About the Book

What happens when your entire life and career are constructed around a religious faith that you no longer possess? Do you continue to promote a gospel that you have intellectually and emotionally rejected to maintain your livelihood and the support and respect you receive from your community? Or do you renounce your faith to your congregation and the public at large, putting yourself and your family at risk? Catherine Dunphy offers a comprehensive introduction to the Clergy Project, established in 2011 to provide a safe space where clergy who have lost their faith can connect with others facing the exact same questions—often alone and in isolation. Charting the origins, growth, and goals of the project, Catherine Dunphy draws on her own experience as a founding project member and on interviews with project founders and participants. She also reveals the troubles and triumphs experienced by many project members, whose numbers have grown from just over 50 to more than 600 in a few short years. As she movingly demonstrates, despite the substantial personal and professional challenges nonbelieving clergy face, for many of them, a loss of faith has turned out to be not a loss at all—but rather a gain of newfound community, self-respect, and honesty with themselves and others.

About the Author

Catherine Dunphy is an original member of the Clergy Project and its former executive director. She is operations manager and contributor at Rational Doubt, a Patheos blog. Trained as a Roman Catholic chaplain, she began and ended her journey out of faith while attending seminary. She was an atheist by the time she graduated with her Master of Theological Studies degree in 2004.


ISBN: 9781634310161 (paperback)

SRP: $14.95

Page count: 184 pages

Trim size: 6 x 9

Pub date: July 2015

Ebook availability: Yes

Audiobook availability: Yes

Foreword by Richard Dawkins. Prologue. Living in Isolation. Making Things Happen. Going Live. Surveying the Numbers. Thinking through Faith. Driving Doubt: Seminary. Deconstructing Religion: Feminism. Transforming Values: LGBT Rights. Searching for a New Calling. Developing New Communities. Confronting Losses. Looking Ahead. Epilogue. Appendix. Acknowledgments. Notes. About the Author.


“In laying bare her own journey from devout Catholic seminarian student to nonbeliever, Catherine Dunphy humanizes the Clergy Project, an organization formed in 2011 to serve as post-theistic community for former clergy-turned-nonbelievers. She reveals how and why she and other clergy left behind the restraints of organized religious belief, overcame the pain of losing faith, and found new meaning in secular activism. Hers is but one of many remarkable stories of the difficult transition most of her new humanist colleagues share as they confront their doubts about faith and fears of ostracism from friends and family. It takes bravery to not simply bury doubt about faith. Ultimately From Apostle to Apostate is a lively, smart, and necessary story about the freedom found through the rationalist humanity of like-minded people.”

—Gerald Posner, author of the New York Times best seller

God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican


Advance Praise

“In this fascinating volume, part personal memoir, part social commentary, Catherine Dunphy shines a light on one of the most complex and understudied phenomena of our secularising age—the plight of once-believing but now nonbelieving clergy. The results are impossible to put down.”

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association

“Many years ago I struggled with a debilitating form of panic disorder. Finally I was lucky enough to listen to a recording of others who suffered from the same, recovered, and were brave enough to share their stories. Instantly my life changed for the better. In a moment I learned that I was not alone and that I was not flawed.  This book and Catherine’s story in particular will give many that same depth of relief, along with a true sense of belonging and peace of mind! She assures us that we’re not alone nor are we flawed. Her story is captivating, the language is pure poetry, and the resulting insights are life changing . . . life enhancing. Consider yourself lucky for reading this book.”

Jerry DeWitt, author of Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism

“I love the blend of the scholarly and the personal in Catherine Dunphy’s From Apostle to Apostate. This fascinating account of what happens when clergy embrace reason and abandon faith comes with dizzingly high stakes and life-altering revelations. A former clergyperson myself, I resonate with the truths on every page. Deftly written and bravely told, From Apostle to Apostate deserves a wide reading and is sure to provoke lively discussion.”

Mary Johnson, author of An Unquenchable Thirst: A Memoir

“As someone intimately involved in developing the Clergy Project, I thought I knew everything about it, so I was surprised and delighted to find new insights in Catherine Dunphy’s From Apostle to Apostate. I love the way she interweaves the story of the Clergy Project and personal insights from its members with religious philosophy and her own experiences with Roman Catholicism.  The cleverly placed Bible quotes are a nice touch. Her Jesuit education has found a useful expression in this book beyond anything she or the theologians who taught her ever could have imagined.”

Linda LaScola, coauthor, with Daniel C. Dennett, of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind

“It’s never easy to reveal a secret. To do so when it could turn your life upside-down and possibly alienate everyone you love is a tremendous act of courage. Catherine Dunphy went through that difficult journey.  Through her work with the Clergy Project and in From Apostle to Apostate, she helps us all navigate that world. Whether you’re a pastor or a teenager living in the Bible Belt, Dunphy reminds those who doubt the existence of God that they’re not alone.”

Hemant Mehta, editor of FriendlyAtheist.com

“Not all clergy are slick evangelists or abusers of children. Many entered the ministry with a sincere and hopeful desire to promote truth and meet human needs. But now some of them, for the same reasons, have stepped away. Catherine Dunphy is one of those caring and intelligent ministers who no longer believes in the supernatural and has found her way out. Her warmth and insight will help others make the same painful but honest transition from apostle to apostate.”

Dan Barker, copresident of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and author of Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning