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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. Apocalypse Now

    Religion is just that ~ religion is no more than man-made church by-laws and traditions of the church. The true church is Christ. The real church is the body of followers who believe and have faith. It began with Christ and it will end with Him.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • tallulah13

      Hinduism is older than the judeo-christian belief system. Perhaps you're worshiping the wrong god(s).

      Also, I think it's funny that the church named after Christ gets so many of it's rules from a guy named Paul (a.k.a. Saul), who wasn't even born by the time Christ was reported to have died. Christianity may as well be called Paulism.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:44 am |
    • Real Deal

      tallulah13,

      Actually, Paul of Tarsus's stats are estimated to be c. AD 5 – c. AD 67; and Jesus's are 7-2 BC to 30–36 AD, so he was sort of a contemporary, but you are right that he did hijack the new Messiah cult and put his own spin on the Christ legend.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • Madtown

      The true church is Christ.
      ---–
      Well, I'm with you on about half of that....the fact that religion is man-made. I think the teachings of Jesus are great also, it's just that not everyone will hear of them. So, can't possibly be the "only way". We're all created equal, and as such if there was only 1 way, God would allow all his creations to be aware of it.

      June 14, 2012 at 3:07 am |
  2. Apocalypse Now

    Looks like things are only getting dicier in the Middle East. And pulling in other nations around the globe into to it. Not good. Not good at all...

    June 14, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • Blane

      It could be Armagedon. Jesus' return is imminent. The Mayans might have been right all along.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:29 am |
  3. Blane

    Christians, do not feel disheartened. Remember whose you are.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:16 am |
    • HATESAUCE

      CHRISTIANS ARE IDIOTS.

      IT'S A GOOD THING PEOPLE ARE AROUND TO REMIND THEM OF THAT.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:21 am |
  4. wisdom4u2

    Poor tallulah13 is so misdirected and spiritually dead. I hope you're not raising children .....only to teach them wrong 😦

    June 14, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Bet

      I hope she is. At least they'll be able to think for themselves.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • wisdom4u2

      Right! Right! And we can see just how they'll end up thinking.....hopelessly.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • tallulah13

      Poor "wisdom". Reduced to insults because you can't provide any proof of your beliefs.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  5. Blane

    Indeed we Christians are fortunate to have been chosen by God. But when much is given, much is expected. We are called to be beacons of light in a dark world, to be witnesses for Christ. I beseech you dear brothers and sisters to keep that in mind.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • Answer

      And the Jews would say otherwise.. who knew? lol

      Claims.. claims... and more claims. Poor you.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • Answer

      @Blane

      Are you afraid now Blane that you're not a Jew and will go to hell? lol

      I pity you. Going to hell for believing the wrong stuff.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Blane

      I will not argue with you, Answer. I will just say that I will pray for you.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • Answer

      Oh that shut you up fast.. lol

      June 14, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • Answer

      Just why are you christians so afraid of hell? LOL

      June 14, 2012 at 2:12 am |
    • Bet

      "God's chosen people"

      Hmm, that rings a bell. Now where did I hear that before? i could have sworn it wasn't about christians.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • HATESAUCE

      GOD WOULD HAVE TO EXIST IN ORDER TO CHOOSE ANYTHING AT ALL. SINCE IT DOESN'T, THEN YOU CAN STOP BEING AFRAID OF MYTHS.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:29 am |
    • tallulah13

      Blane, you have the most amazingly inflated sense of personal importance. I hate to break it to you, but you're just a human like the rest of us, Blane. Nothing more. And there's nothing wrong with that.

      What is it with you christians and your arrogance, anyway? It's not like you have any proof of what you believe.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Madtown

      Blane
      Indeed we Christians are fortunate to have been chosen by God.
      ----–
      LOL!!!!!!!!! Yes, Blane is just that special. Of course, had Blane been born in Saudi Arabia(something out of his control), then he'd be saying "indeed we Muslims are fortunate to have been chosen".

