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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. Kafir

    It's nice to see atheism gaining ground in the US. It means that people are starting to wake up and see the hype and rhetoric that really drives religion. It means that newer generations are becoming more educated. It means that people are not afraid of the dark, of the unknown, like they were in previous times. And ultimately, it means there are more and more people that I can ultimately look up to and respect.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • GinCas

      Yes Kafir, it is!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      If Bubba DeWitt is "educated", then I'm Sir Isaac Newton.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Harel

      Dog, there are many paths to "education". And it is an honor, Sir Newton!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • steve

      You atheists love to blame God for all of the problems in the world, and get all upset when He doesn't fix them (how you want them fixed and when you want them fixed). So sad that you are in the back pocket of the one that is truly to blame for these things. So sad that it shall remain that way until the evil one is finally revealed.

      "http://bible.cc/2_corinthians/4-4.htm

      June 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • steve

      I agree. It really is good news. The birth pangs have commenced...

      2 Thessalonians 2
      King James Version

      Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Kafir

      Steve, why would anyone blame someone they don't believe in? Do you blame santa when you don't get what you want for christmas?

      June 14, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  2. The Dog Delusion

    CNN: "Hi Jerry, This is CNN. Could you tell me why you lost belief in God?"

    DeWitt: (Best Louisiana accent) "Well... ole Steve lost his job workin the oil rigs and I prayed for him to get anutha one and he didn't!"

    June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • ME II

      @The Dog Delusion,
      Did you read the article?

      "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. "

      June 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      Such powerful reasoning on the part of Bubba DeWitt!

      "Billy Bob down in Lafayette died of lung cancer after smoking marlboro reds for 40 years even though I prayed that he wouldn't! God must not exist!"

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • ME II

      @The Dog Delusion,
      So why didn't God save them?
      or give them jobs?

      Mock him if you like, but like someone said, 'nothing fails like prayer', except perhaps belief in God.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • ME II

      The question is, does anyone ever get what they pray for because of the prayer??

      "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 6:16 pm |
    • JFCanton

      A Penecostal minister doesn't *necessarily* get a thorough training in theology or in classical thinking-so we should not be surprised by a certain amount of recidivism, as it were. Why not just quit, though?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      I will certainly mock someone that claims to hold the mantle of "reason" while displaying the reasoning of toddler.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • ME II

      @The Dog Delusion,
      "I will certainly mock someone that claims to hold the mantle of "reason" while displaying the reasoning of toddler."

      I don't think he claim any "mantle" and obviously this article is not his treatise on religion, it is his story, that's all. In addition, I wouldn't denigrate the "reasoning of a toddler" given your position, I as.sume, of believing in an unevidenced supernatural deity.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • ME II

      Not to mention, didn't God, supposedly say,
      "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."

      So... what happened?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  3. andrew.peter001

    “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.”

    Of course it doesn't always turn out rosy! That's the prosperity gospel though, deceiving billions of people into thinking that if you really believe, you can have a comfy life. Life is not always easy, but if you're a true believer, that doesn't sway you. My treasure is in heaven where moth and rust can not destroy, or theives can not break in and steal. Christ is most prized to me than life itself.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Kafir

      Tell that to the poor saps who are suffering in the streets, in places like Syria or North Korea, where your god sees fit to watch the suffering continue. Not even a mercy killing?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • JFCanton

      What would God be supposed to do? Set off a volcano, perhaps (but that would in its turn kill more innocent people than guilty)? There are rules for the operation of the world-or of the universe-and regardless of how involved one expects "God" to be in administering justice, the action would have to be within those bounds.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Kafir

      JFCanton, I guess his love for people isn't boundless, never mind that he's allegedly omnipotent. What would you do if you saw a child suffering in the street?

      June 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  4. John Wright

    It should not be necessary, except perhaps for a former preacher, to "come out" as an atheist. Nonbelief is the default. Children have to be taught to believe. I do not call myself an atheist because that implies organization, a group, something of the sort. In 17th century England there were people known as Seekers, who sat together in silence and waited to have something religious revealed to them. If I could belong to any group it would be something like that.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • QS

      So wait, you won't refer to yourself as an Atheist because that implies organization of a group...yet you would call yourself a "seeker" and associate yourself with THAT organized group? Sorry, that doesn't make sense.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • copanut

      Atheism isn't an organized group any more than baldness is an organized group. Atheism is a state of being, not an organization – the lack of belief in supernatural deities, or the conviction that such deities are fantasies created by humans.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Tell that to Russ. He doesn't get it.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  5. Atheists get out

    you deny God in a muslim country you get beheaded we need to bring some of that middle eastern justic to America

    June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • copanut

      Yes indeed, as I suspected the only difference between the Taliban and Christian fundamentalists is that the latter is generally restrained by secular law.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • sam

      That's brilliant! You're a frickin' genius – no way THAT can go wrong! Can we start the Hunger Games, too?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Kafir

      Fatwa envy strikes again. Sounds like you're a closeted muslim. Maybe we'll create a support group for you to come out. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • QS

      Even if said in jest, thank you for solidifying my non-belief. You demonstrate perfectly why religion is dangerous and should be stopped in its tracks.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • GinCas

      You're right on the money copanut.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Harel

      Be nice everybody! If you don't like the hard-won freedoms in the US, and you admire the Middle Eastern culture, then by all means MOVE there and may God have pity on your soul.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  6. Lux Et Veritas

    TheDers

    Because praying for others inside your nice warm house is selfish when you could be out actually doing something that helps others.

