I've visited many times but finally decided to join up.
I've been an atheist for about thirty years. I went through a period of time when I was in my twenties where I decided to get serious about my religion, so I started attending church regularly, studying the bible carefully, and thinking about god and praying. The more I read, the more I prayed, the more I studied, the more I thought, the less I believed. Finally, one day, I said, "No more."
By the way, did you know that the Church of Christ has a procedure that's kind of like excommunication? I've long since lost the letter they sent me. It said, in essence, "We can't see you or socialize with you or accept you unless you repent, so please stay away from us until you do." That might sound like a pretty good offer, but some of those people I never saw again were my friends, or at least I thought they were.
I've been out to a greater or lesser extent the whole time. I don't put atheism in anyone's face but if you ask me what I believe I'm gonna tell you that I'm an atheist. And if you ask me why I'll tell you -- if you can take it. Because at some point I'm gonna tell you that I think it was a bunch stuff somebody made up. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, you name it. And if you suggest it's just a phase I'll show you my tattoo.
I do draw the line on atheist bumper stickers, though. My car can't fight back and I don't want it vandalized. There are some unchristlike christians around here. I mean, unless Jesus was kind of a thug.
I like to communicate with like minded people, and with open minded people of any belief. I have no desire to deconvert anyone. But because I well remember how difficult and frightening deconversion is, and how difficult those coming out conversations with family and friends can be, I want to offer what little I've learned in thirty years to those now going through it. I want people to know that it feels great on the other side of that stuff. I'm free, I'm out, and it's OK!
It's an interesting topic, and I know it's been discussed on the forums. I don't have any personal experience with it, having more or less avoided clergy in general for a number of years. But it stands to reason that it would be so. I think some of them accept doubt as a part of faith, and if that works for them, fine. I'm somewhat beyond mere doubt in my own life. I'm not qualified to say whether a particular minister who comes to doubt should stay or leave, but for those who are leading inauthentic lives, well, it must be dreadful for them.