      June 14, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • sam stone

      Chosen by god? Nothing arrogant about that. If you are chosen by god, why are you not WITH god? Remember, Jesus is only one tall building away.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:39 am |
  6. Answer

    I love the preachy idiots from religion .. we must love. Sure sure. Just the raging bag of love we come to expect frothing out as hate. So hate away .. ohh I meant 'love'. Oops.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:56 am |
  7. wisdom4u2

    tallulah13, this is for you:

    Psalm 127
    1 Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
    Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good.
    2 It is useless for you to work so hard
    from early morning until late at night,
    anxiously working for food to eat;
    for God gives rest to his loved ones

    June 14, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      Do you have a point? Humans have worshiped literally thousands of gods throughout history. There is no evidence to support the existence of any of them. Should there somehow be a supreme being, there is very little likelihood that it would be the god of the bible. The judeo-christian faiths aren't even the oldest active religions. The hindus have that honor.

      You like to quote things, but truth be told, there is very little substance to your words.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:23 am |
  8. Blane

    We, as Christians, must meet hate with love. The bitterness and hatred that the atheists show on this blog is really the bitterness and hatred they feel for themselves. When they are blasphemous it is easy to want to hate them back. But remember, they are already in a world of hurt. Meet them with kindness and the love of Christ.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Madtown

      Is the christian way, the one and only "right" way to come to God?

      June 14, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • Blane

      The scripture says that no one gets to the Father except through the Son.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      No, Blane. What we really hate is the patronizing atti.tude that people like you seem to radiate. Love won't convert atheists, but verifiable evidence that supports the existence of your god will.

      Please. Before you go around condemning others for not thinking exactly like you do, why not provide some proof? Right now, you have nothing but a 2000 year old book that contradicts itself. This is not compelling evidence.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:46 am |
    • Madtown

      Blane
      The scripture says that no one gets to the Father except through the Son.
      ----–
      What of human beings in this world who will never even hear the name Jesus, because of where they were born, do they have a chance at salvation? They are equal to you in terms of human-value, they've just never been exposed to christianity, as you have. So, you more special in the eyes of God than they are?

      June 14, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • SoCalMom

      Good thing religion doesn't require common for membership. In fact, based on what I've read here it's clearly does better without it! That's not hate, it's just a fact.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • SoCalMom

      Oops! I meant to write, "Good thing religion doesn't require common SENSE!" Sorry!

      June 14, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • clive

      The Christian way is not the way. Religion has never been the way. That's the hardest subject the Jews, Christians and Muslims can't accept. Jesus never gave way to religion. Religion is a form of idolatry. That is why God always reminded Israel what they've seen, the cloud, fire, thunder and smoke, so that they would have a notion that we cannot contain God and establish a religion. Jesus gave grace so that salvation would come through what He did. Search Him and know that He can be found. Know that He doesn't condemn. Neither will remind you of your sins, The promise He gave was not of this world. We all shall undergo the same problems because we are in this world. He gave us a promise for our future with Him knowing that all we are now are but a mirror of what we shall be like with Him.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Blane

      Madtown,

      I personally believe that those who never had the chance to hear the Good News will be covered by God's grace, but I have no authority to say 100% that is the case. But those that do hear the Good News but reject it are condemned.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • Answer

      @Blane

      You must feel so sad for being rejected by us atheists... so sad. Don't worry someone will eventually love you. XD

      June 14, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Madtown

      Blane
      I personally believe that those who never had the chance to hear the Good News will be covered by God's grace, but I have no authority to say 100% that is the case. But those that do hear the Good News but reject it are condemned.
      ------
      What a run-around. Complete and utter nonsense. So, your way is the "right way", as long as you've been exposed to it. But, if you haven't been exposed to it(through no fault of your own), then you're still ok? So, there's really no need for religion at all then. I'd say that's good.

      Of course, had you been born in Egypt, you'd likely be a muslim, and you'd consider the muslim tradition the "right and true" way, and would think the christians have it wrong.

      And, another question: "condemned"? To where and for what? To "hell"?!? You're not really that absurd are you? Banished to "hell" for the "crime" of using your God-given brain to analyze and reject a notion for which there is literally no evidence? Eternity for a finite sin? I thought your God was just?

