A Preacher Turned Atheist

Jerry Coyne directs our attention to a harrowing, but important, article from The New York Times Magazine. It is a profile of Jerry DeWitt, a former Pentecostal preacher who discovered, after more than twenty-five years in the biz, that he no longer believed any of the things he was preaching. Here’s the opening:

Late one night in early May 2011, a preacher named Jerry DeWitt was lying in bed in DeRidder, La., when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard an anguished, familiar voice. It was Natosha Davis, a friend and parishioner in a church where DeWitt had preached for more than five years. Her brother had been in a bad motorcycle accident, she said, and he might not survive.

DeWitt knew what she wanted: for him to pray for her brother. It was the kind of call he had taken many times during his 25 years in the ministry. But now he found that the words would not come. He comforted her as best he could, but he couldn’t bring himself to invoke God’s help. Sensing her disappointment, he put the phone down and found himself sobbing. He was 41 and had spent almost his entire life in or near DeRidder, a small town in the heart of the Bible Belt. All he had ever wanted was to be a comfort and a support to the people he grew up with, but now a divide stood between him and them. He could no longer hide his disbelief. He walked into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “I remember thinking, Who on this planet has any idea what I’m going through?” DeWitt told me.

I saw DeWitt speak at the American Atheists Convention in Bethesda earlier this year. It was probably the best talk I attended, full of humor but also deeply serious.

Anyway, you probably know what’s coming:

DeWitt never meant to go public with his unbelief. He figured he could “stay under the radar,” he said, and continue working as a buildings inspector in DeRidder, where, over the years, he had gained a reputation as a community champion and was talked about as a future mayor. But when he heard that Richard Dawkins would be attending a Freethinkers gathering in Houston, he couldn’t resist. He took a day off, without telling his boss where he was going. He got a picture taken of himself and his son Paul (who was then 19 and who has never been religious) with Dawkins. DeWitt posted the photograph on his Facebook page, assuming that “nobody in DeRidder knew who Dawkins was.” He also, perhaps unwisely, updated the “religious views” box on his Facebook page to read “secular humanist.”

It was his grandmother’s cousin, an 84-year-old woman he knew as Aunt Grace, who saw that page and outed him. Word spread quickly. On Dec. 1, his boss asked to meet him at a diner in town. Sitting at the table, the man took out two printouts from secular Web sites with DeWitt’s name on it. “He told me: ‘The Pentecostals who run the parish are not happy, and something’s got to be done,’” DeWitt recalled. “Half an hour later I was out of a job.” (His former boss did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.)

Almost at once, DeWitt became a pariah in DeRidder. His wife found herself ostracized in turn, and the marriage suffered. She moved out in June. He received a constant stream of hate messages — some threatening — and still does, more than seven months later. He played me a recent one he had saved on his cellphone as we ate lunch at a diner in town. “It’s just sickening to hear you try to turn people atheist,” a guttural voice intoned. It went on and on, telling DeWitt to go to hell in various ways. “I’m not going to sit around while you turn people against God,” the voice said at one point.

When people discuss the pernicious effects of religion on society, there is a tendency to focus on the big things. Crusades and inquisitions, for example, or the oppression of women in Islamic and Catholic theocracies. (To which the religious folks usually reply, lamely, with invocations of Hitler and Stalin.)

These are certainly important issues, but they also miss the point. When you want to understand why religion is deservedly the target of scorn and ridicule, you should look to the day-to-day cruelty it inflicts on the lives of actual people. DeWitt’s story is the daily reality for atheists in large swaths of this country. And not just atheists, of course, but for homosexuals, or members of minority religions, or of anyone else who lets it be known they are swimming against the current. And don’t even try to argue that religion promotes compensating goods, such as encouraging a strong sense of community. As the article makes plain it is not community religion promotes, but tribalism.

Here’s another interesting nugget:

Afterward, we met with the church’s founding pastor in an elegantly appointed office adjoining the main auditorium. He was a 79-year-old man named George Glass, with a wrinkled face and a magnificent deep voice full of warmth and gravitas. He hugged us both as we came in, chiding DeWitt for having stayed away for so long. We sat down, and over the course of an hour, he spoke movingly about his own struggles as a younger man, when he lost his first ministry and had to start from scratch. He reassured DeWitt that he understood his doubts and did not think any less of him. As we said our goodbyes at the door, Glass spoke again in his slow, Southern cadence, fixing DeWitt with his gaze. “The thing of it is,” he said, and we all waited as he allowed a weighty pause to fill the air — “you’ve just got to keep your mouth shut.”

