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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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Skunco

    "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."

    This is the best part MacBain, no supernatural being is going to burn you!

    June 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • QS

      "God is dead, and no one cares.
      If there is a hell, I'll see you there!"

      – Trent Reznor

      June 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Chris

      Amen. You choose the fire yourself. No one forces you to reject God's love and mercy.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Eric

      You can't "reject" what doesn't exist. Do you reject the love of unicorns?

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

      Even if you believed cars did not exist, if you close your eyes, and walk across a busy street, you will get hit by one
      .

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

      At least there is evidence for cars 😉

      June 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Flappy

      I want to report a Unicorn hit and run please.

      June 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  2. Melissa

    This guy is awesome.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Chris

      I suggest you send him a lot of your money.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      "Awesome" guy: "Bubba didn't get that job he prayed for. I guess God don't exist!"

      June 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Recovering From Religion

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  3. td

    Conmen...Atheist do not need religious leaders...That is the whole point of atheism.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Melissa

      He isn't a "religious leader". The article is written by a religious believer that it obviously trying to make you think so.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      He's more of a rescuer than a leader.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • QS

      Generally, no we don't. But this article was specifically about ex-religious people finding themselves on the receiving end of what many of we Atheists are already aware of from firsthand experience....the sheer hatred and resentment that believers hurl toward those who don't believe as they do.

      The point of this organization is to soften the blow to some of these people who, unlike many lifelong Atheists like myself, need the support.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Chris

      td,

      Wake up. Atheism is clearly a religion. Whatever your religious beliefs are, is your religion.

      Perhaps you mean rituals, as opposed to religion?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      No one said we need a minister, but wee need LEADERS. Like Bill Maher and Penn Guillett, both vocal atheists. One day we will have our own political party, once people are fed up with religious delusion and discriminatrion.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Big Joe

      Bill Maher and Penn Jillette? A comedian and a comedian-magician are the best you can come up with as leaders?

      June 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • MrHanson

      Acutally atheists do have and need religious leaders. They are Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, etc..

      June 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Wrong

      Religion is man's "attemp" to connect with God. I wouldn't go as far to say Dawkins and the other clowns that hate God to say they are relgious leaders. They are workers of darkness.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Recovering From Religion

      Jerry isn't a conman. There's no requirement that anyone send us money in a feeble effort to save their soul from eternal damnation. We (Recovering From Religion) support those who are looking to leave the confines of religion for the freedom of reason. Feel free to visit our website for more information!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • JLS639

      But he does need income, which, I suspect, is why he is book touring.

      What?What?What?: No, I assure you, Bill Maher and Penn Jillette are not my leaders in any sense, nor of at least some other atheists I have known. They can be wonderfully entertaining, but are serious jerks when they are not being entertainers. Penn Jillette's science is often fraught with misrepresentations in his shows on marjijuana, global warming and monogamy (i.e., Straw Man fallacy), although I could never stomach watching those episodes all the way through for their brazen deceptiveness so I do not know if they improved.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • JLS639

      Correction: Why he is touring, not book touring.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  4. Gregory Adamson

    THIS GUY'S ORGANIZATION SIMPLY PROVIDES AN OPTION FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED A CHANNEL TO DEAL WITH THEIR FEELINGS. OVER THE PAST YEAR OR SO I'VE BEEN DEALING WITH MY THOUGHTS & FEELINGS ON RELIGION BUT HAVE BEEN DOING IT ALONE IN SILENCE. LIVING IN THE DEEP SOUTH YOU DONT HAVE A CHOICE – IF YOU ARE VOCAL ABOUT YOUR DOUBTS CONCERNING RELIGION YOU ARE SHUNNED BY THE RELIGIOUS CROWD.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Primewonk

      And being shunned by these idiots is a bad thing?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      I grew up in the north, and it still would be harder for me to come out to my family as an anti-theist than would be for me to come out as gay. If I had done so as a child, I would have been a complete outcast. Things are rough all over.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Pat

      I shun people who don't know how to turn the CAPS Lock off!

      June 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • ME II

      @Pat,

      Oh. Ye of lower case...

      June 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • JellyBean@ME II

      LMAO! Thanks for the laugh!

