An Exclusive Excerpt from Jerry DeWitt’s Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism

I’ve written a lot of posts about Jerry DeWitt because he’s such a compelling guy: An ex-Pentecostal preacher who is now a graduate of the clergy project, Jerry has become a voice for atheism as well as a strong supporter of non-religious communities (similar to the ones seen in the religious world). His newly-released book Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism, written with Ethan Brown, documents his journey from hard-core Christian to preaching atheist:

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book (reprinted with permission of Da Capo Press):

As I immersed myself in Bible study in my mother’s trailer in Rosepine, no one — not even [wife] Kelli — knew that I was undergoing a profound spiritual transformation. I kept my new, life-altering perspectives on faith a secret. I didn’t betray change on the outside because I still saw myself as a Pentecostal culturally, if not a Pentecostal doctrinally. The façade I created was a necessity because the transformation, while deeply painful for me, would have destroyed the image my family and friends held of me. The contrast between my outward appearance — still that of a young Pentecostal preacher eager to grow a ministry of his own — and my internal struggle over my faith was mirrored in the schizoid nature of the struggle itself. On the one hand, my months of Bible study felt like a dark night of the soul — I was totally alone and questioning everything I ever believed. There in my mother’s trailer, I truly understood the cliché that the hardest thing about searching for the truth is that sometimes you find it. On the other hand, I was completely energized and enthralled by my revelations about the Bible. It felt like the library of Alexandria had not been destroyed and I was one of the first people to walk through it and discover its scrolls. I had prayed with the Branhamites and the Goodwinites in search of these spiritual truths. But what made this moment different and more exciting was that I could actually see these truths on paper, sustained by the weight of actual evidence versus being upheld by the power of a particular preacher’s personality. If I came to a historical fact about, say, Paul, I could confirm it through a source outside the Bible, like the Catholic Encyclopedia, and find out that, yes, that’s just the way it happened.

My faith was no longer centered around an argument or a popularity contest between differing Pentecostal worldviews espoused by charismatic preachers; it was about discovering ideas about God and Christianity that were provable. It was heartbreaking to finally break through the last piece of my long-held belief that doctrine was divinely inspired because it had ramifications for every aspect of my faith. If the Bible is no longer God’s voice into the pen of the prophet but is instead a historical reference of an actual event or person, then the idea of, for example, divine healing seen in Isaiah 53:5 — “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” — ceases to have relevance and, more importantly, the whole concept of divine healing comes into question. If the divine Bible verse from Isaiah is what the entire fortress of divine healing rests upon, then if the verse has a human author the structure of divine healing collapses. My faith had been anchored to idea that the Bible was not only divinely written but also had eternal implications. So if the Bible has an eternal author then what he wrote four thousand years ago applies to all of us today. But if, as I was coming to realize, the Bible has a temporal author then that specific idea died with him or soon after. The Bible, then, becomes like literature or poetry — I could be moved by it but I did not have to receive it as eternal truth nor as divinely composed.

Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism is now available on Amazon and in bookstores.

If you’d like to win a copy of the book, just tell us what inspired you to become an atheist and leave the hashtag #HopeAfterFaith at the end of the comment. I’ll contact a random winner next week!

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.

  • SanfordA

    Of course an atheist can pray. What is prayer? Expressing one’s feelings outward to God, that is, to infinity. The atheist can also express his feelings to infinity. Read more in the chapter, “The Big Lie of God’s Existence” in Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living.

    • MostlyHarmless

      You are getting metaphysical. I am not sure what “Expressing one’s feeling towards infinity” is supposed to do for you. I prefer expressing my feelings to my wife, kids, cat, etc. Expressing them towards infinity is roughly equivalent to expressing them towards a hammer. It doesn’t do any good and it only irritates the hammer.

      • WallofSleep

        ” Expressing them [one's feelings] towards infinity is roughly equivalent to expressing them towards a hammer.”

        On the other hand, expressing one’s feelings with a hammer, when done constructively, can be quite cathartic.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          You do more damage with a longsword over the course of an average encounter.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Depends on the size of the hammer. A maul of the titans is a pretty impressive damage dealer …

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              I grew up on 1st and 2nd ed., where the maul and its cousins required giant size to wield them. Absolute silliness.
              My go-to weapon for silly numbers was a sun blade wielded by a bard in 1st edition. I had the backstab ability, the sword’s description said it counted as a short sword or bastard sword, whichever was best at any given moment…

              My DM stopped using undead monsters because it was funnier to see me desperately searching for them than to just get rid of the sword.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Hehehe. Good DM :)

                I started right when 3.0 swapped to 3.5, so I haven’t played any of the older editions than that.

