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Unbelieving preachers get help to 'come out' as open atheists
Minister-turned-atheist Jerry DeWitt speaks at ReasonFest in Kansas earlier this year.
June 13th, 2012
10:47 AM ET

Unbelieving preachers get help to 'come out' as open atheists

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - Jerry DeWitt entered the ministry when he was 17, launching a 25-year career as a Pentecostal preacher. He traveled all around his home state of Louisiana, preaching and ministering wherever he could.

All these years later, DeWitt, 42, is still on the road, and now takes his message all over the United States. But the nature of that message, along with his audience, has changed dramatically.

DeWitt is now an avowed atheist, and his audiences are made up of religious “nones,” the growing number of Americans who are atheist, agnostic, humanist or just plain disinterested in identifying with a religion. Today, DeWitt preaches a gospel of disbelief.

During his speeches, he talks about the process of leaving his preacher job. “If you don’t believe, then you will be like me - you’ll suddenly find yourself where you only have two choices,” DeWitt told a group in Johnson County, Kansas, earlier this year.

“You can either be honest that you don’t believe ... or you can pretend that you do,” he said. “Which is what so many people are doing and that is called faith.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The transition from preacher to outspoken atheist has not been easy, and DeWitt is trying to smooth the way for other former believers. He is executive director of Recovering from Religion, an organization founded in 2009. Its slogan: “Thousands of organizations will help you get INTO religion, but we’re the only one helping you OUT.”

But a relatively new effort goes a step further than his own group by focusing on helping clergy in particular. In March 2011, a coalition that includes national groups such as American Atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation helped launch the Clergy Project, which is aimed at giving doubting and atheist preachers a community in which they can talk about their disbelief.

The program's ultimate goal: to help unbelieving preachers to “come out” in real life.

A safe online community

The Clergy Project’s key component is a private online community of active and former pastors discussing their conversions to lives of active disbelief. It lets congregational leaders come out anonymously, using an alias.

“It is important to focus on any group of people who are in a lot of pain,” said Linda LaScola, a co-founder of the Clergy Project. “That is why the Clergy Project exists, and it wouldn’t be growing if there wasn’t a need for it.”

When it launched last year, 52 clergy signed up for the online community, according to LaScola. A little more than a year later, 270 members are contributing to the message boards and connecting anonymously with one another.

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According to LaScola, the community includes some rabbis, imams and Catholic priests, but the majority are Protestants.

Members are barred from disclosing what is discussed on the boards, but DeWitt said it’s a blend of humor, advice and encouragement. DeWitt, who left his congregation just over a year ago, is considered the group’s first graduate.

“It gave me confidence to come out,” DeWitt said of the Clergy Project. “Knowing that I was not alone, that I was not a fluke, that I was not a freak of religious nature, but that this is a process; it most definitely gave me confidence and a purpose.”

Jerry DeWitt, far right, in his days as a minister.

DeWitt said that after connecting with people on the message boards, he realized he faced fewer obstacles than some others who are trying to leave the ministry. For example, DeWitt's wife and son already knew about his disbelief, while other questioning preachers had not yet told their families.

“I think it is important when you are struggling that you talk it out, that you write about it, that you find support,” said Teresa MacBain, acting executive director of the Clergy Project. “I still try to reach out to people who are questioning, who are doubting, clergy people and laypeople alike, and let them know they are not alone, that there are people who care.”

How does he feed his family?

For 44 years, MacBain was involved in some sort of ministry, from organizing worship music to being a senior pastor at a Methodist church in Florida.

At a recent American Atheists convention in North Bethesda, Maryland, MacBain first publicly announced her atheism, inspiring a roaring round of applause. American Atheists President David Silverman walked onstage and hugged her as MacBain began to cry.

"I was the one on the right track, and you were the ones that were going to burn in hell," MacBain told the crowd. "And I'm happy to say as I stand before you right now, I'm going to burn with you."

She said she sees plenty of growth potential in the Clergy Project. In the near future, she said she hopes to incorporate it as a nonprofit and begin raising funds for clergy who have decided to leave ministry jobs. She also wants to compile a group of employment recruiters to help former clergy find new jobs.

DeWitt, for his part, is struggling financially and said his house could be foreclosed on in the next few months.

For former preachers in search of work, their old skills can be hard to translate into new fields. What references do former ministers use if they have disappointed their congregants by leaving the pulpit?

MacBain said that some “formers,” as she calls ex-clergy, have left their hometowns for new jobs in fields ranging from radio to counseling.

To aid those transitions, Recovering from Religion has started the Clergy Professional Relief Fund, dedicated to “helping ex-ministers have a soft landing after coming out of the ministry.” Though little money has been collected so far, the hope is to help former ministers with job training and relocation expenses.

“Even if you have a degree in divinity, that doesn’t really mean anything,” DeWitt said. “That is the biggest fear that a nonbelieving clergy member has. How does he feed his family?”

Losing faith, losing friends

As a young fresh-faced minister, DeWitt was first confronted with his disbelief when he “became the person who got the burden of preaching about hell,” he said. “I really loved the people I preached to, I loved them like family. So imagine preaching that if you don’t do this, you are going to burn in hell. That wasn’t easy for me.”

After doubt about hell, DeWitt began to research other schools of thought about God and belief. He began to develop other doubts, about certain biblical translations and about healing.

“The next big issue was the failure of prayer,” DeWitt said. “People are passing away, whenever we pray for them to live. People aren’t getting jobs, whenever we pray for them to have jobs.

“The harder we tried to alleviate suffering within our church, it seemed like the worse things got,” he said. “It didn’t seem like prayer made any difference. It just continually crushed my heart.”

When DeWitt decided to come out as an atheist, some in his congregation appeared shocked.

“I was very heartbroken actually because his family means so much to me; they are actually like family,” said Natosha Davis, 30, who attended DeWitt’s church for four years. “I was very heartbroken for him that he had to go through that and struggle.”

Many congregants were less charitable. “Some people where he lives just totally turned their backs on him,” Davis said. “He was ostracized, excommunicated. It is like he has a disease, but he doesn’t.”

When DeWitt runs into people he used to preach to, he still averts his eyes. Going to the post office and to Walmart, he said, can be stressful because of the possibility of running into a former congregant.

“It is because places in which you were once admired now you are suddenly scorned or pitied,” DeWitt said, who admits not having many friends anymore. “It makes for an extremely uncomfortable life.”

And yet DeWitt said his atheist life mirrors his old religious one in some key respects. In some ways, he said, he’s still a minister.

“The origin of the symmetry is me, is my personality, my love for people, my love for ministering,” DeWitt said. “What I have always tried to do is to minster from where I personally am at.

“When I was 17, I preached what I believed was best for people at the time; when I was 20, it was a little different; at 25 it was different, too,” he said. “And now at 42, I am still the same guy preaching what I see is best for people.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity

soundoff (5,298 Responses)
  1. GermanTickler

    Hallelujah!!!... this man deserves a medal. We need many more like him! I just saw Prometheus for the 2nd time – and am much more inclined to believe in The Engineers in that movie than a man in the sky. I grew up Catholic and never really, truly believed a word of it. My life has been transformed to one a great peace and happiness after leaving my so called 'faith' behind... it is all smooth sailing from here. Also, I find it much, much easier to be a good husband, son, brother and friend to those I love. Once you stop 'believing' and start 'doing', great things come your way at a much better clip. Please, if you are even a little bit on the fence, do give some serious thought to what me (and now many more) are saying in regard to this... Free yourself of the bondage of religion. Most of you will be way better off without that bs. And not only can you still be good person, you likely WILL be a better person.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Adam

      Hallelujah means "God be praised."