    ***
    You go on the assumption that all Christians do is pray. Erroneous to assume. Many church congregations do so much for the community as far as charity is involved. There's volunteering at the soup kitchens, donating money and food and clothing, working on Habitat for Humanity (bet you didn't know about that one.), setting up families to live in housing and helping them to find employment, etc.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  7. KMB

    Hebrews 6:4-6: For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Charles

      This guy was never saved to begin with. "they went out from among us, to prove they were not of us"

      June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • steve

      I agree with Charles.

      It is IMPOSSIBLE to turn away from Him once you have been truly touched by Him.

      heaven.

      "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity."

      Matthew 7:22-23

      June 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  8. copanut

    Theists are such comical creatures.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Russ

      @ copanut: and you know what the opposite of comedy is, right?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • copanut

      Yes, Russ, they are also tragic. Thanks for pointing it out.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Kafir

      Oh yes, they're also the opposite of comedy too. Win win?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Harel

      Be nice. It's hard to be a comic but easy to be a critic.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Russ

      @ copanut: sounds like you had some trouble with the analogies portion of standardized tests.
      comic : theist :: tragic : ?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Looks like you had trouble with it yourself, Russ.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • Andrew

      @Russ didn't know that this was a zero sum game....

      June 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Russ

      @ TomTom & Andrew: I guess I overestimated your ability to fill in the blank.

      June 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  9. KMB

    And he said, `Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, `They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, `No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, `If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Andrew

      Your inability to speak with your own words shows your ignorance and supports the atheists.....

      June 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  10. 1927 henritta

    Amen

    June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • sam

      ...to which thing, exactly?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  11. 3N1Amen

    Pitiful! Many people suffer from the "Gimme Jimmy" syndrome...and when they don't get what they want...as this man said...prayed to God for a job, etc. etc...and didn't get it...well then, God was history in his life. Well, the only and GREATEST gift you were given is Jesus Christ...His gift to you! Isn't that enough???? Really??? God gave you your life. And His ultimate sacrifice...His Son Jesus!

    We are living in pitiful times. Shame on you for turning your backs on God...the Truth.
    Satan has won another one and some...he wants as many as he can to turn their eyes off of God.

    PITIFUL!!!

    June 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • copanut

      The Bible teaches us that it is noble to turn over our daughters to raging mobs of rapists for their debasement, humiliation, and death. Great stuff. This story shows up in two different places in the holy, inerrant word of Yahweh.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • ME II

      @3in1Amen,
      If you read the article you would have seen that the job issue was only one thing.

      "After doubt about hell..."
      "...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. '"

      Of course God doesn't care about people in pain and dying; we all know this.

      "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 6:02 pm |
    • JFCanton

      How does one arrive at this conclusion without taking the stories out of context (one is the Sodom story, I believe the other has to do with sins of the lost tribe of Benjamin)? If one is that bad at reading comprehension it doesn't make a meaningful atheist understanding of the world very achievable either...

      June 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  12. Tim B

    This is NOT a news story. CNN, you guys will just stoop to anything. No more bookmark for your website.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      It has served purposes. I'm thankful they put this out there ~Thankful to God.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  13. SHELBYGIRL1

    Sad, so very Sad

    June 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, isn't it. To think, he wasted so much of his life believing in Bronze Age sky-fairies.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Adam

      There is one fewer person lying to himself and to others about what they know about universe. That is a happy ending!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • 3N1Amen

      Yes it is. If it makes our hearts ache, I can only wonder how God feels.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Adam

      You don't have to wonder if you can make it up and impute it to a supernatural agent of your choosing! Silly GIRL1!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  14. Lux Et Veritas

    Herman

    Uh, Lux, that wasn't a rhetorical question.

    ****
    You'll find my answer posted to you ~ a page or so back.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  15. WachetAuf

    One of the huge problems with religion is its insistence on absolutes. Its absolutism keeps people away. Someone who has not been exposed to some of the virtues of religion might easily say that "God does not exist". If that person were given the option of admitting that "God may exist", the atheist might evolve. BUT, because of their ABSOLUTIST rigid views, they will reject that view, insisting in the absolute that "God does exist". AND, even though I have heard good religious people, even ministers and rabbis, express their own doubts about God's existence, they will not publically express their doubts because of the EVIL which is foisted on them by way of the guilt, judgment and shame which is thrust upon them by the religious self-righteous. SHAME to all of them, narcissists all.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Krep1

      Absolutism?? That's being creative. The truth is...there is an ABSOLUTE truth.

