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Cognitive Dissonance Among the Clergy

What happens when clergy begin to doubt

While Bruce Gierson's article, "An Atheist in the Pulpit," in the most recent issue of Psychology Today often devolves into a spiritual travelogue of clergy de-conversion, it does alert us to some of the personal and practical dilemmas raised when persons involved in professional ministry come to realize they doubt their beliefs.

Given that Gierson is writing for Psychology Today, it should come as no surprise that the story focuses on the "deeply inauthentic" feelings and accompanying "psychic stress" that results from a disconnect between a minister's public preaching, pastoral care, or performance of the liturgy, and his or her private doubts or disbelief. His clergy characters are often cast as heroes who live by Shakespeare's line–"to thine own self be true"–and uphold the "inviolability of the individual conscience." Better to be true to self than keep one's commitments, however far removed they now seem.

To be fair, I have sometimes wondered, in my contemplation of ordained ministry, ...

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