Sensible Mr Ripley ditches religion

Sensible Mr Ripley ditches religion

Longtime Canadian minister and religious columnist Rev Bob Ripley has come out as an atheist.

Ripley, a former senior minister at Metropolitan United Church in Toronto – Canada’s largest Protestant church – wrote in his latest syndicated column:

This was not an overnight decision. I didn’t go to bed one night this week a believer and wake up an unbeliever. I wasn’t blinded on Tuesday by the light of reason that led to a deconversion. I began this journey more than seven years ago. It led initially to me taking early retirement from ministry and has continued over the ensuing five years.

Ripley has been a minister for more than 30 years. His announcement coincides with the release of a book explaining the details of what he calls a “deconversion.”

In the column, Ripley tells his religious readers that he had not changed.

The heart that was once surrendered to Jesus Christ, that gave itself to others and infused a vocation with kindness, still beats in me. If you have ever met me, know that the person I was then, I am now, still striving for integrity and capable of profound love.

He also admits that part of him “wanted to remain silent” and avoid risking incurring the anger of some of his readers.

I also know how crippling secrets are and that it is important every once in a while to tell the secret of who we are. If we don’t, we risk coming to believe the edited version of ourselves we hope others will find acceptable.

He says:

Where once I proclaimed the doctrines of Christianity with passion and sincerity, I am now convinced that religion, all religion, is man-made.

He adds:

There is not the space here to detail each signpost along my sojourn from faith. They are meticulously chronicled in my latest book, Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion, being released this week.

In short, after pondering the age and span of the cosmos, the elegant simplicity of evolution by natural selection, the ruthlessness of the God of the Bible, the enigma of expiation for sin by blood sacrifice, the discrepancies in Scripture, the antagonisms and animosities derived from religious fervour and the violence and corruption in church history, adherence to my former beliefs was no longer possible.

And he concludes:

I’m not lost. I began this journey by asking questions. It continued by not being content with trite cliches or lazy affirmations. Curiosity is an amazing accelerant. I am a passionate advocate for unremitting intellectual honesty, for reason and reality, for love and learning. My advocacy simply no longer assumes a deity.

I still believe. I believe no person or group of persons is inferior to any other. I believe that what matters is not so much what we believe, but how we conduct ourselves for these few short, fragile years of being alive.

I believe that being aware of the beauty and wonder of the universe, including this pale blue dot in the remote corner of one of billions of galaxies, is an indescribably wonderful privilege.

8 responses to “Sensible Mr Ripley ditches religion”

  1. Broga says:

    There must be so many more believers just like him but dare not follow where their scepticism leads them. The penalties for unbelief in a Christian community in the USA can be severe. Bob Ripley has retired and he explains the basis of his atheism well. Secrets of such a profound nature are, as he says, crippling.

    As he is a writer I hope he continues to explain why religious belief is suffocating and that atheism provides escape from the strait jacket. We do live on a pale blue dot amidst a vastness that engenders wonder. This feeling far exceeds anything that the petty concerns of the God of the bible is remotely able to approach.

  2. Rob Andrews says:

    One thing not mentioned at all. This is the fear of loosing ones immortality. It’s not a pleasant thought to go to sleep forever – for some people. Religion will disappear when lifespan is raised to, say 200 or more years.

    Also in poor countries the church is the only support people get. Welfare is usually bad in these places.

    No god; no bible; no sin; no hell; no worries; NO PROBLEM

  3. Broga says:

    @Rob Andrew: I have long thought, from conversations with Christians over the years, that the fear, terror indeed, of extinction binds them, often desperately and precariously, to their faith.

    On occasion they mention Pascall’s wager. The problem with that is that they may have bet on the wrong religion out of so many. It might even be that if whatever God exists does exist atheism is the safest bet and least likely to excite his anger. And certainly the biblical God is not lacking in malevolence.

    I have also met Christians terrified of death because they cannot be sure to avoid hell. For myself, I find atheism the most comfortable.

  4. Barry Duke says:

    Cue the slimy Internet troll, Bob Hutton, who will no doubt be messaging me to say that Ripley was never a True Christian (TM).

    Speaking of Hutton, you might be aware that I have been trying for years to get a verifiable photo of this evil, camera-shy, homophobic creep. Well, he just let this slip on sorry-arsed blog.

    “I was in Canterbury last Tuesday outside M and S. I try to get there around 2.20 -2.30pm Monday Tuesday and Thursday but don’t always make it. I generally do about half hour then get a cuppa, and then come back around 3.40 pm for another half hour.”

    If anyone in Canterbury can snap Hutton in action (he also hangs around public toilets to deposit “Chick” tracts) and provide me with a shot, I will donate £50 to the photographer’s charity of choice.

  5. Norman Paterson says:

    Good atheists should become ordained so that we can preach a watered-down faith that does as little harm as possible. Then, after a few years, we can come out and thereby give hope to atheists still in the closet.

    Just an idea.

  6. Broga says:

    @Norman Patterson: I have always fancied a try at being a hell fire preacher. I think the film of Elmer Gantry gave me the idea.

  7. barriejohn says:

    Barry: I remember reading that and thinking that quite a few people must have deposited tracts in public lavatories!

    There’s quite a bit of the Open Air Mission on YouTube, but I don’t see any recordings made in the Canterbury area. This is Norwich, but why anyone would want to broadcast anything quite so embarrassing is beyond comprehension:

  8. Robster says:

    Got to wonder if this bloke feels like a gullible fool for seriously believing the jesus/god nonsense for years, all the silly things he’s told people are the absolute truth for those 30 years, all the worship carry on, silly clothes and funny hats so necessary to maintain the theatre, all the kids he’s tainted with belief. Jees I could just keep on going. Good that he’s ditched the nonsense but I do wonder if he feels a heavy burden of guilt?