I’ve corresponded with lots of ministry-minded people who have lost their faith, many of whom once were or still are church pastors. What these good folks fear most about going secular is losing the privilege of reaching out in love to hurting people, or the urgency to do so.
Here’s a question from one of them:
After nearly five years away from the church I am just beginning to feel the spark of mission again. During that time I have not actively pursued anything ‘spiritual’, but I notice that I am always moved to my core by any and every expression of selfless love, which leads me to wonder if such love is my real god. Clearly you have found plenty of life and meaning and ministry on the other side of supernaturalism, but do you ever wonder if that ‘mission spark’ we share is just an old Christian tape playing in our heads?
Here’s my reply:
Nah, that spark is no Christian tape! On the contrary, that spark happens when your compassion for needy people get mixed up with your desire to ensure the future of our species (including your own genes, of course), both of which are wonderful, natural instincts that make me grateful for evolution, not to mention life itself. Indeed, I’m fairly certain it was that spark that inspired our ancestors to invent religion in the first place, not the other way around.
We human beings are meaning making machines and throughly social animals. Our desire to form circles of trust and then work and even sacrifice ourselves to make those circles thrive is as basic to our identities as our desires for food and sex. So then, in this moment at least, don’t look back. Instead, enjoy the instinctual dignity of your calling!
And here’s my invitation: Feel free to write to me yourself, especially if you’re trying to sort out a new mission in life. I love that stuff!