A Born-Again Preacher Becomes an Atheist Leader

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jerry DeWitt Jerry DeWitt (Jerry DeWitt)

When he was 17, Jerry DeWitt was born again.

When he was seventeen… Jerry DeWitt was born again at Jimmy Swaggart’s church in Louisiana.  
He had been born and raised in a Pentecostal family… but Jerry had something no one else in his family had.  He calls it “the gift of gab”… his followers called it a message from God.
Just a few years later… Jerry DeWitt was an established preacher.  He’s spent most of his adult life giving sermons… giving counseling… and serving as a city employee in DeRidder, Louisiana.
Until May of last year.  That’s when he realized once and for all he was an atheist.  He found an online forum for other “de-converted” pastors… and became the first graduate of “The Clergy Project”… an organization devoted to giving non-believing preachers a way to communicate their frustrations.
He’s now the executive director of “Recovering From Religion”… and Jerry DeWitt joins us now.When he was seventeen, Jerry DeWitt was born again at Jimmy Swaggart’s church in Louisiana.  

He had been born and raised in a Pentecostal family in Louisiana, but Jerry had something no one else in his family had. He calls it “the gift of gab." His followers called it the message of God.

Just a few years after being "filled with the Holy Ghost" at Jimmy Swaggart's church, Jerry DeWitt was an established preacher. He’s spent most of his adult life giving sermons, counseling, and serving as a city employee in DeRidder, Louisiana.

Until May of last year — when he realized once and for all he was an atheist. He found an online forum for other “de-converted” pastors, and became the first graduate of The Clergy Project, an organization devoted to giving non-believing preachers a way to communicate their frustrations. He’s now the executive director of Recovering From Religion.


Jerry DeWitt

Produced by:

Brad Mielke

Comments [21]

verk from brooklyn

excuse me, bytes

Aug. 27 2012 09:10 PM
anna from new york

"It's wrong not to turn the other cheek" Oh, really?

Why don't you check what the meaning of "turning the other cheek" was?"
Or you think that THAT Jewish guy needs correction? What exactly are you doing?
I stopped reading here.

Aug. 27 2012 02:25 PM
verk from brooklyn

when I read again Laurie's comment, I felt sad and regretful I wrote anything. The other position is cogent. It's wrong not to turn the other cheek. The atheists will win every argument, because there's no way to argue against scanning for literal facts and adding them up to the most obvious, literal conclusion. There's an ethic to surrendering to the rational machine's conclusions, and I respect it.

Just maybe think on the fact that if there were a God, or some higher purpose in creation, and being itself (God being that) were less cruel or intractable, only very gradually evolving, being would lose all its mystery. There would be a right answer that could be verified. There wouldn't be an un-answerable question at the very root of existence. There could only be "like", not love, only sounds, no music. That doesn't mean there's a God, but only maybe explains his largely nature-imitating monstrosity if there were one.

For a while the believer in me could overtake the rational machine, and I wondered who would win the chess game in my mind. Then the machine started winning more and more games, but it's not over.
The chess game is not going to end unless you start limiting the time allowed for moves, and that wouldn't necessarily produce the truth, because slow thinkers like Einstein would be out of the running.

I'm pretty sure this is the last time I will engage in these discussions that reduce the critical question of being to arguments that can be summed up in a few words among strangers who can't even look each other in the eyes or smell each other. The digital world produces the digital illusion, that everything can be understood as bites of data. The whole, symbiotic forest, that is, being, that is, God doesn't get a vote, yet every word we speak is made of this completely incommensurable, immeasurable stuff. But only those who take a very rationally considered leap of faith in the analogic alternative experience the fairy tale magic directly. William Blake saw actual fairies all the time, and they teach he was partly mad, but his poems sound like the opposite of madness to me. But I fear that all these words translated into digitalese chat talk mean almost nothing. It's like trying to translate howls in the night into a mathematical code without any howls in the night in it. Still, I'm trying, because words can't really be digitalized. They are fairies and sprites, but then again, they're mostly evil ones in the evil eye of the world, so really I shouldn't try.

I end by recommending the novel, Snow, by Orphan Pamuk.

