by Bil Aulenbach

Can a Pastor Be an Atheist?

My church is currently searching for a new pastor, and in a discussion group, I asked, “What would you think if our new pastor admitted that she or he was an atheist?”

A few people replied, “No way!” Most were quiet. Did they respond this way because that idea had never crossed their mind? Maybe they didn’t want to offend me by saying, “That was a really dumb question, Bil!” I was the only one who said, “That would be great!”

On April 13, 2020, the Los Angeles Times featured an article about Ron Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, being an avowed atheist. This revived the topic of whether one can be both a Christian and an atheist in my ever-blogging mind.

I am an avowed A-theist. I do not believe in a god who lives with his son in many mansions above a flat earth. I am against the continued worship of that kind of higher power in the twenty-first century.

A majority of educated people would agree that the earth isn’t flat, no mansions are floating around in the billions of galaxies the universe contains, and the earth is comparable in size to a single grain of sand on a huge beach.

I also believe that this universe is in a constant state of creation, so I call my concept of a higher power Creation and assert that worshippers should therefore take care of our world.

However, I also believe in free will. I make my own choices and am responsible for all my actions. No master puppeteer lives UpThere answering prayers or directing everyone’s lives.

I also know that I have a Christ, that his name is Jesus, and that his message is centered around agape. I know I am a staunch Follower. Whether I am labeled Christian or not doesn’t matter as long as I demonstrate agape 24/7.

With this in mind, I ask again: can one be both a pastor and an avowed atheist? I say yes because I think such a person would be authentic, which is my definition of spiritual.

When I worked as a pastor, I always preached whatever the institutional church told me to, even though I didn’t necessarily believe it, because I wanted my paycheck.

I think an atheistic pastor would preach honest sermons and teach provocative classes. I believe such a person would challenge churchgoers’ preconceptions and encourage us to grow and continue being all we can be.

An atheist pastor would teach us a new, more action-oriented way than addressing empty demands to NoOneUpThere.

I strongly suspect that an atheist pastor would attract many new congregants because people today are searching for authenticity, not antiquated dogma.

So, what are the chances that the new pastor will be an open atheist? Next to none—I’m not sure today’s churchgoers are ready for such a radical change.

If my church did hire an atheist pastor, would you attend?

 

Image courtesy of Zicarlo van Aalderen (CC BY 2.0)

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