Everyoen laughed. But I did later wonder if all the public atheism had done DeWitt more harm than good. Couldn’t he have remained a nominal Christian, as so many others have? Even the old pastor, George Glass, acknowledged that others in the church had had problems with literalist claims about the Bible, and prefer not to talk about it. It is easy to see why. Open confrontation with faith, some would say, just provokes angry gestures from the faithful. In DeWitt’s case, those gestures had taken a wrecking ball to the life he spent 42 years building. He was once seen as a potential mayor of DeRidder. He helped clean up some of the town’s uglier spots when he worked at City Hall, and he knew the insides of almost every building in town; he knew and cared about most of the residents. Now many of them, he was told, believed he was a Satanist.

But it wasn’t opening his mouth that got him into trouble. He was not prostletyzing on street corners or picketing churches or anything like that. He was photographed with Richard Dawkins and he self-described as a secular humanist. That was it. That was enough to bring down the wrath of the town. The mere fact that he privately rejected the teachings of his church was enough to destroy his life.

Tell me again about how religion is all about awe and mystery and a profound respect for the unknown.

Comments

  1. #1 Tom English
    August 23, 2012

    “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.’”

  2. #2 MNb
    August 23, 2012

    Like I wrote on JAC’s blog the DeWitt story makes me feel fortunate to be born in a society where atheism was – and is – normal.

    “it is not community religion promotes, but tribalism.”
    Again I am lucky. I live in a community where community values prevail, not tribalism. In this community I can visit a mosque, like last Sunday, be welcomed and not be scorned while everybody knows I am an atheist.

  3. #3 John Pieret
    http://dododreams.blogspot.com/
    August 23, 2012

    I am in no way defending what happened to DeWitt but I wonder if what happened to him had more to do with small town insularity than it really had to do with “religion.” It seems to me that this is a chicken or the egg problem. What comes first, the tribalism or the religion? Religion doubtlessly enforces the tribalism but is it really the cause of it? I went to a Jesuit college where at least 10%-20% of the faculty were defrocked priests. Religions (at least Western ones in modern times) have ways of dealing with apostates in relatively civilized ways. It’s the community’s emotional responses that burn people like DeWitt.

  4. #4 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 23, 2012

    But it doesn’t really matter whether religion is the chicken or the egg. Religion is a major bad guy in this story regardless of whether it actually teaches people to be tribal or is just parasitic on people’s natural insularity.

  5. #5 John Pieret
    http://dododreams.blogspot.com/
    August 24, 2012

    Not quite. If the problem is tribalism, eliminating religion won’t end the problem, it will just migrate to a new form (maybe anti-feminism, as some are seeing in the atheistic community?). Don’t you have to treat the cause rather than the symptom?

  6. #6 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    “maybe anti-feminism, as some are seeing in the atheistic community?”

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Ah me.

    Yes, anti-feminism exists in the atheistic community. It exists in the theistic community. In fact, in any random selection of, say, 10,000 people you will see anti-feminism in that selected pool.

    But its mostly the theistic movement who see “anti-feminism” in the atheistic community. Two reasons

    1) They are the owners of that screed, therefore rather than drive it out, they want to ensure that others have it too, therefore “it’s not bad”.

    2) They want to drive people away from those godless and evil atheists who have no morals and, moreover are anti-feminist.

    Atheism has no screed. Someone who absolutely detests women, if they don’t believe the evidence for god has been proven, is an atheist, because atheism has nothing to do with anything else.

    Meanwhile, religion has as its central creed anti-women (not merely anti-feminist) rhetoric. To be part of the group you HAVE to believe women are at best second-class humans, less than men.

  7. #7 John Pieret
    http://dododreams.blogspot.com/
    August 24, 2012

    Yes, anti-feminism exists in the atheistic community. It exists in the theistic community. In fact, in any random selection of, say, 10,000 people you will see anti-feminism in that selected pool.

    Ah, good. You got my point then, right?

  8. #8 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    I got that your point was pointless.

    It was equivalent to saying that the atheist community have people with fewer than two legs in.

    True, but pointless.

  9. #9 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    In short, what the hell was the point of saying “as some see in the atheist community”?

    None.

    None whatsoever other than to go “Ooooh, scary! Don’t get rid of religion, you’ll have to go to those women hating atheists! Wooooh!”.

    Moreover, since these “anti-feminists” (and what’s wrong with that? There are peope who are “anti-cat” and given no other information than that, so what? You don’t have to love all cats and be a human) aren’t their own clique and are not prevented from being their own clique now, in what way would getting rid of the pointless and divisive insanity known as religion cause tribalism?

    Rather like the loons who cry off chaning their CO2 habit by saying “Oh, the Chinese will just go and burn more anyway”. As if there’s an amount of fossil fuel that MUST be burned off or something.

  10. #10 MNb
    August 24, 2012

    @John Pieret: the town of Moengo in Suriname where I live has about 5000 inhabitants, less than DeRidder.. The nearest city, Paramaribo, is 100 km away. And nobody makes a fuzz about my atheism. As far as I know I am the only one. Still I never received hate calls and don’t have to be on my guard like DeWitt describes.
    So far for small town insularity as a decisive factor.