      June 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Rick

      Gregory,

      You are correct. When you have doubts there really is no one to talk to. Not your wife not your pastor. I am going through the same thing. It's not that I don't believe there may be a god but that I don't believe anymore that the bible is the inerrant word of god. I accept evolution ( maybe belive in a theistic evolution) but I don't believe everything that's in the bible is from god. I don't say anything about this to anyone. I also have a hard time praying anymore. And I don't belive in hell. So we are on our own.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Petercha

      And if you live up North and voice your opinions about having faith, you are shunned by the non-religious crowd. I know. I've experienced it personally.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Recovering From Religion

      We have a lot of groups in the south, and if we don't have one near you we can help you start one or you can join our online forum to discuss the issues that are causing problems, we are always happy to help!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • An ex-evangelical

      Search on google with your city name and "agnostic" (or the nearest big city.) You will find a group. Also search FaceBook or meetup.com . Search "NOSHA" or "New Orleans Secualar Humanist" on FaceBook. We will help you find support and freinds.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:12 am |
    • Flappy

      Petercha: perhaps you are right that some religious people are shunned by atheists but given that only 2 percent are officially atheists the shunners would be in the minority so it isn't exactly an equal comparison. If you count atheists in the closet, agnostics and non religious you can possibly up that to 12 percent but still way in the minority. Religious people that think they are being shunned by atheists have no real concept of what real shunning is.

      June 14, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  5. The teacher

    CNN has really been stirring up the waters with all of these Atheism stories. But I guess God is behind it?

    June 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Chris

      Amen. CNN is another tool which the LORD uses as He sees fit.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Silent Majority

      Yea he uses any tool as he sees fit right? so we can include that he has an account in facebook, twitter, myspace blah blah
      and also if you think about it he somehow used the nazi's as a tool too? or perhaps metallica while your at it.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Notaboutme

      My thoughts: God does not have to prove himself. We can either receive him, accept his gift of salvation or not. while learning to die to self and getting to know God the first thing that is echoed in my heart is that " its not about me". My feelings, my understanding nor my timing. The word says "lean not to thine own understanding". why? because we cannot fathom God and his ways, and his understanding. But we as believers all know that whatever situation or situations we may find ourselves in...God will work it out for the good of those who love him. One last thing, whether you 'believe' He is who HE IS or not...one day, "every knee shall bow before HIM, and every tongue will be forced to confess, that HE is Lord". Jesus himself died for the biggest doubters and people who hated him. Even though there are many on this blog who refuse to acknowledge HIM, he still loves and wants every one to accept him. Try HIM.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  6. Jason Shine

    Christianity is confusing. God had a son named Jesus, but he's also God. So is Jesus God himself or is he the son of God? Very confusing.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • sybaris

      you left out the beest part, it sacrificed itself to itself to compensate for it's own mistake.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Primewonk

      And part of himself ràped a little girl to impregnate her with himself.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      On top of that, he's also a weird invisible being that talks through birds.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • BY

      God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Clark Nova

      And don't forget that he's a zombie who wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Ewwwww! I could carve a better religion out of a banana.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Brian

      In response to the question is Jesus God or the son ;Let Jesus himself clear the confusion John 20: 17

      June 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • sybaris

      Brian, you do realize that quoting verses to people who don't believe in it is well, stupid.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Atheists don't know what they believe

      Jason....the reason it is confusing is because you aren't seeking. Open your bible. It is right in there and is clear. Man's pride and arrogance is the one thing keeping him from knowing God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you want a good book about a athiest that turned to God read Lee Strobles "Case for Christ." 1 Cor 1 is a good chapter on the wisdom of the world.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Silent Majority

      I would wrather open up the Lord of the rings trilogy or even better watch the star wars trilogy. may the schwartz be with you my confused brethren.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  7. Heaven Sent

    Jesus blinds me to reality and I love the numbing sensation! Touch me, Oh-Jesus, touch me deep and make me dumb!

    PS: Thinking for yourself is bad! Nay, it is EVIL!

    DUMB = GOOD! JESUS LOVES DUMB! And priests that touch me like he did....touched me deep....shudder..

    June 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • liz48

      With caution, because many attempts are made by many people to discredit The Lordship of Jesus, we should understand that church organizations and the human beings who run it or claim to run it are NOT G-d.

      I became a follower of Jesus when I was an adult in an Asian country. We were more aware of the spiritual realities of life than most people in the West, for many reasons including our culture. As converts, we were real before G-d. There was no mental assent and do good projects to get brownie points. We understood the demonic (the spirit that controls much of Hollywood today, the drug culture etc.) and its implications in our lives before we discovered the Lordship of Jesus, Who is G-d and has overcome the demonic, adversities that seek to destroy creation; through deception.

      In the US, I find that the so called pastor positions are often filled like regular job positions – an impressive resume, ability and resources to raise funds etc. We understood, with the Bible as a basic guide, as we sought the Lord on a personal level for guidance, that pastors (meaning shepherds) had to be called of G-d. If you were not convinced that G-d had called you to be a leader you were not supposed to be one!

      When giving finances we learned to trust and hear G-d, not the whining of a human being, as to whether we should give an offering or if we should refrain from giving anything at all. I remember telling a pastor that G-d fed and led His People called by Him, without their having to beg Him or entice another person to help them. If G-d is not providing for the ministry, it is a sign that there is something wrong with the ministry or that it is a work that is no longer endorsed by G-d and should close down. There were no employee rolls to fill or financial commitments made to staff that were a burden. If there was a burden, then the staff understood that they had to re-assess their roles or seek other jobs!

      I am sad that this man has been treated the way he has. Religion killed Jesus; and I personally hate religion. I pray that these pastors or leaders will find Jesus and seek Him personally and will use their experiences to honor the Lord and to serve Him. In Matthew 23, the Lord Jesus told us not to call any man our teacher or father; but G-d. Denominations never teach this- and they murder people from within by oppression and captivity in various forms – financial bondage, and or doctrinal and spiritual bondage.

      Jesus came to set the captives free – let us be free in His Liberty and Blood and live the Life He wants us to live – in health, wholeness, Peace and Joy!

      June 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. sybaris

    This is encouraging!

    A new period of enlightenment.

    People realizing the true nature of religion.............a sick, disgusting disease of the mind.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Atheists don't know what they believe

      If you want to see Atheism at it's finest look at Pol Pot, Stalins, and Mao's rule. You don't make Jesus Lord, he is Lord regardless if you make him or not. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. I look forward to that day because it means I will be home.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Silent Majority

      You claim that you read the bible but if you have any zeal in the "truth" you should know that the people you just mention were power hungry, paranoid people who knew that religion was a way to control the masses and because it did not fit their agenda(like the pope) they did away with it. you should change your name to christians who think they know everything don't really know and should stop commenting random riff-raff on cnn.com because you for some reason feel that it is your utmost responsibility to "guide" lost souls into the right path that is [insert religion here].

      June 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  9. dcase20

    My wish is that someday christians and atheist will realize they cant prove that god exists or does not exist. Debating it is just an exercise in futility.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • sybaris

      However there is just as much evidence for the purple unicorn in my closet as there is for the existence of any god.

      Your call.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      You cannot prove a negative.

      God's non-existance cannot be proven.

      Therefore, God is a negative.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Atheists don't buy into the belief thing in general, so no proof of the absence of God is required.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • td

      Seeing as God is make believe it is impossible to prove it does not exist. Nice Catch 22 Zealots.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Fields

      Unlike God, there aren't billions of people who have believed in purple unicorns for thousands of years. Try again, Einstein.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Patriarchae

      Atheists already know we can't prove that god doesn't exist, genius. As has already been said, you can't prove a negative and your statement could easily be adapted to other completely silly things such as unicorns, the tooth fairy, etc. The burden of proof lies with the believer, it is the theist's duty to show that 1) god exists or 2) god could feasibly exist. Theists have failed at both of these, therefore there position should logically be invalidated. Too bad religion doesn't rely on logic.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • sybaris

      @ Fields, at one time everyone believed the world was flat and we know how that turned out.

      Try again.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • ME II

      @Fields,
      It's not a popularity contest. Many once believed, as the Bible implies, that the Earth is flat.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Ohioboomer46

      I look at things from a scientific perspective. To prove something exists takes reliable reproducible evidence that a large number of people agree on. If something has no reproducible evidence it cannot be asserted to exist. However, nothing can be asserted to not exist without incontrovertible evidence. Therefore in my view I cannot be an atheist but agnostic.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • oodalolly

      The Burden of Proof is always on the person who makes the claim.

      Just because an idea is old and pervasive, doesn't prove that it is valid.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  10. QS

    Religion is a corporation like any other, out to make money by selling a product to naive people who buy it up like junkies looking for a fix.

    Open your eyes people and realize that the "beliefs" you hold so dear are not your own and were forced upon you as a child. The more you buy into the gimmick, the more you contribute to the scam.

