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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. Rick James

    I wonder if we had a Congress full of atheist liberals and atheist conservatives(and a non-theist president), instead of what we have now. In my mind, it would work a lot better. People will have their differences, but religion encourages a sense of "if you are not with us, you are against us" and believing that what I believe in is true just because I believe in it. I know that money would play a role still, but it would play less of a role because you are thinking about things a lot more clearly so that money wouldn't affect you. Instead of seeing the president as the Anti-christ, conservatives or liberals would see him as a guy they don't agree with but still someone that they should serve the American people with. In that sense of reason, I think that the country would function a lot better.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      They tried to create a similar type of enviroment (communism) without much success. I think communism in theory is the perfect society but in practice it runs contrary to human nature. It's a flaw in our nature this us against them mentality. If religion wasn't a factor, politics, culture, sports and the big one money would be. We aren't ant's with a common goal and we never can be.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Rick James

      Fair enough, but I will just tell you that athiest=/= communism. Communism is not a religious belief, it's a strictly economic one (and very bad at that.)

      June 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
  2. Christopher

    Hooray Jerry DeWitt!!!!! Your support is out there, just apparently not on here. It pleases me that is scares these believers to no end. Our numbers are increasing, so they will eventually be in the minority!

    June 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • tony

      Too many already dead pre-christians to ever make christians more than a tiny minority in your heaven

      June 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Fifi

    Welcome to Planet Earth, where Belief masquerades as Knowledge!
    This way to the Unasked Questions ->
    <- This way to the Unquestioned Answers

    June 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  4. Manuel

    I can't trust this guy because he once was a priest.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  5. Dontarious Black

    This guy is nothing more than a greed-hungry businessman and he sees a group of suckers that he can best capitalizde financially off of.

    Money is his God.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Or maybe he is just honest and could not live a delusional lie any longer.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Dani3l

      I feel the same way about most evangelical ministers.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • DrewNumberTwo

      How exactly does that business plan work?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  6. God's Defender

    I will believe in atheism when I see PROOF of evolution.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Colin

      Oh my creationist friend, proof of evolution is all around you. Now, before you declare me “stupid,” “evil” or part of a worldwide conspiracy to deny the truth of your talking snake theory of life on Earth, please take five minutes to read this.

      The classic definition of a species is that two members of the same species can breed and produce fertile offspring, but cannot mate with members of a different species. A human of any race can mate with a human of any other race, but none of us can mate with a chimpanzee, for example. So, all humans are in the same species, but we are all a different species to chimpanzees. Easy stuff.

      Indeed, it is often easy to tell that two organisms are of different species just by looking at them. Compare, for example, a dog to a horse. Where it gets a little complex, however, is where you have two organisms that look very similar, but are of different species, or two different species that look very similar. Dogs are a great example of both. Compare a lighter-coated German Shepherd to the wolf. They look very similar, but are of a different species. Likewise, a Great Dane looks very different to a Corgi, but they are of the same species, Canis lupis familiaris, the domestic dog.

      Why are Great Danes and Corgis considered to be the same species (along with German Shepherds) but wolves and German Shepherds not? Same reason as humans. Great Danes, German Shepherds and Corgis can and will mate and produce fertile offspring, but none of them can mate with a wolf. However, and this is where evolution kicks in, all breeds of dog alive today descended from wolves. In fact, it is likely that they all descended, ultimately, from a small pack of wolves that were domesticated in the Middle East some 10,000 years ago. Some research suggests Manchuria as the location, but I digress.

      What happened was that humans noticed that certain, less aggressive wolves were handy to have around. They ate pests and garbage and alerted the camp when predators lurked nearby. So, humans began to intentionally feed and try to tame them. The tamer, less aggressive wolves were less afraid of human interaction and less likely to harm their human hosts. They, therefore received more food and protection, which gave them a breeding advantage, and they passed on this favorable trait, call it “tameness,” to their offspring.

      The tamer offspring were constantly chosen (probably unknowingly) for care and support and the wilder, more aggressive members of the litter discarded, perhaps for biting or avoiding humans. After hundreds or thousands of years of inadvertent selection for “tameness” the camp wolves started to become dependent on their human hosts and to even look different to their still wild ancestors. They lost the extreme aggressiveness that helped them in the wild, became less streamlined and tooled for the kill and had less adrenaline that causes aggression. In other words, they slowly became, in a sense, fat, dumb and happy. Dough-boys. Girlie-men compared to their wild cousins, still red of fang and claw.

      These first domestic dogs were so popular with humans that their “use” spread and humans all over the globe – from Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Maoris and other Polynesians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all began to use dogs. Then something else happened. Humans actually noticed that, if there was a specific trait you liked about your, say male dog, you could breed it with a female with the same trait and the offspring would inherit that trait. If, for example, a hunter-gatherer only ever allows the fastest male dogs to breed with the fastest female dogs, after many years of such selective breeding the resultant dogs would differ so much in body shape, leg length and, perhaps, lung capacity from their ancestor as to be considered a separate breed.

      No one set of offspring would differ greatly from its parents, but it will differ a little more from its grandparents, and even a little more from its great-grandparents etc., until we go all the way back to the original dog, which will be quite different in appearance.

      Bang – dog breeding was born. Humans selected for speed, resulting in the Greyhound, smelling and tracking ability (Bloodhounds) ability to herd sheep (Collies and Australian Shepherds) appearance (Dalmatians and Pomeranians) size (Chihuahuas and Great Danes) and a host of other traits.

      As with most human activities, as our knowledge increased, dog breeding improved and exploded in the 1900s, with the current 600 or so breeds of dogs all descendent from the original wolf. Many breeds of dog alive today evolved over the past few decades and did not even exist as late as 1900. But, every last domestic dog, from the Teacup Chihuahua in Paris Hilton’s purse to the Great Danes of European car advertisements, are the cu.mulative result of selective breeding down different paths from the original wolf.

      They can no longer breed with wolves for a variety of reasons, including basic $exual physiology, mating rituals and genetic compatibility of the spe.rm and egg. Not only that, but put any domestic dog in the wild and it would not survive a week. A wolf is much more likely to eat a Shih Tzu than bonk it. They are separate species. In the struggle for life, the domestic dog species originated through means of selection as a favored race from the original wolf. If this last sentence sounds familiar, that is because it is. It is essentially the full ti.tle of Charles Darwin’s seminal work: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.

      So there you have it, my Bible-cuddling friends. Evolution in motion. Undeniable, living in every suburb, licking our face, fetching our sticks and messing on our sidewalks. Macro-evolution. A well recorded, understood, DNA mapped and uncontroversial case of evolution of one species – Canis lupus lupus, the Eurasian wolf, into another, Canis lupus familiaris, the domestic dog.

      There are many, many others examples of evolution all around us by the way. Even the most cursory of research into any branch of horticulture or animal husbandry quickly reveals that the size, variety, health, longevity and resistance to disease of most of our domesticated plants and animals were the thing of dreams as recently as 100 years ago. Indeed, biotech companies like Monsanto would quickly fall behind the market if they did not spend millions each year on Darwinian selective breeding programs. Why do you think horse breeders spend thousands of dollars to have a fast racehorse mate with their mare?

      Wheat is another great example, as are gra.pes. The species of wheat that we in the West use for bread only developed in the last few thousand years as a result of two episodes of sympatric speciation (different to selective breeding, but an agent of evolution none the less) and the various Shiraz, Char.donnay and Pinot Noir gra.pes we enjoy today, in the form of wine, were all developed and perfected in the last 100 years or so.

      So, Adam or Eve, the next time you kneel down in your church and take your weekly dose of the body and blood of your dead Jew, you might like to reflect on the fact that you are actually eating proof of evolution and washing it down with proof of evolution.

      “Body of Darwin” Amen!

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

      Colin:

      This is incredible crap. You are a brain-washed idiot to not only believe this evolution nonsense, but add you own theories as well. Pure and utter garbage. Good day to you.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • KRHODES

      Colin, You must have a lot of time on your hands? Anyway...not one thing you stated does anything to disprove God or prove macroevolution.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Prove to me you are not left handed. Ha! I didn't think you could.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • tony

      You can only see daylight today on this Earth, because of the light that was made in the Sun a coupla million years ago, and has spent that time rising to the surface to escape into space in our direction. Of course if you don't think nuclear power stations actually work, either, you can poo poo daylight too.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Busy Dogs

      @Colin Dogs and wolves can indeed mate and wold-dog hybrids are indeed fertile.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • cestlavie3

      As a Christian, I reject atheism for it's inherent stupidity. Evolution, not so much. My faith does not preclude me from accepting the theory, although the verdict is still out.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • terri

      Atheism takes more faith than Christianity. We can pray that their misguided faith be redirected in the proper direction....

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Translation of Mac's post: I don't even understand most of what Colin said and can't think of a single thing he stated that I can refute without resorting to using the Bible, so I'm gonna take my ball and go home.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Dani3l

      Would you be able to understand it if you did?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Colin

      Busydogs. I used to think that, too. However, I understand this is not so, they cannot.

      Now a priest and an altar boy, that I can accept.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Robert

      Don't feed the troll...

      June 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Robert

      @colin Great post, but could you skip to the origin of life part...

      June 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      "Atheism takes more faith than Christianity."

      Wow, faith is defined as belief without evidence. All Atheism states is a disbelief in a god or gods, nothing more. It does not define our stance in this world on other topics. However we don't tend to believe in something that has not been peer reviewed. Your god can't be peer reviewed because there is no evidence outside of your buybull to say your god ever existed.
      The major difference between us is that we will not tell you to that if you don't believe as we do then you will suffer eternally...what type of moral person wishes that upon another human? (I know you think your god said it but until you provide evidence for your god, we'll go with it as being man's word)

      June 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • annebeth

      @ Colin: Wolves and domestic dogs can mate and produce offspring. I grew up with a wonderful Siberian Husky- Wolf hybrid, as a child and have met other people who own such dogs.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • mike hunt

      Sorry Colin, but dogs can breed with a wolf. People breed dogs and wolfs all the time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfdog
      so i guess your arugment is invalid? oh, but gensis does talk about god bringing forth from the sea the animals on the land. so considering the symbol for athies world wide on their car is a fish with feet, id say evolution is true, because the bible says thats how god broght forth the many species of the earth. Though, he also makes clear in the bible that man didnt evolve so....

      June 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Josh

      The problem with this "proof" of evolution is that it does not involve natural selection at all. Human beings are doing the taming of the wolves and the subsequent breeding, not nature. Intelligent choices are being made during the process. Your example is ironically an example of intelligent design.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • NKB

      And what "Proof" do you have that there "is" a God, or that anything in the Bible comes directly from "God"?? Oh yes, to be a christian one must have "Faith"..... What happened to intelligent research, openminded questions, Centuries of "Other opinions"??? "Greed" seems to be the main "Agenda" for the many "TV evangelists" , by the way....Isn't the Vatican in Rome one of the "Richest" states in the world!!!!! All the time they "Allow" hundreds of Priests to molest thousands of children, and do "nothing" about it? Religion seems to be used for "Control".....

      June 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Choice for everyone

      @ Colin, I believe in evolution. I believe in intelligent design. A chicken embryo and a human embryo may look identical at a stage of development....however each has it's own specific pattern of delvelopment that can be defective but one will never be able to become the other. I do believe we evolved through patterns with purpose not chance. I believe "instinct" proves that our evolutional success isn't by chance, that a turtle instinctively heads to water once it hatches, that a babies first instinct is to suckle etc.....

      June 13, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      What has one to do with another, God's Offender?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      Cestlavie: As an atheist, I reject Christianity for it's inherent stupidity

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  7. billybob

    PRAISE ALLAH!!! Infidels!

    June 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  8. The Rev

    I must go, but before I do I must say it again:

    Christ loves you and you can find salvation through Him! Religion and churches fail, Christ does not!

    To my brothers and sisters, hold strong to your beliefs, you know they are true BECAUSE you cannot "prove" them! Faith transcends our infantile understanding. Scripture tells us what this world will look like before Christ comes back. He is your refuge and your strength!

    To my non-believing brothers and sisters, the time will come when you will have to choose. God loves you enough that He has empowered you to reject Christ. He does not desire you to separate yourself from Him, but He loves you that much! Please consider your decision carefully! Do not let man's actions (past, present, future) guide you. Man fails time and again.

    May the peace and love of Christ be with all of you!

    June 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      And may Christ be with you as well. God bless.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Manuel

      Haha OK man

      June 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Bob

      Rev, faith is for cowards too weak and lazy to look at the evidence. Get over your sicko Christ delusions already.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Fifi

      Welcome to Planet Earth, where Belief masquerades as Knowledge!
      This way to the Unasked Questions ->
      <- This way to the Unquestioned Answers

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • QS

      And I'm still here, rejecting your version of a supernatural being who you can't claim to know anything about other than what you read in a book written by men.

      If you truly were open to simply accepting other people's choices, then you would accept that I have made mine...but since it goes against what you WANTED me to choose, you will persist and continue to try to convince me that you're right and I'm wrong....based, again, on a fictional book written by other humans.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • FedUP

      Shutup...If we really wanted to hear you preach, we would go to church. I'm on DeWitt's side.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Only one true God

      O yes what a mighty God we serve.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • apostate

      An invisible do nothing god....so powerful.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  9. TAK

    Bravo Mr. DeWitt.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Kelly25

      For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 1 Corinthians 9:9

      "Morning is coming, but also the night. If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again." Isaiah 21:12

      Praise the Lord.a

      Praise the Lord from the heavens,

      praise him in the heights above.

      2Praise him, all his angels,

      praise him, all his heavenly hosts.

      3Praise him, sun and moon,

      praise him, all you shining stars.

      4Praise him, you highest heavens

      and you waters above the skies.

      5Let them praise the name of the Lord,

      for he commanded and they were created.

      6He set them in place for ever and ever;

      he gave a decree that will never pass away.

      7Praise the Lord from the earth,

      you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

      8lightning and hail, snow and clouds,

      stormy winds that do his bidding,

      9you mountains and all hills,

      fruit trees and all cedars,

      10wild animals and all cattle,

      small creatures and flying birds,

      11kings of the earth and all nations,

      you princes and all rulers on earth,

      12young men and maidens,

      old men and children.

      13Let them praise the name of the Lord,

      for his name alone is exalted;

      his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.

      14He has raised up for his people a horn,b

      the praise of all his saints,

      of Israel, the people close to his heart.

      Praise the Lord

      June 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  10. PhariseeSpotter

    “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?” <----I would say probably the same way as a nonbelieving non-clergy member does by getting a j.o.b. There are plenty of people that don't have a degree with jobs..not glamorous but not our fault for you wasting money on a Divinity degree. Should've thought long term.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  11. cestlavie3

    I too would embrace atheism, if rationalism was my primary criteria for determining truth. It is not.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • TAK

      Huh?!? What other criteria for determining truth can there possibly be?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • cestlavie3

      TAK. Your question is precisely your problem.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • tony

      Stop feeding the faeries at the bottom of your garden.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • QS

      I too would embrace religion...if conjecture and belief were my only criteria for determining reality. They are not.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  12. Colin

    Actually Mike, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe and the idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to talk about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine makes no sense to us.

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”.

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the time and region.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more naive, timid minds among us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them. It is almost always impossible to prove a negative in this sense.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, talking snakes, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “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.”

    In short, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

    So, the next time you proudly proclaim that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a ten year-old, you might like to consider where your beliefs fit into the bigger picture.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Ecclesiastes 7:17

      "..makes no sense to us."

      There was a time in human history when other planets made no sense to us.
      That evolution made no sense to us.

      Something not making sense does not mean it falls into the realm of impossiblity now does it?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • tony

      But it does make it one of the least likely answers.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Shane

      There is a differnce.

      As a species as a whole, it seems people have believed in God in order to make sense of what doesn't make sense. But the more we discover in knowledge the more we see there is no need for God or Gods because the world as a whole begins actually making sense.

      We don't know everything, but we are on the verge of understanding it. If you want to believe in God or Gods, by all means, go ahead, but don't expect everyone else to start believing.

      If you want me to believe in God, I need proof, extroaordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I've heard of proof left and right about God, and how the Bible has no flaws in it, when it does have quite a few. I'm past the point of accepting everything on blind faith personally. I spent much of my childhood believing in God and believing what was taught because it explained so much of what I didn't understand. But I found that I can understand things so much more easily if God is taken out of the equation because it is God that seems to mess many of them up.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  13. 3N1Amen

    PITIFUL!!

    Many people are suffer from the "Gimme Jimmy" syndrome. If they don't get what pray for..don't get what they want...they turn their backs on God. Pitiful.

    We should be content with the One gift that God did give to all of us...His Son Jesus Christ! Whatever else is dealt in our lives, we can turn to God, NOT AGAINST Him! Shame on you.

    No matter how many people Satan has caused to turn away from God, he knows he is short on time. If only you can open your mind, your heart and see the big picture. I pray that someone here reading this will consider reading Jude...right next to Revelations. And also, don't leave out anything that mentions "hell".

    June 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Bob

      3N1fool, how come your 'omnipotent' creature couldn't do all that saving without the loony son sacrifice bit? And for that matter, how was it a sacrifice at all, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time it wants with less than a snap of its fingers?

      Pretty feeble god it is that you've made for yourself there.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Kafir

      The problem is there's no evidence to support your claim. That basically means that educated, rational thinkers won't buy into what you're saying. All you're left with is the gullible saps.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • The Dog Delusion

      whywontgodhealamputees.com?

      hilarious.....I guess if you expect God to be Santa Claus giving out winning lottery tickets and perfect health to anyone that asks then I imagine you're faith would crumble. You'd also lack basic reasoning as well.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • 3N1Amen

      That's the problem Kafir. I believe the over educated class reads too into everything. That's the problem. Loosen up a bit and pray for a bit of faith.
      What if you are wrong?? Have you ever thought about that. Do you ever think about eternity??

      June 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • 3N1Amen

      Bob, you sound bitter. I'm sorry that your life hasn't been an easy one. God never said it would be easy. Matter of fact, it hasn't been easy since the first sin. The world is what it is. It didn't start out that way. If you would only come to God as a child...as childlike faith...and trust Him, you will see how very much He loves you. No matter what you've been through, He knows and loves you.

      I hope that someday you will seek God with your whole mind.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Cesar Castillo

      look kafir and bob the bobtard what if this planet and its current timeline was a test...a test to evolve...again i repeat there is a threat in the milky way and they like to eat mayan kids

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Joe L

      3N1Amen, you're right. As we see in John 3:19, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." All sinners dislike having their rocks turned over–I remember well how much I hated and feared the truth, before Jesus saved me.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  14. Lux Et Veritas

    Nero blamed the Christians for the ills of Rome, instead of placing it on things like greed and vanity, just to name a few reasons of why that was in part to blame for its collapse. He was the emperor and did not embrace Christianity ~ he tortured Christians. So the fall of Rome actually did occur during Nero's reign ~ I'd say it burning to the ground is one indication of that.. I love having the facts right at my fingertips~ :=) But I didn't need wiki to tell me what I already knew.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • Kafir

      Yet you still avoid confronting the fact that countries with lower religiosity are also the same countries with lower crime rates, higher education and higher prosperity in general. You best put those fingertips to use.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Colin

      So many Christians, so few lions.....

      June 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      You are totally delusional. Nero wanted to confiscate a lot of land in the center of Rome and had it set afire. The christians were just a convenient scapegoat. He then spent oodles of money for a large palace complex. By the way, not a single historian would consider your statement anything other than delusional.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • up1652

      Kafir a number of things come into play as far as crime rates and religion. Namely China where offenders are simply shot. Other reasons most likely relate to the number of guns in that society. CNN seemingly has joined your ranks of athesim from reading their reports as of late. Funny how you focus on Christianity and pointly ignore islam and the others.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  15. southernwonder

    this is a great development. we need more taxpayers with real job to help cut deficits, not tax-exempts with make-believe church jobs.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • John

      Clergy pay income tax.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  16. Jeffrey Westra

    I think it is great that atheists are coming out, speaking in churches, and marching in Washington DC. They are exposing themselves for what they really are – just another religion. The religion of atheism. They should be treated as such. We should have debates about why atheists are imposing their "religion" on us and taking down all of the Christmas Trees & Ten Commandments from courthouses. Why should the atheist "religion" be treated differently than any other religion.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes, and medicine is a sickness.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • sam

      Awesome. Let's make them tax exempt too.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      I think it only right that we get some stat holidays also. We can start with Darwin Day.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • terri

      I am a little confused. If MacBain doesn't believe in God, why does she believe in hell?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • QS

      "Why should the atheist "religion" be treated differently than any other religion."

      Simple answer – Atheism is not a religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  17. maestra730

    What a total fake. DeWitt may be an amazing liar, but other than that, he's pretty much a failure with no backbone whatsoever. Comical.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Where did the hell did you get the fact that he is lying from?

      June 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Shane

      So he is a fake with no backbone for telling his congragation what he truly believes, that there is no God?

      Wow it seems like he was honest and had one hell of a backbone because that took a lot of guts. He knew he was going to be shunned by his community by saying that. Its happened to quite a few people. Christians aren't the only groups that have been persecuted, Athiests have been as well.

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

      haha yea i agree hes a fake, well dosn't any non-believers remember communist russia, china, albania, north korea, and cuba were are they now! theyre now all suffering by the millioins.id rather live here with religous freaks than any of those athesit states !! The Church is not perpect and athesits are not saints too but if the church was not around id say people would not ahve any remores on murder or any horrible act against anyone !!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  18. MayanMan

    Mahabone.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  19. blessings

    Doubt is good. It can lead to further search for the truth. In fact, I was once old by a bishop that it would be very easy to simply just not believe. Christianity was never meant to be easy. Jesus tells his followers continually how difficult it is. The struggle is to seek the Way, and it only comes with constant prayer for faith. We are not born with faith, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. My friend the bishop assured me that one comes out on the other side of doubt with more Christian love for self and others, hence the ministry. One should take a very long time before denying Jesus. God bless us all who doubt.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Colin

      Believing in fairies, despite all evidence to the contrary, is "hard" too.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • 3N1Amen

      I agree.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Tom

      I just want to know if there really was a God who cared why it wouldn't be obvious, a book is not enough evidence.

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

    this jerry dewitt seems like a nice guy and meant well. I knew a guy–fathers friend– who died in his 80s made millions of dollars as a preacher but he spread the money around and really helped people. He didn't preach hell or was a condeming guy or was in the end times thing. People spend lots of money going to ball games,broadway,movies ect ect–If people want to spend money to see a preacher on sunday because it makes them feel good –nothing wrong with that. It does take talent to be a preacher like dewitt or my fathers friend.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
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About this blog

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