The Clergy Project is a pretty name that evokes the notion of strengthening pastors or recruiting them. But it is in fact a fellowship supported by many atheist groups for pastors who have lost their faith and are finally "coming out." The new member stands and says in public, "Hello, I'm_____, and I'm an atheist," which is followed by thunderous applause.
This reminds me of Isaiah's vision of newcomers to hell:
"Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. All of them will answer and say to you: 'You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!'" (Isaiah 14:9-10)
There is comradery among those who throw off the yoke of God. People who have no natural affinity become friends:
"And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other" (Luke 23:12).
Of course, it's not much of a friendship when hatred is your only bond. Eventually one will devour the other, as C.S. Lewis deftly illustrates throughout The Screwtape Letters:
"My dear, my very dear, Wormwood, my poppet, my pigsnie,
"How mistakenly, now that all is lost, you come whimpering to ask me whether the terms of affection in which I address you meant nothing from the beginning. Far from it! Rest assured, my love for you and your love for me are as like as two peas. I have always desired you, as you (pitiful fool) desired me. The difference is that I am the stronger. I think they will give you to me now; or a bit of you. Love you? Why, yes. As dainty a morsel as ever I grew fat on. …
"Your increasingly and ravenously affectionate uncle,
I have two other, unrelated, thoughts about The Clergy Project.
The first is that, personally, I would be embarrassed to stand up before an auditorium and call myself an "atheist." Is it me or is it the height of silliness for a creature whose brain weighs 1,300 grams to make such a grandiose metaphysical pronouncement with absolute certainty? I mean, where did the fella do his research, and in what court did he try and win his judicial case? Did he get a Ph.D. for his achievement, and what school offered it?
My second is that this business of clergy losing their faith may not be a black-or-white or did-or-didn't affair after all, but a spectrum where clergy fall into many gradations. Even among the clergy, are there not some who take every Word of God as absolute truth, while there are others whose "soft" atheism manifests as a traditional reverence for our venerable ancient book that contains much of interest but that does not function as a rule of life?