  11. #11 BobFromLI
    August 24, 2012

    What is most annoying is the lack of “Christian Love” that these folks have shown toward their former pastor. The internal contradiction of religion as it turns ‘love’ into hate continues to amaze. Oh, and thanks Todd Akin for opening one more window.

  12. #12 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    It’s because their religion requires they be afraid of not believing. And they KNOW they have no reason to believe in their faith.

    Someone not believing shows that they don’t have to believe. But they’ve been told to fear that. Therefore they fear the example of “the faithless” before them.

    If someone manages to have a happy and fulfilled existence WITHOUT god, then they have proof that their current happy and fulfilled existence may not be because they’re being “blessed by god”, but because they have a happy and fulfilled life.

    So they hate the happyness of “the faithless” as they can no longer pretend that god is the source of their happyness. No longer comfort themselves as being better off, despite all the things they KNOW deep inside are complete rubbish.

    And they fear the happyness of anyone else who doesn’t believe in their god because they fear losing any reason to stay.

  13. #13 Eric Lund
    August 24, 2012

    @John Pieret: No, this is not small town insularity. I’ve lived most of my adult life in northern New England, where small town insularity is a way of life. That means we are wary of strangers, particularly Boston and New York City types. But if you are a long term resident and you are outside the norm in a non-threatening way, most people will accept you. Only if people perceive you as a threat will you get anything resembling the treatment DeWitt got from the other folks in DeRidder. It says something about the dynamic in that town that an atheist is perceived as threatening.

    @BobFromLI: Amen on the “Christian Love” point. One major difficulty I have with many self-proclaimed Christians, especially the ones who are loud about it, is reconciling their actions and stated beliefs with the teachings ascribed to Yeshua bin Yosef. It’s almost as if some people treat those words as being in error because in many Bibles (including the one I own) those words are printed in red.

  14. #14 Deepak Shetty
    August 24, 2012

    And don’t even try to argue that religion promotes compensating goods, such as encouraging a strong sense of community.
    Oh but it does. You see the proof of it in your post. The problem is when people want to opt out of that community. Or when there are competing communities.

    Tell me again about how religion is all about awe and mystery and a profound respect for the unknown.
    Religion is all about awe and mystery and a profound respect for the unknown. (that’s for making me spend time figuring out the chess problem – unsuccessfully)

  15. #15 Raging Bee
    August 24, 2012

    I am in no way defending what happened to DeWitt but I wonder if what happened to him had more to do with small town insularity than it really had to do with “religion.”

    A distinction without a diference. Did any religion ever serve as a countervailing force against the insularity? Did any religious “leader,” at any time, try to take an effective stand against the insularity? Did that nice old pastor ever think of delivering a sermon defending a pillar of the community against irrational hatred? Yes, he’s part of a greater and deeper problem — but he could have chosen to be part of the solution.

    Don’t you have to treat the cause rather than the symptom?

    Sometimes you have to treat the symptom on its own — especially if the cause can’t be removed in the foreseeable future.

  16. #16 Raging Bee
    August 24, 2012

    Also, how can you blame “tribalism” or “small-town insularity” when the target of all this ostracism and hatred was a longstanding and distinguished member of the tribe? No, it’s not tribalism that’s the problem here, it’s the religious mindset, and delusions exacerbated by religion.

  17. #17 Lucifer
    Hell
    August 24, 2012

    There is little difference between theist and atheists.

    The fundamentalist atheist who teaches his children that fairy tales are lies (e.g. the tooth fairy, gnomes and easter bunny) in my mind practices child abuse.

    The fundamental theist who teaches his children that the bible is a literally true science and history book written by “GOD HERSELF” is also practicing child abuse.

    Of course the problem with theism or atheism or any ism isn’t the ism or lack thereof; the problem is the politics of the ism.

    Why did the Watergate towers, of the famous Watergate scandal, pay no property tax? Because the Watergate Towers were a business owned by the Catholic Church and religions do not have to pay taxes even on there business assets.

    I disagree. Someone famous once said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

    Seems like a good principle to me. Yes, I am for taxing churches and other nonprofit businesses real estate and business and financial assets. But this political idea gains no political traction in the USA.

    Now why did Jerry Dewitt lose his job? Because of religion or politics.

    We have a political system (in the USA) in which it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on religious beliefs. In the USA, Freedom of Religion is a constitutional right except… if you are employed by a religious organization. This is premeditated political loophole. Religions may discriminate based on religion; nobody else may.

    Now why haven’t we taken these various discrimination political loopholes allowable only to religious organizations out of US laws on employment, taxes and other issues.

    Because religion has always been politics. Sometimes the politics of theism win, sometimes it loses.