      June 14, 2012 at 2:00 am |
    • clive

      We are all coverd by grace whether we reject God's word or not. Even "Christians" at judgement day shall God say "..I don't know you".

      June 14, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • Madtown

      whether we reject God's word or not
      ---–
      Where might I find God's word? I'd be very interested to read it.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • clive

      Well, you can read the bible or study Jesus. If your read the bible, please read them from the start. I recommend KJV or NKJV version. If you want to study Jesus, I recommend "The Jesus I never knew by Philip Yancey".

      June 14, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • Madtown

      clive
      Well, you can read the bible or study Jesus.
      ----
      Oh, you're talking about the bible. I thought you actually had insight into something authentically authored by God. I've read the bible, many times, still do on occasion. I'm also well aware that it was written by human beings. Edited by human beings. Had the individual works that comprise it selected by human beings. Had other equally relevant works rejected by human beings, because those works didn't send the exact message that the human beings wanted. And, it's continually edited and re-released in new versions by human beings. The hand of man is all over the bible, every single word. It's the "word of man – concerning his idea of God", not the "word of God". Given these inarguable truths, to call the bible the word of God is completely intellectually dishonest. But, I can see you're not the least bit concerned with intellectual honesty.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:45 am |
    • sam stone

      No, Blane....what you read as "bitterness and hate" is just people being fed up with the unbridled arrogance of inbred mother mounters like you. Chosen by god, indeed

      June 14, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • sam stone

      "..I have no authority to say....."

      Finally, we agree on something.

      June 14, 2012 at 4:46 am |
  9. clive

    I personally believe God. I bellieve it was really a Big Bang when He said, "Let there be light". I'm a mechanical engineer and is mostly annoyed by the presence of entropy in my calculations and much more by the presence of evil amidst good. I believe that God created man in His image having freewill but not at that time having knowledge of good and evil thus, making us perfect above all creatures and not as robots made by man. However, we fell on the wrong side of freewill and the consequence of sin is death and separation. God can't do anything but to separate Himself because if He reached out, we would all be consumed by His holiness, much the same if one would think of an anti-matter or radiation. So, He formulated a solution, one that would contain Him, entering time and space, to save us all, taking form of a man to be sacrificed and see death so that He can take the keys of Hades and carry out those who have died away with Him and those who live with a promise of reconciliation. Much the same has He opened salvation to all, forgiving sins of the past, present and future. Science is merely a realization and Technology a reinvention of what He has already done. No man can ever boast of something in this world because all is already perceived before time. Jesus did not establish a religion, check the new testament. Nor can you find "Christian" in the original Bible. He came so that we can have hope to live a perfect and loving life knowing that we can never attain it but has also given us grace so that we can come to Him anytime we want. There is a reason why God hasn't given us enough evidences to prove His existence and that reason merely lies on our endless arguments and perceptions about Him through time. We can't contain Him by our human minds. Much more of science which holds vast studies. There is a reason why the Jews won't write His name. The same with Muslims who always pray five times a day. We all yearn to experience Him in different ways. One day all of us whether Atheist, Jew, Muslim or Christian will be asked by God, "Who do you say that I am?" and then recall everything what we've said and done in our lives. Choose your words carefully, don't condemn people because in the eyes of God, we are all the same and is accounted to have the same fate, death. Choose to you this day Who you will serve but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • AMEN BROTHER

      Well said.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • Madtown

      Religions develop culturally, influenced by events and experiences that are unique to each culture. If there was only 1 "true way" to God, wouldn't God allow all his creations to be privy to it? Of course. That's why there is no 1 right way. Each culture has made attempts to seek God, and in those processes, have developed their own unique idea of the nature of God. Of course, since these are things that are unknowable to us, none are 100% correct. But, no one man-made form of religion is at all superior to any other. Different religions are like different routes up the same mountain.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:12 am |
  10. wisdom4u2

    Psalm 103
    King James Version (KJV)

    103 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

    2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

    3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

    4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

    5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

    6 The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

    7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

    8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

    9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

    10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

    11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

    12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

    13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

    14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

    15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

    16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

    17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

    18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

    19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

    20 Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

    21 Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

    22 Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      gibberish

      June 14, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • Madtown

      Ah yes, the poetic word of man.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • tallulah13

