Yesterday I uploaded a picture of Jerry DeWitt starting his talk at the Austin History Center, here in Austin, TX. I was mobile, and wanted to listen to the talk, and promised an update. Well, here it is. I was unable to update yesterday due to being caught up in socializing, sitting in studio for the Atheist Experience, and then socializing again after.
You know, like vacation stuff!
Well, now that I have a bit of time while Ginny catches up on some reading for school, I thought I would talk about the day’s events from yesterday. Let’s start with Jerry’s talk.
I had not met Jerry before yesterday, but had followed his coming out through the Clergy Project and his position at Recovering from Religion. Jerry wanted to talk about what he called “laughing through the apocalypse,” which is his way of saying that he is quite enjoying his experience as being an out atheist, perhaps in ways he could not have foreseen a few years ago.
He said that in a time which was supposed to have been the lowest point in his life, he discovered that other people–other preachers, that is–were going through the same thing. The bottom line is there are many priests, pastors, ministers, and other leaders of Christian denominations (there was no mention of non-Christian leaders that I remember now) who are secretly non-believers. But because their position, both professionally and socially, is tied to the church, they are reluctant to come out.
Slowly, more and more are working on coming out. Jerry mentioned 25 or so people involved, and about 100 new applicants for the Clergy Project. Who knows how many more there are out there that either don’t know about the Project or who are not ready to step forward, even behind the anonymity which the Clergy Project offers.
And Jerry has something to say to the atheist community. While we talk a lot about creating a community, Jerry DeWitt thinks we already have a community. He thinks that we already have everything the church has ever had, “plus more.”
Jerry emphasized that he, despite this coming out and all of the consequences of it has had, is the same person he has always been. He emphasizes that there is a person that we are, and that throughout his ministries over the years he had been trying to figure who he was. When he stepped into the light of atheism, that search simply evaporated. He had found that the culture of Christianity As I understand his message) acted as a sort of stumbling block to finding who he had been the whole time.
Christianity had ripped out a Jerry Dewitt shaped hole in his heart, and tried to put ‘God’ in that hole. The only thing that fits in that hole is Jerry DeWitt. The only thing that fits in our hearts is ourselves. I find this to be a wonderful image, and it resonates with me, even though I have never had his Christian background. Jerry and I both have a deep interest in religion, of truth, and while his is stronger than mine a love of people. I can be, as readers here will know, a bit of a cynic often enough. Jerry truly cares for people and the truth, and that compassion and care are not christian; they are Jerry DeWitt.
So, now that Jerry does not have to pretend to be somebody else anymore, he hopes, through Recovering from Religion, to help people get out of religion and find themselves. I find it a noble, caring, and beautiful goal.
Jerry, as I got a chance to see over lunch, The Atheist Experience TV show, dinner, and ice cream afterwards, is indeed “enjoying the Hell out of my life.” If you have a chance to see Jerry speak, talk with him, or read his upcoming book (still being written), then I urge you to do so. I would be happy to call Jerry my friend, and am glad that I was in Austin to meet him.
Lastly, I want to thank Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood for being awesome hosts, both of the TV show and of us out-of-towners. Not only have they been an influence on me over the last few years (Matt for longer, since I have known about him longer), but it turns out he, as He has been most gracious thus far in giving us a ride when we needed one, and in giving us a ride to get some Austin BBQ later tonight. We’re looking forward to it, and may have more stories from Austin later on.
Seriously, folks, visit Austin. I do enjoy this city.