    Believe in whatever god you want to, but please detach yourself from this corporation before it consumes all the best parts of you.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • t3chn0ph0b3

      Belief in God is a form of insanity. It's not okay to believe in whatever God you wish, even if you're doing it on your own, separate from any organized religion. The process stunts your ability to reason properly and leaves you open to doing all sorts of horrible things in the name of your beilef. Encourage people to stop "believing" or "having faith." They both rot your brain. Encourage people to base their world view on provable hypotheses supported by established facts.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • QS

      I understand where you're coming from tech – but as an Atheist, and an American, I respect peoples' right to believe as they will. I just don't think a tax exempt corporate environment is necessary or even justifiable given the overwhelming evidence that organized religion does more harm than good.

      But to insist that others not believe as they will AT ALL is equivalent to exactly what the religious do to we Atheists.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  11. gman

    I agree Bibi

    June 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Bibi

    The probem with this man is that he spent his life as a "man of God" preaching his (not God's) message. Look at what he said...I see a lot of ME and I in his work.

    “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.”

    Anyone who studies the Word of God knows that to truly serve God we must put self away and allow God to transform us into what we ought to be. I feel sorry for people like this man because he is lost and is determined to lead others in that direction as well. I hope he finds true peace.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • MandoZink

      Oddly enough, you expressed the very problem atheists have with Christians' narrow perception of good and morality. I grew up very devout, but I learned enough to widen my view and see what was missing. It was an eye-opener to see how religious mindsets selectively pigeon-holed and condemned perfectly good people.

      As an atheist, you discover you have to answer to yourself for what you do to others. You cannot be unjust and expect to get off the hook by having an omnipotent supreme being to forgive you for the devil’s influence. It is YOU who must maintain integrity. That is what most Christians get completely backwards. Atheists can be much more understanding of what they must be as fellow humans.

      It is frustrating to feel the prejudice that religious people often project when they misjudge atheists as amoral. I learned to be much more understanding and look for the good in all mankind. Mammy Yokum once said in an old cartoon strip: "Good is better than evil 'cause it's nicer!".

      June 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  13. gman

    The preacher stated “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.”

    GOD's blessings occur all the time, perhaps his lack of leadership, and faith were really at fault.

    My guess is that he was mediocre at best, and had no business being a preacher.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Fields

      Pentecostals have no formal training. It's like a doctor asking why he can't cure patients without having been to medical school.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • ME II

      "Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications." (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567)

      June 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  14. pete

    gay 0bama the anti-Christ and gay Bush the False Prophet.

    Times up gay 0bama July 2012..

    "The Beast"-->gay 0bama....

    "Men worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast [see Emperor], and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?" And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming His Name and His dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain." (Revelation 13:4-8 RSV)

    (Revelation 13:4-8 RSV)

    42 months-->Times up in July 2012

    June 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • karl

      you're an idiot....nuff said

      June 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Which God??

      Screwed up much, bucko?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Ok

      First, 0/10. Second, mentally retarded people shouldn't be allowed to vote.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • The Beast

      My hour's come 'round at last!

      Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-HAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  15. Kevin

    What's childish and immature in an intellectual sense is to disbelieve the possibility of something because it isn't neatly explained and completely spelled out for us. Atheism can exhibit the same absence of critical thinking as believing in god.

    Finally, what choice would we have to believe in God (free will) if it were completely obvious there was a God?

    June 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Michael Hunt Esq.

      "what choice would we have to believe in God (free will) if it were completely obvious there was a God?"
      There is always a choice. People very frequently choose not to believe things in spite of overwhelming evidence. Just look at the stats for belief in evolution in the United States.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Which God??

      Circular logic dimwit. There isn't a god, or we would ALL know it, every single person. We wouldn't need you morons preaching to the people would we? Lets hear it from your god. Let it shout itself from the mountain tops, without you dimwits doing it for it. Just not going to happen. Fake.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • SimonPure

      What's the point of free will if there's only one conclusion you're supposed to reach?

      The free-will thing is used by believers to rationalize something they cannot understand: the existence of non-believers.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • SwampyNoMore

      And what choice is there not to believe? If your god exists he will punish and torture us forever for choosing to follow the evidence that is overwhelmingly against his existence. If he existed he would have to be an egotisical psychopath... Or, far more likely, just a creation of the sick and twisted minds of uneducated, bronze-age, goat herders...