      "Teukros was allotted first place to shoot. He let fly
      a strong-shot arrow, but did not promise the lord of archery
      that he would accomplish for him a grand sacrifice of lambs first born.
      He missed the bird, for Apollo begrudged him that […]." (The Iliad 23.862-865)

      (Zeus:)
      'Hera, be not utterly angry with the gods, for there shall not
      be the same pride of place given both. Yet Hektor also
      was loved by the gods, best of all the mortals in Ilion.
      I loved him too. He never failed of gifts to my liking.
      Never yet has my altar gone without fair sacrifice,
      the smoke and the savour of it, since that is our portion of honour.' (The Iliad 24.65-70)

      I can quote mythology, too!

      June 14, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • AMEN BROTHER

      Nice scripture to post. Thanks.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • wisdom4u2

      Actually, tallulah13, you may want to reconsider whether or not that is 'mythology'...Duhhh. There's a great possibility those so called 'Myth gods' could very well be the Nephilims....smarty pants 🙂 Grow a brain....

      June 14, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      You may want to reconsider what you call god, "wisdom". Your god just might be the word used by early man to explain natural phenomena that they didn't understand. Have you ever considered that you're worshiping your own ignorance?

      June 14, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • wisdom4u2

      Poor tallulah13; probably wearing her thong backwards 🙂

      June 14, 2012 at 2:05 am |
    • Bet

      Poor wisdom. All it can do is post random bible verses and insults. I guess that happens when you can't answer the questions.

      June 14, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  11. It's Funny, But not Really

    RoundRockGuy

    It's Funny. It isn't a choice. Of course every Atheist would love for 'God' to be true in the sense of eternal life, bliss, never losing loved ones. Yeah, how fantastic. It is the ultimate adult Christmas. But it isn't a choice is it? Sure to 'believe' is. But the universe is what is. And what is to me is fantastically amazing and I wish I could stay with my loved ones forever but I can't. So I do the next best thing. I try to treasure them every day as much as I can. And treasure the Earth as much as I can, and yes even all the religious folk as well. Although my love and patience does get tried at times.

    ****
    You are kind and thoughtful, but I have to respectfully disagree. Through free will people chose to accept the grace offered by God, or the opposite. It's hard to explain, but it is something within which fundamentally changes and makes one a true believer. So unless you experience it for yourself, you will never ever understand or grasp what I'm talking about. You may satisfy yourself with 'nature' and the 'universe' and living each day to it's fullest and taste a certain amount of spirituality, but in my view, you won't be getting the full experience. But nonetheless, it's admirable you live and treasure people. Christians are also, through scripture, to live each day and to live each day to the fullest by applying the nine attributes called the 'fruits of the spirit' ~ love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I believe nature is God's creation, as well as the universe. However, my faith leads me to focus on my Savior, Christ. Also, the basic element to all of us is 'energy'. That energy does not die when we die, but it goes somewhere. And this is what our spirits are. The best parallel I can give is of those who have been struck by lightening or being zapped by being electrocuted by some accident with power lines. Horrible thing to happen, but it points to the indisputable fact electricity interferes with the electrical impulses of one's body. We are inhabited by energy. Mary Shelly was a genius for her time. 'Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus' was not too far off the mark. The concept of electrical energy restarting life is just the reverse of what having an overload of electricity really does most of the time ~ it ends it.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • It's Funny, But not Really

      I meant 'its fullest'.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • wisdom4u2

      Amen!

      June 14, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  12. Blane

    I feel pity for atheists – to never to have had a religious experience, to never have known God and feel him moving from within, to live a barren and pointless life – yeah, I feel pity. And all they have to look forward to is at best nothingness or at worst burning in hell.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Chuckles

      Well isn't this just a big ole pity party then? I feel more pity for you that you seem to be sheep.... baaahhh

      June 14, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • vulpecula

      @Blane
      Do yourself a favor. Don't suppose out loud or in writing what it's like to be an atheist if your not one, or have ever asked one what it's like. You really have no clue.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • RoundRockGuy

