Book Review: Hope After Faith by Jerry DeWitt

Available on Amazon in Hardcover and on Kindle

I first became aware of Jerry DeWitt as he became the first person to “graduate” from The Clergy Project, a collaboration between many atheist and humanist organizations that provides a private forum for members of the clergy looking to quietly pursue a way out of their positions, or simply for moral support. I have friends in The Clergy Project and have applied myself, in fact the last post here on RagingRev was from one of it’s members that has since died.

Jerry’s story has brought a great deal of publicity to The Clergy Project; but I always felt that there was more commotion and rhetoric, one-liners, and hubbub than there should be – a common theme in the meme driven atheist community of today. I’m more interested in Jerry’s story though, which is why I’m so glad to have the opportunity to read his book:  Hope After Faith – An Ex Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism.

Hope After Faith

In his book, the formerly Reverend Jerry Dewitt walks us through his 25 year journey beginning as a 17 year old United Pentecostal (aka Oneness Pentecostalism) evangelist in and around the small town of DeRidder, LA. As his story progresses and various tragedies strike both Jerry’s family and his parishioners he reveals glimpses of his doubts as they slowly surface and as he tucks them away again and again.

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Testimony of a Dying Man

Last night a friend of me sent something to me from a friend of his who is dying. I don’t know the man who wrote this personally and his name is intentionally being kept anonymous, though I did get permission through my friend to post this testimony of the last days of this man’s life.

I’m thankful to this anonymous man, a former minister himself,  for the opportunity to share this very short but very touching part of his life with my readers.

It is often said that we unbelievers will find ourselves quick to repentance at the end of our days, grasping fearfully at the prospect of eternity. Here, proof otherwise.

Testimony of a Dying Man.

15 years ago I missed a turn and drove off a 30 foot cliff knowing absolutely that I would not survive when it was over.  I had often wondered through the years what I would say or do when facing certain death and I found out at that time. My wife was riding with me and as we went airborne I heard myself say “oh, sweetheart”… In that short moment airborne… And utter complete mental silence.  8 feet of snow saved our lives a second later.

A week ago I was scheduled for a gallbladder x-ray to confirm the presence of a problem which could be surgically removed… Perhaps even that same day.  Unexpected phone silence ensued.  My spirit began to open to other unexpected possibilities and to ready itself for whatever it may be.  My Catholic upbringing had instilled the concepts of sin, salvation, resultant heaven hell and purgatory.  My 44 year search since leaving that world view had exposed me to alternatives of every age of mankind.  During that 44 year search I have often wondered if, when faced with an ultimate certainty of death in the near future, would I resort to the old paradigm or could I bring forward and live within what I had found in the meantime…. For within the last year of my life I have arrived at a silent and deep knowingness that taking evolutionary cosmology to the deepest emotional level gave me the foundation I never found in an anthropomorphic God structure…. But I always had a slight wonder, “is it only conceptually deep?”

Five days ago, I and my wife listened to the words on the speakerphone as she sat opposite me and she later said that when I heard the words she saw a huge transformation of calmness and clarity come over me….”You have inoperable metastasized liver cancer, and may expect two months at the outside”.  And in the five days since that news I have experienced a calmness and centeredness such as religious faith had never provided.  I have found a sense of place and process within the world view of evolutionary cosmology such as I have searched for relentlessly in my 77 years…. And it is increasingly feeding my spirit daily with a sense of readiness for every present moment in this process of dying.

I am finally really learning how to live in the moment.  Fear and hope have no place in this process. It is a readiness and willingness of an utterly deep knowingness.

Farewell. We truly all are in this together.

 

Songs of the Deconverted by Jim Etchison- Review

Songs of the Deconverted by Jim Etchison It’s rare that I find stories that so precisely and eloquently put words to the way it felt for me as I lost my faith. It’s rare that I ever feel like someone actually gets it. Jim Etchison does such an incredible job describing these thoughts and feelings in his book Songs of the Deconverted, that I frequently found myself highlighting portions of the text and gasping for breath as I recalled feeling many of the same things described in the book.

Songs of the Deconverted is a collection of short stories, fiction, that reflect upon Jim’s own experiences. Each riddled with parts of his own life, they serve as the perfect allegory  for what it is like for the deeply devoted Christian to lose that which is most vital to him.

Jim says of his work:

I wrote this book of short stories for a rare group – those who dove in completely, let the current sweep them under, then realized their peril and swam for the shore. The people who climbed out, still dripping, and walk again on the dry land, are forever changed. The ocean won’t define them anymore.  Instead they will be defined by their singular decision to climb out of the roiling sea.

The stories introduce us to Andy, beginning with his climb up Tophat Ridge with an atheist friend who “baffles” him. By the time Andy and his friend reach the summit Andy too is without belief, no longer able to make God true after great revelations cause his religious infrastructure to implode on itself.