    Of course in religion and politics the greatest sin is blasphemy: to question authority. Lucifer, Jesus are two famous blasphemers. Dewitt is a minor blasphemer.

    But we the proud citizens of the USA share in the responsibility for the discrimination of DeWitt by continuing to grant religious organizations exemption from constitutional right of Freedom of Religion.

    How dare I as a US citizen say, I’m not responsible for this law; when I have done nothing to change to various discriminations allowed in the name of Freedom of Religion?

    The only difference (politically speaking) between the theist and the atheist is their political power.

  18. #18 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    “There is little difference between theist and atheists.”

    There’s little difference between any two humans. Depends what you call difference.

    “The fundamentalist atheist who teaches his children that fairy tales are lies in my mind practices child abuse.”

    Your mind is broken then.

  19. #19 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    “”… such as encouraging a strong sense of community.”
    Oh but it does.”

    There’s nothing religion does that is good that requires the religion to do it.

    And leaving out the religion leaves out the abhorrent baggage of it.

    “Religion is all about awe and mystery and a profound respect for the unknown.”

    No it isn’t, it’s about fear. It’s about MAKING people believe your god or killing those who don’t. “You shall have no gods over me” ring a bell?

    It’s even refusal of the unknown. God is all about “explaining” what you don’t know. “You don’t know what started it, therefore god did it” ring a bell?

  20. #20 Michael Bernard
    August 24, 2012

    WOW. You are missing the point. There are very important parts of life that Atheism doesn’t address. There are activities and relationships that require a group of people to get the benefits . Examples would be things like getting together when a child is born or people wed or die (and the support from friends and family from withing the rituals.). There are holidays with only marginal religious meaning such as Christmas and others where families get together.
    The questions about the reality of a god are meaningless as far as what a community of religious people provide.

    This is what makes Ex-Gay programs so popular. They are a way for a homosexual to stay in the church community even though gay, if they try to get straight, change their behavior (not their sexual attractions) and keep their families, businesses, social and business network. Nevermind that they have an icreased suicide rate from the programs, its worth the chance for many to risk it to keep all those non-religious part of a religious community.

  21. #21 Wow
    August 24, 2012

    “Examples would be things like getting together when a child is born”

    No, atheists know that children get born too. They know how, too.

    “and the support from friends and family from withing the rituals”

    Well, since most religious rituals for children are quite traumatic, I can see how you can say they need support during those times.

    But without those rituals, the atheist community can just celebrate the new life that has arrived.

    “There are holidays with only marginal religious meaning such as Christmas and others where families get together”

    And right there you’ve just said that religion isn’t needed for holidays. Midwinter feast relies on a winter that exists in atheist worlds too, you know.

    “The questions about the reality of a god are meaningless as far as what a community of religious people provide”

    Sorry, NOT ONE CHRISTIAN gave me a holiday. Nor are they needed.

    Communities give them. That is ALL.

    “They are a way for a homosexual to stay in the church community even though gay”

    And here again you scupper your argument. The gay person is ONLY excluded because RELIGION says so. If they were an atheistic community, the gay person WOULD NOT be excluded in the first place!

    You have just admitted religion is divisive when atheism is not!

  22. #22 John Pieret
    August 24, 2012

    @ Wow (how appropriate)

    “Ooooh, scary! Don’t get rid of religion, you’ll have to go to those women hating atheists! Wooooh!”.

    OK, where did I say or even imply that? Is hearing voices in your own head an argument against what I was saying about tribalism … instead of support for it?

    @Raging Bee

    Did any religion ever serve as a countervailing force against the insularity?

    For what it’s worth, I gave you the example of the Jesuits (usually considered religious boogey men) who not only didn’t do it but put people similar to DeWitt (in having lost faith) in charge of educating young Catholics (in my case, in name only).

    Sometimes you have to treat the symptom on its own — especially if the cause can’t be removed in the foreseeable future.

    But if you can’t remove the cause, then just treating the symptoms does what? I’m all for giving support to DeWitt and pointing out the stupidity of his relatives and former friends but will that stop it the next time? Maybe if we try to treat the tribalism (and I don’t pretend to know how) it will help the next person facing this problem.

    Also, how can you blame “tribalism” or “small-town insularity” when the target of all this ostracism and hatred was a longstanding and distinguished member of the tribe?

    No, that is, I think, a misunderstanding of tribalism. That’s what I see in Eric Lund’s example … the tribalism of some places/societies is that individuals should be “free” (within limits, of course) to be different and maybe the way to alleviate the problem is to foster the tribe of individualism. But when you are a prominent member of the tribe who “breaks the rules” that is worse. It’s why we coin such words as “traitor.” A New Englander in the society Eric describes who tried to control the behavior of his neighbors might get the same sort of reception as DeWitt.

    Well, I wasn’t trying to prescribe anyone’s behavior, only suggesting differerent ways to approach the same problem. No one is required to listen.