      Blane,

      No need to feel pity for us. I try not to feel pity for folk who don't look at a tree and know in their heart of hearts and every cell in their body: thank you gentle one for giving me the air I breath, the soil that sustains me, shelter and food for myself and my kindred. And a million other ways we feel beauty. You can feel whatever you want but do NOT for a second think that Atheists haven't experienced the most intimate connection to beauty, the universe, and LIFE. I tolerate many things as an Atheist but do not for a second think I lack for beauty and purpose. You could not be more mistaken about anything at all.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Erin Ulrich

      We don't need or want your pity. How insulting. We live "barren and pointless" lives? I probably give more to charity in a year that you've ever given in your lifetime. I pity YOU for not being an accepting "religious" person. You're just a jerk.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:01 am |
    • FR33thinker

      Nothingness or hell? No, just nothingness. But who's to say nothingness isn't better than something? Do you know? Do you remember how 1722 felt? I don't. Doesn't seem so bad now does it? We have this life, whatever this life is anyway. We borrow this matter to move around and enjoy the pleasures of life and suffer the bad. Then we die. We don't make up stories because we understand that death is a part of life. No pain, no sadness, no fear of death. The only reason we don't want to die is because of fear. We evolved this fear to stay alive. But we must die. Face it and tris up. Besides, nobody thinks about death all day anyway. We just live our lives. We go to work. We cook food. W enjoy our families and activities. We just live.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:03 am |
    • kristen

      I'm an atheist and I've felt "god" moving in me and I have felt divine ecstasy. Totally. Yoga. Breath work. Meditation. All of these things can also lead to the feelings you describe. It isn't just your biblical God that inspires that feeling.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      a lot of us were deluded christian zombies like you, blane. wake up, think for yourself.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • tallulah13

      Blane, your concern is unneeded. I'm sorry your life would be empty without the emotional buzz caused by your belief that you are special and immortal. I don't feel any need to be special and immortal. This one life spent in obscurity is fine with me.

      I have found great joy in simply living on this beautiful planet in this beautiful universe. I have found great joy in learning and in the creative arts. I don't regret a minute of my life. I have always tried to be an honest, honorable and decent person, but I am not so greedy as to expect to be rewarded for it.

      Doing the right thing should be it's own reward. I'm sorry it's not enough for you.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Blane

      I also feel a deep-set pity for those who never will know the joy of God and will only burn in hell. It's a shame, really, that their hearts are stoney and they are blind because they will not see. I wish there were some way to reach them, but it is clear from this blog that they are lost. We believers truly are fortnuate to have been chosen by God.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • Blane

      And Jesus wept.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Madtown

      Blane
      We believers truly are fortnuate to have been chosen by God.
      -----–
      Stunning arrogance. Oh, you're so special, huh? How nice. Why would you be "chosen", when compared with any other human being who hasn't even heard of the christian way, because of where they were born? What have you done that makes you so special? Also, I wouldn't lose too much sleep worrying about the fate of those who think differently than you. Thinking differently than you is most certainly not a crime, not a "sin", and even if there was a place called "hell"(which there is not), no one would go there simply because they disagreed with you. Even though you do consider yourself the most special person on the face of the earth.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • No

      Please don't pity atheists. If anything, allow us to pity you for not yet being able to escape the dogma and indoctrination of your youth. Also, don't assume that atheists have not had 'religious experiences.' Many of us came from religious backgrounds and have had MANY religious experiences. In many cases these religious experiences have pushed us further along in our journeys and ultimately TOWARD atheism. Religion originated in a time when very little could be explained. Science has filled in so many gaps, meaning we no longer need to hold on to infantile mythology.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • tallulah13

      Blane, there is not a single shred of evidence to support the existence of heaven, hell, god, satan or any afterlife. What you are truly saying is that you found something that makes you believe that you are special, and that you hope that people who don't think like you will suffer for all eternity.

      If that's what it takes to make you happy, okay. But I don't think it's a particularly moral way to live your life.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Bet

      Oh, please. "I pity you because you are going to burn in heII after your barren, meaningless life".

