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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. John K

    Hey Bubba Dod Delusion why don't you go to yuotube and hear Mr. Dewitt tell it himself? I realize that would be technically challenging for someone who doesn't believe in science and sciency things like computers and internets and what not. However if you are not to freighened search KvP4-0AKH4Y on youtube.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  2. The Rev

    2 Peter 3 : 3

    3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires"

      People in general are not evil therefore that is a lie. Religious people find it very annoying that people don't need God to be good, as science has now incontestably proved.

      For millennia, we've been brainwashed into believing that we needed the Almighty to redeem us from an essentially corrupt nature. Left to our own devices, people would quickly devolve into beasts, more violent, tactless, aggressive, and selfish, than we already are.

      Today, we know that this isn't true. With the discovery of mirror neurons by Italian neuroscientist Giaccomo Rizzolatti in the 1990s, we now have physiological proof of why - and how - our species became hard-wired for goodness. Mirror neurons are miraculous cells in the brain whose sole purpose is to harmonize us with our environments. By reflecting the outside world inward, we actually become each other - a little bit; neurologically changed by what is happening around us. Mirror neurons are the reason that we have empathy and can feel each other's pain. It is because of mirror neurons that you blush when you see someone else humiliated, flinch when someone else is struck, and can't resist the urge to laugh when seeing a group struck with the giggles. (Indeed, people who test for "contagious yawning" tend to be more empathic.) These tiny mirrors are the key to most things noble and good inside us.

      It is through mirror neurons - not God - that we redeem ourselves, achieve salvation, and are "reborn" in virtuous ways once co-opted by religions. Evolution knew what she was doing. A group of successful cooperators has a much higher chance of thriving than a population of selfish liars. In spite of what we read in the headlines, the ratio of bad to good deeds done on any given day across our planet holds at close to zero any day of the year. Although we are ethical works-in-progress, the vast majority of us are naturally positive creatures - meaning not harmful to our environments - most of the time in most of the ways that matter. And God has nothing to do with it.

      Spirituality does but God doesn't. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that our brains are hard-wired with a five-toned moral organ that focuses on a quintet of ethical values - one of which is purity, or sacredness. In a world that can sometimes be disgusting, we evolved an upper tier of emotional longing - the aspiration for purity - to keep us balanced in this satyricon of carnal delights (where animality beckons and frequently wins). Our need for sacredness is part of our ancient survival apparatus, and manifests in what we call faith, the need to connect with that sacred dimension. This has been the primary purpose of religion, of course - to congregate people for the Greater Good - but God has been, in fact, the divine carrot. The important part was communion, a context in which to transcend ourselves, if only for an hour on Sundays. Without this ability "to turn off the Me and turn on the We," moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells us, our species would still be wandering around as groups of nomads, unable to create a civilization.

      Aside from mirror neurons, there's oxytocin, the molecule of connection (also known as the molecule of love). It's fascinating to learn that the vagus nerve produces more oxytocin when we witness virtuous behavior in others that makes us want to be better people ourselves. We are wired by nature to be elevated at the sight of other people's goodness, mirror neurons and oxytocin conspiring to improve the species. Miraculous though it is, this natural human phenomenon has nothing to do with theology.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  3. Paul

    Satan's unwitting ministers can appear as bearers of light also.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      Thing is, he isn't a minister for God any longer. That all changed when he chose another direction in which to follow.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      So who do you trust? How do you know Satan's unwitting ministers didn't write the Bible? That would explain a lot...

      June 13, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Herman

    And, as usual, the simple question "Is Anne Frank in hell?" shuts down the discussion.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      No it didn't. I posted my answer to you ~ so perhaps now it's probably 3 or so pages back. So therefore, the discussion wasn't shut down. You just overlooked my response. Please notice that many times there isn't a direct reply link on the thread. I copied and pasted your question and then answered it.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • The Rev

      We, of course, do not know. If she denied Christ, then yes. You presume that Christ revealed Himself to Anne Frank in a church or through some other conventional way.

      God will choose to reveal Himself as He sees fit. Man's understanding of this is infantile.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • NooYawkah

      I don't know what discussion you're referring to, but to answer your oh so deep philosophical question, no she isn't, because no one is in "Hell". The word hell in the Bible is translated from the Hebrew sheol, meaning the grave, and the Greek Hades, meaning, also, the grave, and, finally, the Greek word Tartaro, meaning a place of confinement where only Satan and his demons are held, but allowed to leave to wreak havoc on the earth. I'm not saying you have to believe that, I'm just telling you what the Bible really says. Nowhere does it say that the wicked "go to hell" when they die, rather, all who die are asleep until the resurrections. Happy now, brainiac?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      Ugg....The Anne Frank "argument"? Are you kidding? I imagine you and Bubba DeWitt are about on the same intellectual level. His "God didn't give Billy Bob a job so he must not exist!" argument must sound pretty profound to you, eh?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  5. john

    I can't believe all of the negative comments from so many of his former friends and the true belivers. It seems that as soon as the faith is questioned, the outrage begins. Science will fly to the moon religon will fly you into a building.

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

      Science will fly to the moon religon will fly you into a building. Best quote ever.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • QS

      Their reaction proves that their claims of attempting to "save" people are false...they just want to increase their ranks, which leads to more money for the church.

      But as you said, once the non-belief is announced, they don't actually care about the person, only that they will no longer have that person on their list of contributors.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Stars and Stripes

      Awesomely true. No one really knows and that is the funniest part. It's kind of like having your home broken into and after getting home, you rush out the front door with your handy pistol and shoot the first person you see. Actions based on zero facts have a zero benefit. I really never understood the zeal. For any religion, especially to the point of killing in the name of something you, your parents, nor the generations that came before them have ever seen. I prefer the kinds of Gods that just don't want me to walk by faith, but by the glorious senses and reasoning that said God gave me. Why make me a thinking and reasoning being, only to have my reasons to believe be only blind faith?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  6. John

    you’ll suddenly find yourself where you only have two choices,” DeWitt told a group in Johnson County, Kansas...“You can either be honest that you don’t believe ... or you can pretend that you do.” Well, once again DeWwitt is almost correct. He's right that we have only two choices, but he is wrong as to what those choices are. In reality, DeWItt is only expressing one of those choices, but describing it in two ways. The true other choice is that you can actually and genuinely believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. Of course, you first have to not only recognize your own sinfulness and need for a Savior...and be willing to admit it (and then repent and ask the Lord for salvation and receive regeneration). Of course, this is the true barrier to DeWItt receiving Christ...like aqll of us, he is too pig-headed and arrogant to admit that he is a lost sinner and utterly incapable of doing even the slightest good deed that will lead to salvation (outside of repentance). DeWItt is suffering from self-righteousness.

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

      There are many religions on the planet. To insist that he has to believe in yours or he is lost is the height of arrogance. Just like a "christian" to leave no room for any belief other than their own.

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

      Actually, it's more arrogant to assume your stance isn't flawed. A little education would fix that up quick.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Way to take his words completely out of context. I think you should acknowledge that exactly before you started quoting him, he had the qualifier of "If you don’t believe, then you will be like me...". If you want to try and refute something someone says, then at least try to be somewhat honest about it instead of using things out of context and going off on an irrelevant tangent in order to be preachy.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • dude

      Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...Sheep...sheep.sheep.sheep..bahh, bahhh,sheep......sheep...

      June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      "The true other choice is that you can actually and genuinely believe that Jesus Christ is Lord"

      I don't think any adult honestly believes that, because NONE of them live their lives as if it were true. I'm just about convinced ALL of you are just pretending, or are simply too frightened to admit the reality of the situation to yourselves. Or perhaps it's just to troll me and try my patience 😛

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

      Interesting how you cut out the full statement... “If you don’t believe, then you will be like me – you’ll suddenly find yourself where you only have two choices,”
      The "if you don't believe" part automatically excludes the 'you could honestly believe in god' part, because it's already admitting he doesn't.

