By Lon Ostrander
To quote Chance the Rapper, “Music is all we got, so we might as well give it all we got.”
While many participants of The Clergy Project are doing fine, others are not. For so many of us, when we finally grasp the inescapable truth that there isn’t any god and when we die we’re just dead, we become at risk of losing everything we hold dear. Self-identity, family, friends, income, homes and community are often all at risk of being lost. For many of us, they are all lost, some things for a time and others for all time.
We at The Clergy Project help to build new lives by providing an online community, renewing self-identity, making new friends, preserving relationships, transitioning to new vocations, and offering crisis counseling through the Secular Therapy Project.
It is said that love is two imperfect people stubbornly refusing to give up on each other. The Clergy Project is a multitude of imperfect people stubbornly refusing to give up on each other.
We have come to a point in our evolution as a nonprofit corporation where we need to get serious about growing our brand and fundraising in earnest. We are privileged to be able to offer counseling services to our participants in cooperation with Recovering From Religion (recoveringfromreligion.org) and the Secular Therapy Project (seculartherapy.org).
Sadly, we have run short of Secular Therapy Project counselors who are willing to provide counseling services for free. As a result, The Clergy Project has found it necessary to subsidize the psychotherapy services needed by so many of our participants drowning in religious-trauma-related emotional stress. It is also clear that this relatively small financial bump in the road threatens to consume our surprisingly meager flow of funds. However, we are pleased to announce a recent $9,000 donation from FFRF to help tide us over.
Really, there is so much more we can do for apostate religious leaders in need. Our participants often must endure family and marriage break ups, legal complications, loss of income and even the persecution of family members back home for their connection to an apostate religious leader relative. For many of The Clergy Project participants, it’s all we’ve got, so we might as well give it all we’ve got!
In the autumn of 2019 when we reached the milestone of 1,000 participants, it seemed amazing, almost miraculous, that we had grown into such a large community of nonbelieving current and former religious leaders hailing from nearly four dozen countries around the world and from every state in these not so United States of America.
Yet, I would contend that we are but the tiniest tip of an enormous and largely submerged iceberg consisting of current and former religious leaders for whom faith in a benevolent and all-powerful god is little more than a painful and bizarre memory with frightening consequences.
I would conjecture that most religious leaders, believing or not, still have no idea that we exist. For example, one fellow who recently joined The Clergy Project shared that when he “Googled for the first time, ‘Pastors who left Christianity,’ the very first video I saw featured Dan Barker, and from then on, I read Godless, and have probably watched all the Dan Barker and Bart Ehrman videos. And, finally, after watching so many videos, I found The Clergy Project!” Finally, if they persist, they may finally find The Clergy Project.
We are all we’ve got, and most in our situation don’t even know The Clergy Project exists. People need to know that it exists. Everyone, from the person who has already spent over half of one’s life preaching a misanthropic gospel, to the little child whose sadistic pastor piously proclaims that little Johnny or Janie is going to grow up to be a pastor. We’re all they have, and, for the most part, they don’t know we exist. Our mission should not be just to help our apostate few, but to be there for as many who will be ensnared in the quagmire of religious leadership. We don’t need to evangelize for atheism. We need only to be here for those who have invested their lives in a Trojan horse and know it.
There are currently about 7.5 billion humans cluttering up our tiny dust speck of a planet. We can safely venture a wild guess that there are 8 million to 10 million religious leaders among us, and easily several million of them have serious doubts about the existence of an all-powerful god, benevolent or otherwise.
These millions of well-intentioned religious leaders, who now know better, need to know that they are not alone, and there are multitudes of fellow travelers who are anxious to encourage, counsel and help pull them into a community of imperfect flesh and bone friends, who refuse to give up on each other.
The Clergy Project was created through the auspices of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. We have a secure forum website and a closed Facebook group, both accessible to The Clergy Project participants only. The following are just a few recent testimonials selected from current forum posts:
• As always, it’s a joy to be able to express myself on The Clergy Project. It’s the only outlet I have. Thanks to everyone who makes it possible.
• As one of those newer members, I appreciate the open arms with which I was received into The Clergy Project.
• Thanks for sharing your lives, thoughts, hopes, and struggles here. You’re my heroes, and I’m so glad to know you.
• I’m new to the community & so just reading this post. I wanted to offer my thanks to all who contributed.
• I too am so thankful for The Clergy Project and the great guidance I received here.
• I’m so grateful for all of you.
• I posted about a difficult situation “Danger to Family” and I received tremendous support for which I have no word big enough to say thank you. The Clergy Project made me a better person and I am glad to be a member.
• What a wonderful family I found in The Clergy Project!!!
• This is what makes The Clergy Project great, it puts people into your life who understand your situation.
• I know you will find the answers you seek among these amazing individuals
• I am grateful because The Clergy Project got me some sessions with a therapist who turned on some lights for me.
Many members of our community write blog posts for “Rational Doubt with Voices from The Clergy Project” (patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt).
In addition, we have a public website at clergyproject.org, where you can learn more about who we are, our stories, available resources and contact information, and information on how you can donate to help support our cause.
We are inviting all who can, to donate generously to The Clergy Project and help us become known worldwide as a beacon of hope to millions of disillusioned religious leaders struggling to change the direction of their lives. We, who are unencumbered with religious dogma and superstition; we are all we’ve got. We may as well give it all we’ve got.
Lon Ostrander is the president of the board of The Clergy Project.