The Athiest Priest
The idea of an atheist priest sounds like an oxy-moron, but it is not. It all depends on what you see as the function of a priest.
On the one hand, you have to deal with the issue of whether religion is real. Is there a God? Does he command you to do X,Y,Z? Is there hell? Is there a heaven?
Let us use the term used in the article. Let us use the term used in the article to refer to the approach to religion acknowledging it is not true. Non-Realism.
Non-RealismRemove all the talk of God, hell, heaven, and crazy study on the bible, and you still have a very useful functions for the priest and the church.
- Center of the community
- Hold community events
- Provide a spiritual outlet (songs, meditation, something greater...)
- Counsel people and families in a culturally aware environment
- Provide a way of life for people to follow
- Be a place people can go to in times of need
- A center to discuss philosophy and morality
- A place to hold onto a traditional way of life or social knowledge
Now sure, we can by cynical and assume it is all about the reality that their livelyhood depends on being a priest. Not just the money, but their status and position.
I for one cannot fathom who you can seriously study any religion with its texts, myths, its history, its origins,and still believe it to true and real, while being intellectually honest with yourself. I know this is the hardest task, but it is true. Ask any Muslim to debunk Christianity, and they will do it quickly. Ask any Christian to debunk Islam, and they will do it easily. The introspective is hard and identity threatening. The same goes for any person of faith debunking other faiths.
Can It Be DoneIt can and has been done. I would suggest the more vague a religion is or can be commonly interpreted, the more likely you can head down this path. The concept of God becomes one of a transcendent presence or spiritual oneness. Rigid religious rules fall away to context and time.
The question is, can religious leaders admit to it and continue to operate their places of worship?
Such is an interesting question. Do they need to admit it, or can they just make the religious part of their religion irrelevant. It is probably easier with Hinduism or Bhuddism or Sikhism. I know quite a few Hindus whose concept of religion has morphed into some vague idea of universal belonging. On the other hand, it would probably be harder with say Islam.