Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind
by Daniel Dennett & Linda LaScola, Foreword by Richard Dawkins
2015 edition, ISBN 1634310209
The authors of this book interviewed 100 self-identified pastors, priests and rabbis who no longer believed in their former religion. Most of them kept their apostasy secret and continued to work, and be paid, in their ministerial profession, although some have now found other jobs.
The authors have done a good job of using the interviewees' own words to realistically describe their inner struggles, as they rejected their faith and then as they continued to "do the Lord's work" for a god that they knew full well did not exist. What ethical compromises (or blatant lapses) did they encounter and how did they resolve (or excuse) them? How did they feel when their flocks loved them personally and trusted them with some of life's most important questions, which they answered with deliberate lies?
This book is very creepy because the subjects are very creepy. Most of them admit that they used their religion to make a good living long after they knew that their former faith was just one lie after another. They earned their incomes by claiming to stand for absolute truth, while lying through their teeth every time they stepped into the pulpit, officiated a wedding, preached a funeral or gave faux "spiritual" advice to people who loved and trusted them.
Most disturbing of all, however, was the interviewees' repeated claims that they were only the "tip of the iceberg", because they believed that most of their ministerial colleagues were just as unbelieving as they were, the colleagues just lacked the ethical backbone to admit it and find honest work.
If these current and former pastors are correct, then the majority of Protestant, Catholic, Mormon and Jewish religious leaders in the world today are complete hypocrites whose entire careers are built around deliberately conning everyone who loves and trusts them. Although there is no way to verify this claim, it is corroborated by other studies, such as those which are documented in "Bad Religion: How we became a nation of Heretics" by Ross Douthat, and "The Bible In The Balance" by Harold Lindsell.
Also, secret apostasy does a fine job of explaining the behavior of many religious leaders.
Once you get past the creep factor, though, this is a fascinating book. It is well-written, well-documented, extremely believable, and contains profound character studies of 100 individuals who found themselves in the greatest ethical dilemma of their lives.
BTW, I have created a video that will help Christians to determine whether their preacher, priest or minister is one of these secret apostates.