      Fyi.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • GermanTickler

      Adam, do you furrow your brow and get confused when sitcoms etc are on?... it was joke. Lighten up bro.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  2. Churbitsser

    Kenny, I think you're spot on!

    June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  3. Demonology 501

    You may disagree with there being a God. And that's fine ~ believe as you will. That said, the other side of the coin is, spiritually speaking, you better hope and pray there is a God who is merciful and benevolent, because there is at least one realm of existence after this earthly one which offers up something quite malevolent and evil. And all those paranormal investigators on television? I feel quite frightened for them. They think they are encountering human apparitions part of the time. Actually, it is my contention they are encountering very few human manifestations. Most activity currently going on is demonically linked.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Who you gonna call?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Wow, Pascal's well refuted wager. How original.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Janna

      I always wondered who in the world watched those ridiculous shows. Now I know.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  4. Jimmy

    Let's see if I understand this...this is a belief in non-belief?
    Seems like an oxymoron, why do they bother?

    June 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Snow

      "Seems like ".. there is your answer.. you don't understand it

      June 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • JJinCVCA

      Sorry, Jimmy, you didn't get it straight. That's why you're so confused, it's all your fault. You don't understand it at all.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Adam

      You do not understand it. It is the absence of belief.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  5. Questions401

    If you believe in God remember this, just because they call themselves christen does not mean they are, if they preach hate, violence and persecution towards your fellow human beings then they are false christens and they lead you down the path to hell.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Adam

      (please google "true scotsman" fallacy to learn something new. and isn't learning grand?)

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  6. Clinton

    My problem with Atheists is, many of them insult those of us that believe in God and in the worst way. They say things like, the Bible is fairy tales and nonsense etc. The thing is, their beliefs are more ridiculous from my perspective than any religion on Earth. They believe that instead of a creator designing the Universe and willing it into existence, that somehow these "magical particles" always existed, and at some point they exploded into everything that makes up our Universe... and then on came earth then evolution etc. .... my question is... How do you believe in something like... ALWAYS EXISTING MATTER.... and then come at religious folks as if they're crazy for believing in a being that always existed? You guys are full of it... Check what you believe before you start talkin crap to people for believing in God. – Also on a side note, I DO respect everyone's right to believe what they want to believe. I'm not saying ALL atheists are like this but even an Atheist should admit that MANY are like this... IT doesn't make sense to me... Atheism requires FAITH too, don't even begin to argue that.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you're basically saying that anytime an atheist disagrees with you, he's insulting you. the bible IS fairy tales, myths, like any other religion handbook. because we state a fact doesn't mean we're insulting you.

      goes to show, christians hate facts.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Adam

      You are mistaken. There really is only one necessary difference between the atheist and the theist:

      The theist pretends to know that which he CANNOT know.
      The atheist is unwilling to lie to himself and his children in this way.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Snow

      what part of "answers are not found yet" or "research is still underway" do you not get? in the meantime, to say about anything that you do not know or can not answer with a "god done it" is nothing more than an intellectual cop-out..

      June 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • curt

      Atheists don't claim to have the answers. They just know that your stories are ridiculous

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      "How do you believe in something like... ALWAYS EXISTING MATTER...."

      Clearly you are not familiar with the first law of thermodynamics or Smolin's theory of Fecund universes.

      And how do you believe in a uncreated supernatural being? What created it? You're failing to apply your own 'reasoning' to your own beliefs.

      The rest of your post was just ill-informed ranting drivel.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Clinton

      Oh let the insults rain down, I love seeing the insecurity of idiots when you point out how stupid they are. You realize that you're the minority right? Atheism is a huge minority in the world. Most people on this Earth believe that there was a divine hand behind the creation of the universe. Even many scientists including Hawking have stated that there is certainly the potential that a creator being exists. My problem with you guys is not what you believe. It's that you know that you don't have the answers but you act like you're Sure everybody else is wrong. That's a ridiculous notion. Even if you are a believer in a specific theory of creation that doesn't involve God, you should at least be reasonable enough to recognize that what you're subscribing to is a theory not a proven fact, in fact far from it, therefor you have nothing, i mean NOTHING to stand on when you start trying to tear down other people's theories of creation / Religious beliefs.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • JJinCVCA