      So IF you don't, then the two choices are admit it or pretend. In your desire to criticize this guy, you managed to cut out the relevant part of his sentence.

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

      Thanks Andrew, I was going to comment about John taking the quote out of context, but you beat me to it! 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  7. Lux Et Veritas

    The prosperity gospel is leading so many people away from God, because they are being told and made promises that God will bless them financially ~ if they do a, b, c, etc. ~ which means almost always putting money into the coffers of those telling them these things. And then, when things get rough financially, then those same people may blame God, instead of those who have deceived people with falsities and untruths in the first place. Blessing people financially isn't the message which should be preached about right now ~ the message should be entirely about Christ and what He represents for people's salvation. Money has nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with people's salvation. And storing up treasures in Heaven ( and not hording here on earth for ourselves which is very selfish and is ungodly) doesn't mean having to go through another party in order to do so.

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

      Actually, the bible itself is driving people away from christianity (coupled with a basic education in science and philosophy of course).

      June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  8. The Rev

    Matthew 7 : 13-14

    13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

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

      "Matthew 7 : 13-14

      13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

      Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live! ~Bob Marley

      Albert Einstein
      R

      June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Meg Safranek

      Amen!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      83% of Americans identify with a religious denomination. So, if that verse is true, then the wide road that many take is Christianity. And the narrow path is Atheism. So Christianity leads to destruction. Makes sense to me. Thanks!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  9. actually

    Most atheists are self absorbed goofs with a big F in life, likely to be liberal, and completely care less about anyone but themselves.

    But ya, articles like this make you guys feel special.

    Why doesn't these liberal CNN tools post stories about the thousands of atheists who on their death bed prayed like a mofo?

    June 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Saby

      This is more of a generalization, but from reading the posts of the type of atheists that post here, you may be right.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jon S.

      It's amazing how wrong you are. Exactly what is your conclusion based on? What you think? That is not valid.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • The Rev

      Those atheists have seen the face of God at their end.

      They can hear now or believe later. The choice is theirs.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Adam

      "Most atheists are self absorbed goofs with a big F in life" : HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?,
      "likely to be liberal" : WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF BREAD?
      "completely care less about anyone but themselves" : HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?
      "thousands of atheists who on their death bed prayed like a mofo" : HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?

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

      I don't know what atheists you hang out with, but all the non-believers I know are well educated, very worldly, and extremely caring and giving. Far from self absorbed. We do not need a book to tell us how to behave ourselves, we just believe in being kind for the sake of being kind. Your statement is incredibly invalid.
      I am an atheist. Born to parents who used to be Mormon, and Jewish. None of us believe in any gods. I have volunteered my time with handicapped kids, I teach riding lessons to kids, I am a first aider, and I have helped many a person in need. I am good without god!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Jackson

      And the Catholic Church believes in spending millions on stopping gay rights, when that money could feed, clothe, and shelter the poor. What a waste!

      The Catholic Church also turns a blind eye to the pedophilia problem they have. THERE is your real sin!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Most atheists are self absorbed goofs with a big F in life, likely to be liberal, and completely care less about anyone but themselves."

      Since lying is a sin you must not follow the bible nor are you a real Christian. 😉
      Uh...oh...that means you're on our side. LOL!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Kafir

      Is it me, or are the christians usually the more proficient trollers?

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

      I guess if I killed or felt it was fin to kill babies in the womb I'd choose to be liberal and atheist. I mean what other choice do you have?!

      Might as well finalize the memory of how you lived your life...

      June 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Get Real

      @The Rev,
      "Those atheists have seen the face of God at their end.
      They can hear now or believe later."