      Joh 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

      You see your problem is not with the one's who Upholds truth....you have a problem with the one who establishes truth....GOD..

      June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • garc

      Now, now! There you go being sensible! Look at all the other responses. The mere suggestion of thinking otherwise brings out people quoting all these biblical passages...odd how they don't put in the ones stating slavery is okay, as is selling your daughter into slavery, yet even getting your hair trimmed (Lev. 19:27)- ! – is a sin. Clearly these folks don't care that we are the only first world country that condemns other theocracies while being cool with the idea of making ourselves one.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  16. Krep1

    2Pe 3:2 I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.
    2Pe 3:3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.
    2Pe 3:4 They will say, "What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created."
    2Pe 3:5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, and He brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water.
    2Pe 3:6 Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood.
    2Pe 3:7 And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.
    2Pe 3:8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.
    2Pe 3:9 The Lord isn't really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
    2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • ME II

      ....and apparently a generation is like a thousand generations.

      " Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done."

      June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • steve

      10I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.

      11But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.

      12So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.

      13Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!

      14I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.

      15The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.

      16He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.

      Psalm 81:10-16

      June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Colin

    Can a Christian please help me? I am having trouble distinguishing the third example of circular reasoning from the first two. Perhaps you can explain the difference.

    “I believe Obama is a great man because his biography says so, and the reason I believe his biography is that it is about Obama, who is a great man.”

    “I believe David Koresh was a wise and great prophet because the Branch Davidians wrote a book saying he is. I believe that book because it was inspired by David Koresh, a wise and great prophet.”

    “I believe God exists because it says so in the Bible. I believe the Bible because it is the inspired word of God.”

    June 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Atheists get out

      Get the hell out of my country, atheist!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I see the middle schools are out for the summer.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Harel

      Colin, you may have taken too many math and science courses for your own good. Try spinning around real fast for as long as you can, that may help with the circular reasoning. Or hit your head hard enough to damage the temporal lobe (without going into a coma).

      June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • steve

      Test all three and see for yourself which one is true. If you TRULY desire to find the turth, you will.

      Ask and it SHALL be given.

      Seek and he SHALL find.

      Knock and the door WILL be opened onto you.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Kafir

      You'd gain more credibility if you can offer us a scientific test of your god.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • steve

      Maybe you can help me???

      You post about how you atheists "live and let live"; yet I can feel the anger spewing out of you as you type.

      Is this not circular "reasoning"???

      June 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Steward

      "You post about how you atheists "live and let live"; yet I can feel the anger spewing out of you as you type."

      Actually you are choosing to read it that way, now ask yourself why.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Kafir

      No. Circular reasoning is 'A is true, because of B, which is true because of A'. As you can see, It doesn't prove anything.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • steve

      http://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&cp=10&gs_id=t&xhr=t&q=the+case+for+christ&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1282&bih=324&wrapid=tljp1339625932876018&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=6348394957792048064&sa=X&ei=0BHZT52BOoXBhAf7hNzzAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIcBEPMCMAI

      June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  18. SHAMOON

    jesus Rule .he is yesterday today tomorrow and forevermore ...we do still pray for you ...your message make me stand firm on faith .and trusting God ...he is in control

    June 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Kafir

      The more you close yourself up from reason and rational analysis, the more you fall behind.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • QS

      Control – the foundation of religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  19. Colin

    Ten Ways You Know you are an Atheist.

    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a Jew or Christian if you live in the USA) and had to do your own thinking to rise above the beliefs that still occupy the mind of the believer. This usually involved being smart and working hard at school and college so as to get a good, accurate view of the natural Universe and overcoming significant social pressure to dumb yourself down and conform. In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers. The more you came to understand the Universe, the less reason there was to believe in a god and the more you came to understand human nature, the more you understood why billions of us still do.

    2. While rejecting the supernatural elements of the Bible, you nevertheless retain a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent you reject Christian morality, it is where it is mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, your basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – you just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over your head in order to act in a manner that you consider moral.

    3. You know a great deal more about the Bible than most believers. This is because you took the time to read it yourself and did not rely on the primary-color simple stories you learned in Sunday school. You have also probably done some research into the historical Jesus and have a good handle on where he REALLY fit in to the broader picture of the Middle East at the time. Needless to say, his miracles and other magic powers soon started to look pretty unlikely.