  23. #23 John Pieret
    August 24, 2012

    P.S.

    maybe the way to alleviate the problem is to foster the tribe of individualism

    Of course, that would have to include those who individually choose to be theists.

  24. #24 Deepak Shetty
    August 25, 2012

    @wow
    There’s nothing religion does that is good that requires the religion to do it.
    Hmm? Where do you think im arguing against that?

    No it isn’t, it’s about fear.
    Sigh. When someone says tell me again blah blah and the straight (in the comedic sense) guy helpfully repeats blah blah its supposed to be humor (admittedly a low brow form)

  25. #25 Wow
    August 25, 2012

    ““Ooooh, scary! Don’t get rid of religion, you’ll have to go to those women hating atheists! Wooooh!”.

    OK, where did I say or even imply that?”

    Ask and you shall be rewarded. You imply this with the sentence I quoted:

    “maybe anti-feminism, as some are seeing in the atheistic community?”

    since this has bugger all to do with atheism, but is a convenient lie by omission to ensure people think that atheists are all anti-women.

  26. #26 Wow
    August 25, 2012

    “”No it isn’t, it’s about fear.”
    Sigh.”

    Uhm, where on earth did you provide ANYTHING to refute the claim that it’s all about fear?

    Hell, the continuing abuse of Pascal’s wager by godbotherers trying to get people to become believers is proof in itself.

    Whereas you merely have “sigh, i’m so not believing that”.

  27. #27 Wow
    August 25, 2012

    “For what it’s worth, I gave you the example of the Jesuits (usually considered religious boogey men) who not only didn’t do it”

    Uhm, they DO divide people. “Give me the boy and I’ll give you the man” ring a bell?

    “But if you can’t remove the cause, then just treating the symptoms does what?”

    Treat the symptoms. Why do you think people take cold remedies?

    “and maybe the way to alleviate the problem is to foster the tribe of individualism.”

    Oh dear. And how about looking into the darkness of light? You’re like the dummies outside Brian’s home “We are all different!”. Do you know what tribe means?

  28. #28 Deepak Shetty
    August 25, 2012

    @Wow
    Uhm, where on earth did you provide ANYTHING to refute the claim that it’s all about fear?
    I think you are too busy being angry at the world to actually understand what i said.
    Im a religion is a net negative and we’d be better off without it kind of guy. You are failing to see an attempt at humor in my original comment(Even referencing Jason’s previous chess post) – since you so clearly missed that to carry on raging – hence the sigh.

    Though I would say religion is not all about fear. Possibly you are only exposed to specific forms of western religions.(which doesnt mean that i think religion is useful) .

  29. #29 Wow
    August 25, 2012

    “You are failing to see an attempt at humor in my original comment … Though I would say religion is not all about fear”

    So you weren’t actually trying to be humourous but are trying to figure out how to recover from your failure to counter.

    And in doing so, do so again.

  30. #30 tim reynolds
    Long Beach CA
    August 25, 2012

    Once I found, scanning an RC bulletin board, that the Church seemed to be supporting a whole lot of 3rd World services that we 1st Worlders pretty much rely on government for. I didn’t convert or anything but it mellowed my view.

    tim

  31. #31 Deepak Shetty
    August 26, 2012

    @wow
    last response to you.
    if you really believe that my original comment meant that i think religion is full of awe and mystery then you need to calm down, take a deep breath and try and read it again.

    Im as anti-religion as they come – however your statement that religion is all about fear is one of ignorance , hence the need to point it out.

  32. #32 Wow
    August 26, 2012

    OK, where do I say that I think you think that religion is full of awe and mystery?

    NOWHERE.

    What I DID say is tha religion is based on fear.

  33. #33 Wow
    August 26, 2012

    tim, two things

    1) irreligious people do that too, except that not having a central authority collecting on their behalf, they don’t get any PR fluff for it.

    2) religion refuse many things like condoms or other forms of birth control because it is agains their tenets. Heck, they’re not only against it in the 3rd world but the 1st and 2nd and all 999thousand worlds. Church-run soup kitchens generally have the captive audience being preached at or given pamphlets prosetylizing.

    The point is is that it is PEOPLE doing this. The number of people doing these good things BECAUSE the church or religion makes them is miniscule. Because most humans are decent and don’t have to be shamed to help others.

  34. #34 Wow
    August 26, 2012

    Latest example of Religion causing divisiveness:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/aug/26/scottish-catholics-campaign-gay-marriage

    The Scottish government has said it is right to introduce same-sex marriages, but has stressed no clergy would be forced to carry them out.

    (from that link)

    Now why does it matter that same sex marriage is legal? It isn’t MANDATORY, so why the bother?

    And also note that it wasn’t until around 1920 that marriage law was changed to make it required to be married in a church.

