RNS draws our attention to Teresa McBain, a Methodist Pastor who came out as an atheist to her entire congregation one year ago, after fifteen years as a pastor.
The depressing part: she was fired from her church. Well, that’s pretty much to be expected, but she was also locked out. And she had to change her email account after all the emails that threatened her with everything from unspecified violence to rape. And a large portion of her former friends have turned their backs on her.
The heartwarming part: the “freethought community” has been really accepting to McBain. She now is the executive director of the Humanists of Florida Association, and travels the country speaking about her experience. She also spends a lot of time answering emails and phone calls about her experience from people who have lost their faith but are afraid to tell people. McBain said,
“They say, ‘I heard your story and I am in a rough spot and I don’t know what to do.’ I am really happy that I am able to help them. That is part of the reason I became a pastor.”
My personal favorite part of this story is the fact that her still-Christian husband has stuck with her – and has found the atheist/agnostic/humanist groups that McBain now frequents to be accepting of his religious views, as well.
I know this website has a “Smugatheism” tag, but it’s good to remember that a lot of the time, people who identify as atheist, agnostic, and humanist can be really moral, supportive, fair people – worlds away from the alarming atheistic fundamentalism of Hitchens, Dawkins, Reddit’s atheist community, etc. In fact, the people who actually face difficulty for being an atheist are less the angry, privileged young neo-cons and neo-liberals that we so often see trashing all forms of religion in the media, and more the moderate people who are integrated into a faith community but find themselves losing belief, and with it, the community. It’s great that these people have a person like Teresa McBain to stand up for their rights and advise them through this transition. Her work is indeed remarkably similar to that of a pastor.