A new off-Broadway play about clergy who stopped believing in God is currently playing in New York City to applause from the “official newspaper.”
The New York Times calls it a “smart, thin game [that] listen to his characters without judgment.
The play, “The Unbelieving,” is inspired by interviews with clergy conducted for the book Taken to the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind, philosopher and writer Daniel Dennett and researcher Linda LaScola. “The piece is drawn almost entirely verbatim from Linda’s amazing interviews with these fine, lonely, good people,” Dennett told FFRF.
Dennett and LaScola, who are both FFRF members, are the founders, along with Richard Dawkins and FFRF co-chair Dan Barker, of The Clergy Project. The project creates a safe and secure online community made up entirely of religious leaders or former leaders who no longer hold supernatural beliefs. The Clergy Project now has more than 1,000 members, most of whom have “come out of God’s closet” and serve as support for those who are still “picked up in the pulpit.”
“The Unbelieving,” playing at 59E59 Theater, premiered Oct. 20 and will run through Saturday, Nov. 19. The play was written by Marin Gazzaniga, is directed by Steve Cosson and produced by La Scola and Dennett. LaScola herself is depicted in the play interviewing members of the clergy who find themselves in the dilemma of no longer believing.
“In the classic tale of religious conversion, finding God holds the promise of a life filled with purpose and meaning,” the play’s website reads. “But what happens when this transformation happens in reverse and a faith you’ve built your life around begins to crumble? ‘The Unbelieving’ takes a penetrating look at the lives of members practicing clergy – Catholics, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims – who have stopped believing in God.
The play is staged by renowned downtown New York City theater company, The Civilians, which specializes in documentary-style plays. “The Unbelieving” tells the intimate stories of the clergy “showing the struggles, courage and humor of these ‘unbelievers’ as they face the most difficult decision of their lives – to continue living in secret or risk it all. telling the truth,” according to the website.
Dan Barker will participate in a “response” after the matinee show this Saturday, November 5. He knows most of the clergy depicted in the play personally and has, in fact, referred many of them to The Clergy Project. Barker was an ordained evangelical preacher with a largely musical ministry, who “lost faith in the faith” in his early 30s. He wrote several books about his experiences, including Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and Impious.
“I know exactly what it’s like to throw out the bathwater and find out there’s no baby there,” Barker jokes. “It’s an incredible gift to see our collective experiences portrayed so faithfully on stage.”
Watch the play’s trailer here. And buy tickets (just $40) or get more info here.