Jerry DeWitt Featured in New York Times

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:

Jerry DeWitt (Julie Glassberg – The New York Times)

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.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Stev84

    The pain he has caused them? Biased much? All the so-called “pain” these people feel is self-inflicted.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-De-Fleuriot/611844223 Mike De Fleuriot

       Really, just like the self – inflicted kids in say Jesus Camp or the Phelps compound. Yeah you have a point, they are to blame.

  • Guest

    Seems like a fascinating story.  No doubt he will be a disappointment to that branch of atheism that struts under the notion that all religious people are all stupid, all evil, and all pain is because of them.   But he might be a feather in the cap of atheism today, as he can speak from a different viewpoint than most, with more insight than many atheist spokespeople.  

  • MegaZeusThor

    Good article, well written. We need people like Jerry DeWitt.

    Dawkins may speak to me, but I was never religious; Dawkins doesn’t go over well with everyone.

    Jerry DeWitt on Recovering from Religion – The Atheist Experience #764:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvP4-0AKH4Y#t=39s

  • Ftfkdad

    Love this comment,from the very last line of the interview: “In the end, I couldn’t help feeling that all religion, even the most loving kind, is just a speed bump in the progress of the human race”

  • http://www.twitter.com/alexthethinker Teleprompter

    So, did anyone else feel that the tone from the author of this article was often condescending? Like the part where he expected Jerry DeWitt to be an attention-seeking contrarian and calling him “provincial”. I get it, it’s not polite to straight up call someone a hick, but the author needed to be a jerk somehow. Or the part where the author suggested that Jerry DeWitt may have deliberately provoked the situation to get away from his town, his friends, and his wife? What?! That is an outrageous claim. 

    I’m glad atheists are getting more coverage, and I’m glad Jerry DeWitt, the Clergy Project, and Recovering from Religion got more attention, but wow, I was so angry at the author when I read this article because his tone made me nauseous. This is what atheists have to deal with – even well-meaning people can’t help being snide or impugning our motives.


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