      • SanfordA

        A hammer is not infinity. Prayer is like reading poetry. What is infinity? Well, if you do not know, I’ll tell you. I am a math professor. E.g, how many natural numbers are there? We start counting. We never finish. Actually, there are different types of infinity, as Cantor has shown.

        Yes, I do pray every now and then. I am Jewish, and the prayers are in Hebrew, a language that I am fluent in. The prayers are beautiful, using meaningful and earthly words.

        You cannot deny atheists prayer!

        • MostlyHarmless

          My point is – it does as much good praying to a hammer as to infinity or anyone’s God(s) for that matter.

          Prayer can be like poetry. I have heard some beautiful chants and prayers used in many different religions. Same for poems. Songs. Etc. So… I guess we agree!

          There is no such thing as atheists prayer. You might be confusing atheists with mystics, new age or other systems of beliefs that don’t have a god but believe in there being something out there. We don’t believe there is “some thing” out there. Except for stars, planets, nebulae, black holes, magnetars and other completely amazing things.

          Since you are Jewish, I assume we would both agree that praying to a hammer, planet, star or black hole yields the same results. If so, we agree again! That is what infinity would mean to me then. Praying to the vast emptiness of space – yields nothing.

          Atheists don’t find that fulfilling. Nothing against your beliefs. We just don’t feel that way. Others do but they carry a different label.

          Cheers

          • Blacksheep

            I’ve learned a lot about atheists over the years here on FA. But I didn’t know there were atheist rules that dictated what is fulfilling to someone or not. I’m not a fish, but I find swimming in the ocean very fulfilling!

          • SanfordA

            You fail to get my point. I do not believe in idolatry, which is praying to a hammer. Instead, I am talking about infinity, that exists only in our imagination, like God. As we count natural numbers, we never finish. Yet we can speak about aleph null, the number of natural numbers. Praying to space is praying to something that exists in reality. Infinity does not exist except in our imagination.

            Again, I am not talking about something out there. I am talking about something that does not exist. Period.

            Why is this so hard for you to get?

            Praying to stars is the typical type of idolatry, called “star worship.” Another name for God in the Talmud in “no limit”, that is, infinity.

            The Jewish notion of God is different from the Christian concept, so different that it is hard to explain to a Christian. I could say a lot more on this topic.

            God created everything in the universe. Therefore, you cannot use any concept that exists to describe God, such as a force. Then how do you describe God? As the Hebrew Bible states, “No one has seen My face.” The Talmud elaborates. We cannot describe God. This is why I used the idea of infinity.

  • MarkTemporis

    What inspired me to become an atheist?
    Priests in the real world can’t even pull off First Level Divine spells.
    More seriously, after studying ‘real-world’ occult systems and paganism, it became clear that no matter what you called the magic, it didn’t actually work.
    #HopeAfterFaith

  • WallofSleep

    I can’t really point to any one thing or series of things that inspired me to be an atheist. I think I just meandered in that direction for most of my life. Still, it wasn’t until a handful of years ago that I was able to admit to myself that that is exactly what I am, an atheist.

    • allein

      Sounds like me. I was raised going to church but as I like to say, religion was something we did on Sundays. I was involved in some church activities but I didn’t think of them as “religious” activities, really, and as I got older and went off to college I just sort of drifted away. Religion always interested me as a historical/sociological subject but I never really thought about it until I was working in bookstores when the “new atheist” books were coming out and they caught my attention. I read some Dawkins/Hitchens/Dennett/Harris, and thought, hmm…that sounds about right…

      On a side note, your name always gets the Smithereens stuck in my head…

      • WallofSleep

        “On a side note, your name always gets the Smithereens stuck in my head…”

        Interesting, but I picked that nic on account of Black Sabbath…

        Not for nothing, but the verse “wall of sleep is lying broken, sun shines in, you have awoken” is one of the first things that popped into my head when I finally admitted to myself that I am indeed an atheist. I’ll spare you all the boring details, but at that moment I felt like had broken through an artificial barrier I had created for myself.

