Preacher-turned-atheist Jerry DeWitt will be featured in the The New York Times Magazine this Sunday and the article by Robert F. Worth is already up:
DeWitt quickly repurposed his preacherly techniques, sharing his reverse-conversion story and his thoughts on “the five stages of disbelief” to packed crowds at “Freethinker” gatherings across the Bible Belt, in places like Little Rock and Houston. As his profile rose in the movement this spring, his Facebook and Twitter accounts began to fill with earnest requests for guidance from religious doubters in small towns across America. “It’s sort of a brand-new industry,” DeWitt told me. “There isn’t a lot of money in it, but there’s a lot of momentum.”
When I first met Jerry DeWitt, I half expected a provincial contrarian hungry for attention. Instead, he was mild and apologetic, a short, baby-faced man with a gentle smile and a neatly trimmed dark beard. He was earnest and warm, and I soon discovered that many of his fellow townspeople cannot help liking him, no matter how much they dislike his atheism. He appears to have reached his conclusions about God with reluctance, and with remorse for the pain he has caused his friends and family. He seems to bear no grudge toward them. “At every atheist event I go to, there’s always someone who’s been hurt by religion, who wants me to tell him all preachers are charlatans,” DeWitt told me, soon after we met. “I always have to disappoint them. The ones I know are mostly very good people.”
It a beautiful portrayal of a really amazing guy. I’ve heard Jerry speak in front of atheists and it’s like a secular revival when you hear his pastor-y voice People like him make it *really* hard to be a silent atheist… and FSM bless him for that.
Teresa MacBain (another pastor-turned-atheist who now works with American Atheists), The Clergy Project, and Recovering from Religion all get mentioned in the piece, too — and all deserve even more press.
I hope people out there who doubt their faith will read this article and get the motivation they need to leave their church or their pastoring job. They don’t have to become an “atheist spokesperson” like Jerry, but it’s just not worth the pent-up frustration and self-deception to remain in a church whose views you don’t accept or feign belief in a faith you know isn’t based in reality.
Leave. It’s ok. There’s support for you out there.