I find that most educated church leaders in the day and age know the history of the evolution of belief so well they can generally find a historical precedent for whatever belief they want to preach. The honest ones (as I hope I was when I was a preacher
Were you an honest one?
I just brought the topic back from the mists of the past, here: http://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,38868.300.html and there are many interesting questions from Godslayer in that thread that you might yet address, but this seems as good a point as any to reiterate the one about your preaching days.
Did the congregation know that you were an atheist when you were in the pulpit, and if so, how did they feel about receiving information about their alleged salvation from someone who didn't believe in that salvation?
Here is the response I just gave in the other thread. Let's continue the conversation in this thread to keep things current.
Did you ever find out if the congregation you preached to knew you were an atheist at the time you were preaching to them?
I did a lot of supply preaching, that is, be a "substitute pastor" from pasotr taking holidays, so most of those churches did not necessarily know I was an atheist.
There were two churches I preached at on a regular basis, one was a rather conservative church -- for a mainstream church, it was still progressive compared to the churches that dominate the Bible Belt (for example, although it had many openly gay lay leaders, and then some grumpy old people who pretended they didn't know). At the church, I was never "openly" atheistic in the pulpit -- though my sermons were of course completely compatible with an atheistic worldview, but those who spoke to me about my sermon outside of the service, either in private or in "bible study", knew I did not believe that God literally existed. Some people were disturbed when they found out, but not enough to leave the church or stop asking questions. The only real problems I had was when I taught confirmation class. I was totally honest with the kids about the historical accuracy of scripture, and told them about all of the various theories about what the true events behind the tales might have been. Some of them went home and told their parents, and their parents then went and complained to the other pastors. However, by that time my internship at that church was coming to an end, so I just let of one the other pastors take over the class, as I would have even if the parents has not complained.
The other church I preached at regularly was my "home congregation", the church I attended when I went to university and continued attended after I left the ministry. Everyone there knew I was an atheist and loved it. I'm sure I told the story of how I revealed my atheism to my pastor before, perhaps even in this very thread: One year my pastor was trying to get me to teach the teenage Sunday School, and I said (in front of a fresh young intern from seminary), I don't think I should teach Sunday School seeing how I'm an atheist. He enthusiastically replied, "Welcome to Atheism! Your class starts next week!"
If so, how did they feel about being given the good news by someone who did not accept that news as true?
I do accept the good news as true. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ comes again! Alleluia!