      June 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Necrosis

      But why is the choice centered around whether he exists or not? That is silly and pointless. It would make much more sense and be much more meaningful if he simply revealed himself and let us choose whether we want to follow his rules or not. He supposedly did that for Adam and Eve; why not the rest of us? Why do we have to play such a silly game?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ceucescau

      So what you are saying is that if all religion and trace of religion was wiped from the face of the earth tomorrow, and all people became amnesiacs, that religion would be EXACTLY the same as it is today? Christianity would continue because God would reach down from the heavens and let it all happen again?

      June 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  16. matt

    There will always be Christians converting to atheism, much like there will always be converts from atheism to Christianity.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • SwampyNoMore

      I would challenge you to find a declared atheist (as opposed to an agnostic, or someone who is just not sure) who has converted to Christianity.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • karl

      umm no offense but converting to atheism typically suggests a one way conversion. Only a few would ever consider converting back once they see how insane the religious are.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Softball

      That one's easy: CS Lewis.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  17. Jess

    So thankful you told your story. Really. Thank you.
    It took a lot of courage.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Recovering From Religion

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂

      June 14, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  18. detada

    This is about the silliest thing I have ever heard. Just because a believer prays does not mean the prayer will be answered. So, believers who are pretending, are being encouraged to "come out", similar to the process of gay people "coming out". A person can choose to walk towards or away from religion any time they want. It's called free will. It is nothing like being gay.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Martin

      detada, it's like a gay person coming out in the sense of one's relationship with others. In both cases, the person who comes out will face criticism and ostracism, and likely lose relationships with friends and relatives. So it can be very lonely and life changing. My thanks and respect to those with the courage to do this. Remember, everyone who comes out makes it easier for the next person.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Fields

    Does anyone still doubt that aetheism is itself a religion?

    We choose to believe or we choose not to believe. Let's not pretend that either choice has anything to do with "reason" or "science."

    June 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Ecclesiastes 7:17

      When one pushes and/or preaches atheism...they are def giving it the semblance of religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • X

      93% of members of the National Academy of Sciences are atheists. They go hand in hand. More education = less religion. This is true throughout the world

      June 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • SwampyNoMore

      Atheism is not a religion. It has no system of belief and no dogma. Atheists base their ideas on hard evidence only. Evidence does not require any belief. So your statement is simply ridiculous. Or, is that religoulous?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Martin

      OK, so you define religion to be anything someone believes. To me, religion involves belief in a diety, and I think that's how most people devine religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Ok

      0/10

      June 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Rev. ED

      Now that's just not true Fields. Admitting your ignorance to the "reasons" does not make a religion, it simply puts forth the truth. Religion is based on myths and falicies to answer questions we don't have the info for yet. Then people start making $$ and gaining power from enforcing those myths. Defending fiction has been the mainstay of all religions since the beginning of time. It's time we started waking up to a non-fiction world.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • jp

      @Fields – Ah yes, the old "atheism is religion too" argument to support religious belief. I find it comical that people try to convince themselves of their irrational beleifs by claiming that the every-day experience of every human being on this planet not seeing a God and therefore not believing in a God is akin to the fantastical beliefs in Zeus, Allah, Jesus, Santa Claus, Buddha, Jewish God, Tooth Fairy, etc, etc

      June 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • sosume

      It depends on whether you simply do not believe because there is no supporting evidence for the the belief, or you actually take the next step and make an act faith in believing there is no god. In the first instance it is not a "religion" because you are not professing a belief. You are just saying you have nothing to go on to support a belief. In the second it is closer to being a religion. The distinction probably still is that religions have sets of doctrines that you must accept. Atheism does not, other than a lack of belief in god.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • enfilmigult

      No, there is a difference. Religion is based on faith—on believing in that which cannot be proven, and for which there isn't even any concrete evidence. Atheism is based on evidence that the origin and nature of life does not jibe with the story told by any religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • T-Max73

      The faithful want to equate non belief as being a religion because they don't want to look like the only gullible idiots out there. I guess it makes them feel better to pretend that non belief in the supernatural is a "religion" so they can pretend that the atheists are just as idiotic as they are. Unfortunately, most people in command of their critical faculties see this as nothing more than desperation of the faithful to hang on to their ideas.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  20. LouAZ

    Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day.
    Teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime.
    Give a man religion, he'll die praying for a fish.

    Seems this fellow finally figured out the oldest fishing story . . .

    June 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • W Murderface

      Build a man a fire he's warm for a night...... Set a man on fire he's warm for the rest of his life

      June 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Dos Ruedas

      So true bud. A wise man once told me:

      Religion, the last refuge of a scoundrel.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Blahman

      Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
      Kill the man, and you will never have to feed him again.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
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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.