      And your verified evidence for that is...?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Doc_77

      I do feel special, thanks! I gave up on make believe friends when I was a child.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Goofus

      @actually
      I *also* have a wide brush with which to paint broad strokes! It is quite fancy.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • HappyMadison

      Make stuff up much?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  10. The Dog Delusion

    Where does Jerry DeWitt rank among greatest philosophers?

    No doubt reasoning such as this will confound the greatest of minds for the rest of mankind....

    "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 6:13 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 6:19 pm |
    • Jackson

      How about "no sane, rational, caring god would allow children to be molested by those that preach the word" and allow them to get away with it. Innocent children are not put on this earth to suffer such atrocities.

      That is why there is no God.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  11. DM

    I have a personal relationship wiht Jesus, he has a leafblower and he also mows my lawn every Monday morning. ;-D

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

    What DavidW0909 said.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  13. teambovine

    Take a couple of logic classes.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Cesar Castillo

      you take logic classes u weak being...i bet ur a weakling mad at life and all that...your the stupid one who rejects attempts to make you understand..how about YOU use ur logic and look at your body and tell me we are not perfect mammals..oh wait u might be dissappointed and MAD...it appears u will be one of the millions or possibly billions that will die in some months...you and your sheep will be devoured by wolves from outer space...and caught in the crossfire of masses of sinners and war against the one who truly hates you nobody has to prove smack

      June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Kafir

      Umad bro?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  14. The Rev

    2 Corinthians 4 : 1-4

    Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God

    June 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • tampabay

      This is written centuries ago by an imaginative monk drunk on wine.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  15. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19

    Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. Mark 9:42

    Then He will also say to those on His left, Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels Matthew 25:41

    June 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • QS

      I need no shepherd for I think and reason...and I am not a sheep,
      I shall want only what serves humanity best;
      I lie down in green pastures because I choose to, not because anything makes me.
      I swim in still waters, I need not be led beside them;
      If a soul exists it is mine and is for me to restore how I see fit.
      Paths of righteousness will never fail to lead a person astray…
      especially for His name’s sake.

      I will walk through many valleys, it’s called life;
      the shadow of death follows one and all, no matter where we walk.
      I fear evil;
      evil is created by man, which is to be feared far more than any of the countless versions of god;
      your rod and your staff do not comfort me as they are herding tools...and I am not a sheep.
      I would be arrogant to think goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, for I am human and we make mistakes.
      I shall not dwell in any house that believes me to be nothing more than an animal which must be told where to go and when.

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

      Care to explain how a perfect and benevolent god would create people and send them to hell? Oh, it was their own choices you say? Wouldn't a perfect all-knowing god know the choices that everyone would make? So he made them – knowing what they would choose – and then torture them forever in hell?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Fernanda

      Hiya ..Excellent read, I just passed this onto a couegalle who was doing a little research on that. And he just bought me lunch as I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! They may forget what you said, but they will never forget

      October 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  16. The Rev

    To my Christian brothers and sisters – Are you surprised? We knew this day would come:

    2 Timothy – 3 : 1-5 says:

    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Harold Camping, is that you?

      You nutbars have been predicting the end of the world (and actively trying to make it happens it seems) since that passage was written. We're still here.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Colin

      Actually, Rev, the "end is nigh" nonsense is actually the Jewish answer to the failure of their covenant belief. This quintessential Jewish doctrine held that held that god had chosen the Jews as his favorite people and would look after them if they kept his law – circu.mcising boys, not working on the Sabbath etc. After a few hundred years of keeping the law, but being overrun by everybody except the Australian Aboriginals, the Jews naturally started to question where their god was and why he wasn’t keeping his end of the deal.

      By about 200 BC, two schools had developed to explain why they were experiencing exactly what one would expect if there were no god. First, the “we’re being punished for our sins” school arose, that taught that the Jews were not living according to their sky-god’s law and that the sky-god was punishing them. This worked for a while, until they started to realize that those who TOTALLY ignored his law (i.e. gentiles) were doing much better than the Jews.

