Jerry DeWitt

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Jerry DeWitt
Born (1969-09-17) September 17, 1969 (age 46)
Occupation Writer, public speaker
Genre Nonfiction
Notable works Hope After Faith

Jerry DeWitt (born September 17, 1969) is an American author and public speaker, and a prominent member of the American atheism movement.[1][2] He is a former pastor of two evangelical churches, who publicly deconverted to atheism in 2011.[3] DeWitt is the former executive director of Recovering From Religion, a group which helps people find their way after a loss of faith.[4]

Biography[edit]

DeWitt is a former pastor of two churches surrounding DeRidder, Louisiana, a town where two-thirds of the population report membership in a faith organization.[1][5][6] DeWitt first experienced doubts about his religious beliefs when he contemplated the idea of hell.[7] He later found himself unable to invoke God's help after a congregant asked him to pray for her injured brother.[1] He preached for the last time in April 2011.[1]

After becoming aware that he no longer held theistic beliefs, DeWitt joined the Clergy Project, a group which lends confidential support to preachers who no longer believe in God. The Clergy Project was founded by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Linda LaScola, former preacher Dan Barker and anonymous non-believing ministers, "Adam Mann" and "Chris."[8] DeWitt's outing as an atheist occurred in October 2011 after a photo circulated online of DeWitt and Dawkins, taken at a meeting of freethinkers.[7] DeWitt was the first member of the Clergy Project to drop anonymity and speak freely about his involvement in the project.[citation needed] After more information emerged on Dewitt's loss of faith, he was fired from his secular job, and his wife left him,[1][2] although they later reconciled.[9]

In 2011 and 2012, he served as the executive director of Recovering from Religion, a Kansas City-based organization which helps former theists recover from the trauma of their religious indoctrination and subsequent experiences.[2]

DeWitt has written a book based on his career and experiences entitled Hope After Faith.[10] The 288-page autobiographical book was written by Dewitt and Ethan Brown, and published in 2013 by Da Capo Press.

Community Mission Chapel[edit]

The former fundamentalist minister hosted the first meeting of the Community Mission Chapel, which DeWitt calls an "atheist church". In a story for the New York Times, DeWitt said, "Just because we value critical thinking and the scientific method, that doesn't mean we suddenly become disembodied and we can no longer benefit from our emotional lives."[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Worth, Robert (August 22, 2012). "From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader". New York Times. 
  2. ^ a b c Marcotte, Amanda (March 27, 2013). "5 religious leaders who became outspoken atheists". Salon. 
  3. ^ Merica, Dan (June 13, 2012). "Unbelieving preachers get help to 'come out' as open atheists". CNN. 
  4. ^ Winston, Kimberly (April 30, 2012). "Pastor's loss of faith started with loss of hell". USA Today. 
  5. ^ Nolan, Bruce (June 11, 2012). "Former Louisiana pastor tells humanists about his conversion to nonbelief". The Times-Picayune. 
  6. ^ Robinson, Terry (March 22, 2013). "Faith dMatters for Dec. 3, 2011". The Advocate. 
  7. ^ a b Winston, Kimberly (April 30, 2012). "Pastor's loss of faith started with loss of hell". The Washington Post. 
  8. ^ http://clergyproject.org/clergy-project-history/
  9. ^ Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 48
  10. ^ McKeon, Melissa (March 29, 2013). "Former evangelist-turned-atheist to speak April 9 at UU Church". Telegram. 
  11. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/24/us/in-the-bible-belt-offering-atheists-a-spiritual-home.html?_r=0