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Atheists in the pulpit

Dutch pastors doubt God

By Michael Hollenbach

Doubts under the cross: sometimes pastors have a hard time believing in God. (Stock.XCHNG / Robert Aichinger)

Whoever proclaims the words of Christ must be sure. Doubts about the existence and omnipotence of God are not part of the pastoral profession. But a Dutch study shows that theologians often have problems with this. 16 percent of pastors are not sure of God, 2 percent admit they do not believe.

We profess our Christian faith: I believe in God the Father.

"I always put it this way for myself: I can't say whether there is a God, I cannot say whether there is no God, the question of whether there is a God or not arises for me no longer. Other things have become important to me ","

says Mario Buletta from Hamburg.

"" I am a trained Protestant pastor and I now do cabaret, moderation, rhetorical training and direct in the field of cabaret. "

Mario Buletta is one of hundreds of theologians who have lost their faith. Mario Buletta has drawn the consequences and hung up his gown:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Many pastors who, as pastors, ought to believe in God because of their work, no longer really know what to believe in, says the Dutch sociologist of religion Hijme Stoffels. He examined the faith of Dutch pastors. One of his results: For most theologians, God is something like light, power or a father figure, but only 40 percent of Protestant theologians consider him an omnipotent creator of heaven and earth.

"The people between 35 and 65 are only a minority who can be found in it with the interpretation: God as Almighty."

I am a pastor and an atheist, says Klaas Hendrikse. He is pastor of the evangelical congregation in Middelburg, the Netherlands. Is he a christian too?

"I'm a Christian, but I don't feel very Christian. I'm a Christian pastor, so it's hard to say: I'm not a Christian. I grew up in a Christian culture here, I work in a Christian church, but I'm pretty sure that if I were born in Thailand, for example, I wouldn't be a Christian. "

This makes Klaas Hendrikse one of those theologians who do not believe in God or no longer believe in God. The Dutch sociologist of religion Hijme Stoffels has
during his investigation found that a significant number of Dutch pastors have problems with their faith:

"Then we found that 16 percent have doubts about God and even two percent who said: I don't believe there is a God."

After all, if you extrapolate the percentages, it means that there are around 70 atheists among the evangelical pastors in the Netherlands, and the Amsterdam scientist is convinced that the results of his study can be transferred to German pastors. That would mean,
that there are around 450 atheist, Protestant pastors in this country.

"I did not expect that so many pastors would have such an existential doubt about God, a small group did, but one in six pastors says: I doubt that God exists. That also caused a small storm in the church that parishioners asked their pastor: Are you one of those who don't believe in God? "

Klaas Hendrikse is one of them.

"I don't believe God exists, but I believe in God."

The evangelical pastor is certain:

"God is the name for an experience."

Hendrikse differentiates between rather inconsequential experiences that are no longer important, and those experiences, experiences that move a person deeply:

"What can happen on the level of interpersonal experience? One of the words that can be used to describe this is God. This is how I see God: It is the name for something that is difficult to grasp, but it's just a word for God. "

This divine happens between people: not necessarily in conversation, but also through silence, through gestures, through touch.

"You can call this God. I call it God."

Communion of saints, forgiveness of sins, resurrection of the dead and eternal life.

No, as an atheist pastor, Klaas Hendrikse does not believe in the resurrection of the dead and eternal life. However, he believes that he will soon get into trouble with his church. The reason: In these days his book will appear, in which he explains why he does not believe in the existence of God.