        And yes, I am a metal geek.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnGo_ta6gbs

  • LesterBallard

    False convert. He never knew Jesus.

    • Makoto

      Care to expand on this argument? How do you know he “never knew Jesus”? (Or is this sarcasm? It’s tough to tell)

      • WallofSleep

        I think that was a “Preemptive Poe”.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Huh. I suppose the second statement is true. Damn you, Poe!

    • joseph66

      You are right. This guy never knew God… Just emotional religious experiences, so that was his god when tphe lost those emotions.

  • MostlyHarmless

    I was raised a Methodist. When I was 12 I went to a Southern Baptist fire and brimstone church meeting. It scared the hell out of me. (pun intended) The devil was right outside the house trying to get at me. My friend’s family prayed with me and I felt better.

    Later that night I realized that I was in complete control over the fear or complete calm. There was nothing external that made me safe. It was in my mind.

    That is when I realized none of it was real. Christianity was no more real than any other religion. The experience opened my eyes.

    #HopeAfterFaith

  • Ellen

    @MarkTemporis:disqus : You said it. I’m fairly sure Jesus was at least a 13th level cleric to be able to cast 7th level spells (Such as Restoration, Greater and Resurrection).

    Joking aside, I’m not sure I was ever inspired to become an atheist. I think, I just realised along the way that religion dosen’t make sense to me. As an archaeologist I study (among other things) religion in prehistoric societies. I think they felt the need to belive in something, to explain how things worked, why there was a bad harvest etc.

    I’m not sure I have that need. Nor do I have the need to hide behind a religion. I prefer to take responsibility for my life, and I think religion takes that away from you.

    I guess being an atheist is just the only thing that makes sense to me regarding religion.

    That said, I do enjoy playing religious people in pen&paper games. I guess it is fun and healthy to put your self outside your comfort zone :)

    #HopeAfterFaith

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Some…someone who will play the cleric? *falls down and clings to your ankle* Tell me of your secret power to want to see the party succeed more than you want to see high damage rolls!

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Oracle, baby. Fire oracle in Pathfinder gets to cast fireballs and burning hands and flamestrikes and walls of fire and … ok, reining in my slight pyromaniac tendencies now.

        Sometimes I like being the support. I play bards and clerics fairly frequently. I also like wizards and I really, really wish rogues were viable (mechanically, they just aren’t in Pathfinder right now).

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Hmm! I own 3.5 but never got people to try it out, and haven’t gone past that. Buncha weenies. I did make a custom class like that for 2nd ed., a diviner who used fire to see the future (and burn it!) That was fun. ^.^

          Seriously, support is great.

          “Why do you never cast any damage spells over second level?”
          “Because they aren’t any fun. Besides, I’m helping plenty with damage.”
          “You’re just casting magic missile for like 5 points on anything the fighter is attacking! He’s doing all the damage.”
          “Exactly, I’m killing everything he wounds before it can swing back.
          “…oh.”

          • Ellen

            Well, if you want to go all out on support I would grab the Oracle of Life from Pathfinder RPG. But that kind of support can be boring though.

            With an good old fashioned cleric you can still go all out on damage. Heal with one hand, slay the heretics with the other! Its all in the feats, build etc :)

            • Ellen

              Durkon Thundershield from ‘Order of the Stick’ is a prime example!

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I was never inspired to it. I just grew up. It was a gradual transition from “well, yeah God’s real, I mean everyone says he is” at ~10 to “this God thing doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t really know” in high school to “wow, God really doesn’t make any sense at all, isn’t logical, and pretty clearly can’t exist in the forms most people worship” in college.

    I got more educated. I learned. I grew wiser (not wise at all lol, but experience teaches wisdom and I got more of those, so …). I realized that reality exists, it’s all there is, and learning about what makes it tick is ridiculously interesting.

    #HopeAfterFaith

    • Come to think of it…

      The problem with books like this, as with guys like Barker and Loftus, is that the authors admit that they lied to their congregations for a long time before the truth came out..

      Sure, they had their reasons…like they needed the money, etc…, but that does not cover up the fact that they were willing to lie.

      So how much of his story about what a great Christian he was is true? We will never know. And since it is anecdotal in the extreme, its of little use in dealing with Fundies.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Still probably an interesting read, and I always take personal memoirs with a giant pile of salt. People are invested in the stories they tell themselves and about themselves- reading what they have to say is still interesting. It still tells me about them and their life.