      Clinton, you're delusional to the umpteeth degree. The only way a religious type would be offended is if his or her belief in their god/version of god/church is on shaky ground, and let me tell you, given what you wrote, it sounds like your belief in god is on life support and on it's way to the morgue. Stop worrying about other people believing you for your satisfaction and start living your own life as you'd like to live it, and stop being concerned with other people's decision not to believe in god, just as I'm not worried about your choice to believe in god.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Janna

      At least Atheists don't use a religious text to thwart the lives of certain minority subgroups of Americans. They don't vote for anti-gay politicians to do their dirty work of eliminating avenues of dissent for gay Americans. They don't walk into a voting booth with the full purpose of stomping on the inalienable rights of fellow Americans. Their disbelief doesn't hold a candle to your harmful belief.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • deidramt

      Once again, a person of faith offers supposition instead of fact.

      If "God" created us in his image, then we should be as he. Therefore, we should be able to just "will" something into being, right? However, if there is a "God" he made us plenty smart enough to figure things out, meaning, we are now able to prove the 4 universal forces and know that the forces helped in creating this universe we live in.

      Much easier to take something that I can witness first-hand as an everyday occurance than to believe in a "God" that created us as mere playthings. That being said, I'm agnostic. There is something out there, don't know what it is, and I don't care; I won't worship it.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • mthomas

      I agree with you. I look around at everything and to me it is obvious that there is a specific design to our world. If there is a design, then there has to be a creator. Everything has purpose. The way plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen so animals can breath for example. There's a balance to it all. And I am not so sure why my decision to believe in a Creator impacts those who don't believe in one. Why waste so much energy being so ugly about it all? Life is way too short whether you follow a religion or not to tear each other apart like this.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  7. dan

    In the midst of all this vitriol and atheistic bravado God remains, as always, undeterred.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Indeed, it's impossible to deter a figment of the imagination.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Adam

      How do you know that?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • truth hurts

      God remains as always, imaginary.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • curt

      God can be whatever you say he is, or whatever the next guy says he is. How can anyone reason with a religious person?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • dan

      Adam. Because He has revealed information about Himself in the scriptures. Of course, you already knew that, you just don't believe it.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Snow

      @Adam, How do you know that it is wrong?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • dan

      truthhurts. For a mere created being who will be gone from the scene shortly, what I find fascinating is the depth of your knowledge and certainty as to the non existence of God.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Adam

      I do not, nor claim that it is wrong. The point is that this statement of "fact" does not map in any real way onto our world. This man just made several unsubstantiated claims about the nature of the universe:

      1. There exists a supernatural agent, "God"
      2. This agent possesses thoughts and intentions
      2. Dan is privy to the thoughts and intentions of this agent
      3. Dan knows that the thoughts and intentions of this agent have not been "deterred"

      These claims are useless because there is no way to put them to any test. It is merely unprovable statements that, if changed from one state to the other would have NO EFFECT on the world. There is no way to know if they are the case, and as such someone who claims to KNOW that one case is true is merely inclined to lie to himself and to us about what he knows about the universe.

      He does NOT know this. He NECESSARILY does NOT know this. And I, for one, wish to oust people who seek to lie in this way, as it is time we realized that it is a species of evil.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • dan

      Adam. " A species of evil". I realize that phrase probably impressed you as you were writing it, but don't you think it a little melodramatic? Actually, I would concur with many of your thoughts. Ultimately, it comes down to faith, and that is a non tangible that cannot be proved. It does not, however, preclude me from having an opinion about the nature of God and stating such. To brand such an opinion as "evil" is just plain silly.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Snow

      I love your reply Adam.. exactly why I asked the question!

