What? Oh, of course!
Rev. Atheist, like Rev. Humanist and Rev. Freethinker.
We hear a number of agitated faithful ask, “How can you be an Atheist/Humanist/Freethinker and be a Chaplain, or call yourself a Clergyperson? You can’t DO that?”
Here is my abbreviated reply:
1) Actually, I can and I do.
2) Though a secular is by definition a non-theist, non-supernaturalist, we need to take a closer look at what “Reverend” means.
For example, I was trained as a minister and received a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary. I was ordained by a recognized denomination (Presbyterian). This means that I had 8 years of Religious Studies, Bible, Counseling, Psychology, World Religions, etc. and then served as a Chaplain for twenty-five years. I “gave back” my ordination, but continued to work as a Chaplain. Not a problem. Then, I was ordained by the Universal Life Monastery in Seattle (mail order, ten bucks—much cheaper than seminary!). So, technically, I can still call myself “Reverend” or a “Minister,” though I am not a theist believer. I rarely refer to myself as “Reverend” but often as a Chaplain.
What does the word “reverend” mean anyway? One deserving (perhaps) reverence or respect. A member of “the Clergy.”
What does “Clergy” mean? “Ordained for religious duties.”
What are “religious duties”? Depends on whom you ask!
Ah, that’s the rub!
Those who say there can be no “Atheist Clergy” already have their own definitions that exclude pretty much ALL Clergy not of their special faith. One whom they “revere” and consider a leader in “religious duties” represents Their God (their definition of God). So, these folks would probably not accept or “revere” Other Clergy, such as Imams, Rabbis, Gurus, Priests, Priestesses, etc.
See the problem? I think it’s fairly clear: Some will only revere, respect and honor those they consider, they believe, are “ordained” or “called” by The One True God. . .Their God. All others are Imposters, Actors, Fakes.
I think this is the foundation and the context for denying Secular Chaplains and Secular Clergy access to the honorable table, to full inclusion (whether military chaplaincy or any other kind of “ministry”).
So I would suggest that the next time you hear someone question the use of these professional titles by secular representatives, simply point out that they are doing the Work of Good, “called” by the natural instinct to do good and to help with compassion and justice.
In my book, a person EARNS respect and any “reverential honor” through education, experience and content of character. It cannot be bestowed “from Above” or by a Committee.
I think this could be a very interesting discussion!