        I don’t want to book for help in dealing with fundamentalists. I can do that all by myself- I’m a big girl. I just think it’ll be an interesting book to read, should I get a copy.

  • Cyanmoon1

    I was raised a secular Jew by nonreligious parents. I hope the fact that I never believed doesn’t disqualify me from a chance to win a book! I have become much more outspoken in my atheism since moving to Ireland 15 years ago; the clammy, oppressive weight of Catholicism touches my life every day. My children attend a Catholic school where they were the only ones in their class not to take first holy communion. Also, a few years ago I had to sneak to Liverpool like a thief in the night to have an abortion and now I regularly read news articles shaming women like me as selfish, irresponsible murderers. Self-satisfied, sanctimonious piety seems to dominate most conversation here, and sometimes I am worried that being an open atheist will close doors for me… but I’m open and vocal when I can be.
    #HopeAfterFaith

  • Anna

    I’ve always been an atheist, so I can’t say anything inspired me to become one. It was more that I never came across evidence in favor of supernatural claims. I stayed an atheist because I never had any reason to believe otherwise.

    • joseph66

      Have you tried apologetics?

      • Anna

        That strikes me as unnecessary. After all, millions of Christians feel competely comfortable dismissing Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism out of hand without ever once exploring their holy books or reading anything by their philosophers and theologians.

        However, in the interest of fairness, and since I happen to live in a monotheistic, predominantly Christian country, I did read Mere Christianity and found it extremely poor indeed.

        How about you? Did you read apologetic works from other religions before you decided to accept Christianity’s claims as true?

        • joseph66

          Well, I was grown up in Christianity, but that doesn’t mean I was a good Christian in any way. We all have to accept, test or reject our default religion (or lack of it) at some point.

          I’ve studied a lot of religions, and my favorite non-abrahamic one is actually Zoroastrianism. I’ve seen a pattern: even politheistic religions trend to some kind of monotheism, or they have an almost all-powerful figure, as destiny or even Brahman in hinduism.

          I started looking for logical and rational arguments for Christianity, and I found very interesnting arguments. Dr. William Lane Craig has many good arguments, like the Cosmological Argument, and some atheists have also good objections to them.

          The sad thing is that most atheists criticize religion because it doesn’t give logical arguments, but when it does, they just reject or despise them as illogical (even without pointing out the fallacies). I think that is desqualification, not debate or rational aptitude.

          Does that mean that only Christians are saved? Well, I don’t found that in my Christian theology. Of course, we believe that Jesus was Godm but that doesn’t mean they all non-Christians are going to hell.

          Even if no one is going to hell, and God forgets everyone, I find Christianity useful for my lifestyle and spirituality in this life, which is the ourpose of religion on earth.

          I reject religious fanaticism as atheists do, and I found it’s not just in religion.

          Nice to meed you!

          • Anna

            Nice to meet you, too.

            But that was sort of my point. You said you grew up in Christianity, so you didn’t start from a neutral position, exploring all possible deities and all possible religions before deciding Christianity was true.

            Learning about other religions is important, but most Christians do not read apologetic works from other religions. They do not read other religions’ holy books. They haven’t tried praying to other gods. They believe Christianity is true without having seriously considered the arguments of people who passionately and sincerely believe that their religions are true instead.

            Perhaps we have different definitions of “logical arguments.” People like William Lane Craig and other Christian apologists have been refuted many, many times. They can’t simply claim something is real and expect other people to accept their claims. Assertions are not evidence. Declaring something true by fiat is not a logical argument. And a loathsome person like Craig, who defends genocide as moral, is hardly someone I would point to as a good example.

            • joseph66

              I don’t think exploring all possible religions and deities is even realistic, and I don’t think that a neutral environment for growing up could even exist. Even if we assume that atheism or agnosticism is a neutral point of view, we have to admit that must non-believers have a negative opinion on religion and that negative criticism influences their children, who will also have little or none experience on any religion.

              However, I do think we can and we must explore other people’s belief and consider them. I even have no problem respecting other ideologies and perspectives, even when I don’t have the moral obligation to do so. The only religious point of view I cannot actually respect is the authoritative attitude of some believers. I accept evolution, but I understand that most creationists have a little knowledge of biology, and I don’t think they are more or less ignorant than some young atheists who accept evolution without even understanding it. However, that doesn’t mean I have to accept creationism if I respect their decision to believe that. However, again, I don’t share their authoritative attitude about creationism in science class, for example.