      June 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Adam

      Hi Dan. I want to cite my source on that one. Here is the full quote, by a terrific author, Sam Harris:

      "It is time we realized that to presume knowledge where one has only pious hope is a species of evil."

      I like this quote a lot, as it cuts down to the heart of the matter: confusing belief with knowledge. I trotted out the phrase because it seemed that in your short post, you were presuming to know things that you merely believed, or "hoped" to be true, and I wanted to unpack the sort of factual assertions that were contained within it.

      If you believe there is a god, fine. I don't see any reason to think so, but perhaps you have different information. But the point where you crossed the line of reason is where you pretended to KNOW what God thinks. This is unreasonable. And in fact, I think it is evil. It is precisely this knowledge of the mind of God that lets people fly things into buildings–they KNOW it is the will of god, right?

      So, yes, while it may seem melodramatic, I think it is of the highest importance. If, as a society,, allow people to pretend to know things they do not in fact know, then we are eroding the foundation of honest communication which is the basis for all civilization. Intellectual honesty, humility, and rational doubt must be demanded in public discourse. While it may seem counter intuitive, I believe with the deepest passion I can muster, that the person who claims to know the know that God "loves everyone" and the person who claims to know that "God wants me to unmake you," are two facets of the same stone. And they both are, as I said, different species of the same evil.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      In the midst of all this theist babbling, god remains, as always, fictional

      June 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  8. AverageJoe76

    Reasons I Question the 'God' concept: The God of all creation should've never needed a sacrafice. EVER. James T' Kirk said it best, "What does God need with a starship?"

    June 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  9. truth hurts

    Truth hurts

    June 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  10. Will

    Obama's a Muslim Athiest who hates God.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Willa

      Perhaps God is a figment of your imagination who hates you.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Zach

      You must be a fan of those morons Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh

      June 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Janna

      Bloviating Adolescent Ignoramus!

      June 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  11. Pope on a Rope

    He saw the light.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  12. Bill, Bloomington Il

    So his life is now one big lie? The guy is a true zero. Bootyfunk: Grade school must have passed you up. God has never been Santa Claus. Let me know when you graduate JH.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Zeus

      And god has never existed.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  13. Satan

    Come out as "open" atheists? As opposed to what? Closeted atheists? How ridiculous. So do the writers of this article consider themselves "closeted journalists", because journalists who actually graduated with a GPA above 2.0 from journalism school probably don't have time to write about absurdities like this. Closeted atheists. LMAO. Attaching the adjective "closeted" to any noun implies only one thing...that said noun is ashamed of some attribute of it's existence. There is NO other interpretation of that.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Satan

      *attaching the adjective "open"...my bad.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • QS

      I can understand some peoples' confusion about this issue – if you don't truly see the reaction that religious people have to those who announce their non-belief, that it is essentially the same to them as somebody coming out as gay, then I can understand the confusion....understand it, but I don't excuse it.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • curt

      A lot of atheists are "in the closet" because their families or communities would not accept them if they admitted to it. I think it makes perfect sense to use that term.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • James

      "Closeted" meaning you are afraid the majority will bite your freakin head off if they knew.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Alyssa

      Your implication of course beings that gay people in the closet feel ashamed of themselves, and not merely concerned about external reactions to their gayness. Bigot.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Bias Patrol

    So, CNN, why is it that you always seem to love to report about Atheists, Atheists Organizations, and people loosing their faith? Where are the reports of people's lives being positively impacted by a faith experience? Where are the reports of young people bucking their Atheistic upbringing to find faith (like I, and many others have done)?

    Silence.

    June 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Adam

      You didn't catch the one about the Pentecostal serpent handler preacher who was bitten by one of his snakes, laid in agony for 8 hours until he permitted his family to take him to a hospital where he summarily died?

