Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Article from Bob Ripley and some attacks from fellow local clergy

Here is the original article posted by Bob Ripley, a retired United Church minister who may be more than just retired.


When clergy have their fingers crossed

Bob Ripley

Of the traditional seven last words (or phrases) of Jesus from the cross, the one that always gets me is No. 4. The word of abandonment. It’s so bone-chilling that the gospellers wrote it in Jesus’ native tongue, Aramaic, followed by the Greek translation so that we’d know exactly what the agonizing words sounded like.

“Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani.” (My God, my God why have you forsaken me?)

Jesus used to talk of the tight relationship he had with the heavenly Father. The Bible suggests that if you saw one, you saw the other: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:10). You don’t get any closer than that.

But on the cross, Jesus grasps for the opening words of Psalm 22 and gasps them when there is nothing he can hear but the sound of his own voice and for all he can tell there’s no God around to hear. Where is the deity who sees the sparrow fall and counts every hair on our head? Where was the affirming voice from heaven Jesus had heard at his baptism and again at his transfiguration?

How do you explain this cry of dereliction from the man of faith? It sounds like the cry of those who feel that no one is listening. God, where are you?

But it is disquieting to hear. Doubts haunt faith. Nobody in any church wants to learn that a person of God struggles with his or her belief in God.

After her death, Mother Teresa’s dark letters emerged. In 1979, for instance, she wrote to Rev. Michael van der Peet, “Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” She had wanted all her letters destroyed, but the Vatican ordered they be preserved as potential relics of a saint, warts and all.

Lately, I’ve been asked by two people if I think that there are clergy who have lost their faith but kept their silence and their job. No one knows, of course. There are no stats since closeted clergy can’t be counted.

But consider this scenario. If someone in religious authority has pondered the age and span of the cosmos, the elegant simplicity of evolution by natural selection, the violence and corruption in church history, the enigma of expiation for sin by blood sacrifice, the discrepancies in Scripture, the antagonisms and animosities derived from religious fervour, and decided that they can no longer promote the grand scheme of Christianity, what are their options? Stay and cross their fingers? Leave and do something else? What about the family and mortgage payments? It’s not an easy place.

There’s a fascinating essay in the journal Evolutionary Psychology titled “Preachers who are not Believers.” Scientist-philosopher Daniel Dennett and social worker Linda LaScola found five active clergy who were non-believers and who agreed to be interviewed in confidence.

Their frankness is bracing. As one says, “Anybody who goes through seminary and comes out believing in God hasn’t been paying attention.”

But having had a change of heart, why have these ministers stayed in the pulpit? For some, it was to work for social justice or simply help people. Some don’t want to rock the boat. And yes, some work for the paycheque. But they also struggle in a web of concealment trying to figure out how to preach a gospel they no longer believe or have redefined beyond recognition.

All five pastors were grateful for the chance to talk candidly about their refined unbelief with someone who would challenge and probe them without judging them.

With his 1996 novel “In the Beauty of the Lilies,” John Updike tells the story of the Wilmot family, which begins around 1910 when Clarence Wilmot, a Presbyterian minister, realizes he no longer believes in God. Theological books were “paper shields against the molten iron of natural truth.” His loss of faith was a palpable event and his life was shattered by his decision to renounce the pulpit.

His story is fictitious, but what should we say to the Clarences? You’re going to burn in hell? You should stay in the ministry and do good?

Are these clergy the tip of an iceberg? No one knows. But unlike a policy of don’t ask, don’t tell, wouldn’t it be better if we could ask anyone any question and hear any answer, however unsatisfactory or unsettling, without judgment or threat?

No one should have to fib for Jesus.

• Bob Ripley, a Chatham native, is a retired United Church minister. He can be contacted by e-mail at bob@bobripley.ca.

A response about faith to Bob Ripley

Sir: I am writing in response to Bob Ripley’s article: “When Clergy Have Their Fingers Crossed.” Certainly there is a place for doubt and struggle in the office of ministry. However, when someone in the pulpit has lost faith then it is time to find another career. Working for God and His people while holding the view there is no god is a profoundly cynical position. It is also disrespectful to one’s believing congregants. Faithless clergy persons are not as Ripley states it: “fibbing for Jesus;” but lying to line their pockets.

As a member of the Sarnia Evangelical Fellowship I am thankful that clergy persons in our community have a safe place to share joys and struggles, to pray, to encourage and be encouraged by one another. It seems to me the correct answer is not to cross one’s fingers, but rather to fold our hands and together pray for those who are in our pulpits, that the victory of Christ’s resurrection would be an endless source of renewed hope and faith.

Shalom/God’s peace

Richard T. Vander Vaart

Minister of the Word in Team Ministry at Living Hope, Christian Reformed Church


And a great comment response from the SARNIASKEPTIC

*Yawn*. I wish people would tell me which god they're talking about - I mean, I don't believe in any of the 2300+ that have been created by man so far, but, geez, at least tell me which one of the myths you bought.

