General Question

talljasperman's avatar

Do you have to believe in God to become a priest?

Asked by talljasperman (21858points) November 2nd, 2015

Or can you lie and say that you do?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

30 Answers

jca's avatar

I would think if you become a priest, you have to believe in God and do all that is expected of priests (devoting your life to God, etc.).

elbanditoroso's avatar

I can’t speak for catholics or protestants.

I have known more than a few rabbis who didn’t believe in ‘god’ as a single omnificent being. Their views were more nebulous, based on values, tradition, and prayer. But they weren’t really sure about God being the big dude in the silver chair.

Seek's avatar

I can’t say for certain whether there are people who intentionally go into ministry with the intent to deceive. There probably are, but for obvious reasons they aren’t open about it.

There are, however, plenty of ministers of all faiths who find themselves going through a loss of faith, and continue to maintain their congregations. This is often because they have never had another trade, and don’t know what else to do. There’s also a societal pressure and embarrassment issue. It’s easier to lie than to face telling your family and your congregants that you no longer believe.

See The Clergy Project

thorninmud's avatar

Well, I’m a priest and I don’t believe in God.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why are you a priest then, @thorninmud? Why would anyone go into a profession like that if they didn’t believe in God? For the money?

Coloma's avatar

I guess it depends of what sort of priest you are. If you’re talking in the traditional sense I think it is kinda like asking if you have to like animals to become a veterinarian or cars to become a mechanic. No, but it sure would be a good idea. haha

jca's avatar

You can be a priest in Paganism or Satanic priest. I think if you are a Catholic priest you should probably believe in Catholicism.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

No. Several priests clearly don’t. Most of them make the news.

thorninmud's avatar

@Dutchess_III I’m a Zen Buddhist priest. Belief in God isn’t in the job description.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Maybe @talljasperman could specify what kind of priest?

Buttonstc's avatar


That’s really interesting. The only title I’ve ever heard of in regard to Buddhism has been “monk” (or Dalai Llama).

Just for curiosity, what is the difference between a Buddhist Priest and. Buddhist Monk? What would entitle someone to be termed a Priest in the Buddhist tradition?

(I was aware that belief in God isn’t a requirement for anyone in Buddhism.)

Buttonstc's avatar


Since you’ve previously mentioned that your background was RC, to answer your Q I’m going to assume that you’re referring to being a Roman Catholic Priest.

The answer to your Q about whether someone could lie and claim to believe even if they didn’t is, of course, yes. Anybody can lie about anything. How long someone could keep up the pretense without others finding out is another matter altogether.

But here’s my Q to you: isn’t that a pretty cynical thing to do (even if you get away with it?)

Why would you purposely choose to live a lie? What’s the point? How can there be any peace or satisfaction in a life like that? I would imagine that living a lie would get pretty depressing after awhile.

And when one comes to the end of a life lived as a lie, how does someone reconcile the end of that life with the sham that was lived?

I may not have a lot in this life in terms of wealth or fame, but I can say that I have my integrity and have lived my life honestly. Let the chips fall where they may.

I doubt I could be so at peace were my entire life one big elaborate charade based upon a lie.

I don’t know who could find satisfaction in that.

talljasperman's avatar

@Buttonstc I’m interested in learning more about Theravada buddism. I walked to the library and signed out two books on Buddhism. I will read them for now. I’m looking for learning more about retroactive rencaration.

dappled_leaves's avatar

There’s no float test – so, sure, you can lie. I would be surprised if every priest actually believed in god, even assuming we’re not talking about Buddhism here..

thorninmud's avatar

@Buttonstc In my lineage, “monk” implies that the person has taken a vow of celibacy. Most Zen lineages have a form of ordination that allows for non-celibate relationships, and we call those ordaineds “priests”. To be a priest, you have to be ordained by another priest, which involves (at a minimum) taking the precepts and agreeing to whatever rules that particular order imposes. In most cases, there would be certain preparatory steps that the order requires to make sure the candidate is well-informed of the significance of the ordination and determined to follow through on it.

@talljasperman Theravada Buddhism only ordains people as monks or nuns; there’s no equivalent of what we would call “priests”. Just FYI.

janbb's avatar

^^ I’ve heard of Judas Priest but Buddhist Priests?

Buttonstc's avatar


Thanks. That was really interesting to find out about.

That’s what I love about Fluther; the opportunity to learn something new.

Response moderated (Spam)
stanleybmanly's avatar

It depends entirely on your definition of priest. To illustrate the point, what’s your reaction to hearing some financial muck described as the “high priest of Wall Street”? There’s just no telling what some folks will “worship”.

ucme's avatar

I don’t know, but this reminds me of a Harvey Keitel quote in Dust til Dawn where he, as a priest, says that everyone in that vocation, at some point, looks in the mirror & asks themselves “what am I doing”
Self doubt, a lapse or something else, it’s a quote that made sense, to me at least.