      Do us a favor and shove your arrogance up a little further up your ass. Maybe it'll finally put a smile on your face.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:51 am |
    • sam stone

      Barren and pointless life? Get back on your knees and open your mouth, Jesus is coming again

      June 14, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • sam stone

      I am an atheist, and I have felt "god" moving in me. It's called psilocybin

      June 14, 2012 at 4:50 am |
  13. tnfreethinker

    Very brave man. I'm sure there are many more. Most people who actually read and study the Bible eventually realize it's fiction.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:33 am |
  14. rudyardK

    Oh Tom Tom: This is just for you:

    Tom gets a real charge, it is true
    Writing trash when she’s nothing to do
    She gets so much pleasure
    When folks dance to her measure
    But for what? It’s too easy to do.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      i give that a fail minus.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • It's Funny, But not Really

      Tom, Tom is a woman?

      June 14, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • Bet

      What a poetic little troll.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:53 am |
  15. Garth

    Sometimes I thank God. For unanswered prayers. Just because he doesn't answer, doesn't mean he don't care. Some of Gods greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      look. true story. god answered this paralyzed little boy in a wheel chair.

      http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-answers-prayers-of-paralyzed-little-boy,475/

      June 14, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Ting

      Some of Gods greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

      Like a child that dies from cancer?

      June 14, 2012 at 12:44 am |
    • Bet

      Rubbish. That's just more brainwashing to excuse the fact that your god doesn't exist and prayer is a waste of time.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • sam stone

      How do you distinguish between and unanswered prayer and an unheard prayer?

      June 14, 2012 at 4:52 am |
  16. God is an artist

    Our God, is an awesome God he reigns from Heaven above with wisdom, power and love our God is an awesome God.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • insult to artists

      She may be god but she's no Bowie.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Bet

      Yo, awesome god, I'm really happy for you, and Imma let you finish, but super bowl god is one of the best gods of all time! OF ALL TIME!

      June 14, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  17. man of God

    this guy needs to stay anonymous and hide because he is not a real man. anyone who would turn their back on God. its just like the bible said it would be. so he want to burn in hell does that mean he has to drag others with him? just because God didnt answer his prayer when he thought he should. what a whimp man grow up and be something or somebody.just because you dont believe in God (which i know better) doesnt mean he is not real.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • vulpecula

      @man of god

      Dang, aren't you an ass stick. The guy should be congratulated for coming back to the real word. And who are you to say he should of stayed anonamous? Or is your real name man of god.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • RoundRockGuy

      The universe is infinitely amusing and funny to come up with creatures like you man of God. I often think if there is a deity it might be like the trickster, Coyote god of some Native American religions. But of one thing I am certain of is this. If somehow after you die something is going to go to all the trouble to reconnect neurons or the equivalent so you can feel 'pain' in an incorporable body for all eternity and has the werewithall to be keeping track of everone's thoughts for billions of humans it would probably have enough of a sense of humor to only send the people who believed in 'hell' and especially those who so quickly send others there to this hell. Now THAT would be a fun and just deity.

      But don't worry man of God you aren't going. And I hope you can find some comfort being the just and godly man you appear to be that no one else is going to hell either.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • tnfreethinker

      @RRG...you ROCK!

      June 14, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • RoundRockGuy

      tnfreethinker,

      Thanks. I try not to be snarky but sometimes it is hard. I understand being human and mortal is hard. But it beats never existing in the first place. So glad I found this thread. We free thinkers have heard every abuse that the 'religious' people are throwing at us here all of our lives. Water of our backs but also still very sad. But I am excited by all the spiritual people posting. I am going to sleep now but let us all imagine a better tomorrow when we are all brothers and sisters to all living things and the universe. Good night.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • tnfreethinker

      RRG...welcome to the Belief Blog. Look forward to more of your posts.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • No

      Just because you BELIEVE in a god (which one, by the way?) doesn't mean that god IS real. Just because someone believes there are faeries at the bottom of the garden doesn't mean they're actually there. You are delusional. I think it's funny that you say 'I know better.' Care to explain HOW you know? What evidence do you have to back up your extraordinary claims? Jerry is more of a man than you'll ever be with your childhood fairytales.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  18. RoundRockGuy

    The interesting thing about morals is that infants have them. Study after study shows that. Way before they understand religion. We are wired for compassion and the golden rule. It is why it is universal. Far from having religion give us morals it has done a fine job of mucking things up over the centuries. Creating so many countless divisions that are so unnessecary. Granted religions might have started from a good place but they have certainly swerved way of course since then.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  19. RoundRockGuy

    I wish people knew the beauty of being spiritual and not religious. Knowing that your life is because of a million trillion miracles of nature and the natural universe. That you are a brother and sister to all living things. That we are the universe aware of itself. It is so beautiful.