              Dr. Craig have good arguments, and many atheists have good objections, but I don’t think you can “refute” andp argument and expect it to simply disappear. In fact, that would force the argument to evolve to a better version, not disappear. It’s irrelevant if Craig defends or not genocide (I don’t think so, he just said it was common and accepted in the Middle East during biblical times), or even if he is a Nazi, as longer as his arguments are sound and complete.

              Since God can be seen as a concept from a philosphical point of view, then I would expect logical assertions and rational reasoning, over scientific evidence. In the same way, math is not based on scientific evidence, but pure logic. However, we can use it to predict the real world, as we can use theological arguments to assume God’s existence or non-existence.

              • Anna

                Well, of course it’s not realistic, because the vast majority of people (like yourself) have been indoctrinated to believe in a particular god since birth.

                As someone who was not indoctrinated, I had a neutral starting point, but even then all of us who are raised in Western culture are exposed to cultural bias in favor of monotheism in general and of the biblical deity in particular.

                Children don’t start off with a positive or negative bias towards religion, though. As a young child, I didn’t have any negative feelings about religion. It was just that I never understood why people were accepting those supernatural claims as true. I never came across any evidence that would have made me start believing in gods.

                Theological arguments are not evidence. Bald assertions are not evidence. One can dismiss those arguments out of hand without taking them seriously, just as everyone except native Hawaiians dismisses Pele the Fire Goddess out of hand without bothering to do research to refute her existence. Now, of course, there are many people who have dedicated energy to refuting Christian apologists, so I would point you to them if you want to learn more about their refutations.

                I think my original point is that it’s simply not necessary to take the apologetics of any religion seriously before dismissing it. Those people have made claims. They have not provided anything that would make an outside observer take their claims seriously. Just as I am comfortable ignoring Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu philosophers and theologians, so I feel comfortable ignoring Christian apologists. I do not need to do in-depth research into every one of the hundreds of different religions in the world to be an atheist.

                By the way, Craig does defend genocide as moral. I mentioned that just because I find it to be quite horrible. Such a thing makes non-indoctrinated people much less likely to take anything he says seriously.

                • joseph66

                  “indoctrination” is a very common way to learn, but some atheists use the term despectively. When we learn from our parents that killing is bad, we are being indoctrinated. In fact, we need indoctrination because we can’t reason as an adult during our childhood. Of course, we can teach our children to think for themselves, but we cannot expect them to learn that from a day to another, so indoctrination is not only important, but vital for a healthy childhood.

                  I’ve not been indoctrinated to think that religion is bad as some atheists have been, but that doesn’t mean I have to believe that all religions are good now that I’m an adult.

                  So, it makes no sense to say we have never been indoctrinated, because that’s simple not true. In fact, parenthood is all about indoctrination, since we cannot reason as child for things like morality, culture, social rules, and so on. That’s the reason I prefer to admit it that believe that I’m free from indoctrination, since I would not be honest with myself or other.

                  Theological assertions don’t pretend to be evidence, as atheist points of views aren’t scientific theories. However, there are logical proof to assume that there is a God, at least from a deist point of view, and I don’t say this just because my beliefs, but because I found good arguments to believe so.

                  However, it’s irrational and fallacious to think that someone’s arguments are bad or wrong, just because you don’t agree with their moral point of view. I don’t understand why would someone not take seriously someone who apparently defends genocide, since that’s a very serious issue (if that were true).

                • Anna

                  I’m not sure what you mean by “despectively.” Regardless, I did not intend to use indoctrination in a pejorative way. There are many types of indoctrination, and all children are taught to believe certain things by the adults in the society in which they are raised.

                  When I spoke about indoctrination, I meant specifically religious indoctrination. I was not subjected to religious indoctrination. No adult told me that deities were real. No adult told me that deities were imaginary, either. I wasn’t exposed to religion in settings where adults try to transmit the belief to children, although like any child growing up in America, I was exposed to religion through secondary sources, such as books, movies, and television.

