Almost 4 years ago I made this post, my inaugural post to this site and the very first time I admitted to anyone other than myself that I am an atheist. 3 years, 7 months, 21 days. It’s just a little over 4 years since I admitted to myself that I am an atheist. Tomorrow I do not get up at 8:30 and get ready to go to my job, directing music in a very conservative Southern Baptist church, as I have almost every Sunday morning for five years and three months (I missed a couple of Sundays because of the flu, or vacation, but of the 274 Sundays since I started I was probably there for 265 of them. Last week was my last day as the music director. I am finally free of that job.
I do not currently have anything to take its place, however. This wasn’t a choice I made entirely on my own. No, no one at the church has found out about my unbelief, and I wasn’t fired from the position. When I took the job I was in graduate school. It was an interim music director position–generally what a church does is hire someone on a temporary, interim, basis while they search for someone to fill the permanent position. Usually these jobs last a year or two, sometimes less. The last one I did was 10 months. For a variety of reasons this one didn’t end, and the church has not been seeking someone permanent. In fact, many of the members assumed I was a permanent employee until recently. Two months ago the Personnel Committee told me that they had decided to end the interim position, effective at the end of May, and hire someone for the permanent, still part-time, music minister position. I would have to apply for the position, and they would have to advertize it even if I did apply, but I got the idea that my application would take priority over any others.
I decided I could not, in good conscious, apply for the new position. When I was hired, just over five years ago, I thought I was still a believer. I didn’t lie to them when I told them that. I would have to lie to them this time around and I can’t do that. It’s one thing to continue acting like it in a position I already have, but to lie as a part of the hiring process seems more dishonest to me. And, of course, I have planned to leave as soon as I find a secular job for quite some time and that would not change. It wouldn’t be very fair to them to accept the position and then a couple of months down the road resign, forcing them to perform a search again. So, a couple of weeks later I told them that I would not be applying for the permanent position. (I also found out that they will be requiring more hours and possibly be giving less pay for the new position, so… Yeah, that’s not going to happen.)
I’ve maintained the lie that I am a believer. I don’t want to burn my bridges, and this is 5 years of work history that I wouldn’t want to mess up while I look for another job. So my line has been that, “I just don’t feel that this is what I’m called to do now,” and lots of stuff about how I’ve prayed about this and such. I know that to some, especially the Christian readers, the difference in lying to them about this, and all along for the past four years, and lying to the committee to apply for the job may not seem like much, but it feels very different to me and is a line I just can’t cross. I know there are those who think I am a terrible person for having kept this job for over four years without being a believer. I’ve done what I had to in order to survive.
If I had come clean to them I would have been out of a job four years ago, and I may have ended up having to move back home. It would likely have come back to my parents that I am no longer a believer, too. Now, I trust my family to not react the way some do when they find their children are atheists–cutting off all communication and support, kicking them out if they live at home–but I have no way of knowing for sure. It wouldn’t be very smart to make a move that would cost me my job and then possibly cost me any family support I have all in one blow.
Anyway, it no longer matters. I’m done. I am no longer a secret atheist music minister. I’m free of the church, free of the lies I had to maintain, and free of having to listen to my bigoted, anti-science pastor spew bullshit from the pulpit every week. I’m quite happy about it, though the prospect of not having a job does not really make me comfortable.
But tomorrow morning I get to sleep in and enjoy not going to church. I’ve probably missed church on a Sunday morning fewer than 34 times in my 34 years of life, and now I won’t have any obligation to go back.
Edit: I don’t intend this to be the last post to this blog. It’ll still probably be infrequent, but I won’t be shutting it down. The title was simply referring to my “ministry” at the church.