Blessings to all. May the best truth win, or better, may nobody win, and confusion, wonderment, anxiety, doubt, poetry, and plurality prevail. May the other side within us never stop driving the other side crazy. May we thus remain human.

Aug. 27 2012 09:42 AM

Ah, Laurie, I don't favor atheist Gulag either.

Aug. 27 2012 09:26 AM
anna from new york

Laurie, clearly you are one of those who didn't have an hour of history and geography in their life. Why don't you check in which world the Bible was "created" and how charming the world is outside the Bible?
I don't know about you, but personally I am not in favor of infanticide, burying the widows (definitely I prefer caring for widows and orphans), cannibalism, etc.

Aug. 27 2012 09:25 AM
anna from new york

"Could not worship a Bully, Sexist, Racist, Egomaniac, Sadist, someone who promotes rape, slavery, genocide, curelty, someone commands you to adore and love them"
You are truly illiterate, Laurie. Yes, there nothing else in the Bible, and the meaning of what you see is exactly the one you and countless Hollywood pre-school dropouts see.
Why don't you ask someone intelligent for help?

Aug. 27 2012 09:17 AM
verk from brooklyn

I commend the reverend for having the courage to reflect and change his mind, but to say he could never change it again means he's closed it — that is, just bought into a new religion.

Does he really think he's in a position to cure the likes of Steven Colbert or Martin Luther King of their fall from the Truth as he now Knows it.

Has he read and reflected on Flannery O'Conner's Wise Blood? Is he at all cognizant of the black humor and irony of his joining church against churches.

Admittedly the metaphors of religion are pretty wild and incredible, so if you can't buy them, why not worship Jesus as a fictional character. He's a lot more real than this self-righteous slick radio preacher for the church against churches, or than any of us really.

but whoever agrees with me already agrees, and whoever doesn't won't even listen.

Is all free thought and open-mindedness really a fraud?

Is it really so, that as Bob Dylan said, you have to choose between right and being cool. How horrible! I refuse to accept that.

So much reinforcement though everywhere for this kind of thing. The majority of cool people can't be wrong.

Zen mind is beginner's mind, but the practice does not come naturally. The koan must remain stuck in your throat, neither swallowed nor spit out. Don't trust internet gurus either.

Aug. 26 2012 02:27 PM
Laurie from Florida

For those of you who believe we turn to Atheism because we didn't know god in the first place you are most certainly wrong.
For me, I was a Fundamentalist for over 30 years (a personal evangelist), I decided to read the entire bible and that did it. I found out I was more moral than my god. I am not disgruntled. I am free. If tomorrow proof of any god emerges, I would still be apathetic towards it, she, or him. Could not worship a Bully, Sexist, Racist, Egomaniac, Sadist, someone who promotes rape, slavery, genocide, curelty, someone commands you to adore and love them, if you don't then you would be punished for ever, and then claim he didn't send you to hell you send yourself. If he is truly all knowing, then he should know we would seek truth and could't deny facts. We can't pretend to believe no matter how we try. We are not trying to piss it off. We just can't believe in a fairy tale any longer.

Aug. 25 2012 12:18 AM
Kat from California

@mary. Mary, lack of knowledge (in this case of the universe's origin) is not a proof of a god. It is a proof of lack of knowledge.

Aug. 24 2012 06:24 PM
Lee from NYC

False Religion/False Teachings is to BLAME!

When people believe and teach falsehood even if they think they are teaching the Bible and Jesus or call themselves Christian, there is a certain outcome: They become spiritually unsatisfied! They’re in the dark regarding God’s on-going revelation of himself and his purpose and especially regarding the future of man and his only home, this planet earth. That is why many turn atheist because they never knew God. False religion has done great harm to mankind in general, but particularly the so called Christians, keeping people in the dark. For this reason, The Almighty God has decreed the annihilation of False Religion soon. Did he [former pastor] seek to know God, understand the Bible with the help of God’s chosen representatives, as millions are doing now as we speak? Or was he promoting politics, his own ideas, and church theology as all of them do because they think God works through the churches and through their other religious counterparts in the world. Matthew 15:7-9; James 4:4; Revelation: 17:3-8, 18:4-8.