    And has there ever been a harder sell than religion? Immortality and eternal bliss and eternal 'damnation' if you don't? I mean c'mon it is so manipulative it breaks my heart. But my non-believer, believer fiends (because in reality we believe in so much) cherish the Earth our home and never lose hope that people will awaken and cherish their humanity and connection with all of life.

    June 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Ticker

      What you label "spiritual" is probably the way most scientists feel about the universe. The more you study it, the more amazing it all becomes, even more because the hand of god is just not present in any of it!

      June 13, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • RoundRockGuy

      Ticker I am a scientist. I agree with you. What some people fail to realize is how spiritual being an Atheist can be. I have always been drawn to Nature. And over the years I have become more and more amazed and appreciative of the universe. We may not get eternal life but we do get an unbelievably deep connection to existence while we are here.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • tnfreethinker

      Great post RRG

      June 14, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  20. Evangelical

    I think the atheists are really sinners who doin't want to give up their sin so they think if they deny God then they won't have to answer for their sins. What else could explain the rabid hatred displayed here? They hang out here to reassure each other that what they believe is true.

    June 13, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What terrible "sin" have any of us committed, Eva? What do you imagine I am doing that I'd hate to have to give up if I believed in a god? Go ahead, list all those iniquities, dear. What brutal crimes and carnal acts have I engaged in, do you think?

      June 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Evangelical

      You said, "I think the atheists are really sinners who doin't want to give up their sin so they think if they deny God then they won't have to answer for their sins."
      You really don't get it, do you? Atheists don't sin. Ever. Atheists are incapable of sin.

      You said, "What else could explain the rabid hatred displayed here?"
      The hatred displayed here is pretty easily explained. It is from believers tat can't seem to accept that someone isn't equally deluded as they are.

      Now, don't get me wrong, just because I call you deluded, doesn't mean that I hate you. I wish for you to get better. I hope you'll seek help.

      You said, "They hang out here to reassure each other that what they believe is true."
      No reassurance is necessary. That is the case when you have reason on your side. The ones that help solidify my disbelief are actually believers like yourself.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I think that you have no idea what you are talking about. Making up lies about people who don't believe what you do might be comforting to you, but a lie is still a lie. I guess the god you invented was actually kidding when he commanded that you shouldn't "bear false witness."

      June 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Ticker

      So they really believe in god, but at the same time think they can fool god by saying that they don't believe in god. And this doesn't even fool themselves.

      I think you need a better theory. We are too smart for that one.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • inanutshell

      @Evengenical...my friend you are delusional. We don't believe in original sin, and just like you we have a set of morals your God did not give us. You are quick to judge even tho your God say not to, We don't spread hatred, you do, by calling names, belittling, and attacking those who do not think as you do. Nice job Christian. God is proud that you are representing him, I'm sure

      June 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
    • OTOH

      Evangelical,

      Or... maybe this forum is the same sort of place that you would hang out if Islam were trying to run this country according to its fantasies.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • Evangelical

      @LinCA

      What you don't get is that you are sinning even if you think you are not. God is the ultimate reality who exists whether you believe in him or not.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • inanutshell

      @Ticker You really need to understand Atheists. There is no God, so why would we be afraid of fooling him, her. Your statement is utterly uneducated. Do some research on it then make your stupid remarks. I have researched your religions, so I am capable of making some intelligent remarks. You are on the other hand, pulling a rabbit out of your hate. Set forward your proof that God exists, the burden of proof lies with you since your making the statement. If you can't, hang the picture of the Last Supper next to the ones with unicorns, pixies, and Bigfoot.