As for clergy persons "lying to line their pockets", I think that applies to ALL clergy people. Many atheists in the pulpit long to "come out" but the costs (family, friends, financial) are substantial. Realizing that it is all lies is the easy part - rebuilding your life is the hard part. Others in the pulpit may simply see the utility of being a shepherd to a flock (and fleecing them).

It is sad, actually, that hundreds of years after the age of enlightenment, we are still talking about imaginary friends, bronze-aged myths and archaic superstitions.

Grow up.

Another Letter to the editor:


Dealing with doubts about Christianity

Sir: Bob Ripley’s article “When clergy have their fingers crossed” raises important questions about the role of doubt in the Christian faith. What’s missing is any mention of how Christianity itself understands doubt, and the resources we have for responding. The Bible has no harsh or intolerant word for the doubter and the skeptic. On the contrary, Jesus considered him a faithful confessor who said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

In addition, the Bible and Christian tradition have long invited us to hold our doubts up to the light of the evidence. Jesus responded to the Easter doubts of the apostles with invitations to investigate (Luke 24:39, John 20:27). The apostles followed Jesus’ lead in their preaching, repeatedly welcoming the skeptics’ challenge with the audacious claim, “We are witnesses of these things” (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 5:32, 10:39). The Apostle Paul invited his skeptical church to stack their resurrection doubts against the sea of eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:3-8). And the Apostle Peter famously advised all Christians to be ready to give an answer (or defense) to everyone who asks us to give the reason (or evidence) for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).

In response to Peter’s admonition, the church has engaged in the discipline of apologetics (i.e. defending the faith) from the very beginning of her existence. With great enthusiasm and gratitude, I dare consider that Christian apologetics has never been more fruitful or prolific than it is today. In terms of the sheer volume of apologetic resources available, the breadth of disciplines covered, and the quality of scholarship, 21st century Christians are a privileged lot.

As a hypothetical, Bob Ripley makes reference to some intellectual barriers that might shipwreck one’s faith. It’s worth noting that half of those barriers are immediately irrelevant to the truth of Christianity — the rest have substantive apologetic responses. If we listen uncritically to those voices who disbelieve Christianity, we’ll no doubt find our faith in crisis. But anyone willing to grapple with Christianity’s leading apologists will find a formidable foundation for bolstering faith and disarming common contentions.

Unlike the preacher Ripley cites in his article, I am convinced that thorough and open investigation into the truth of the Christian faith will bring greater conviction of the gospel and more integrity to the pulpit, not less.

Craig Hoekema

Minister of the Word in Team Ministry at Living Hope, Christian Reformed Church


And another great response from the SARNIASKEPTIC

Interesting that we have two shepherds who fleece the same flock reminding people that we should trust them and that if we really really looked into it, we'd be believers too.

It's the same old line - trust me, atheists are wrong, I've read their books, I've done the research - so you don't have to.

Craig is Christian because of a chance birth location. No matter what religion you belong too, you are part of a minority on earth. If we accepted the broad definition of "Christianity" (to be generous) and accepted that people who are claimed as "Christians" are actually Christians, more than 2/3 of the world's population are going to "hell" because they weren't born to Christian parents or in a Christian country.

The "sheer volume or apologetic resources" are repeats of the same crap that has been deconstructed and demolished by the evidence time and time again. There hasn't been a new argument for the existence of god (any god) in hundreds of years. The further that science goes, the greater the mental gymnastics required to continue to believe in a sky-fairy daddy.

The earth is more than 4 billion years old. (Since Christianity is only about 2000 years old, that means that for 99.99999% of earth's existence, god didn't give a crap about it.)
The universe is more than 14 billion years old.
There was no global flood. (But keep up believing that "god" won't destroy the earth and we'll soon be under water with global climate change)
The earth is not the center of the universe.
There was no Adam and Eve.
There was no census (created simply to explain the blood line of Joseph - who wasn't even the father of "Jesus").
There was no Jesus the miracle worker (though we do have more than a dozen of Jesus' foreskins (http://www.slate.com/articles/.... (or http://www.irazoo.com/InterestingTopics/holy-foreskin.aspx)
There was no resurrection.
The bible is not inerrant and it is full of forgeries.
Prayer doesn't work.

So what parts of the bible are true? I think the one that says something about building massive churches rather than helping the needy and poor. Or maybe the part that says we should be sending people to third world countries to preach to them and not to bring them something that might actually help them - like medicine.

It's time for Christians to read another book - one that is actually full of facts and evidence not made-up by man to control man (and, especially, woman). Expand your knowledge - the real world is more awesome than your myths ever will be.

Preachers are leaving their pulpits and becoming atheists!

Here is an article with lots of video that shows the evidence of them leaving. They know religion and gods are all lies. They are the experts after all!


Conversion, Pastors To Atheists

Post by Jim Neweman


Christian News sites are having a field day with Patrick Greene’s conversion to Christianity.