                  I think my original point was that the vast, vast majority of religious people do not have a neutral starting place. They did not get a chance to evaluate and critically examine all possible gods and all possible religions before they were told that a particular one was true. They were indoctrinated at a young age and thus already start from a position of bias.

                  However, there are logical proof to assume that there is a God, at least from a deist point of view, and I don’t say this just because my beliefs, but because I found good arguments to believe so.

                  Well, I would refer you to the atheists who have countered those arguments. They don’t believe they are good arguments or that such an assumption is warranted. That’s why they’re atheists. In any case, I have little interest in apologetics of this nature. As you said, theological assertions are not evidence, and I don’t feel the need to take them seriously. I consider the god of our culture the same as the gods and goddesses of other cultures. There are many deities I’ve never even heard of, but I don’t need to do research into all of them before saying that I’m confident that there is no reason to believe they are real. If they were real, we’d have some evidence.

                  About Craig, I’m not saying that just because he’s wrong about one thing means that he’s wrong about other things. However, to defend both slavery and genocide as moral indicates, to me, not only a warped morality, but also an issue of bias. Granted, he’s an apologist, and of course they are all biased. I do not see why I should take the assertions of any theologian seriously, let alone one who would publicly argue in favor of such terrible things. I’m sure Hitler had some good ideas aside from killing Jews, but we don’t look to him as a credible source. Much of that is because of his moral bankruptcy.

  • Frank Key

    Shit happens. But then I learned to wipe.

    #HopeAfterFaith

  • Cattleya1

    I have been reading the book this week. I grew up in the South not believing the Methodist and Presbyterian crap they tried to cram down my throat. These people were there as well but I never knew any of them well – I guess they saw us as dangerous. I have been a little depressed by the book because he does such a good job of describing how totally enslaved to this message he was and so many of them still are. I am glad he escaped, but I doubt most of them ever will.

  • Dawn Cadwell

    In trying to understand a new perspective at all times I was lead into understanding atheism perspective about Christianity. After more reading, it started to make sense. And I love common sense!

    #HopeAfterFaith

    • joseph66

      You can also try to understand the oerspective of your trasitional beliefs, reading theology, for example.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    God made me an atheist from day one and He never saw fit to convert me. Who am I to question His decisions?

    #HopeAfterFaith

  • JET

    Rough progression: Catholic mother, Mormon father, confused kid, U.S. history, Tom Jefferson and friends, deism, “The Age of Reason”, all religion is bullshit, John Lennon, God is Love, college, biology, agnostic, Carl Sagan, how the universe really works, atheist.

  • A3Kr0n

    After I learned Santa wasn’t real I figured religion was about the same thing. I did end up getting confirmed Methodist however, and some stuff was fun. Choir had girls in it, and I attained a lifetime goal of getting to light the candles every Sunday with a long stick with a flame on the end!

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Lighting the candles does sound fun! We always fought at home over which of us would get to light the Hanukkah candles (not the first one, cuz matches were scary, but using that candle to light the other ones). We had a complicated schedule based on the incrementing number of candles each night :)

      • allein

        I’m 37 years old and I only learned to light matches about 4 years ago. I still flinch every time. I keep a lighter around for my candles.

    • allein

      Candle lighting was fun! I got to carry fire all the way across the room! (I’m not a pyromaniac, I swear.) I liked snuffing them out at the end with that little bell thingy on the other side of the stick. Candle smoke smells good. :) We also had pretty blue and white robes.. I still have my little wooden cross on a blue ribbon from when I was in the junior choir, too…somewhere around here… Also confirmed Methodist; it was just sort of an extension of the youth group, really. I mean, everyone else was doing it…peer pressure, man!

  • http://twitter.com/verawishes Vera

    I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I’ve worked for the church and am married to someone who currently works for the church.

    Several years ago, I read a book about evolution and have since become an atheist. My husband has not.

    #HopeAfterFaith

  • Kat Dean

    My journey to atheism began by working for a church and seeing the hypocrites first hand. It ended with Richard Dawkins and the Great Spaghetti Monster in the sky. #HopeAfterFaith

  • Kevin Christopher Hill

    My path to atheism was a slow and gradual process. I remember when I was a kid I’d have discussions with friends and the other kids would ask me (as they do) “You believe Jesus died for our sins, right?” I’d answer, “Yes! Of course!” Because I knew that was the correct answer, but honestly I don’t know if I ever really believed that or understood why it was necessary. I did believe in God though. That magical man in the sky who created everything.