      So, once again they had to explain why they were experiencing exactly what one would expect if there were no god. Shazam, the apocalyptic school was born. This school taught that, while the gentiles were doing better NOW, the day would come when they would get their comeuppance. The Jews were suffering because of Satan (invented for this purpose and appearing nowhere in earlier Jewish literature) but God would return and defeat Satan in an epic battle. THEN the Jews would get their just rewards and the evil would be punished.

      This view was perfect, because you never had to deliver. You could just keep putting off the issue by answering any skeptic with the “any day now” response. It was (and is) perfect to explain why they were experiencing exactly what one would expect if there were no god.

      The Palestinians do the same thing with Allah, claiming the Jews will get their comeuppance “one day…one day, you mark my words”. So do Christians, in a sense, with the “he’ll burn in hell for that” response they proffer when they feel somebody has gotten away with something they don’t like. So do the Chicago Cubs -:)

      Jesus himself believed this as did St. Paul. They expected the second coming in their lifetime. They were wrong, as has every apocalyptic prophet since then to and including Koresh, Camping, the idiot Christian Evangelicals and the 21 December 2012 nuts.

      Revelations was simply one of many stories floating around the Middle East at the time from a genre of literature called “apocrypha”. Apocrypha were the ancient equivalent of horror stories, written to frighten and entertain the public, much the same way that Shakespearean plays did in the 1600s and Stephen King novels do today. You have to remember that those people had no vampires, serial killers or evil corporations to do the trick. They had to rely on what they had- gods. Revelations happened to find its way into the ible (in the way that a Stephen King novelette might find its way into “A Collection of Modern American Literature”.

      Apocrypha were not meant to be taken seriously, but to entertain and, sometimes, pass on a message from the author. Unfortunately, once Revelations found its way into the Bible, this particular pulp fiction story was guaranteed to be reinterpreted by every generation since then as applying to that generation’s particular time in history. The early 21st Century is no exception, save that we have even less excuse for taking it seriously today.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Marc

      id10t

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

      ... and there will be days of rain and storms, and people will argue and fight with each other, and dogs will chase cats, these are the signs.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • The Rev

      Every knee will bow and tongue confess.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      "Every knee will bow and tongue confess."

      Nothing like threatening to sic your imaginary friend on somebody when you haven't got anything reasonable to reply with, eh, Rev?

      Look out, or I'm gonna have my invisible dragon pay you a visit.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Oodoodanoo

      Rev, you sound like one of those people. Beware those who cloak themselves in false piety. Beware those who indulge the sin of rage masked as righteousness.

      If you even think you understand the mind of God then I hope you get your wish to meet Him.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • The Rev

      To tell you what is coming is not a threat, simply truth.

      God does not desire that anyone should perish, but He will allow you to choose that fate for yourself.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @The Rev

      Prove your assertions, or your just blowing smoke out of your ass.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • The Rev

      There is no proof in anything other than the Word of God. I accept that you will not see that as a valid argument. It is my stance nonetheless.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Then you should hold no delusion that your bible rantings will have any effect on anyone, unless of course they already agree with you. Preaching to the choir gives a nice little jolly doesn't it?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • The Rev

      My purpose in quoting Scripture is simply to reinforce what God Himself told us was coming. We should not be surprise, therefore, at articles such as this.

      My words are to support the believers on this blog that God has seen this coming and told us what to expect.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      So you realize you're preaching to the choir, but just don't care. Why not just go to your church and preach there, at least those of us who find the bible unreliable or stupid don't have to look at your idiocy? Plus you have a much more captive audience in church anyway.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  17. Snoopy

    Christians are doing it to themselves. Bye bye religion, you will eventually die away like the rest as people become more intelligent.

    Atheist feel about religion the same way Christians feel about Greek mythology or the Egyptian pharos. We just don't care to believe in made up gods.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      With such philosophically sound arguments like, "i don't like preaching about hell, therefore God don't exist" and "Steve didn't get a job he prayed for, therefore God don't exist." theism has no chance.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • Cesar Castillo

      you will die stupid ull die when iran and israel go at it and drag us into hell

      June 13, 2012 at 6:10 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 6:21 pm |
    • SonOfSteel

      Of all the world's different religions, there dwell an equal number of differing gods. As already stated, christians give zero credibility to the ancient myths ( Egyptian, Greek & Roman ) as valid religions. These religions were poly-theistic, containing multiple gods, goddesses imps, demons etc...

      Christians believe in only one god.

      We atheists are NOT all that different to theists in one regard:

      We simply believe in one less mythical god than you.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • SonOfSteel

      Of all the world's different religions, there dwell an equal number of differing gods.
      As already stated, christians give zero credibility to the ancient myths
      ( Egyptian, Greek & Roman ) as valid religions. These religions were poly-theistic,
      containing multiple gods, goddesses imps, demons etc...
      Christians believe in only one god.

      We atheists are not all THAT different to theists in one regard:

      We simply believe in one less mythical god than you.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  18. Saby

    It's clear that this has never been a God-centered person. His goal was to make people feel good from the start, and that's not a good foundation or calling for a pastor. Telling people the truth is often hard. There are also times when people suffer in spite of much prayer. He should have studied better and had a better foundation for his calling. No wonder he is now on the atheist war path. I wish him the best and hope he gets converted to God for real this time.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Indeed, he's not a True Scotsman at all.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

      June 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      No....he was a "true scotsman".... just with the logic of a 2nd grader.

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

      God centered person? Telling people the truth is hard? It seems to me it's impossible because we don't know the truth. We only know belief and faith and that's not truth. Neither christians nor atheists know the truth.

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

      i'm curious, what exactly is the "atheist warpath" you speak of? Wanting equal rights for all people? Oh no, the humanity of wanting to live in a peaceful world!

      Why do we need a fictional storybook designed to keep primitive village-folk in line, to dicate what goes on in modern society?

      Also, name me a major war in the last 200 years that was caused by atheism. Or a battle led by an atheist. If Stalin is the only one you can think of, I think 1 out of a few hundred is pretty good, personally.

      There is nothing wrong with educating yourself, and forming your own personal opinion. If you want to believe in god after researching other options, then go for it. But don't just believe in god because your mommy and daddy told you too. This is an example of ignorance. This is why atheists have an issue with religious followers.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  19. realityville

    Ten Reasons You Know you are an Atheist.
    1. You were likely brought up a theist (probably a 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 appreciate 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 of 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”.
    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 13,700,000,000 years before you were born. It is impossible for you to fear death, for the simple reason that you know the capacity to fear (or to feel pain or discomfort) 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 that every part of your intellect tells you is untenable.

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

      Hmmmm, that looks familiar.

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

      Actually most atheists are self absorbed goofs with a big F in life, likely to be liberal, and completely care less about anyone but themselves.

      Why doesn't these liberal CNN tools post stories about the thousands of atheists who on their death bed prayed like a mofo?

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Alex Gessong

      @actually: dude, you just made that up. You know nothing about atheists. You simply take everything you don't like and label it "liberal." Christianity is a Liberal religion. Conservatives condemned Christ to be crucified. Christ preached liberal themes: tolerance, forgiveness. helping the poor. Christ said, "be as wise as serpents, but as harmless as doves." Christ said, "do good to those who persecute you." Conservatism is the total opposite of what Christ preached. Conservatism is anti-Christ by definition. Christ was a liberal. Apparently you would not have like him if you had ever met him.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Charline

      Yeah, what he said! ^^^^^^^^^^^^

      June 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Joshua

      Very well done.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  20. DavidW0909

    Having grown up going to Church I value the lessons I learned from it. I have not been active in Church for a long time because I see a lot of hatred coming from some (not all) of the people who seem to have not really learned anything from studying Jesus Christ. Many friends of mine who are devoutly religious talk about wanting to "wipe out Muslims" and don't like gays and lesbians but offer little substance about why they don't like them other than saying "the Bible says it's wrong". I can't live my life like that.

    With that said, I hear even MORE hatred coming from Atheists, they are openly hostile and actually would wish harm on those that choose to believe in religion. I often wonder why this is so? I don't hear hatred for Atheists from Christians, they may show pity and perhaps that is what makes you so angry. They have retained their faith in something they perceive is larger than the rest of us. You should respect their desire to believe, stop suing for some courthouse in Texas putting up a Nativity Scene at Christmas.

    if you want to study and practice a religion or not, don't show hatred towards others, don't be an A_S, don't judge, don't interfere, don't attack. Think of it like a TV show you don't like, if you don't like it don't watch it PERIOD! I think that should about sum up this entire thread, now if we could just get both sides to listen, probably not going to happen.

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

      You must be joking calling atheists hatefull. Please read the postings from the religious folks. Maybe take a count of all the name calling from the religious folk. Religious nuts hate everyone that isn't just like them. Churchs are the most segregated gatherings on the planet! There's some 'luv thy neighbor'!!!

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

      Well thought out & well said. Thank you.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • BrianA6502

      "With that said, I hear even MORE hatred coming from Atheists, they are openly hostile and actually would wish harm on those that choose to believe in religion. I often wonder why this is so?"

      I think you asked an honest question, and you deserve an honest answer.
      The religious have the power.
      For example, I'm gay. (I'm also formerly religious.) Religious believers use their power to deny me civil rights. Is it not surprising that those of us who are stepped on and denigrated by the religious harbor resentment to them?

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

      @ David – "but offer little substance about why they don't like them other than saying "the Bible says it's wrong". I can't live my life like that. "

      So why don't you just live your life as the Bible teaches us to? If many 'church-goers' are not living up to par with biblical standards or are not living according to the righteousness through Jesus Christ, why don't you just go ahead and do it the right way? And the right way is to teach all people about repentence and turning to the Savior for salvation and guidance. And then share this same love you have with the lost. Don't just give up because "others" are not doing the 'right' thing.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • QS

      If only it were that easy to truly escape from religion's grasp. I can understand somebody not understanding the need to stand up to the religious if they have never been on the receiving end of their completely real hatred.

      Once you have been, like many of us Atheists have been, you might start to see a clearer picture of what is truly going on.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Puglover

      Well said!

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

      Using your analogy, atheist groups sue because Atheist are forced to watch and listen to the TV show on channels that are on public airways. Atheist do not mind religious groups, they just care when they are forced to pray along, or view a religious symbols in public places.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • notogop

      If you haven't been exposed to theists showing hatred toward atheists, you haven't been paying attention to your surroundings very much and you certainly don't attend a fundamentalist church. My father was a fundamental preacher and I had the opportunity to attend many, many different church services. Hatred and condemnation of atheists and other religions was always a common theme. My experience has been exactly opposite of yours. I find theists to be much more intolerant of atheist even though the atheists are continually bombarded by the government and politcal parties (Republicans) promoting their religion with our taxes.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • GOODWITHOUTGOD

      I hear christians say hateful things about atheists all the time. As with any demographic, theres are bad apples in the bunch. Most of my friends are christian, and I have no issue with it at all. I think the religious folk that us atheists have issues with, are the fundamentalists who speak hate towards other religions, the LGBT community, and other countries or ethnicities.

      If religion lets you be a better person, that is fantastic! But if you use it to justify treating other people like crap, you are not following the example of Jesus, and are therefore a poor believer. I have no issue with those who practice what they preach, I just disagree with using your bible to treat others like they are less important, or like they are evil.

      It is your "god" who is supposed to do the judging, so just go about your own life, live as righteously as you can, and leave those who do not believe alone.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:34 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.