From:

Every action, every snapshot in time, was held up against the backdrop of God’s intention.

To:

…now I could see them [the clouds] for what they were: beautiful, gorgeous billows of white against a deep blue sky

Andy’s story is my story. Andy’s pain is my pain. Most importantly, Andy’s triumph is my triumph.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wrestling with deep and difficult doubts about their god, or for those just coming out of this transition period and waking up to a new life without.

Songs of the Deconverted is available on Amazon Kindle right now for only $2.99.

Live Debate: Matt Oxley vs. Chris Bolt – Does the Triune God of the Scriptures Exist

Join us today for a live debate covering the topic:

Does the Triune God of the Scriptures Exist?

The debate will begin at 10AM and last roughly 1.5 hours.  It will be livestreamed from a Google+ hangout and you can watch it below, or directly at the YouTube page here.

 

The format will be as follows:

Moderator: Ben Woodring

Affirmative – Chris Bolt
Negative – Matt Oxley
Chris Bolt Opening 15 min
Matt Oxley Opening 15 min
Cross Ex Matt Oxley (Questioning) 7 min
Cross Ex Chris Bolt (Questioning) 7 min
Matt Oxley Rebuttal 10 min
Chris Bolt Rebuttal 10 min
Matt Oxley Closing 8 min
Chris Bolt Closing 8 min

 

Your Stories – Eric vs. Fundamentalism

Today in Your Stories we have Eric’s story of combating fundamentalism in his own belief system.

Eric is another friend of mine whom started his perpetual journey at around the same time that I did and we’ve talked at length about that journey over the years. Without Eric I’m not sure I would have made it through my own doubts, and he remains a friend that I both respect and admire. Many of the same questions that brought about his doubts were my questions, and I suspect they may be your questions too if you find yourself here.

Eric writes his thoughts at his blog over at SavageSoto and is currently stationed in Cuba with the US Navy.

If you are interested in having your own story published on RagingRev.com – please click the Contact link and submit through the submission form

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Growing up in a Christian family, my first associations with Christianity are as old as my first memories. I “accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior” when I was 7 or 8 but didn’t really become devout in my faith til the age of 12.

I would speculate that I was probably more hardcore about my faith than most the people I knew through my teen years, though I wasn’t that into the specifics of theology. I would share my faith frequently with my friends and countless people online and was actively involved in the church over the course of about 7 years. During this time I had some casual doubts, but they would fade whenever I’d have a powerful spiritual experience or talk with a pastor.

Towards the end of the 7th year, however, I began to encounter questions and thoughts that couldn’t be explained away so easily. Questions such as “if God knew even a single soul would be lost eternally, then why create them to begin with?” . I quickly found the traditional Christian interpretations of things like “Hell” to be unconvincing  and began to study and embrace Christian Universalism (which believes that all people will eventually be saved and reunited with God). It didn’t answer all my questions still, but it helped me deal with many of the bigger ones.

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NakedPastor Strips Down – An interview with David Hayward

Today I’m excited to welcome David Hayward of NakedPastor.com, where he routinely practices the art of writing graffiti on the walls of religion, for an interview. Through his many controversial cartoons, comics, drawings, and blogs David consistently challenges the status quo in the religious world and most directly within Christianity.

I first found David just before he left the church, when he posted the comic strip below. When I saw it it hit me like a ton of bricks and I knew that this was someone not only going down a path that I well knew, but that cared about helping others do it too. This simple picture embodies my own experience, my story, and it was one more needed confirmation among many that I was not alone and that it would get better.

My questions will be in normal text
David’s answers will be bolded

David, for those of my readers whom are unfamiliar with you and your work – tell us a bit about  your time in the ministry.  How long were you a pastor? What things made you decide to leave the ministry?

I have been involved in the church for much of my life. I went to Bible College a year after high school. I met my wife Lisa there. We got married after I graduated. I went to seminary in Boston. From there I went into the Presbyterian Church in Canada. A few years later, in 1987, I was ordained. I served the Presbyterian Church for a while, then Vineyard, then independent, then Vineyard again. I finally left the ministry in the spring of 2010. 

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The Slowest Process of my Life – Your Stories

The slowest process of my life (besides dying).

By Anonymous

Waking up from religion has been a multi-dimensional, multi-experiential process. You know the whole “layers of an onion” metaphor? In the case of extricating myself from religion, it’s more like peeling back layers of a multiverse with that uniquely painful phase involving the Sun (which hurt just as much as you might imagine). And what I’m realizing now is that, when it comes to esoteric thought or metaphysical questions, I don’t know that I’ll ever complete that peeling back. I’m too fascinated by philosophical questions and the idea of metaphysics. And not to sound whiney because I’m not, it’s just fact that these interests, combined with my rejection of religion places me on an island, playing with a ball I’ve named Wilson, knocking my own teeth out with the available ice skate lying around. But I also wonder if, after so much group time and the resultant group think, if this isn’t actually a good thing. I’m fine with the idea that for the rest of my life, 40-50 years if I’m really lucky, I’m supposed to be learning how to think independently and be okay with myself when other people disagree with my premises or conclusions.