    By the time I was 13 I had a deep distrust of organized religion. I remember telling my mom “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in the church.” I was convinced that organized religion was only good for fooling the masses and churches were filled with greedy people trying to make a buck off their followers. The people in the front of those rooms didn’t know what God really wanted, they just said they did to trick people out of their hard earned time and money. My mother was pretty supportive of me at the time, she wasn’t a big fan of the church, she was more “spiritual” (unfortunately, she’s recently had a big conversion and is now quite religious).

    By 16 I was basically a deist, though I didn’t know there was a word for it at the time. I believed God created the universe at the big bang and used the forces of nature, the laws of physics and evolution to shape his creation. I was big into science in high school and believed that if scientists discovered some truth about nature (from gravity to natural selection) through the use of reason, evidence, and testing then it must be consistent with God. Though I did think the idea of prayer was ridiculous. To think that a being with the power to create the universe and shape it to its whims would care about our petty concerns seemed laughable.

    I remember seeing a psychologist in high school who asked me to list the things that were most important to me in life. After reading my list he pointed out that nowhere in the list was God or religion and that most people consider those things very important and give meaning to their lives. I thought about it for a minute and realized, no. God isn’t important in my life and neither is religion (though I did still believe he existed). I didn’t see that psychologist for much longer after that.

    In college I was still nominally a deist, though really I was more of an apatheist. I just didn’t care or think about it too much. I have an ex who at the time would always call me an atheist (and would introduce me as such) and that really bothered me. “I’m not an atheist! I do believe in God” I would say almost reflexively. I didn’t want to be associated with “atheists”. After we split up I realized that I was being unfair to atheists, after all I didn’t really know any personally and I never really listened to their arguments or reasons for being such.

    This began my descent into the internet. I’d stay up all night for months watching video after video of atheist speakers and debates, particularly Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. The more I watched the more sense it made, the more fascinated I was, and the more I realized that I had been totally wrong. In truth, I believed the same things these atheists believed for years, I just held on to the idea of god out of habit and because it was how I grew up. I’d believed in the powers of reason and evidence for years but I’d never applied them critically to myself or my own ideas.

    First I came out to myself as an atheist, then to everyone else. I had always been fiercely independent and I was in a privileged position to be able to not care what anyone else thought of me. The only person I couldn’t bring myself to come out to was my father, who was on death’s door at the time and had become increasingly religious in his illness. I feared making him spend the last few months of his life worrying if I’d go to hell (he’d often tell me of the anguish he’d experienced knowing his father was in hell for being an atheist, whom had died long before I got to know him).

    After I’d rejected my faith in the god myth it forced me to reevaluate every position I’d held before: feminism, marriage equality, etc. I’m shamed to say I was on the wrong side of those arguments for far too long.

    Despite the death of my father shortly after my “conversion” and a string of other misfortunes my atheism never wavered. Why would it? I didn’t become an atheist because it made me happy to be one, I did it because I had no choice but to accept where the evidence led. Having said that, I’m actually happier now than I ever was believing there was a god or an after life. It has led me to cherish the time we all have here and has led me to be a more compassionate and caring person. I never gave a crap about charity or gay rights or even women’s rights until I became an atheist. My atheism was the spark that ignited the fire in me. I can honestly say I’m a better person for being an atheist.

    #HopeAfterFaith

    • joseph66

      >[I did believe in God though. That magical man in the sky who created everything.]

      If that was your bad theology of God, then I understand you are an atheist.

      • Kevin Christopher Hill

        Yes, that was the bad theology of my 8 year old self. lol, I make no apologies for that. Perhaps you had a much more sophisticated theology in elementary school, but I wasn’t so lucky. I was merely trying to present my thoughts as they came to me at the time, not that I necessarily still believe all those things now. For instance, my dislike of churches is much more specific and much less general now, I don’t believe that all priests want to fleece their flocks, some may earnestly believe what they say and genuinely want to help people.

        • joseph66

          I agree at some points. I think that, without religion, I would be a deist. I don’t believe atheism is simply a lack of belief, but also a response to religion.

          Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems weird that most atheists despise or hate religion, since we know it’s not the only source of problems and we don’t need it to do evil (as Stalin and Mao).

