Atheist Pastor

“I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God,” says Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada minister who has led West Hill since 1997. “I don’t believe in what I think 99.99% of the world thinks you mean when you use that word.” Tor her, God is instead a metaphor for goodness and a life lived with compassion and justice.

There is not one mention of God during the 70-minute service at Toronto’s West Hill United church. Bibles are nowhere to be seen. The large steel cross – one of the few remaining religious symbols in this church – is hidden behind a cascade of rainbow streamers.

Can a minister in a Christian church be an atheist?

Atheist Pastor Sparks Debate

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Atheist Pastor

    • Why not? Because it says “Christian Church” on the door?

      Did you happen to read the article? One of the things mentioned was the services were “light on religious doctrine and instead emphasise (sic) moral teachings.” When one considers some of the things Jesus reportedly said about how to treat others (and which is rarely emphasized in most “Christian” churches), it would seem she is following the bible much more closely that most “regular” churches.

      Perhaps the turn-off is the word “atheist”?

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Well, the fasted growing movement in Judaism is the Humanist Movement, so yeah, kind of, I guess. In fact, three of Judaism largest movements (Reconstructionists, Conservative, and Reform) reject the traditional definition of “God” completely. In their 1986 “Platform on Reconstructionism,” it’s written:

    There is no such thing as divine intervention. The Bible was not inspired by God. The classical view of God is rejected.

    Like

  2. Christianity will either evolve or join the graveyards of past religions and dead deities. So, yeah, I think you can be an atheist and still call yourself a Christian. There are plenty of ministers who are atheist but aren’t open about it. Not yet, anyway. Anyone who seriously studies the bible comes to realize that it’s a smorgasbord of myths and metaphors.

    Nan, wasn’t sure if you have read this article yet:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/03/17/im-a-presbyterian-minister-who-doesnt-believe-in-god-2/

    “I think of Christianity as a culture. It has produced 2,000 years of artifacts: literature, music, art, ethics, architecture, and (yes) beliefs. But cultures evolve and Christianity will have to adapt in order to survive in the modern era.”

    Much like most Christian churches in the U.S and elsewhere., if the United Church of Canada wants to survive, it will have to adapt. Gretta isn’t the only non-believing minister in her denomination. She’s just open about her non-belief.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Interesting article. A “belief-less Christianity.” Hmmm.

      Which is more important — keeping “God” in Christianity or living Christianity; that is, treating fellow humans (not just the members of your church) with love and compassion, as their leader instructed them to do?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Can a minister in a Christian church be an atheist?

    If the church is labeled “Christian” or has it in their doctrines and mission statement referencing ANY Canonical Scriptural text/passage, then according to the 2nd century CE Greco-Roman gospel of John and verse 14:6, then the answer is unequivocally NO. However, if the ‘Neo-Christ-followers’ and clergy want to UNcanonize the current bible, then sure… just about “anything goes”… which is perfectly fine with me!

    That said, I DO admire this pastor’s courage to face what MUST BE extreme criticism, probably threats to her life as well. But then again, serious reform (or complete extinction) is sometimes life threatening from establishment.

    Like

    • It’s interesting that it’s taken them so long to decide that, perhaps, she should not be a minister. Especially when one considers that, at one point, “church leaders said they were intrigued by the direction she was heading and encouraged her to push forward.”

      And, as Vosper commented: “‘Really? We’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’ve been really public about my beliefs.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Indeed Nan. I have no serious issues with those church-goers (or leaders like Vosper) who realize the bible is NOT a history book nor an iconic example of logic and certainty, especially if they openly and publicly admit such. I personally consider them more normal and as sane as the next. Mind you, I don’t crave to hangout with them. But they understand or at least unconsciously live in our world that is (certainly) impermanent, always evolving, always morphing… including our legends, myths, and old traditions that also change over time or go extinct. That is definitely a UU style church as comments here have alluded. My issue is with Christian Fundamentalists, or any religious fundamentalist for that matter.

        On John Zande’s last post — the McDonnough post I believe — one of his commentors asked me in semi-contention, what are the greatest human virtues(?), which I was proposing should be taught by all the planet’s social groups AND none of the great virtues are exclusive to any one group. They are fairly simple and not near as ambigious as the Abrahamic religious tenets and Scriptures which Fundamentalists can’t seem to phathom. This commentor mentioned a PEW report about Abrahamic groups that are pro same-sex marriage. His statistics actually ended up showing that fortunately our societies actually DO HAVE people like Vosper who can recognize divisive, erroneous and unfounded religious traditions, especially over time! Furthermore, IMO those stats also imply that ‘religious followers’ merely select a religion for how well it serves them and those (family) who they love deeply: Self-Preservation. UNLESS circumstances change, peer and family acceptance is more critical to them than ANY “universal truth(s)” or jealous God. For the Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists, the LGBT community is not to be treated as equals according to their Canonized Bibles.

        It requires a ton of courage to go against social norms, to be different or to QUESTION old beliefs, particularly if they are deeply DEEPLY engrained for many generations. Maybe not so much in Canada — a truly more progressive nation than the U.S. — but in the American South and Bible-belt, one can be horribly ostracized socially and occupationally.

        Like

        • Furthermore, IMO those stats also imply that ‘religious followers’ merely select a religion for how well it serves them and those (family) who they love deeply: Self-Preservation.

          Maybe, but I suspect it’s a bit more complicated than that. For example, a different PEW report (Landscape Study: page 43) shows that most Jew, Hindus, and Catholics were born into their traditions and have remained Jewish, Hindu, or Catholics (with only 17% of the surveyed Jewish population being converts from other faiths, 10% for Hindu and Catholics). Basically, what I’m saying is it’s not like most of them sat down and said, “I’m going to select this religion because it best meets my needs and fits my values.” They were just raised that way from the beginning.

          In Christianity, I get the impression from the stats and listening to people that there is more converting in-and-out of various denominations until one finds one that fits.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Basically, what I’m saying is it’s not like most of them sat down and said, “I’m going to select this religion because it best meets my needs and fits my values.” They were just raised that way from the beginning.

          I certainly agree with that last sentence for further clarification CS. Thank you. It seems you and I are essentially pointing out the same ‘human nature’ but in different methods. The Nature vs. Nurture paradigm by default cannot be precisely measured into purely A or B, but rather consists of A, A.3, B.05, B, A.9 and variants mixed in, ad infinitum. In other words, I personally think we live in a wide-open flowing system of existence, not an unbending “closed-system” that religious Fundamentalists believe and some want to FORCE or coerce upon the planet, if that makes sense.

          That said though, if I can use a tunnel-vision analogy here… if a child/adult never sees or experiences life and others outside a 100 or 500-mile radius/lens, is it fair for them to (egotistically) presume that their place of birth, parents, and 100-mile radius/view of experience are better, correct (superior?) than all others? Of course not. Basically what I’m saying here is that humankind has reached a point in science and evolution where MORE humility, more respectful adaptation, more empathetic collaboration are needed — like Gretta Vospor is nurturing — rather than judgement, UNaccountability by mythical Proxies, and segregative (“set apart”) teachings and lifestyles several world religions teach, even fight over like primates.

          In Christianity, I get the impression from the stats and listening to people that there is more converting in-and-out of various denominations until one finds one that fits.

          That is an intriguing point CS. I wouldn’t really argue those numbers IF those surveyed people have never been out of the U.S., or their home state for any extended period of time; e.g. 3-6 months or longer and embedded in many different cultures and continents. Perhaps what I am also saying here — in my individual little lens 😉 — is one’s world-views, beliefs, values, can only be as big or tiny as their impactful lived experiences. Right or wrong, or healthy-unhealthy lifestyles should be gauged by the WIDEST possible lens. Am I making sense? (laughing) I haven’t had my morning java yet. 😛

          Liked by 1 person

        • I am always pleasantly surprised how nice our conversations end up being! I think as far as insular viewpoints it can definitely lead to a belief that one’s own views are superior or better than others, but I suspect in many cases it might also simply be not knowing other possibilities exist (rather than thinking one’s own experiences are better). Also, travel isn’t the only route to opening up one’s perspectives. I think reading a lot of nonfiction, great works of world literature (fiction/poetry/although this can theoretically include nonfiction as well given we’re talking about being broad-minded), and interactions with diversity at home, such as friends from different cultures and religions than one’s own, can be lens widening.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I am always pleasantly surprised how nice our conversations end up being!

          Thank you CS. The sentiment is mutual.

          I’d agree, ignorance/naivety play a significant part in forming small not-as-tested beliefs/world-views. And “travel” is not a guarantee of more wisdom, humility, empathetic collaboration, etc. But I do feel it helps. 😉 Reading, studying, dissecting great works of literature, fiction and non-fiction, the diversity we sometimes can have at home — if one lives in a huge metropolitan city — definitely contributes to degrees of a wider lens. Well said CS.

          Nevertheless, I get the feeling now after commenting back-n-forth with you, you are in no way a religious Fundamentalist, which would/does please me. Or… I could be completely mistaken, right? And you are the 2nd coming of David Koresh — in which I just put my size 11 big foot in my rather big mouth! (laughing)

          Like

  4. Can a minister in a Christian church be an atheist?

    Yes.

    But the question I think is, Can a minister in a Christian church be openly atheist?

    Good luck.

    I tend to think it was the switch to the term “atheist” that started the murmuring in the church.

    Will it be tolerated?

    Time will tell.

    The thing is, getting rid of her won’t eliminate atheists in The United Church of Canada. They’ll still be there and they will also be in the pulpit. As Gretta has said before, she’s not the only one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zoe, I recall hearing a report some years back about a minister of the Church of England handing in his resignation, saying that he no longer believed. The members of his congregation petitioned the Bishop for him to stay on because he was such a good pastor to them.

      I don’t know what happened in the end, but at the time I saw it as an indictment on the Church of England and its members.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In December 2014 I was at a social event and came across a person I had not seen for some years. The person noted how my life had changed in the intervening period, when they had known me previously I was a business executive, but I had transformed into an ordained church minister.

    This person suggested to me that on balance they saw Christianity as beneficial to the world, not harmful. They were not a believer, but they were trying to be gracious. I responded that what was critical was whether or not it was true. I went on to say that if I did not think it was true I would do something else.

    Little did I realise then that within 2 months I would conclude I no longer believed.

    Liked by 3 people

Take Some Time To Share Your Thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s