Filmmaker tackles loss of faith

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What happens when clergy no longer believe in God? Winnipeg filmmaker Leslea Mair decided to find out.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/05/2019 (1304 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

What happens when clergy no longer believe in God? Winnipeg filmmaker Leslea Mair decided to find out.

“I was very curious about what it would be like for ministers to lose their faith,” said Mair, CEO and president of Zoot Pictures.

Raised in the United Church, Mair says leaving faith to become an atheist wasn’t a problem for her. “But I had never thought about it from a minister’s perspective. What do you do if you find you don’t believe, but being a minister is your job?”

Answers to that question are found in Losing Our Religion, Mair’s documentary about the challenges facing ministers who stop believing.

The documentary, co-directed with Leif Kaldor, will be shown May 18, 1 p.m. at the Carol Shields Auditorium at the Millennium Library. It features interviews with a range of clergy in Canada, the U.S. and England — some who are open about not believing, and others who are still undercover about their doubts.

One of the people Mair interviewed is Catherine Dunphy of Toronto, who was in seminary studying to be a Roman Catholic chaplain when she started losing her faith.

“It was an accumulation of things,” she said of how she began to have doubts. “There was a disconnect between what I had heard from the pulpit and what I learned at seminary.”

For her, this included the historical authenticity of things in the Bible like Adam and Eve, the virgin birth and the resurrection of Jesus.

“When you put things like that under a microscope, it’s enough to turn anyone into an atheist,” she stated, adding she grew tired of the “intellectual gymnastics” required to keep believing.

Dunphy went on to become a humanist chaplain at the University of Toronto and write a book about her experience, titled From Apostle to Apostate. She also co-founded The Clergy Project, a support network for clergy and other religious professionals who find they no longer believe.

Her journey wasn’t easy, Dunphy said, and she still grieves the loss “of a lifetime of belief.” But giving up faith also “was a relief, letting it fall to the wayside.”

For Mair, the documentary shows how hard it can be for ministers to reveal their doubts.

“When they tell people they’ve lost their faith, the rejection can be swift and mean,” she said.

For that reason, many clergy keep their doubts hidden, leading a double life that can lead to fear and stress. “It’s like being gay in the 1950s — you don’t dare tell anyone,” she said.

The showing of Losing Our Religion is sponsored by the Manitoba chapter of the Centre for Inquiry.

It will include a Q-and-A with Mair and Kaldor after the showing. Admission is free, but tickets need to be reserved at Eventbrite.

faith@freepress.mb.ca

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John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.

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