The Clergy Project is one of the most fascinating things to emerge in the past ten years of secularist thought — at first a small academic study, and now a crucial support community for current and former clergy who no longer believe. Linda LaScola, who brought it into being with Daniel Dennett, came to Women in Secularism to tell some of the individual stories of women who came through the project.
Women make up a small portion of the Clergy Project’s members, just 13% out of 728 members, and noted how pay gaps exist for women clergy, but nonetheless are more often found in clergy leadership roles.
The core of LaScola’s presentation was three dramatic readings from the transcripts of her original interviews with those who would be Clergy Project members. LaScola played herself, of course. One interviewee, who went by the name of “Caitlin,” was read by CFI–Northeast Ohio’s Monette Richards, and had a fascinating observation about being a nonbelieving Episcopal priest. “I think there is a place for me as an ordained person.” Just not an ordained priest, professing a religion she didn’t believe in.
The Clergy Project member known as “Candace” was particularly stirring, a Catholic seminarian who was taken aback by the way the role of women was explained to her, and then horrified by the way a sexual abuse scandal was handled, the child-victims being blamed for the crimes committed against them.
“Candace” also described what she called a “cop-out” of progressive believers who justify the nature of God’s existence in contorted ways, and likening it to “peeling the stickers of a Rubik’s cube to make it work.”