Jerry DeWitt

jerry dewitt

Community Mission Chapel

Jerry DeWitt is an American author and public speaker, and a prominent member of the American atheism movement. He is a former pastor of two evangelical churches, who publicly deconverted to atheism in 2011. DeWitt is the former executive director of ‘Recovering From Religion,’ a group which helps people find their way after a loss of faith.

He currently leads the ‘Community Mission Chapel,’ which DeWitt calls an ‘atheist church.’ In a story for the ‘New York Times,’ he 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.’

DeWitt was a pastor of two churches surrounding DeRidder, Louisiana, a town where two-thirds of the population report membership in a faith organization. He first experienced doubts about his religious beliefs when he contemplated the idea of hell. He later found himself unable to invoke God’s help after a congregant asked him to pray for her injured brother. He preached for the last time in April 2011. 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, which was founded by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, philosopher Linda LaScola, and former preacher Dan Barker.

DeWitt’s outing as an atheist occurred in October 2011 after a photo circulated online of him and Dawkins, taken at a meeting of freethinkers. DeWitt was the first member of the Clergy Project to drop anonymity and speak freely about his involvement. After more information emerged on Dewitt’s loss of faith, he was fired from his secular job, and his wife left him, although they later reconciled. DeWitt has written a book based on his career and experiences entitled ‘Hope After Faith.’

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