    Google “Gretna Green”.

  35. #35 Wow
    August 26, 2012

    I would also like to point out that many people describe themselves as christian (mabe not RCC) and are against this.

    The religion give some hokey “respectability” to homophobia and the people who are homophobes can use it to further their divisive agenda.

    And most of the parishoners listening to the sermon against the mount (sorry for the pun) as one poster says will not be *for* the complaint, but would rather remain in the religious circle rather than get ostracised by speaking out.

  36. #36 Ian Kemmish
    August 27, 2012

    The burden of this post appears to be that all religion is bad because professed Christians are no more able to rise above human nature than other labelled groups are.

    Bit of a non-sequitur, what?

    One could change key names and words in the quoted passages to describe situations that occur tens of thousands of times a day to people in different groups: gay, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-gun, BDSMer, members of NGOs, naked ramblers…..

    Maybe the conclusion to be drawn is just than the author needs to get out a bit more?

  37. #37 Raging Bee
    August 27, 2012

    The fundamentalist atheist who teaches his children that fairy tales are lies (e.g. the tooth fairy, gnomes and easter bunny) in my mind practices child abuse.

    The most charitable response I can offer to that level of stupidity is: “Are you a Poe?”

    You are missing the point. There are very important parts of life that Atheism doesn’t address. There are activities and relationships that require a group of people to get the benefits . Examples would be things like getting together when a child is born or people wed or die (and the support from friends and family from withing the rituals.). There are holidays with only marginal religious meaning such as Christmas and others where families get together.

    Of course we’re missing your “point.” That’s because your writing is so garbled we’re not sure what your “point” is. You seem to be saying that atheists suck because they don’t have communal rituals to acknowledge certain important life events. That’s not a huge problem, and fairly easy to rectify. Hell, we Pagans have LOTS of cool rituals they can borrow if they think it would be good for their communities — they could change all the words they need to, erase all mention of gods, and still have some cool events in their living rooms or backyards.

    This is what makes Ex-Gay programs so popular. They are a way for a homosexual to stay in the church community even though gay…

    If their church wasn’t so hateful and bigoted, then gays could stay in the group WITHOUT the phony “ex-gay” “therapy.” Thanks for admitting that religious “communities” aren’t as inclusive as they pretend to be, and don’t consistently serve their alleged purpose.

    For what it’s worth, I gave you the example of the Jesuits (usually considered religious boogey men) who not only didn’t do it but put people similar to DeWitt (in having lost faith) in charge of educating young Catholics (in my case, in name only).

    Yeah, my dad went to a Jesuit high school, and got a pretty good education out of it (which included getting sent to the principal’s office for accusing Pope Pius XII of caring more about bomb damage to St. Peters than about bomb damage to people). That’s what allowed him to reject his Church’s stupidity and raise a kid who is able to think for himself. And that’s also why the Jesuits are NOT representative of the Church’s official positions on anything — the Church is perfectly happy to ignore its own best teachings when it suits them.

  38. #38 Raging Bee
    August 27, 2012

    The burden of this post appears to be that all religion is bad because professed Christians are no more able to rise above human nature than other labelled groups are.

    No, the “burden” is that religion is bad because it reinforces, justifies, and exacerbates some very irrational and evil human thought-processes. Try to work on your reading comprehension, okay?

  39. #39 Wow
    August 27, 2012

    “Bit of a non-sequitur, what?”

    Well if you phrase it to make it a nonsequitur, maybe.

    However, that isn’t the thread of the argument.

    A good man will do good and a bad man will do evil by their nature, but to get a good man to do evil, you need religion.

    How many atheists are trying to get gay marriage banned?

  40. #40 Created man
    August 27, 2012

    Sorry to have to do this. this is not about jason. I respect him. this about that crud churner Greg Laden who thinks he won the argument by shutting me off. so, a message to that coward:
    TO GREG LADEN:

    How is teaching creationsim a violation of the constitution? Besides, the pioneers that settled this country and founded families here were pretty much Bible believing creationists.

    As far as school curriculim is concerned they also teach absurd sex education practices, they teach about abortion and even provide transportation to those murder clinics in some places, they defame Christmas or ban it altogether, and then rarely even teach about individual sovereignty and the rights of free men and what the founder believe.

    Now, is any of that constitutional? I doubt it. Even if your feared creationism never gets into the schools, it is taught in real churches and in real Sunday School classes and it is taught at HOME by parents wether they home school or not. So, wether you like it or not kids are going to continue to be taught creationism wether it be at your government run indoctrination centers you call a school or at some other place. get used to it.

    Dismissed, you are! And not long enough it took.

    Oh, and FYI, just for “dismissing” me in the crude manner that you did, I I will now copy and post your entire post word for word as and your URL and the comments to my own facebook page and blog and I will get to post my comment after yours. dismiss that. An exact duplicate with me dismissing you. Nice try. better luck next time.

