From Minister to Atheist to Believer Again: The Story of Teresa MacBain

A Pastor turned Atheist rediscovered God and is now helping people struggling with their own faith.

Teresa MacBain was a conservative Southern Baptist pastor who joined The Clergy Project, a private community of people who have served in the clergy but have doubts for the faith they keep. MacBain shocked the world in 2012 when she appeared at an American Atheists convention and publicly declared she did not believe in God. However, she has recently rediscovered God and has a new mission.

On her website it is stated, “After several years as a prominent atheist, she rediscovered God’s grace through music and the unconditional love of family and friends. Now, as a Progressive Christian, Teresa is committed to her life's mission: helping people struggling with their own faith.”

In 2012, MacBain said in an interview with NPR, “I'm currently an active pastor and I'm also an atheist. I live a double life. I feel pretty good on Monday, but by Thursday — when Sunday's right around the corner — I start having stomachaches, headaches, just knowing that I got to stand up and say things that I no longer believe in and portray myself in a way that's totally false."

Before going to the American Atheists convention in Bethesda, Maryland, MacBain had been a United Methodist pastor for 9 years. In the week preceding the convention, she made a recording on her iPhone, commenting, “I got to come out. I got to get out of it. It used to terrify me, what people's reaction would be. But it's been so long now and I've done this for so long, I don't even care."

On March 26, 2012 as she stood at the front of the convention, she said, “My name is Teresa. I'm a pastor currently serving a Methodist church — at least up to this point, and I am an atheist. I was the one on the right track, and you were the ones that were going to burn in hell. And I'm happy to say as I stand before you right now, I'm going to burn with you."

Her comments led to her being immediately locked out and replaced in her church. She lost some close friends and her life was radically altered. Her family was her refuge, with her husband stating, “That's why I spent 23 years in the Army. That's why I'm still a police officer. We have freedom of speech and freedom of thought. And God never forced anybody to believe, so who am I to step up?"

Following her recent statement on her own website declaring that she has rediscovered God, The Clergy Project posted a statement:

After not hearing much from Teresa over the last few months, The Clergy Project discovered yesterday [October 15, 2016] that she has now returned to the Christian faith and is again active in Christian church ministry. Upon reaching out to her and participating in a friendly yet detailed conversation, Teresa made it clear that she has, in fact, returned to belief in the existence of the supernatural. Subsequently resigning her Clergy Project membership, Teresa’s access into our private online community has been deactivated. Due to security of information concerns, it may also be worth noting that Teresa had not logged into the online forum since January of this year.

Some of our membership and of the larger freethought community may feel frustration over this turn of events.  But we remind ourselves that such is the nature of free thought itself. Life is a long and winding journey, and our personal experiences and perceptions of the world around us are ever-evolving. Just as we are free to leave supernaturalism for atheism, so we are free to shift our embrace the other way as well. We at The Clergy Project may be disappointed to see Teresa leave our ranks, but we nonetheless wish her well and thank her for her years of friendship.

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