Ex-Pastors Are Helping Others Leave the Pulpit

CNN’s Dan Merica has a great profile of Jerry DeWitt, a graduate of The Clergy Project and the executive director of Recovering from Religion. DeWitt is now helping other pastors break free from faith:

Jerry DeWitt

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.”

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.”

You can help DeWitt with his mission by donating to Recovering From Religion.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Recovering from Religion is not just for clergy who are in this painful process.  It also has the Secular Therapist Project, which is a database and referral service for anyone looking for therapy from qualified psychotherapists who will not push any religious ideas onto their clients, and who use evidence-based therapeutic models. 

    I’ve been working with Darrel Ray on the team that assesses the therapists who want to be on the referral list. We have a growing number of truly “wonderful counselors,” (please excuse the Isaiah 9:6 reference) but we need many more across the nation to make this a valuable resource. If anyone knows of a good counselor, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist who seems appropriate, please suggest that they apply to be on our list.  http://www.seculartherapy.org/index.php

  • Great IAM

    When I dropped my belief I lost almost all my friends and some family too. Its hard at first but eventually became peaceful. Its best to keep the delusional away from loved ones. Keeps them from committing atrocities to your family knowing they will be forgiven for whatever they my do. Coming out of the closet is the besy way to protect your family and self from bad people! They can be dangerous to your health!

  • MegaZeusThor

    Jerry on a recent episode of the The Atheist Experience (#764):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvP4-0AKH4Y&feature=plcp 

  • mikespeir

    “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.”

    Paradoxically, you can be sincerely convinced you believe and yet not believe.  I know, because I spent the last few years of my “Christian” life that way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jared-Falvo/834533297 Jared Falvo

       The bible… nay, Jesus Christ Himself… refers to people like you and the others… “believers” who stop believing… seed on stony ground.  for my own personal emotional comfort, I must believe that you and others never were saved.  Why?  Because I can’t fathom ever ending up that way… it is like trying to ponder becoming a homosexual… it’s a dead short in my mind.  Impossible to even consider.

      And, for those who think I haven’t reach that crossroads, so I really don’t know… I looked up a prophecy, spoken of in the New Testament, which is NOWHERE to be found in the Old Testament (nor anywhere else in the KJV bible).  Not a trace.  I tried searching in every possible configuration.  It’s just NOT there.  And I began to wonder…. “are they right?”  And I went the entire road… if they’re right about this, could it be possible they’re right that we’re living a lie?  We’re believing in a god who ISN’T there?

      I pondered… for just a moment… the possibility of walking away.  And, as I looked behind me (in my mind), I saw nothing but a cliff… the road behind me was GONE.  There WASN’T anything to go BACK to!

      And I came to an interesting conclusion… the only alternative to faith in Jesus… is GONE!  There is none.  The Holy Spirit has erased my past… the only path to walk is ahead of me.

      If there is a road behind you… why hasn’t your past been erased?  Is it possible you’re not actually saved?  And, therein lies the crux of my thought… you can only “walk away” from what you believe, when there is somewhere to walk away TO.

      For me… there isn’t.  Hallelujah!

      • Kyle

        Jared,

        I’m sure you never considered how rationalists would interpret your comment.  I doubt that I’m the only one who read this . . .

        “I pondered… for just a moment… the possibility of walking away. And, as I looked behind me (in my mind), I saw nothing but a cliff… the road behind me was GONE. There WASN’T anything to go BACK to!”  “. . . you can only “walk away” from what you believe, when there is somewhere to walk away TO.”

        . . . and interpreted it as . . .

        “I thought about being rational, but my programming is so thorough that I can’t conceive of it.  I suffer from hysterical blindness inre: all other options to my programming.  I’m stuck with baseless belief by default.  My mental enslavement is complete and permanent.”

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I admire the Clergy Project, but when it comes to retraining for jobs, I would rather support ex-military,  people whose jobs have been outsourced, the disabled, and women reentering the workforce after raising a family.  Maybe I’m just hard-hearted and cynical, but I’ve always felt that there was an element of taking the easy way out in these guys who selected preaching instead of working at jobs where you actually have to do/make/fix something.

  • Jane Rakali

    Anyone know of any similar organisations in Australia? 


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