  41. #41 Wow
    August 28, 2012

    “How is teaching creationsim a violation of the constitution?”

    Because it’s religion.

    “Besides, the pioneers that settled this country and founded families here were pretty much Bible believing creationists.”

    They were also anti-women, pro-slavery and terrorists. They were FLEEING religious persecution and the insistence that they live within the laws of a different religion.

    “they teach about abortion”

    80% of the fertilised eggs never make it to the womb to incubate. Abortion is natural. It is also one reason why women survive to old age rather than die in childbirth.

    “provide transportation to those murder clinics”

    What? They take people to Death Row in the states where that exists?

    “they defame Christmas”

    A pagan ritual.

    “or ban it altogether”

    The puritans banned christmas. They thought it was a pagan ritual and unholy.

    “rarely even teach about individual sovereignty”

    They do in civics classes.

    “and what the founder believe”

    They teach grammar. And you apparently don’t know what the founders believed. They were mostly non-christian (hence the persecution in mainly Christian Europe they were fleeing).

    “Even if your feared creationism never gets into the schools, it is taught in real churches and in real Sunday School classes”

    So why do you need it taught in schools?

    I can quite see why you got shitcanned, kid. You’re ignorant and ignorant of that fact and propelled via hate and fear to lash out at anone who dares not follow your credo.

  42. #42 MNb
    August 28, 2012

    “Though I would say religion is not all about fear.”
    Neither would I say that – my religious female counterpart is a counterexample – but you guys do a pretty bad job arguing against Wow.

  43. #43 Wow
    August 28, 2012

    MNb, thing is that her faith isn’t really being challenged. One reason I’ve seen for AGW denial is that the Bible says that God won’t flood the world again. Therefore AGW challenges that. Hence the huge vitriol.

    Why should any religion care about gay civil marriage? Because it challenges their religion.

    But you can find those who believe in the same label religion who don’t find those items a challenge to their religion. And they won’t be reacting violently to them.

    But the very basis of these religions is fear of dying, of no longer existing. Xtianity just adds eternal torment afterward for doing it wrong (the definition of which is never clear). Calvinists are the extreme example of this.

  44. #44 Dan L.
    August 28, 2012

    @Ian Kemmish:

    The burden of this post appears to be that all religion is bad because professed Christians are no more able to rise above human nature than other labelled groups are.

    I don’t see it.

    One could change key names and words in the quoted passages to describe situations that occur tens of thousands of times a day to people in different groups: gay, pro-life, pro-choice, pro-gun, anti-gun, BDSMer, members of NGOs, naked ramblers…..

    Find me even one analogous example. For example, find me even one case where a BDSM community started a campaign of threats and harassment against a former member who had decided that they are no longer into BDSM. Or can you find me a former gun nut who has realized that the gun show loopholes are harmful and has resigned the NRA as a result getting threats and harassment?

    Don’t tell me, buddy, show me. Show me all these cases where people act like the folks in the OP did when they are not inspired by religion. I’m really eager to hear all these stories you insist happen “tens of thousands of times a day”. Surely if it’s that frequent you could give us a few examples — but I’m only asking for one.

  45. #45 Jeffry Pruit
    August 28, 2012

    @ WOW

    Credo Mutwa?
    Looks like you may be the ill informed one. I bet you still think marxism is a good idea. If so, please go move to North Korea you would feel welcome where there is no capitalism, only socialism and one man rules over all. Just the way liberals like it.

    Oh, and MERRY CHRISTMAS early, just in case Obama wins and the UN imprisons christians who celebrate the birth of christ.

    Oh, and grammar is not important in a situation where the person being spoken to believes he has ape DNA deep inside. Apparently, he must have alot of it residing jus tbeneath the surface. Now, go shave your palms again and let the grown ups talk for a while.

    FYI, Charles Darwin was a life support system for a hairy face.

  46. #46 Wow
    August 28, 2012

    Yes, the teabaggers do contain quite a few xtian fundies as jeffers here so eloquently shows.

    Can any USian here tell me why the right wing and the xtians (who profess to follow that hippie who not only said you should give all your money away to help the poor, that money was going to keep you out of heaven and that you should pay all your taxes) should be so closely intertwined?

    Tell me, TBer, why do you consider it a good bet to claim I think marxism is a good idea?

    You’re on a hiding to nothing with NK, they’re no worse than the USA, and don’t follow marxism either.

    And I have human DNA inside. Just as an Ape has Ape DNA inside. They’re 98% the same DNA, but then again, we’re both mostly made of water, exactly identical in composition as each other, and the water in the ocean.

    YOU, however, seem to have an Ape brain. At best.

    Well, the genetic drift is bound to bring up the occasional throwback.

  47. #47 Jeffry Pruit
    August 28, 2012

    WOW,

    If your believe the pioneers that settled this country were terrorists, then I guess that makes modern england look like nazi germany time a billion.

    The pioneers were NOT terrorists. people who think they were are the terrorists. people like you. The constitution grants us the right to freedom of speech and freedom OF (not from) religion. Actually it grants nothing. men do not have the authority to grant rights. The rights have been there since Goid create dman 6500 years ago. The founders just recognized those rights and justified them ona piece of paper. God, not government, gives rights. Usually government takes away rights.

    People like you need to have a mandatory enema daily to keep the shit from swelling your brain and causing dilusions. Please do us all a favor and switch to water that is fluoride free. You IQ is quite diminished. A few more days and you may be drooling.

  48. #48 Wow
    August 28, 2012

    The pioneers that settled this country were terrorists.

    Didn’t you get homeschooled about the war of independence?

    “The constitution grants us the right to freedom of speech”

    Then why are you whining about my words?

    “and freedom OF (not from) religion.”

    Yup. Which means we get to be free FROM religion if we don’t want it. The sort of freedom OF SOMEONE ELSE’S religion.

    Or woud you prefer Sharia? After all, THAT is a religion, right? So you must be fine with those countries that insist you have to believe their god, since you “think” you have no right to be free FROM religion, right?

    “The rights have been there since Goid create dman 6500 years ago.”

    a) Why is he a lying bastard, then? All that evidence of a universe millions of times older than that and he’s been lying all the time!

    b) so why do you need the 2nd ammendment? Or are you saying that God is powerless if your freedoms are taken away by merely men, who you insist cannot grant you anything?

    ” God, not government, gives rights.”

    No more than Gandalf gives rights.

  49. #49 Jeffry Pruit
    August 28, 2012

    Yes Jesus did indeed tell his disciples to help the poor and give their money to the poor. That is called charity.

    However, i never recall a situation where he order Pilate to have the roman soldiers confiscate people’s money and have the Roman empire distribute it evenly among so that everyone would be equally poor. That is socialism. Big difference between chrity and socialism. Charity of voluntary. Socialism is forced confiscation at the point of a government soldier’s weapon. That is not biblical. it is not even legal. it is called stealing and there is a commandment in regards to that, so in essence jesus taught that socialism is a sin. One more path to hell.

    Now, go shave your palms, do your ABCs, crawl back in your cage and lick darwin’s picture since your DNA is 98% ape.

  50. #50 Wow
    August 28, 2012

    “Yes Jesus did indeed tell his disciples to help the poor and give their money to the poor. That is called charity. ”

    The US rightwing see it as communism.

  51. #51 Jeffry Pruit
    August 28, 2012

    I do not need the second amendment in regards to my freedom. The freedom to defend one’s self against agressors has always been there long before this nation was founded. The founders put it in there as an insurance policy to insure free men could stay free and have the rght to defend themsleves against their own government should that government ever become a threat to the freedom of man.

    Freedom from religion? Sure. I am gald of it. I have the freedom to not participate in your religion of global warming (paganism) and evolution (idolotry). I do not have to believe in your false religions.

    There is no evidence that the universe is trillions of millenia old. Those rocks you picked up in the desert have failed your science department for aging of things. Put them back. They failed you.

    The earth is young and all of the evidence points that way. There was global flood that wiped out most life on earth even the dinosaurs and the grand canyon is the absolute best evidence of that.

    Oh, and we are not powerless if your left wing tyrants in government uts us all in concentrations camps and kills those who do not worship at the altar of the beast. See, they can kill our physical bodies, but there will be a ressurection day and a judgement day when the armies of God will descend on those who persecuted us. Then it will be our turn. They will be killed, resurrected, judged, and thrown into a lake of molten lava for eternity. In eternity they will seek death and it will not come. A torture forever. So, whatever persecution we may face, we will win in the end. Your forces of satan are no match for the indestrctible invincible and all powerful soldiers of God at the judgment. We win in the end. In the end your kind will be our servants and will will rule the nations for eternity.

  52. #52 Wow
    August 28, 2012

    “I do not need the second amendment in regards to my freedom. ”

    That’s right? So why do you keep whining on about them and insist on buying automatic weapons and wearing combat fatigues to your neighbourhood watch meetings?

    Why bother at all, since Gawd gives these rights? Are you saying that you need these guns because Gawd can’t grant you rights that somoene else (an ordinary human) take away?

  53. #53 Jeffry Pruit
    August 28, 2012

    There is nothing further you can say since we win in the end anyway.

    Class Dismissed!
    FIFTY!

    Now go drink some more fluoride you poor mis informed canadian .

  54. #54 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 28, 2012

    I”m beginning to think the level of discourse in this thread is deteriorating a bit. I think every one’s had a chance to say what’s on their mind, so I’m shutting down the comments.

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