I have just finished reading “Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind” by Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola. The book is an overview of the qualitative research the authors performed of those in the ministry who have reached a point where they no longer believe in the message they preach. The beauty of the book is how it takes a look at these individuals as human beings and the logistical challenges associated with continuing to work for something that you no longer believe in. In any other line of work this would not be strange, and in many cases commended, but not so much within the clergy profession.
The book does a good job of casting a wide net to include individuals from many different denominations and beliefs, ranging from liberal to literalists. It details their internal struggles of falling out of a belief system that many have committed their life too. As well, it highlights the challenges and consequences that arise if these congregational leaders decide to look for a new line of work. Most of these individuals have gone to seminary or schools of divinity, and now find themselves with the same types of worries that non-clergy members have when considering a career change (income, health care, retirement).
While the authors, from the very beginning of the book, express the challenges associated with “qualitative” research and that any extrapolation of their findings should be used with care, it does provide us with insight that these individuals do exist, and possibly on a larger scale than most would imagine. If you have an open mind, both believers and non-believers can enjoy the stories in this book and the observations provided by its authors.