For Evangelical Pastor, A Road From Belief To Atheism

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Jerry DeWitt spent most of his life working as an evangelical preacher in Louisiana. Then, two years ago, something happened.


He got a phone call from one of his parishioners asking him to pray for her seriously injured brother.  DeWitt realized that he had no proof that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the sister’s hopes up. He couldn’t do it.

DeWitt left the church and is now an atheist.  The transition has not been easy.  He has been ostracized from his community and his family, but says that he could no longer spend his life doubting the very existence of something that he was leading others to believe.

Jerry DeWitt is author of the book "Hope After Faith."

Written By: Phoebe Judge
continue to source article at thestory.org

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  1. I just don’t understand something here, This guy spends “most of his life” believing in god, and POOF ‘realizes that he had no proof that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the sister’s hopes up’, and he couldn’t do it. What was it that caused this moment of clarity? Did he ever have proof? Did he ever pray for anybody? Bless his heart for coming to his senses, but I’m certainly not buying his book, so please, somebody help me out here.

    • In reply to #1 by fishhead:

      I just don’t understand something here, This guy spends “most of his life” believing in god, and POOF ‘realizes that he had no proof that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the sister’s hopes up’, and he couldn’t do it. What was it that caused this moment of c…

      who said anything about “poof” (except you). It sounded to me like the moment he realized he couldn’t go on praying, not that his belief in God suddenly disappeared — it usually doesn’t happen that way, as formerly religious people will tell you — it’s a process, not a poof moment.

      • In reply to #5 by Sara:

        In reply to #1 by fishhead:

        I just don’t understand something here, This guy spends “most of his life” believing in god, and POOF ‘realizes that he had no proof that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the sister’s hopes up’, and he couldn’t do it. What was it…

        OK Sara, you’re right, the ‘Poof’ was a euphemism, not to be taken literally. It sounded like a ‘poof’ moment to me. He’s on his knee’s ready to pray for this ill individual and has a moment of clarity. Does that sound better than ‘poof’. And I realize that it’s different for every person who used to believe. Some folks fight it for years and it’s incredible hard. Mine was gradual. I kept thinking that this makes absolutely no sense. The bible contradicts itself more than a politician on a rant. Finally I’m like, ENOUGH, I’ve got to call B.S.on this. I am a hardheaded MoFo. Thanks though, I was glad to clarify what I meant. I do get worked up over such silliness. I’d give a quarter to hear what Sir Richard thinks about this quacker’s church.

        • In reply to #7 by fishhead:

          In reply to #5 by Sara:

          In reply to #1 by fishhead:

          I just don’t understand something here, This guy spends “most of his life” believing in god, and POOF ‘realizes that he had no proof
          that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the sister’s hopes up’, and he co…

          Thanks, Fishhead. As for Sir Richard’s thoughts — I think he wrote a blurb for DeWitt’s book

          • In reply to #9 by Sara:

            In reply to #7 by fishhead:

            In reply to #5 by Sara:

            In reply to #1 by fishhead:

            I just don’t understand something here, This guy spends “most of his life” believing in god, and POOF ‘realizes that he had no proof
            that praying was going to do anything to save this man and it was unfair to get the…

            OK Sara, I confess I’m mildly retarded. Please help! Where and/or how do I find Sir Richards blurb.

          • In reply to #11 by fishhead:

            In reply to #9 by Sara:

            In reply to #7 by fishhead:

            In reply to #5 by Sara:

            In reply to #1 by fishhead:

            OK Sara, I confess I’m mildly retarded. Please help! Where and/or how do I find Sir Richards blurb.

            three blurbs, listed on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/0306822245

            Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion
            “The clergyman who sees the light, loses his faith, and realizes that his life’s work has been empty delusion faces worse than inner torment. In small-town America he confronts public ostracism, family break-up, and financial ruin. Such was the predicament of Jerry DeWitt. Brother DeWitt has landed on his feet, but many others still wrestle in the closet with the pain. This poignant book will give them strength.”

            Dan Barker, author of Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists
            “Jerry DeWitt tells a truly remarkable story of an actual faith healing. He healed himself of his faith. Jerry’s honest and wrenching struggle to find his way out of the Pentecostal/evangelical house of mirrors is driven inexorably by his true concern: his unfailing love for people. I literally got goosebumps reading this page-turner, and cheered for joy at the end.”

            Bishop Carlton Pearson, author of God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu… and The Gospel of Inclusion
            “My friend Jerry Dewitt is one of those ‘raving lunatics’ (spiritual eccentrics) who insists on disturbing the illusion and has thus created a new path for his own soul and continues to evolve. I can hardly wait to see where his bridge takes him and us.”

  2. He probably secretly, in his heart of hearts knew it was all bollocks for a long time, but tried desperately to suspend disbelief.