      That's a positive impact: "Man collides with reality; TRUTH is revealed"

      June 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      You have convinced me. I think there might be an atheist working at cnn.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      The Christian persecution complex is hilarious.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Dina

      Gay American's lives have been negatively impacted by religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Ted

      Religious freaks as the new "vicitim" is really fresh.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • leonid7

      I think the fact that you ignored all the other religious articles speaks more to your bias than CNN's. Again, the principle of false equivalency is expressed by the growing sentiment that Christians should be somehow more equal than everybody else, or the whole system is biased.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • ernestly

      You mean those fairy tails they teach you in Sunday School

      June 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • atomD21

      The positive reports aren't there because they A)Don't make as good news stories, and B) Are happening less and less in this country. More and more people are becoming disenfranchised with religion and faith because it is presented in a completely irrelevant manner that is out of line with every day life. Until religion wakes up and realizes this is no longer the Bible times, or the 1950's, it will keep slipping into obsolescence. And I say this as a Christian that is fed up with the hate filled garbage being preached at some churches.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  15. rdeleys

    It's a shame all the good Christians in this country who are so convinced of the truth of their religion never stop to think that they believe what they do because of an accident of geography. If they had been born the Saudi Arabia, they'd be fervent Muslims.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Zeus

      So true.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • sheldon

      Not true.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Russ

      @ rdeleys: follow your own logic...

      “Suppose we concede that if I had been born of Muslim parents in Morocco rather than Christian parents in Michigan, my beliefs would be quite different. [But] the same goes for the pluralist...If the pluralist had been born in [Morocco] he probably wouldn't be a pluralist. Does it follow that...his pluralist beliefs are produced in him by an unreliable belief-producing process?”
      ― Alvin Plantinga

      June 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Goldilocks

      This true is just right

      June 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • onceacpa

      good point.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Trumpy

      @Russ: which form of pluralism is he referring to? It can have many meanings.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • truth hurts

      Russ,
      That doesn't work. Good try.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Russ

      @ trumpy: i think your question is moot. it doesn't matter whether we're talking about religious pluralism (all religions are "right" ways to God) or atheistic pluralism (all religions are "wrong"). Plantinga's point is with the logical failure in this argument.

      If one asserts locational determinism (your belief-building process is determined by locale), that's a problem for everyone – even the pluralist or atheist. it's not as though you stop having a location after you're born.

      if this argument against the genesis of beliefs were accurate, it would equally disqualify EVERYONE. that's why it's self-refuting.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Donna

      I have tried to explain this to Christian friends a million times. If you had been born on another continent you would have eagerly bought into another crazy story and placed your full faith and life into it.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Russ

      @ truth hurts: out-of-hand dismissals are no substi.tute for engaging the content. point out where Plantinga's logic fails. or do you just not "like" his logic?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Donna: but the same could be said of your cultural milieu & background. How did your beliefs arise? Even if you are a contrarian, that argument still undermines your own position. Again, it's self-refuting.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • atomD21

      Russ, you're right on the money. If I had been born in the Middle East, I would most likely be a Muslim. If I had been born in England, I'd scare small children with my teeth. That being said, this is why people need to stop acting like they have a monopoly on truth. If God is all powerful, why does he/she/it have to be limited to one religion? Why is it that Allah and Yahweh and the Christian flavor of God can't all be the same deity? Let's all just focus on being good to each other and work together to fix things!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  16. curt

    I believe that the majority of people who identify themselves with a religious faith don't truly believe it, but instead just go along with it for social reasons. By admitting that you are an atheist, a lot of doors can be closed on you, depending on where you live and what you do.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • sleepytime

      I agree completely!

      June 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • A W Messenger

      You see, hatred works in both directions then doesn't it?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • atomD21

      Curt, a lot of the people I've come in contact with that believe everything that is preached at them have never stopped to question anything. They believe it completely because there is an unwritten rule that to ask questions is to reject God. It's stupid and dangerous, but it is extremely common.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  17. AverageJoe76

    Reasons I Question the 'Devil' concept: It's dumb. The one-third of angels that followed Lucifer are also dumb.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • sheldon

      Not dumb, deceived.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Oh yeah, and where's that full story at anyhow? Which book?