JLeslie's avatar

I think you can be a Priest and lie about believing in God, but it would be tough on the person. Becoming a Priest takes a long time I think, and having to learn and talk about fine thing you don’t believe in on a constant basis sounds mentally boring and taxing.

I remember once seeing a report about Ministers and Priests who stop believing in God and continue to do their job. The report said there is some sort of website out there where clergy who no longer believe can chat with each other. They can be anonymous and vent and discuss.

Buttonstc's avatar


Have you checked out the link that @Seek posted?

I do think there is an essential difference between someone who started out OK but then lost their faith (for whatever reason) and someone who enters by lying in the first place.

That just strikes me as beyond cynical.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Nope. I hadn’t read the answers above. Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll take a look.

Edit: This isn’t really a big deal, but I’ll mention it, I clicked on the two stories written by members and when I looked at the first one my gaydar had bells ringing when I looked at his photo. Then I clicked on the second story, and he too I had a sense he was gay, but not as strong. The second story he talks about coming out of the closet.

Seek's avatar

Remember that many churches are run like businesses. They pay a salary to their preachers, music staff, etc.

I know more than a few non-Christian heavy metal musicians who have taken paying gigs as worship leaders in churches, because the only requirements we an ability to play an instrument, and willingness to sign a “statement of faith”.

When you are utterly broke and believe blasphemy is a victimless crime, that particular lie can look quite white.

Brian1946's avatar

I hereby state that I believe in the existence of a Supreme being (Diana Ross). ;-)

kritiper's avatar

Why not? There are people in other professions who don’t know jack about what they profess. Just do your thing and don’t let on that you don’t believe. Live by the golden rule, though, otherwise you might be found out and run out. If no one asks you if you believe or not, no problem. If you lie and say you do, who would you be hurting/offending? You wouldn’t want to be aiding and abetting criminals whilst acting chaste in a priestly manner. And a job is a job!

Strauss's avatar

In traditional Christianity (mostly pre-reformation), a priest, by definition, is an intermediary between the members of the “congregation” and the “God”. As such they are trained to perform rituals, administer sacraments, and provide counselling.

ucme's avatar

Major typo from me up there ^^^ Dust til Dawn?!? Sounds like a marathon spell of housework.

Pantera's avatar

When you say, “priest” are you speaking of a Roman Catholic clergy, specifically? Or also including Protestant minsters? And are you including Jewish Rabbis?

Regardless, as an Pagan atheist and Recovering Catholic, I would think that a minister, priest, or Rabbi wold probably be better at his job and more effective in helping his congregation if he really WAS a True Believer. That is, believed in a personal, Theist God. A biblical type, that is, which listens to and answers our prayers.

That being said, I am 100% positive that there are scores of minsters, priests and rabbis out there who do NOT believe in a Theist type of God. And for a variety of reasons: some may have once been believers, but their Faith has waned—as it has for many of the once-religious types. This is very natural, since we all know that there has never been the slightest, scantest evidence of god existing. Of ANY sort.

And some in the priesthood and the ministry never believed, and get into their occupation for different reasons. Power, control, manipulation, et al. And we don’t even have to “go there” with the pedophile issue and the Roman Catholic Church.

The fact that we have in the past decade or so discovered the RCC to be absolutely infested with pederast priests surprises me not the least. I have been aware of this for years, personally. And also am aware that the ministry and the priesthood attract a good deal of sociopaths. Indeed, when you think about it is the perfect profession for one, due to its vast opportunities to garner ill-placed trust and then take advantage.

And, even as a very anti-religion atheist, I find this a shame.

I will close by saying that, even though at the outset I said I thought it would be beneficial for a priest to believe in God, I DO think that a good man, who really wants to help people, could still be a good priest or minister even if he knew the truth: that there is virtually no way a biblical, theist God could exist. For, he could be like a counselor, a confidant, and a motivator. Remember that one does not have to believe in God to learn from and follow the teachings of Jesus. He doesn’t have to believe that Jesus was God, or even was in any way divine. So. a non-believing priest could incorporate Jesus’ teachings into his helping of others.

I personally feel that by far, Jesus’ teachings are the best and most useful part of the Bible.

Summersky's avatar

My answer to the question would be ‘yes’ but implicit in this question is the need to try and define what is being meant by the word God and there are as many answers to this as there are people on the planet! Religions bring their respective wisdoms (and follies!) to help people find their way but even the broadest and most open of them can’t contain the whole truth of it. I am sure that priests, like the rest of us who question conventional teachings will find times when their particular religion departs from their inner convictions and experiences and particularly so when God is confined to the limits of human understanding. By logic alone, surely a priest, by the promises he makes to whichever religion he serves, has acknowledged a Supreme Power that conforms in some way to his thinking or he/ she wouldn’t have made that undertaking? That he may then find that his experiences no longer allow him to see God in a way that conforms to the religion he serves doesn’t automatically mean that he/she has to conclude that God doesn’t exist.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther