Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Atheists In The Pulpit

Quitting your job is never easy. But nobody has it tougher than a person of the cloth.

Not only is nobody looking to hire someone with a degree in divinity, you risk alienating yourself from your community, your friends, your family, and even your spouse.

For most of his adult life, Mike Aus was a practitioner of the world’s second oldest profession, he was a pastor.

And when he joined the ministry, he did it with the best of intentions. He believed the whole show: born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, descended into hell, and on the third day he rose again.

So his drift away from faith was gradual.

Which began by noticing small inconsistencies in the Bible that didn’t add up. Inconsistencies that challenged that Jesus was all-knowing. And he later discovered that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John can’t agree on any significant event in Jesus’ life.

With the inconsistencies piling up, Mike could no longer see the Bible as a holy book and started questioning one doctrine after another—while still trying to maintain his faith. 

“Do you really need to believe in the virgin birth to be a Christian? Nah.”
“Hmm… the devil seems awfully much like a literary device that personifies evil but not an actual entity.”
“You know, nobody comes back from the dead, He probably just lived on in the hearts of His believers who carried on His preachings.”

It wasn’t just the Word of God that shook Mike’s faith, it was his fellow Christians.

Although most Christians revere the Bible as the word of God, “they don’t know it, and they don’t read it” he says. In the twenty years of ministry, Mike had not once met a Christian layperson who could give him a reasonable synopsis of the Bible. Not even the CliffsNotes.

If it really was a divine message of eternal truth that dropped out of heaven, you’d think it’d be the best book ever written. At least as good as a John Grisham novel or a Stephen King. But most Christians who try collapse in the middle of Leviticus.

Plus, Mike noticed most Christians are as unenthusiastic about death as everyone else. But if every Christian is one hundred percent certain of the trip to paradise, every diagnosis of a terminal illness should be a reason for celebration, “Congratulations! You’re going Home!”

Mike realized that, for most Christians, Christianity is not an all-encompassing reality. Most go through life as practical atheists: He’s planning the weather for my fishing trip, getting me a parking spot at the mall, and finding me my keys when I can’t find them.

After seeing the contradictory behavior of his parish and the errors in the Bible, Mike didn’t feel comfortable preaching the inspired, inerrant word of an omniscient omnibenevolent deity.

He had lost his faith. And knew he was in a world of hurt.

Why?

If you lose faith in your spouse, you lose your family but still have your job. If you lose your job, you have no income but you do have a family.

Lose your faith as a pastor? You lose everything.

That’s why Mike joined the Clergy Project. An organisation that helps atheists escape the pulpit and start a new way of life. A way of life that doesn’t force you to preach servitude to an Eye in the sky when you feel that prayers are like golf balls lobbed into the ocean.

A man who gives weekly sermons on life and offers council to all seems like someone who has his life in order. But that person may be going through more trouble than you think.

Religious or not, we all have problems. And only rooting for your team makes them much bigger.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach