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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. Sam Houston

    Seems this fellow was a preacher for the same reason he's preaching atheism now–the money.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Seems like you didn't read the article very well. Is that how you read your bible?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  2. Steve

    There is no god, no heaven, and no hell. When we're dead we're dead. Ultimately everyone will come to that conclusion, but it will take generations. The young are being brainwashed. The religions have a thousand years of perfecting their brainwashing techniques. Whether the religion is Christianity, Muslim, Hindu, Judism, whatever, they have it down.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • g.c.kells

      I happen to be of the same opinion, but you're mistaken if you think that is the only possible or even rational conclusion. I've been an atheist all my life, but I have to contemplate the existence of some form of creator or higher order when I think about the origin of the universe. The more we learn about matter and time, the less coincidental this all seems. To think that atheism is a more enlightened or intellectually valid opinion is nothing but arrogance. It's just one possible answer, and honestly it's the most thoughtless.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I see your point, GCKells, but pondering the philosophical implications of a "higher order" to the universe does not lead us to any god described by humans so far. No god can be demonstrated as "more valid" than any other. Why believe in something that can't be proved? An atheist simply does not believe–exactly like an a-unicornist doesn't believe in unicorns. If there's no evidence for the existence of unicorns, why believe in them or that they have certain dietary needs or particular molecular makeup of their horns? Do you see what I'm really asking?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • g.c.kells

      I should have been more specific, sorry, I meant to say I agree with your first sentence only. The brainwashing rhetoric, and the arrogance of believing everyone will eventually come to the same conclusion as you, I vehemently DISAGREE with.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Steve

      To g.c.kells: It's not arrogance at all, it's reality. I raise bees. Do my bees have "souls"? If they don't why are they different fromt us? Are we special because just we're sentient? I don't think so. That makes me anti-arrogant. We're no different from any other life form on this plant. We die. We rot. If you have to consider a creator of universe as an explanation of the existence of the universe, then you are not an atheist at all.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  3. HeIsGod

    Obviously this man never new the meaning of having a real RELATIONSHIP with Christ. People who claim to be a Christian doesn't necessary mean they are truly rooted up in Christ as this man wasn't.

    I just hope that he can look back and see that what he preached before becoming a blind atheist that his preaching had to do more about him and it seems that he was trying to glory himself and put his eyes on men instead of God. I can honestly say that I wanted to give up Christianity many times, but praise be to God, He didn't let me go, why, because when you are truly of child of God, He will keep you in all of your ways.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      I though Jesus taught not to judge others. Your hyprocricy is showing.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Bob

      He didn't let you go? Or you couldn't let go? What about the guy in this article? Why did God let go of him?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      No True Scotsman Fallacy Count = 1,236

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      JustaNormalPerson – Is that the only thing you read from the bible? It's funny how blind atheists love to use, do not judge scripture when you blind atheist don't even take God's Word to heart?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Did he say it or not, HIGGY? Are you denying that Jesus said you are not to judge?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Bob – The reason God didn't let me go is because He knew I didn't want to let go, unlike this man, he let God go.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      HeIsGod,

      I'm not blind. I have 20-20-20 vision.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • ME II

      @HeIsGod,
      "It's funny how blind atheists love to use, do not judge scripture when you blind atheist don't even take God's Word to heart?"

      It's funny how people of blind faith tend say one thing and then do another... and then get upset when others point it out.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son – Would it matter what Christ said? After all, you blind Atheists deny His Diety.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @HeisGod

      Question: Do you believe it is possible for a person to "be deceived" their entire lives and believe that they have a true relationship with god when they really don't?

      Question: Why is that you think god allows so much confusion over his nature and will? He communicated math, chemistry, and physics fairly well, why MUST people of all religions use the same math, chemistry, and physics, but they can believe in any sort of god with any sort of nature?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why is it you don't just answer the question, Higgy? It's pretty straightforward; even you can figure it out. Did Jesus say it or not? Are you going to deny the words of Jesus?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Maybe you just like to ignore the teachings of Christ.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • born again athiest

      I have been paying very careful attention to you, faith and a few other self proclaimed keyboard christians on this subject and after watching the judgment made by your self righteous comments all day I want you to know a few things about what I have concluded. First a little about me. I grew up in church and became the youngest member of our organization to be baptized at the age of 14. I went to school and church with many men of god and very devout people. I was taught many things in scripture and I find it interesting that in the teachings of biblical standards that all christian will have to learn to overcome 12 core sins in line with being forgiven as well as accept the blood and teaching of Jesus Christ and that he died for our sins. In those teachings the gospel is quite clear that in order for one to gain enterence a child of god wanting to enter into the heavenly gate needed to among other things allow god to be the judge as we are unequipped to be judged for as was taught by Jesus that acts and prayer will not gain you enterence into heaven. Judgeing others and taking advantage of other sins meant that you were not truly willing to let go of the sin and enter through the gates of heaven. You sir and others have been very condescending and judmental all day and have not added any real insight to a very sad thing happening to the religion prodominant in this country. So my sister was molested by my father and when my sister told my mother they took it to our church elders; the men of god in our community. When she presented them the ugly details of what my father had done my mother and the church elders attemted to hide it from me and my brother (not a church member) and pretend like nothing happened as long as my father was coming to church weekly. That worked for a while and then he started taking overnight work out of town conveniently for our sabbath and after a time he left my mother for a younger woman and left our family. I felt we were perfect and a godly family. I was betrayed by my leaders and elders as many athiests have been treated by thier church family and while not all stories are the same they are similar and plentiful. I dropped out of school and later in life had a boy of my own. I started reading my science books and went back to school and got a bachelors degree. I pursued science because if there was evidence of natural science AI wanted to see the evidence. The light I had been blinded to my whole life from the church was a revelation for me. I saw that life did not need a god and how special and beautiful this one chance is that I have. I am a good man and a hard worker and do not feel that I am codescending or hedonistic or full of my own self intelligence. I do feel though however that your testimony of Jesus and the selfishness I fell from yours and other writings for other religious walk of life as well here has not convinced me of how a diety like yours could convince me to go to a heavenly place where I have to bear with any of you; as such a hot or cold place in an eternal hell is much more pleasent sounding than living with a bunch of holes like you guys for eternity.

      June 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  4. steve

    He wonders why his prayers went unsaved....Because you had no business preaching as we can see you have no faith.
    We pull away more than ever from God and we get an economic collapse and stuck in wars we can't win after 5 trillion dollars.
    I see the problem. Greed, envy, covetness, lust, the idea of everyman for himself and screw the other guy.
    There is no bless for a country like this. Europe has the same problem.
    i watched people work huge amounts and buy everything they could for themselves. So much greed and now we have to pay for it. Our Congress is a bunch of snakes doing the will of corrupt corporations. Good luck with that.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  5. wisdom4u2

    LOL! Seriously, read the 'non' believers comments....don't they sound hostile and hopeless? Any wonder why?

    June 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Bob

      Gloating, as taught by Jesus. Typical 😀

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Nope....just the truth! ( :

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      A few millenia of believers burning us at the stake, barring us from political office, shoving their beliefs down our throats, curtailing human progress, waging holy wars, flying planes into buildings, letting their kids die by trusting faith healers more than doctors, and legislating their antiquated morality to the exclusion of the rights of others tends to make us irritable.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Sounds more like your conscience is bothering you all 😀

      June 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'wisdom4u2' is an instance of the ad hominem fallacy.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      June 13, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      They sure do....these are lost goats.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And we all know you LOVE goats, Higgy. REALLY love them. REALLY, REALLY L O V E them.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Fallacy Spotting 101's momma is an instance of the ad hominem fallacy.
      Check it out:
      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html
      🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Methinks you project too much.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  6. Cricket

    How DOES he feed his family now? And are they still with him? Very incomplete report.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  7. Lux Et Veritas

    JustaNormalPerson

    Delusional.

    **
    Excuse me, but my comment was for James.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      You are welcome.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  8. Dave in DC

    Sigh...once again CNN is pushing its anti-God Crusade. Let me see the last time they did a story on a man or woman of great faith, and how that's affecting the world. No, not them.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Don't look now, but your confirmation bias and persecution complex is showing.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      CNN posts stories of interest to believers. If you'll do your research, you'll see lots of stories on Billy Graham and Joel Osteen and others that are not "negative" in tone. However, almost ALL news stories are stories that are shocking or unique, even on non-religious items. It's not news if it's the status quo; that's why accidents and war skirmishes and serial killers are news and your neighborhood ball game isn't. Atheism is growing in unprecedented numbers. Do you really want that to be ignored? Seems to me you would want to know about it so that you can do something to stop it. Or are you just interested in negativity, yourself? Pot, meet kettle.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Faith

      I would love to see them do a story on healings alone. I have read hundreds of mind blowing testimonies of people whose lives have been completely transformed through the grace and love of Christ. Me, being one of them. I was completely healed of mental illness, no drugs, no therapy. Just Christ's healing love and blood. I lived in no peace. Zero. I lived in dread, darkness, obsession, compulsion, fear, rituals. As the bible says: when the Son has set you free, you are free indeed. And I am. Jesus heals. I see it continually at church and in life. The world does not have the answers. Maybe temporarily you will find some meaning, some joy. But, it is not lasting. Only God can provide that.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      Let them. I wish to thank them from the very bottom of my humble heart for creating a forum where people can come together to discuss their beliefs.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsense. Your anecdotes do not equal truth, Faith. You believe God "healed" you (I wonder who judged you 'healed', btw); that doesn't make it so. And it doesn't mean that what works for you is valid for everyone else.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      God is at work on this forum, and I imagine the scoffers will do what they do best and scoff extremely loud and with exceptional robustness, but hey, that's just the way things roll sometimes. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Faith

      You have no idea what you are talking about (on the healing.) I went from being someone who took five hours to leave the house (because of my OCD rituals) to being healed and being totally free from all of that. I had panic attacks and couldn't leave the house. After giving my life to Christ, I performed in front of hundreds of people. I had total peace. If you've ever been without peace... nothing is worse. It is pure hell. And now I have perfect peace and it is ALL Jesus. ALL. I"ve been healed for thirty years. If I said it was a shrink and drugs, you'd be applauding. This world is so lost.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Who says you're healed, Faith? You sound completely delusional. I have no doubt you 'believe' you're just fine and have "perfect peace". That proves nothing.

      If I eat a potato tonight and wake up tomorrow with a big zit, there's no proof that the potato caused it. There's no proof that your prayers did anything. You believe they did. It's called the placebo effect.

      I'm not knocking your belief, but don't get on here and promise that everyone who needs help will be healed by belief.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      I notice, it's about 6 out of 10 of the believers posting on this thread are women. Most of the atheists posting here are males, with a few exceptions. The male species believe, so many times, that they don't need God. When in fact, they need God as much as women do. And that'll be even more so, well, once things go to complete and utter $#!+, whenever that may be (I could be wrong and sometimes I am) ~ but I believe will be sooner than most people think. But again, a belief, not necessarily a statement of fact.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @ Lux

      Don't be a moron. There's no gender bias to the question of god's existence. That's ridiculous.

      Also, it's stupid to use a sample size this small to base that sort of conclusion on. Very stupid. Do you know about polls and sample sizes and data collection? You seem fairly ignorant of statistics to be throwing around such dumb opinions.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  9. backatya

    @Everyone..Try and find an Atheist and actually talk to them. If your gonna cast a stone, you better be able to defend yourself, when it's thrown back !!

    June 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  10. Joe

    Just more proof that the bible is real and was written by God. Soon athiest will be the majority. Crime will continue to rise and we will move from simple assault to horrific things as we have now with flesh eating or acid attacks like we have today. Non believers will continue to scratch their heads trying to figure out how society has declined so much. How to use therapy and counseling to help those who are simply misunderstood or inder priviliage, while ignoring the fact evil will grow stronger.

    Than one day, you will stand before God and think, oh snap, he was real !

    Too late at that point.

    This was written a coouple of thousand years ago, so no surprise here.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Yes, let's bring back the Papal Inquisitions. You know where they tortured you long before they killed you. It was especially bad if you were rich and the church wanted your land and possessions. Yes, things are a lot worse now.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'Joe' presents a form of the flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager and also contains instances of the circular reasoning fallacy.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Harold Camping is that you? Care to make yet another prediction on what day Jesus is going to come back? I mean, folks have only been predicting it for the last 2000 years and we're still here...

      June 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Eddie Hurley

      that is so true the reason people don't believe is because they have never been in the presence of God if you every do you will never be the same

      June 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • dave

      Well said Joe...the further we get from the foundations of the judeo christian ethical system the more we will read about those things prophesied 1000s of years ago...the only sure thing about the Bible is ... its proved more every hour of every day...
      and millions are fearful of it cuz it demands a changed heart not rules
      well said JOE

      June 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  11. Rev. Jason

    On a different note, the emotionally, psychologically and spiritually stunted so-called Christ followers who are posting drivel (usually recognizable because it is thoughtless, condemning, irrational and unreasoned) on this board are particularly annoying to me. Sigh.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Faith

      Good thing we don't worship you.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Rev. Jason

      Faith, the thought of anyone worshiping me is horrifying – and I'm sure thoughtless irrational hate filled "Christians" annoy God too – they certainly annoyed Jesus in his day.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Faith

      Because I said I don't worship you, I am hate filled? Wow. Jesus calls us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. I run into so many "Christians" who want to love everyone but their fellow believer. I don't think Jesus would approve of that. And fortunately, you don't speak for Jesus. I know his word. I know him. And the one thing I don't like are people who are posing as Christians so they can put other Christians down. It is evil.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • g.c.kells

      The same things could be said of many atheists. I was raised Quaker, and still consider myself a Quaker despite being an atheist. Most of the Christians I know are of that tradition, so maybe I'm biased. I see far less judgement, condemnation, and emotionally stunted behavior from the Christians I know than the atheists who tend to post on these forums. Many atheists (I am not accusing you in particular) tend to think of themselves as enlightened, or more rational than people of spiritual faith. It's arrogance, not intellect, that causes people to think they have the answers, or that their take on them is more valid than any other. Atheism is, after all, still a matter of faith.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  12. Lux Et Veritas

    Rick James

    No you don't. Nero was before the "5 Good Emperors" dynasty from 96 to 192 AD (Nero was 54 to 68). Nero torturing Christians, while thoughtful, didn't bring down Rome. Only after Rome adopts Christianity as an attempt to unifying an empire that was going through hell in 395 did the whole thing collaspe 81 years later, at least the Western part. And even at that, the fall of Rome was because of multiple causes.

    *****
    Yes, I do, I honestly do ~ understand, completely. But thank you nonetheless for your concern. That's very thoughtful of you.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Delusional.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  13. Evangelical

    Only through Jesus will you find salvation. Forsake the evil ways of the atheists. God's grace is boundless.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What "evil ways", Eva?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Manuel

      If gods grace is boundless why is it conditional?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Faith

      Manuel...before you start making uninformed statements, you really should take the time to get to know Jesus Christ through God's word.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • QS

      Tom, did you forget....anybody who questions their beliefs is considered "evil".

      June 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Can't answer the question, can you, Faith?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      I could be wrong, and I don't know the mind of God, but I think God would wish us to minister to those unbelievers, and a computer is the perfect means by which to do that. Folks can chose to read our posts or skip them. Maybe through our posts we encourage others who are already believers to keep the faith or maybe in some small way strengthen it. I've noticed so many dissenters read believers' posts, because they always post a reply. They jump on it like dogs on bones. Sometimes they're thoughtful, sometimes not so much. But either way, that's good. Their eyes are taking it all in, which means it's also connecting to their brains on some level ~ and eventually, though perhaps only a few, will come to throw off their atheism in favor of becoming a believer.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Bob

      So, Evangelical, about this Jesus sacrifice dead-guy-on-sticks thing that you Christian dorks keep spewing about, did you ever even think it through a little? Clearly, you haven't. Seriously, 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 8:30 pm |
    • Manuel

      Faith. Been there, done that. Spent 20 years in a dream. Studied, participated, then came to a fork in the road when it came to trinity. It all unraveled from there. Thank you though for your recommendation, but I need a better answer.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Thanks for the reminder, QS.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  14. Faith

    The good news is: you may leave God, but he will never leave you. This is the exact reason I don't put people up on pedestals. The janitor my have a greater faith and true relationship humbly seeking Christ, than the pastor of a church. As for answered prayer: God isn't a slot machine. In our church, we've had healed marriages, healed children suffering from drugs, our pastor was healed from leukemia, and every day we care for others. It isn't about us, it is about Christ. When we live in his grace and receive his power and love.... nothing is better. It's too bad these pastors missed out on that.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Manuel

      God watches you poop.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Faith

      Wow, what an elegant mind you have.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Lux Et Veritas

      Very nice. Thank you for posting that testimony.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  15. Rev. Jason

    Ok, I have to admit I find a lot of the posts here baffling. There are narrow minded, small minded people of all types – religious (any faith), non-religious, political, non-political – so when people say we are here, we are atheists, we are your neighbors, we are good people etc. Well.... duh. Any normal person who isn't socially, emotionally and psychologically stunted is aware of that fact. Just like there are socially, emotionally, psychologically stunted atheists who bash every Christ follower or religious person as "the same," there are stunted religious people. However, the rest of us simply choose to believe what we believe and respect one another where and when we differ. It's called being mature and has nothing to do with spiritual/non-spiritual belief systems.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      Here's something to ponder Rev, why should an atheist respect somebody who believes that they are deserving of eternal torture? At the very least why should an atheist respect somebody who worships the monster that's going to send them to that torture.

      And don't give me the tired, and well refuted, freewill garbage about atheists sending themselves to hell – we both know it's BS.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • QS

      Ahh, the respect angle. Tell me, do you "respect" my non-belief enough to support marriage equality?

      I'd love to respect religious people....they just make it virtually impossible because apparently they were never taught that respect is earned, not given – and to date, not one religious person has ever been able to convince me that they have earned my respect.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I have as big a problem with a god who would create hell at all as with a god who would send me or any other human there. It's horrific behavior regardless of if it happens to you or not. Just because a sadistic torturer gives you a free pass doesn't mean he's not a sadistic torturer. Worshipers of hell-creators serve a "might makes right" and "subjective morality" god. How disgusting,

      June 13, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Fred M.

      The difference is that you "choose" what to believe and I believe things because observation, logic, and reasoning lead me to believe those things. I can't choose to believe in God, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny any more than I could choose to believe that I will wake up tomorrow with gills, the ability to fly, or surrounded by bags of gold.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Belief is not a choice but a compulsion. In my opinion, if you can break the hold of your bias (instilled in you by your culture and upbrining- usually - that's why people born in Saudi Arabia are muslims and Kentukians are christians) then you see your own religion for the silliness that is. Exactly like the christian sees the silliness of Islam, and exactly like the muslim sees the silliness of christianity. I can't "choose" to believe in such a stupid god as the one of the bible or the one of the koran.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  16. mslch

    These guys were atheists from the begining. This means they were liars, cheaters, and wolves in sheep clothings. I have nothing against athiests, just those who pretended to be "ministers", including lowlives who take advange of people they were called to serve, to waste people's time, and give those who give all their life making sacrifice for others.

    So a bunch of athiests who once conned the faithful for an easy living huh? Now that doesnt' work any more, so they "come " out?

    Just wonder what these guys even know how important is the calling to give oneself for the sake of helping others. These people have no shame! Anything for a buck and 15 minutes of fame.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      No True Scotsman Fallacy Count = 1,235

      We give out prizes at 2,000.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Just because you believe something doesn't make it true. You do not know what was in his heart.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Manuel

      Don't all "ministers" just pretend to be men of god? I mean how do YOU know what they think? Most in the news are beating their kids or doing crank in some new york hotel or stealing your money. Seriously shouldn't the whole relationship with god thing be between you and whatever you think is out there?

      June 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  17. J.Charles

    GOD is REAL. Read GODgoogledMe on Amazon by J.Charles and you will believe again, in HIM! It is an extraordinary confirmation for the TrueBeliever and a True Awakening for the unBeliever. This author's journey to confirmation is simply AWESOME & AMAZING! GOD does not always come when you want HIM to, but when HE does HE is right on time. The author would love to talk to your group of former ministers. Contact him through his book, or call 336.639.9534. Have a BLESSED DAY!

    June 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  18. DeFace

    Satan cannot perform any acts unless God approves (Job1:6 to 2:10).

    June 13, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Doc_78

      "With the TV and VCR on, select the “Program” (“Prog”) button on your remote. Move on to step #3." – Zenith VCR Recording Instructions (Page 4)

      June 13, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  19. wisdom4u2

    Jesus is right on!
    "10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt. 24)

    June 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Manuel

      Holy crap the bible predicted CNN!

      June 13, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Great explanation of the tea party.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Fred M.

      You are as alien to me as the people who used to believe that eclipses were caused by dragons swallowing the sun. It's like you've been transported from the Dark Ages to live amongst modern men.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • db

      It's all BS.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • QS

      I'll give those desert dwellers some credit...they were very clever at predicting that eventually, people would start to finally see through their made up stories – so they included some shrewdly worded passages that imply it will happen, and that it will be a bad thing.

      Convenience is the nectar of religion.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      fred, those are the words of Christ, not mine....take your issues up with Him. Duhhh

      June 13, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @wsidum4u2

      Nazi:
      Hey, it's Hitler that wants to kill the jews, I'm just following orders; take it up with him, not me.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • Fred M.

      wisdom4u2:

      "fred, those are the words of Christ, not mine....take your issues up with Him. Duhhh"

      My issue is not that a primitive, uneducated man said those things - it's that you expressed agreement with them and felt the need to quote them as if they have value.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Praise the Lord! 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  20. biblename

    I truly appreciate everything Jerry is doing for Recovering From Religion and for the Atheist community at large. There are so many of us for whom his very presence gives us more courage to come out and be open about our lack of belief. We are, all of us together, creating a safe space and holding it open for people to enter into, to question their faith, confront the doubts they've been running from all their lives, embrace their lack of belief. It is becoming something that we will no longer allow ourselves to be shamed into hiding. We are here, we are atheists, we are good people, and we are your neighbors. Get used to it.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Evan

      God loves you 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • QS

      Well said. I used to be slightly reluctant to tell people I'm an Atheist whenever the subject came up in conversation....now, I can't wait to tell people despite, and sometimes because of, their potential negative reaction.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @QS

      I used to feel that way, but now I realize it's not always the best tactic. A really cool idea sticks with a person. If they're too turned off by you, they may not catch the essential logic. It's better to look for the perfect moment to slip in a tight and concise meme and let it do the work over the next few weeks, months, and years.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:34 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.