to be – it’s founding came about from a number of simultaneous conversations regarding the existence of unbelieving religious leaders and a concern for their unique dilemma.
First, there was the preliminary study “Preachers Who Are Not Believers,” by philosopher Dan Dennett and researcher Linda LaScola and second, conversations between Dan Barker, a former minster himself, and Richard Dawkins, concerning the need to help non-believing clergy who want to leave ministry.
These secular leaders, together with the first 52 members, founded the project. When we launched our public site, clergyproject.org, it was with the goal of communicating the existence of organized non-believing clergyand to develop programs and services to aid active members in leaving ministry.