    I suspect there are millions of people in this state. Really TRYING to believe their traditional guff, and burying the knowledge that it is all just hot air, baseless moralization and pointless dogma.

    If this book helps those people, then I’m all for it.

  3. He is still hooked on preachifying. One of the perks of being a preacher is a captive audience, no matter how bad your performance. I think that is what held him in the thrawl of religion even after he started to notice it was nonsense. There is also just the natural procrastination of admitting you were wrong. Keep in mind he was brainwashed not to examine his beliefs. He was taught that was wicked.

    He is an important person in working out strategies that will get through to the indoctrinated. We keep using strategies that might work on an atheist temporarily discombobulated by a surreptitious hit of LSD who still had his ability to reason intact.

    • In reply to #3 by Roedy:

      He is still hooked on preachifying. One of the perks of being a preacher is a captive audience, no matter how bad your performance. I think that is what held him in the thrawl of religion even after he started to notice it was nonsense. There is also just the natural procrastination of admitting yo…
      Keep in mind he was brainwashed not to examine his beliefs. He was taught that was wicked.

      I was brainwashed with this same tool too, but I figured that it was absolute silliness and rejected it by the time I was around 14. And I don’t recall it being an earth-moving revelation. It was like “Hey, wait a minute, this is retarded, it makes no sense at all”. I think lip service is easier than actual ‘work’. But then, on the other hand, you got to promote that book, don’t you.
      I’ll throw in a comment to BikeAnimal (#2) Of course he know it was bollocks.

      • In reply to #4 by fishhead:

        In reply to #3 by Roedy:

        ” I was brainwashed with this same tool too, but I figured that it was absolute silliness and rejected it by the time I was around 14. And I don’t recall it being an earth-moving revelation….”

        Good for you — please consider that losing religion doesn’t happen the same way with everyone.

      • In reply to #4 by fishhead:

        I was brainwashed with this same tool too, but I figured that it was absolute silliness and rejected it by the time I was around 14. And I don’t recall it being an earth-moving revelation.

        fishhead, I’m pretty much in the same boat as you are. Since I grew up in an environment where I was allowed to think, have opinions and ask questions even though I was raised in a catholic family. Giving up faith for me was easy. It was merely a natural consequence from learning about the real world. Which is why it didn’t feel like such a big deal to me at the time. I wasn’t rejected by my family or friends because of it. And I didn’t try to convince others of what I didn’t believe.

        I think it’s important to understand that not all of us have been so fortunate. Jerry DeWitt was never given such learning opportunities and was deprived of a healthy childhood environment. That’s why I respect this guy. He did it all on his own. In SPITE of what probably was huge disapproval and pure hatred from his family and his friends. This not only took a lot of courage, it also took a lot of honesty for him to choose this difficult path.

        Hardcore believers can’t be “shocked” from extreme belief to unbelief by reason or logic. It’s a bit like quitting hard drugs or drinking, it’s VERY hard and distressing. People who have never been addicted to drugs are unable to understand drug addicts. The same goes for belief. And that’s why I think DeWitt is in a unique position to help “de-fundamentalize” America in a way that “run-of-the-mill” atheists like us can’t. By having lived through it, he understands the process.

        And let’s face it. He’s far more tolerant of hostile believers than we are. He never gets upset or lose his composure or become confrontational during interviews. How many of us can honestly claim to be able to do that. I know I can’t.

        • In reply to #8 by NearlyNakedApe:

          In reply to #4 by fishhead:

          I was brainwashed with this same tool too, but I figured that it was absolute silliness and rejected it by the time I was around 14. And I don’t recall it being an earth-moving revelation.

          fishhead, I’m pretty much in the same boat as you are. Since I grew up in an envi…

          Lucky you for growing up in an environment where it was OK to think for yourself. As a child, I felt like I was beat to death with religion. When I started questioning things that didn’t make scene, I felt like I was in the midst of the Inquisition. That’s why I have a fairly militant attitude about religion at this point. I don’t know much about Dewitt and his journey from point A to what’s the point. I should probably cut him a bit of slack, I guess. It just seemed insane to start a church for nonbelievers. You, as a former catholic, should see the point in unnecessary dogma.

          • In reply to #10 by fishhead:

            In reply to #8 by NearlyNakedApe:

            In reply to #4 by fishhead:It just seemed insane to start a church for nonbelievers. You, as a former catholic, should see the point in unnecessary dogma.

            ============

            I’ve seen no indication that “atheist churches” will include dogma. The sunday assembly has no dogma and I haven’t heard anything about Dewitt’s operation having dogma.

          • In reply to #13 by Sara:

            In reply to #10 by fishhead:

            In reply to #8 by NearlyNakedApe:

            In reply to #4 by fishhead:It just seemed insane to start a church for nonbelievers. You, as a former catholic, should see the point in unnecessary dogma.