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    I grew up in a moderate religious denomination and started questioning my upbringing in high school. Unfortunately this initially led me to fundamentalist Calvinist Christianity because I was opperating from the perspective that the Bible was the absolute Truth Word of God. I went to college and took classes in Biblical Criticism and and Christian History which led to a paradigm shift. I began to view the Bible as a very flawed, human document contining both internal and external inconsistancies. This led to an identity crisis of sorts, much like the one Jerry describes in this excerpt. I still saw myself a Christian, and due to indoctrination and Texas culture I believed that I could only live a happy and purposeful life by being a Christian. I initially resolved this conflict by becoming Catholic, deciding that God must speak to people through the Catholic Church, since it obviously wasn’t through the Bible. After getting married and having children, I began to question this as well. After studying many Church documents, I came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church changes (They would say “develops.”) its doctrinal positions based on internal politics than any sort of true contact with the divine. I also began to question the morality of the god I was supposed to love. Genocide, Hell, suffering, commanding his followers to chop off sensitive male bits, prefering women to die from pregnancy complications than have an abortion–I realized the Christian god was not loving and was a horrible parent. I no longer had a reason to retreat deeper into Christianity. I was ready to question everything from a non-religious perspective and leave.

    #HopeAfterFaith

  • hotshoe

    My parents were both Catholics who left the church right after I was born, but they couldn’t imagine raising children without Sunday school. So they took us to Unitarian church every Sunday, where I learned about all the world’s major religions. I didn’t occur to me to doubt that god existed somehow but I didn’t get a sense of how to pick which type of worship was the “true” kind. All the stories seemed to be on the same level of unreality. I attended church with my family all through high school but never found an allegiance to a specific faith. Once I left home, I realized I didn’t miss church and I never went back. At some time I realized my lukewarm assumption that there must be a god no longer applied to me. It wasn’t a crisis. Since I had never depended on a “relationship with god” for direction in my life, I didn’t feel any loss of meaning without god. Media publicity on the New Atheism, about a decade ago, inspired me to identify myself as an atheist.
    #HopeAfterFaith

  • Makoto

    There might be an afterlife – it’s literally after life, so I can’t know. I’ve seen no evidence to convince me there is one, nor that there is any god. Ergo, this life is likely our one shot. It’s our only attempt at making the world better than it was when we arrived, as far as I can tell.

    Best case – I’ve done my best to improve the world.
    Worst case – I’ve done my best to improve the world. And I get to use my Sundays to help with that while not feeling guilty.
    Worst-er case – Cthulhu

    #HopeAfterFaithWithoutCthulhu

  • SanfordA

    Mr. Mehta, you are a high school mathematics teacher. I am a university mathematics professor. I have observed high school mathematics teachers in the mentoring program for new teachers. I observe the teaching for 20 days. I have collected my correspondence and wrote a book. See Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better. Check it out.

    My key idea is that all rational thought begins with clearly stated principles. The principles underlying mathematics are the postulates. They are not “true”, but arbitrary. Starting with the principles we continue with logical conclusions. If we get an inconsistency, the mathematical system is not valid. See Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living. Rational thinking starts with clearly stated principles, continues with logical deductions, and then examines empirical evidence to possibly modify the principles.

    Mathematics is rational thinking, without the empirical evidence. Truth is not relevant. The only thing is consistency. When we examine evidence, it is science.

  • ORAXX

    I always had doubts and the church’s ‘answers’ always left me with more questions than satisfaction. The final break came in Vietnam, at a very dark period in my life when I listened to a priest give, what I came to call, ‘the kill a commie for Christ’ pep talk. I walked away, never looked back, and never regretted the decision.

  • GladiatorJohn

    I watched the interview with Jerry on Morning Joe just now, and I cant effing believe the discrimination and bullshit he had to go through just for ceasing to believe in that for which there is no proof. Well done, Jerry. #HopeAfterFaith

  • cjmybad

    I started my journey to nonbelief by seeing right before my eyes what hyprocrits Christians are! I started looking on the Internet to find sermons or websites on how to forgive some really bad people and instead I found wonderful, supportive, criticle thinking atheist websites that finally allowed me to realize I don’t have to forgive someone who really hurt me! And there is no evidence of any god and finally I understand the religion doesn’t give someone morals or goodness. That it is ‘do as I say don’t do as I do’

    My eyes have finally been opened!
    #HopeAfterFaith


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