Patrick Greene was an outspoken atheist until recently, when the generosity of a few Christians caused him to reconsider his beliefs. He now says he is a Christian.

Why don’t we ever get mass publication of Christians converting to Atheists? Perhaps, the media, including the so called liberal media is so religiously accepting of religion as to make these stories excluded.

Where’s the big news on Jerry DeWitt, the man with a voice that could call to Mars, who left his church?


Better still his coming out talk at the AA convention.


What about Richard Haynes, who once led a 12,000 member megachurch and quit to start Atheist Nexus International?


What about Teresa MacBain and Michael Aus who both came out last month.


MSNBC had a blip on Aus:


Why don’t we hear how 1 in 6 Dutch clergy are atheists or agnostics?


Why are there no big news stories about the Clergy Project which supports pastors, ministers, and priests trying to leave their faith? My apologist brother-in-law seems fascinated, as a psychologist, with conversion stories to religion but never sends me stories of pastors leaving their fantasy-land mythologies. I find it more interesting how people seek the truth. That’s what is cool. That is what will allow humanity to go forward.

What about news from Recovering From Religion? Are we to believe the news is liberal. It’s just more crap reframing from the right.

What about Nate Phelps who had to basically disown his crazy father and leave at 18?

The following from the Reason Rally.

Francis Collins converts to religion because he sees a waterfall and he doesn’t know what to tell a dieing woman. How is that a life motivating force? Maybe he did want to join a group, but it’s a group where one can succeed materially. What about the courageous ones who leave success because the truth burns through the lies revealing greater ability to meaning?

Cheap and easy conversion stories are no match for the drama of those who leave with bravery.

Losing one’s religion can often mean losing one’s family, friends, community, and social network. This risk can be especially great for those still active in their religious communities: one often can’t open up to those who are closest to them for fear of misunderstanding, overreaction, and outright rejection.

We hear about some nut guy, Greene, in Henderson, Texas who had been raised religious, who then after an act of kindness and becoming blind discovers faith again. But, he claims, there is no connection between the charity and his new disability to his faith and he totally respects his atheist wife.

But, we don’t hear about these professional preachers who after long and successful careers, and sometimes years of difficulty, agony, and tenacious loyalty come to reason and see how their faith caused great harm.

Now riddled with guilt even, sadly, at having lied to their members, lied to the world, and lied to themselves they struggle to find peace and success in a secular future. No, we want some cheesy story about some prodigal religious nitwit returning to the fold because strangers gave him $400 and that proved humans are different than animals in some super special way.

Jonathon Haidt and Chris Mooney were patting themselves on the back on a recent, March 19, Point of Inquiry episode, where they gloat how the new theists are so wrong to spend any time disproving religious idiocy. That truth is just irrelevant in group activities. Haidt makes sociology as sacred, groups as churches, and ideology as religious. It’s all about being in the group or not. He’s backed off that conservatives have any than a bit elevated disgust ability but is full on that social people are more spiritual than material (bright boy individualists probably have Asperger’s)—that, in politics, people are driven more by group think than individual expression–isn’t that the point of politics, to reduce a plethora of views to an agreed consensus or at least majority to a law?

Hmmm, why bother then with truth? Oh yeah, I forgot, if I don’t check the oil in my car it seizes when it runs too low. Or, if I don’t get the evidence I might put the wrong person in prison. Or if I make meat for my vegetarian daughter she won’t eat it period. Regardless of biases and prejudices and the leveling and cascade effects of politics, Haidt is feeding into conservative frenzy by convincing moderates to not rock the boat too much because it might upset others and entrench rather than coalesce.

I understand peacekeeping and political alliance and even rhetoric towards agreement rather than position but at some point, and for liberals, it is already difficult position to activate. We must come together in a social group as strong as one put forth by conservatives or lose politically and absolutely. Whether for religious, spiritual, sociological, or material reasons, religious fundamentalist along with accommodationists, apologists, and moderates will take the rights of others away. They are willing to revoke long held bill of rights’ freedoms for their ideology, philosophy, religion, world view, or memmissue (collection of memes into ideological or functional group).

Groups are stronger. That is all that has been proven, The bigger the group, the more clout. The sad instantiation of power in numbers is the bottom line. Even a bill of rights, a long held constitution can be raped and pillaged by the power of people willing to assert their cause.

Attacking freedom through issues of body searches, sexual rights, and bodily rights is a terrifying, debilitating torture stripping people of the will to resist because they know they no longer even own themselves. The Supreme Court 5 should be fired. If that is extreme so be it.

Every time FOX news bullshits it should called. Every time Rick Warren pukes his brains out he should be called on it. Every time a gay politician denies gay rights they should be called on it Accepting lies and damned lies because we want to get along is a neopostmodern nightmare. Using ants, as EO Wilson does, to encourage mass communion to singularity is perspicacious in its effectiveness and dehumanizing in its rights to the individual body and independence of thought.

Jim Newman, bright and well

www.brightpride.com and www.frontiersofreason.com

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