Washington D.C. – The Secular Coalition for America is proud to officially announce the 20th member organization of our coalition, The Clergy Project.
The mission of The Clergy Project is to provide support, community, and hope to current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs.
In its 11th year, there are currently 1,125 participants on its rolls, who come from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds including Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, and more than thirty different segments of Christianity. They reside in all fifty states and over forty different countries around the globe, and come from varied perspectives of culture and lifestyle. Approximately 25% of Clergy Project participants are currently employed in their religious vocation with approximately 75% having transitioned out.
“I am delighted to welcome The Clergy Project to our ever expanding coalition that is committed to increasing the visibility of and respect for nontheistic viewpoints in the US. Post-belief clergy provide unique and important perspectives and experiences on issues affecting millions of Americans. Our Coalition will be made stronger by having them as a member” – Debbie Allen, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America
While officially launched in March 2011, The Clergy Project traces its origins to the 2006 International Humanist and Ethical Union Convention in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Dan Barker, a former Christian minister and current co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, another Secular Coalition member organization, met Richard Dawkins who expressed interest in Barker’s history as a minister, and in better understanding the challenges that come with leaving professional ministry. This would be the beginning of a long journey that would culminate into the founding of The Clergy Project by Dan Barker, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Linda LaScola, and Carter Warden, who all remain active and connected to the Clergy Project and larger Coalition.
Daniel Dennet had these words to share on the news of The Clergy Project’s SCA membership: “Congratulations to the Clergy Project! There is so much good work to be done helping others find their way to your community, and, like the good people you are, you have quietly, without fanfare or advertising, helped each other and now are ready to help others as well. May your numbers multiply, and may you find joy in your community! We are so proud of you!”
Through the use of private, safeguarded, and multifaceted Online Community of Forums, Project participants are able to share and discuss their worries, frustrations, and perspectives. Forum discussions include everything from practical concerns like finding a new career path and discerning when and how to come out as a non-believer to one’s spouse to more philosophical conversations centered on ethics and humanism. Over time, the Project has expanded beyond the online forums to provide additional support in the most tangible of ways such as career development services and the opportunity for free counseling sessions offered through The Secular Therapist Project.
The organization’s mission extends to the wider TCP community by furthering this same spirit of support and hope to closeted post-faith religious professionals who yet remain outside The Project and therefore without access to our Online Community of Forums. This extension takes place through avenues such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ClergyProject.org’s Our Stories blog, and ClergyProject.org’s Secular Resource Center.
“Few are more aware of the toll religion imposes on a society than current and former religious leaders who are liberated from irrational supernatural beliefs” remarked Lon Ostrander, President and Board Chair of The Clergy Project. “For us, the euphoria of said liberation, is closely accompanied by the consequences of religious trauma and challenges to our new nontheistic viewpoints in every other area of our lives. The Clergy Project community, a unique oasis of former religious leaders, will be greatly encouraged at the truly good news of working with The Secular Coalition for America in the defense and advancement of nontheistic viewpoints and the safeguarding of our secular Constitution. Thank you SCA for having us!
The interactions Project participants have with their peers through The Clergy Project cultivates a sense of true community and develops practical support. And in doing so, a breath of real hope is discovered as participants encounter hundreds of other post-belief clergy on journeys similar to their own. Project participants discover above all that they are not alone.