            ============

            I’ve seen no indication that “atheist churches” will include dogm…

            OK, I’m confused then. You are absolutely correct. I was under the impression that the entire church routine was dogma. Praying, singing, preaching, ect. “The term “dogmatic” can be used disparagingly to refer to any belief that is held stubbornly, including political and scientific beliefs”. I warned you that I’m mildly retarded. Seriously, thank you so much for the “Three Wise Blurbs”. If we keep this dialog up, you may even convince me to give this book a read. Have you read it? And if so, what was your take on it? I’m still boggled with the concept of a church for atheists. Thanks again. Greatly appreciated!

          • In reply to #14 by fishhead:

            In reply to #13 by Sara:

            In reply to #10 by fishhead:

            In reply to #8 by NearlyNakedApe:

            In reply to #4 by fishhead:It just seemed insane to start a church for nonbelievers. You, as a former catholic, should see the point in unnecessary dogma.

            ============

            I’ve seen no indication that “atheist c…

            Haven’t read the book, but listened to this radio program, which I highly recommend – Dewitt is not preaching here and it’s not a “gotcha” interview.

  4. I just got through listening to the podcast. This man is a completely different species of human than I am. He says that when he saw and heard Jimmy Swaggart for the first time, he was in complete awe of the man and the experience. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Jimmy Swaggart for the first time (by accident, on television, of course). I couldn’t stop laughing at both him and his even more pathetic audience.

    • In reply to #17 by IDLERACER:

      I just got through listening to the podcast. This man is a completely different species of human than I am. He says that when he saw and heard Jimmy Swaggart for the first time, he was in complete awe of the man and the experience. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Jimmy Swaggart for the first…

      Right – and assuming you’re an atheist, you both ended up in the same place — just showing that in some respects, the two of you are remarkably similar — not really a different species — and that there is more than one way at arriving at atheism.

      By the way, my reaction to Swaggart was similar to yours. Perhaps if I had been raised in the South by Pentecostals, it would have been different. I’ll never know.

    • In reply to #17 by IDLERACER:

      I just got through listening to the podcast. This man is a completely different species of human than I am. He says that when he saw and heard Jimmy Swaggart for the first time, he was in complete awe of the man and the experience. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Jimmy Swaggart for the first…

      I remember as a teenager listening to Jimmy Swaggart. He acted like he was going to preach the ‘hell’ right out of you, or else. He kinda quietened down when he got busted banging one of his secretary’s. I guess the ‘go forth and diddle your employee’ was one of his favorite verses from the ‘good book’. More recently I saw a clip of him saying something to the effect that he’d kill a homo and tell god he ‘slipped and hit his head’, or some crap. He’s a major piece of shit…. I used to watch Jim and Tammy Baker just for laughs. They were something else, too. In the same vein.

  5. What ever way you look at Religion it is the single most damaging blight on human civilization!!! Ever since the Muslims and Christians started to brain wash the simple minded( and very easily led) masses. Before that peoples simple Pagan beliefs were understandable(though equally ridiculus) that the earth, weather, afterlife were all intermingled!!! Human sacrifices etc!!! lol
    Very early humans burying there dead, and thinking that were going to the afterlife is a very believable!! The druids, Greeks, Romans etc!!
    Why the fuck no-one can get that fact the Christianity and the Muslim faith were contrived from More intelligent humans at the time to brain wash the masses with fear and control!! You Believe or you Die!!!! It was the perfect final solution to wipe out all Pagan religions and install the master Religions of Christianity and the Muslim Faith World wide!!!
    The Christians were Far worst for Sending there evil priests who spread there bullshit worldwide, using an iron fist of death, rape & fear!!! millions of innocents that have died in the name of Religion from the start right to present day!!! This will continue until Religion is irradicated from our Earth, and we can all start to get the fuck on, and try to limit the irrepairible damage that we have already done to the planet!!! But removing religion of any kind would give the whole world a fresh chance, and let us all enjoy our time on this truly amazing planet, that creates miracles every second day!!!
    Ban it from schools, courts!!! Its is truly the single most useless waste of everyone’s time. Don’t get me on the vile wealth that the Chistian and Muslim Faiths hold!!! Its sickening!!!
    What can we do about the masses sleepwalking with blind faith, all thinking incorrectly that there is a god and afterlife!!! It is not a normal situation that Billions believe this fantasy, that there is not one shred on credible proof for any of it!!! the only proof they say is Faith!!! Bollocks!!! It really is a laughable joke when you think that so man of our planets inhabitants believe it!!!! Endless deaths in religions name dont stop them, infact it makes them kill for freely!!! lol WTF
    If somehow another species from another planet were to make contact( which i dont believe) then WTF would they make of us!!! Fucking idiots I think!!!! So with reference the the priest who has now seen the light!!! HE should use his preacher skills to spread the Athiest word in the American Extremist Christian Heartlands!!! Try to save a few innocents!!!!

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