      June 13, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
    • vulpecula

      Dang! do you really have apicture of Bigfoot?

      June 14, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • It's Funny, but not Really

      You know, it's funny, that one can draw parallels between what atheists do, and what religious and those of faith do. The faithful congregate. Atheists don't believe in religion, yet in congregating and forming alliances they are like the faithful in that respect. The atheists get angry and nasty when people don't agree with them on God, but let's be fair, there are a number of the faithful who get angry at those who also don't agree on God and at times behave ungodly, too. But there is a huge departure of course and a great divide. One side believes in God. The other doesn't. I side with God. It's my personal choice. I'm not responsible for anyone but me. And here is another parallel. The atheists are responsible for themselves. I'm not responsible for them.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • RoundRockGuy

      It's Funny. It isn't a choice. Of course every Atheist would love for 'God' to be true in the sense of eternal life, bliss, never losing loved ones. Yeah, how fantastic. It is the ultimate adult Christmas. But it isn't a choice is it? Sure to 'believe' is. But the universe is what is. And what is to me is fantastically amazing and I wish I could stay with my loved ones forever but I can't. So I do the next best thing. I try to treasure them every day as much as I can. And treasure the Earth as much as I can, and yes even all the religious folk as well. Although my love and patience does get tried at times.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • An ex-evangelical

      Soryyy Evangelical, that's just not the way it is. When I left my faith a "desire for sin" had nothing to do with it. I wrestled with it. I REALLY wanted to believe. I went to a debate between an evangelical and an agnostic (subject: is the NT historically reliuable) fully expecting the evangelical to defete the agnostic. Just the oposite happened. Without an infalable scripture to turn to all the contradictions could not be explained away. Like claiming my life was as good as it is because of God's blessing, yet many a very faithfull mother in Africa prays in agony for her child to live untill she reaches the refugee station, The prayer goes unanswered. I claim God gets me a job before I loose my house, yet he doesn't provide her food before her child dies in her arms.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:58 am |
    • Bet

      Evangelina,

      Why don't you take a nice bubble bath, put on some pretty lingerie, and relax with a good book that isn't a bible. You'll feel better and maybe you won't have to parade around like such a martyr. You're just a shade away from convincing yourself that you've got a stigmata.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • sam stone

      Good for you, Evangenital. I think you are a self-loathing closet queen

      June 14, 2012 at 4:55 am |
    • LinCA

      @Evangelical

      You said, "What you don't get is that you are sinning even if you think you are not."
      I know that you think I am. But in this country, which religion to follow is a choice everyone is free to make. The available choices include to not believe. And because "sin" is a violation of a religious rule, those that don't follow religion, can't sin.

      You said, "God is the ultimate reality who exists whether you believe in him or not."
      Unless there is some evidence fo your god, it is unreasonable to believe in it.

      June 14, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • LinCA

      @RoundRockGuy

      You said, "It's Funny."
      No, it's actually really sad that in the 21st century there are still adults that believe in fairy tales.

      You said, "It isn't a choice."
      Of course it is. Everyone is free to choose a religion or not. A rational evaluation of the case for gods should make that decision easy. It's the rational evaluation that appears to be the hard part. That and letting go of preconceived notions.

      You said, "Of course every Atheist would love for 'God' to be true in the sense of eternal life, bliss, never losing loved ones."
      If given the choice between an eternity in hell or a day with the christian god, I choose hell. Every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

      You said, "It is the ultimate adult Christmas."
      It's make-believe.

      You said, "But it isn't a choice is it? Sure to 'believe' is."
      Sure it is. As I mentioned above, the choice is even if you are capable of letting go of preconceived notions.

      You said, "And treasure the Earth as much as I can, and yes even all the religious folk as well."
      There is a large contingent of believers that refuses to believe that man is destroying the Earth. While you may not be in that group, certainly not all believers are convinced of it, or even concerned about it.

      You said, "Although my love and patience does get tried at times."
      I know how you feel. It is frustrating sometimes to see otherwise intelligent adults, so completely disconnected from reality.

      June 14, 2012 at 10:13 am |
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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.