Can an atheist qualify as a “minister of the gospel”? Oxymoronic as it may be, this is apparently fodder for discussion, at least in the U.S. courts.
In what seems a peculiar story in the news recently, both Forbes and Christianity Today report that there is a case being made to include athiest leaders under the umbrella of Ministers of the Gospel in order to qualify for clergy tax exemptions for housing. (Forbes, CTi)
This whole discussion reminds me of another study reported in Christianity Today. In a prominent new project, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga researcher Christopher Silver documented six types of nonbelievers. Here’s a very, very brief recap of each:
1. The Intellectual Atheist/Agnostic: Sees his/herself as intellectually too advanced for religion and seeks to engage with other likeminded individuals through writings, YouTube videos and talks.
2. The Activist: Proactively works for issues connected to naturalist or humanist causes.
3. The Seeker-Agnostic: Considers the metaphysical a possibility but is comfortable with uncertainty as it concerns the interaction of science and the metaphysical.
4. The Anti-Theist: Believes religion to be evil, thus actively works against religion and religious influences.
5. The Non-Theist: Does not have much interest in religious concepts.
6. The Ritual Atheist/Agnostic: Does not have otherworldly beliefs but regularly attends a religious ceremony, finding that this meets some social or psychological need.
From Christianity Today article