Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Apostates - Former Clergy

This had to be my first post in this series because, at Skepticon 5, I let it slip to Jerry that I was writing about him and he wanted me to publish it.  Although, I'll forgive him for not remembering that two minute conversation out of a weekend packed full of fun.

I'm generally not a fan of excessively positive people.  Jerry DeWitt (former minister, the first graduate of The Clergy Project, and Executive Director of my favorite national atheist organization, Recovering From Religion) is one of the exceptions.  He's had a rough time over the last couple years, because he dared be honest about his loss of faith.

He lost jobs.  He lost friends.  He lost family.  He became a pariah in his home town.  But he's handled it with grace & dignity.  At least as far as I've been able to see.  The man is quickly becoming a star of the atheist community, but you're not likely to catch him ever admitting it.  I'm excited to see where his upcoming book takes him.

At the 2012 American Atheists Convention, while helping out at the Recovering From Religion table, I briefly met a woman who was introduced to me as Lynn.  I had no idea was about to happen or that, when she left the room, she was headed to go on stage.

The cheers in that video were so loud, they could be heard in the next room.

Neither intended to become atheists.  It's just something that happened because they were intellectually honest and applied critical thinking to their religious beliefs.  They could have stayed ministers and never dealt with the turmoil they went through in their coming out, a process much more difficult for clergy than the average atheist.

Except that they couldn't have, because they have integrity.  It takes bravery, for someone whose livelihood comes from being a believer, to come out as atheist.  It takes integrity to stay out instead of having a "come to Jesus moment", pretending to believe again, getting your old friends and family back, and making a bunch of money by selling the story.

Things are working out overall for both of them now, with Jerry's book and Teresa working for American Atheists, but they had no idea what was going to happen when they came out.  Although, they both appear to me (from the handful of times I've met them) to be the kind of positive people who don't dwell on the negative.

These two are far from the only clergy coming out.  They're just two of the most well known.  Hundreds more have joined The Clergy Project and will graduate without much recognition.  But they're not doing it for fame.  They're doing it because they do not want to live a lie.  And for that, they have my respect.

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