I’ve been waking up from religion for the past 12-14 years. It’s hard to pinpoint a date because honestly I’ve always questioned the presuppositions and events that I was supposed to take on faith that flew in the face of not only science, but actual, historical human experience. I was never encouraged to take any biblical teaching metaphorically. Everything was literal and the Bible was treated as an historical document. An old high school youth group friend of mine recently asked me if I felt that all the beliefs that I, until recently, had been challenging resulted from our shared 2-3 year experience at X Church. And this is where things get tricky because so much of what I feel I was taught was actually taught very indirectly. So indirectly, I’m surprised to find out, that many of my peers can’t relate to my extrapolation of the teachings we were both taught. And I know these beliefs I no longer hold didn’t come from home because while it was an unspoken expectation that I was a born-again Christian who was anti-abortion and pro-republican, we simply never spoke about it. The Bible wasn’t cracked open at my house for family time. It just wasn’t the way my family operated.

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J’s Transition: From Brownsville Revival to Atheist

This is the second edition of “Your Stories” – a bi-weekly feature here on RagingRev.com from my readers featuring your own stories of doubt and leaving the faith. Today you’ll find a reader who wishes to remain anonymous (we’ll call him J), but who I have known for probably 10 years now and how he was converted to Christianity as a young teen at the Brownsville Revival and then was later plagued with doubts and questions.

J and I have known one another as both Christians, and now as unbelievers. We explored many of the questions we had about our faith together along with a few other friends (whom will be sending in their own stories later) together and we’ve seen the transition from men of faith to men of doubt happen.

J’s story is very similar to my own, I remember wishing that I could go down to Brownsville to be  a part of the great Revival happening there. I remember being told by my mentor in the faith that I could be the reason the next great awakening occurred. I wanted it badly enough that I could taste it.

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My childhood was quite chaotic. I moved a lot, living between my parents and my various grandparents. Things were always a bit uncertain but one thing was consistent and that was church. When living with my grandparents I would always go to church, sometimes up to three services a week. I attended Assembly of God churches, Lutheran churches, and everything in between. Pretty much every denomination besides Catholicism. Christianity was engrained in me from a very early age and was the only lens I had to view the world through. During my early childhood I accepted God at face value. As I continued to grow into my teen years I lived with my parents. We would go to church off and on, always during key holidays or visits to my grandparents. My parents were more the “we believe in God” but weren’t overly religious types. Over the years church became a chore, something I found boring. Once I was a teenager I pretty much hated the thought of going to church. My mother had remarried at this point and I was a rather stubborn teen. I hated everyone and everything. I barely got along with any of my family and would constantly fight. Around this time though my father’s side of the family became very religious, much more so than usual. Though this wasn’t your typical “churchy” kind of obsession.

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Letting Go – Sarah’s Story

I’ve decided to start doing a regular segment on RagingRev.com from readers who want to tell their own story about how they came out of their faiths. If you, as a reader, would like to submit your story please use the Contact Me link at the top of the page. This segment will be called Your Stories.

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“What do you do when you are having doubts about God? “ I asked.

“You pray about it.” She replied.

This is the short conversation that took place in my 11th grade Sunday school classroom. I had attended the First Baptist Church in my hometown for as long as I could remember. I was there every Sunday, every Wednesday evening and for most any other church sponsored event every week. When I was eight years old, I made my way up the aisle to tell the preacher that I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart and I was baptized the following week. I never really felt like God was speaking to me the way other people described hearing him speak to them. I only decided to speak to the preacher because I felt obligated to. It seemed like everyone expected it, especially considering that everyone was so happy and proud of my little brother for doing it the week before.

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The problem with certainty

I recall being certain that God existed, that he loved me, and that he was embodied in a set of books we call the Bible. I was so certain of this that I would have said, without any question whatsoever, that I even knew these things. Certainty, according to many Christian presuppositional apologists, is the cornerstone of the Christian worldview because it and only it provides any way in which to ascertain truth.

I remember the first time I became uncertain about my faith like it was yesterday. It started with the first in a series of questions about some doctrine that I’d now say is insignificant. It was the first time since I had given all of my life to my god that I considered the notion that perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps I had been worshiping him incorrectly, perhaps something I believed about him was out of line with the Truth, perhaps the elders in my life were not as wise as I thought, perhaps even god’s very character was in question.

I know of no fear more all encompassing than that which came with my first experience with uncertainty.

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