    4. Your knowledge of basic science and history is much stronger than that of your average believer. You likely have a basic working knowledge of physics, astronomy, evolutionary biology and cosmology and a good idea of the history of life on this planet. This acc.umulated knowledge puts you in a position to judge the claims of the Bible in a critical light and they are almost always found wanting. To the theist, this makes you “elitist” and ‘arrogant”.

    5. You relish your role as a religious minority in the USA, as this gives you an impetus to fight and you understand how others with unpopular, but doubtlessly correct views have felt throughout history. There is something altogether satisfying to you about having a deep conviction you are right and being viewed with disdain for your views by the errant majority. You feel a quiet confidence that future generations will look back on you as a member of a class of trailblazers, as religious supersti.tions go into inevitable decline in popularity.

    6. You are likely more environmentally aware than your theist friends and colleagues and unlikely to fall for claims of industry and wind-bag politicians concerning the impact of man’s activities on the environment. You could no more act in an environmentally irresponsible manner because “god will keep us safe” than you could jump off a ship, believing King Neptune will keep you safe.

    7. You generally have a live and let live atti.tude, but will fiercely defend any attempts by theists to thrust their views on you or your children, directly or through control of school boards, the legislature or the executive. While you are prepared to debate and argue passionately with the theist on an intellectual level, you would never wish them harm or ill will. You know you are likely to be smugly told you will “burn in hell for all eternity” for your healthy skepticism. This highlights what you despise about religion, as you would not wish a bad sunburn on another, simply because they have a different religious view to you. You have never heard of an evolutionary biologist strapping a bomb to himself and running into a church yelling “Darwin-u akbar, Darwin-u akbar”.

    8. You likely know more about other religions than your average theist. This makes you less fearful of them and enables you to see parallels. You realize that, if you were born in India, you would have been brought up with a totally different religion. You realize that every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. They cannot all exist and you see the error all faiths make of thinking only theirs exist(s). This “rising above” the regional nature of all religions was probably instrumental in your achieving atheism.

    9. You likely have a deep, genuine appreciation of the fathomless beauty and unbelievable complexity of our Universe, from the 4 nucleotides that orchestrate every aspect of you, through to the distant quasars, without having to think it was all made for you. You likely get more out of being the irrelevant ant staring up at the cosmos than you do in having to pretend that it was all made to turn in majestic black-and-white pirouette about you.

    10. While you have a survival instinct, you cannot fear death in the way the theist does. You know that the whole final judgment story, where you may be sent to hell if you fail, is Dark Ages nonsense meant to keep the Church’s authority. You also know that you were dead for 13,720,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fell pain, or to regret or fear itself dies. You will not even know you are dead. Fear of death is as meaningless to you as is the fear of a vacuum, the fear of not being born. You feel a lot more secure, and indeed a deep comfort, in this knowledge, than you would in trying to yoke yourself to some quasi-hope from Bronze Age Palestine that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • QS

      "In short, you had the guts to ask the hard questions and the brains to spot the weak answers."

      Bravo! This is so accurate!

      June 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • SusieKJ

      I really enjoyed that Colin. I'm with you on all of them except #5.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Friendly-neighborhood-atheist

      VERY well said.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Colin Fantastic Post, to bad the real "believers" will choose not to accept logic because faith tells them not to.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Tim

      Excellent. I loved this.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • dman

      Thank you Colin.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  20. John K

    In case no one has mentioned it yet, this man was the guest speaker on a recent episode of the atheist experience in Austin Texas. You may be able to find it on youtube as most AE shows are posted there. I think you may also find the reference for the specific spisode on AE's website. (atheist-experience DOT com)

    June 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      That should make for some quality entertainment. Does Bubba DeWitt present his rock solid argument for atheism in the video? "If you don't get a job you pray for then God don't exist"

      June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • John K

      I found the full episode on youtube just search for KiNSiMhiuXo

      June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • John K

      No Bubba Dog Delusion, it's a call in show where people who believe in magical sky daddies call in to offer their rock solid arguments for the existance of magical things that elude all attempts to prove exist. It's a real hoot. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      John K,
      DeWitt is on your team now! I've got enough bubbas on my team to deal with. Someone in charge of the "reasonfest" should've at least told DeWitt to google some arguments against God that have any a tiny sliver of logic other than, "My buddy didn't get a job he prayed for!"

      June 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Adam

      "whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." That's either the divine word of the Creator of the Universe, in which case the job would have been given, or it's just words, like any other book ever written.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • John K

      You do understand that the word atheist simply means non-belief in a god(s) right? Atheists don't need to offer arguments against things that cannot be proven and sport NO evidence. It's about as meaningful as providing arguments against the existance of unicorns or elves. You'd have listened to every word Dewitt had to say until he said he didn't believe what you do. 😉

      June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • John K

      Crap I posted the wrong youtube link. The actual episode I was talking about is KvP4-0AKH4Y Sorry I goofed.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:12 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.