The former pastor is not alone in turning atheist. My former supervisor, after 20 yrs of evangelizing the church ministry of falsehood became atheist because she never knew God or Christ! Those who turn to atheistic religion will soon find out that that too is another FALSEHOOD embraced in a hurry out of sheer disappointment with FALSE Religion. Church False Teachings of Trinity, hell fire, immortal soul, purgatory; condoning of immorality, unquestioning involvement in politics and their involvement in and undeniable lust for war leave their adherents empty and confused.
2 Timothy 3:1-6.

Jesus clearly stated that his true followers will learn the TRUTH and the Truth will set them free. The churches have done only the Contrary. All lovers of the True God must listen to what Bible says in 18:4-8. Even atheists are getting help to know and return to God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

Aug. 24 2012 04:46 PM
John A

Yes again to many comments here, all religion need not be fundamentalist - there are many great reasoners to go to in EG Catholicism, for example.

Aug. 24 2012 04:25 PM
Sol M. from Mnahattan

This question HAS been answered--many times, i.e Big Bang Theory, String Theory, I think it is called, etc. I think people just like to believe the Biblical story because it is simpler and cuter. I believe a lot of people doubt or disbelieve but are afraid to say it. I also think Mr. Dewitt is very brave to stand up and say that religious teachings just don't make sense.

Aug. 24 2012 03:59 PM
Jan from Plainfield

Jerry DeWitt is one of the most courageous people I've ever heard of. It took tremendous courage to change as he did, especially coming from a small town. BTW it's employment discrimination that he lost his job due to his becoming an atheist (but I can sympathise with the predicament his boss was in, and why he felt he had to let him go).

Aug. 24 2012 03:40 PM
Victor from NJ

I hate this show. I really wish WNCY would take away the take away. Hockenberry needs to put a sock in his mouth. Really just shut him up.

Aug. 24 2012 03:30 PM
Lenny from Highlands

P1: All contingent states have sufficient causes.
P2: No contigent state can be a sufficient cause.
C1: There is a non-contingent state.

This is quite provable. It's just not an empirical proof. :)

Aug. 24 2012 02:30 PM
Charlie from Tennessee

@Mary, not knowing precisely 'how' the universe came to be, it's a huge leap, and an unprovable assumption to say that a god did it. And furthermore, I don't think that Jerry based his non belief on one 'thing'. Atheism is a process, not a decision.

Aug. 24 2012 01:05 PM
Brian Westley

Mary, "Magic being done it" isn't an answer, either.

Aug. 24 2012 12:10 PM

I wish that Jerry DeWitt had been asked how this universe came into being. I can understand not believing that there is a god who takes an active interest in our daily activities. That's pretty much my belief now, although I was raised Roman Catholic. But how did the universe happen? I mean this sincerely. This question never seems to be answered.

Aug. 24 2012 10:12 AM
Lenny from Highlands

I agree very much with Ed from Larchmont that there are good reasons to lose one's faith in 20th century literalist Pentecostalism -- and that, having done so, one does not have to by default become an atheist. There is an apostolic Christian faith that not only stands up to reason, but may be its greatest expression.

Aug. 24 2012 09:28 AM
anna from new york

The guy is babbling ... as ordered.
"Love your neighbor .." is his as ... a humanist. Yeah. One can only wonder how "humanistic" he would have been without this recommendation of a rabbi.

Aug. 24 2012 08:00 AM
Ed from Larchmont

This happens. Our Pentecostal brothers, and others, are susceptible to leaving the faith because they have a lot of enthusiasm but not very much theology. It often happens because they have been taught that the Bible is the only source of truth, and that it's literally true in each detail (never read figuratively, etc.), and they see lots of difficulties that come with this incorrect reading (see Bart Ehrman as an example). Or that they realize that enthusiasm and feelings come and go.
To be exact, he has lost his faith in Pentecostalism (or his variety of Protestantism), but I invite him to investigate Catholicism, which is the fullness of the faith.

Aug. 24 2012 06:01 AM

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