      June 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Isaiah 14:12
      How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

      June 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  18. kenny

    religion was invented by men to explain the unexplainable and thus give them power over other men. through the thousands of years the message and messengers slightly change from region to region but its pretty much the same ... theres a super duper space daddy that only talks to me so listen to what i have to say... the key being if you listen, you get to live forever in a really nice place... of course theres NO WAY WHATSOEVER to verify this in any way at all since NO ONE has come back from this place.... cause once your dead... THAT'S IT... just like before you were born you didn't exist ... so shall it be once again when you die... IT SEEMS LIKE a cruel cosmic joke to have consciousness and then lose it but that is the way it is and there's nothing we can do about it... except possibly learn enough about our consciousness to somehow preserve it....

    June 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      science was invented by men to explain the unexplainable and thus give them power over other men. through the thousands of years the message and messengers slightly change from region to region but its pretty much the same ... there's a super duper new theory that only I understand so listen to what i have to say... the key being if you listen, you get to live forever in a really nice place..

      June 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Steve

      Bill, it if wasn't for science, you would not be having this discussion right now. Odds are, you'd be dead. Before the age of science, people did not live very long.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • truth hurts

      Except science can be proven...sorry Billy you lose.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Tom

      Umm, Bill, the difference is in science other people get to test the theory and prove it right or wrong. No one believes scientific theories because someone just says to believe – they are constantly tested and proved by the results. Religion is a crutch for those that cannot face mortality. It truly is an accident of birth. Why do you believe the bible is the word of God? - "because my priest/pastor/rabbi/immam told me so". Have you ever really asked yourself why you believe your religion is right and all other religions must be wrong?? Use your brain.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • GSong

      Authentic religion is initiated by God through Divine Revelation. It is developed by the minds of human beings reflecting on Divine revelation. It is a mixture of the divine and the human.
      The religions of atheism exist only in the mind and will. God exists definitively in the mind because human beings were created in the image of God. When the will is directed against God, God does not exist there also because human beings were created in the image of God and were given a free will.
      The judgment of atheism is this. God, who is Existence Itself, a term coined by the theologian-philosopher Thomas Aquinas, cannot not exist. To say that Being Itself does not exist is a direct judgment on the self. Judgment has a reflective character. Since a creature created in the image of God cannot cease to exist, the judgment is a bit paradoxical. It is a crying out in anguish for relief from intense suffering, but no one is listening, because the creature so judging/judged does not exist. In a sense, one can say "as though one does not exist", but the judgment is a true non-existence because it involves an irrevocable disposition of the will which in the realm of spirit cannot change. Here and now we are somewhere in between so we can vacillate, but that vacillation is always toward the definitive.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • atomD21

      Why is it that some of science has been villified so terribly? Science (well the part religion seems to hate) is looking for explanations into how the universe works, from the hugely cosmic to the microscopic. Why can't that a God-given drive for us to figure out how this place works? Why does creation have to be mutually exclusive from evolution? Why is it that God couldn't have gotten the processes going? I believe that our understanding of time is a purely human thing and that God exists outside of that. So several billion years are the same as six days... I used to scoff at the discoveries of partial skeletons and things that helped fill in some of the evolutionary blanks, but I have since learned just how wrong I was. How can I say that God is infinite and all powerful, but he can't have done that.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  19. Andy

    Hazel Motes types, it seems: "the deaf don't hear, the blind don't see, the lame don't walk, the dumb don't talk, and the dead stay that way."

    Flannery understood the existentialist preacher archetype well.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  20. dman

    Let me just say that I think the fact that this discussion is happening is awesome. This is the age of reason, let the light of reason out from under it's bushel. Humanity has arrived!

    June 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • QS

      I have to take issue with the idea that this is in fact the age of reason....I would say, rather, that this is the age of realization – the age of reason comes after once a majority of people drop their religious affiliation.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.