Atheism's leading lights have long been intellectuals raised in the secular and academic worlds: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens. By contrast, Jerry DeWitt was born and bred into the church and was in fact a Pentecostal preacher before arriving at atheism through an extraordinary dialogue with faith that spanned more than a quarter of a century. Hope After Faith is his account of that journey.
DeWitt was a pastor in the town of DeRidder, Louisiana, and was a fixture of the community. In private, however, he'd begun to question his faith. Late one night in May 2011, a member of his flock called seeking prayer for her brother who had been in a serious accident. As DeWitt searched for the right words to console her, speech failed him, and he found that the faith which once had formed the cornerstone of his life had finally crumbled to dust. When it became public knowledge that DeWitt was now an atheist, he found himself shunned by much of DeRidder's highly religious community, losing nearly everything he'd known.
DeWitt's struggle for identity and meaning mirrors the one currently facing millions of people around the world. With both agnosticism and atheism entering the mainstream one in five Americans now claim no religious affiliation, according to a recent study the moment has arrived for a new atheist voice, one that is respectful of faith and religious traditions yet warmly embraces a life free of religion, finding not skepticism and cold doubt but rather profound meaning and hope. Hope After Faith is the story of one man's evolution toward a committed and considered atheism, one driven by humanism, a profound moral dimension, and a happiness and self-confidence obtained through living free of fear.
©2012 Jerry DeWitt (P)2013 Dogma Debate, LLC
Letting the rest of the world go by
Much more than just an autobiography of a preacher turned humanist. I liked the book for the following reasons,
1) The listener quickly likes the author because of his obvious sincerity for the search for truth and his love of humanity and therefore it's easy to like the story since you will like the author
2) the book shows how tough it is to be a preacher in the rural south for a sincere believer
3) the backbiting within and between churches and church members is a background character through out.
4) I learned a lot about Pentecostals, their doctrines and their pettiness
5) the author writes the book without using the perfect vision of hindsight and writes the story as if his state of mind at the time was real (such as visions, faith healing and so on)
6) the author presents a step by step guide to his search for the perfect doctrine. His first questioning of his faith comes about after his grandfather passes away and faces eternal damnation just because he didn't embrace the right faith.
7) The author is sincere in his search and we the reader get all of the relevant steps and thought processes he uses in his journey which helps me understand why I believe the way I do
8) The first 2/3 of the book could be listened to by a true believer and she would not be critical at all of the book
9) The author does a marvelous job of reading his book and really adds to the experience with his southern accent and the cadence of a preacher when necessary. They did another thing I liked, whenever a woman was speaking in the story, the narrator would be female.
I found the book one of the most spiritual books I have ever listened to, and it has helped me understand why I believe the way I do and would recommend this audiobook to anyone.
I grew up about an hour south of where the majority of Jerry's story takes place and even though I wasn't raised in the Pentecostal church, I can verify that his descriptions of the area and its people are 100% accurate. I'm also an "in the closet" atheist with my family for fear of being shunned, so I connected with Jerry's story in more ways than one.
I'm glad I listened to the Audiobook rather than read the print version. There's something about Jerry reading it himself that really transports you into the story. It makes it that much more personal and I think added a lot to the experience. Jerry's down-to-earth voice had me smiling when he was chuckling at retelling some of his stories.
Jerry starts off talking about his life growing up and what led him to be a minister. He also describes how difficult this was financially for himself and his family. He had a strong desire to find the "right" branch of Pentecostalism - a journey that took him to Arizona and even had him move to Iowa for a short time. During his search, Jerry realized that what he'd been looking for didn't exist in those places - at first in organized religion, and then in any religion at all.
It truly is an amazing story of self-discovery, a theme that's so often played out in movies and tv and books that it can be hard to find a fresh story that really makes you think. Jerry's story was anything but played out. I have a 30 minute commute to work and, as someone who despises driving, found myself upset when I'd arrive at work or at home. I'd get out of the car and put on my headphones just to catch a few extra minutes while walking to the office and sneak in a few more at lunch.
The most poignant part of Jerry's story came when he finally admitted he was an atheist after flirting with the idea for some time. He realized he'd never see his father, grandfather, and cousin again. He describes the range of emotions he went through, from anger to anguish and finally, acceptance - even though he knew what repurcussions this would have within his family and his community. The part where he realizes he'll never see his father again was particularly heart wrenching because I went through a nearly identical scene when I lost my dad. Realizing I was an atheist and saying goodbye forever was one of the most difficult moments of my life and I was tearing up as Jerry relived his experience for us.
Jerry's detailed writing helps put the reader/listener right into the story. His vivid descriptions put you right in the middle of everything, from the extravagant churches to his office in city hall. It doesn't matter if you're atheist or religious, questioning what you believe or secure with where you stand - this is a great story and a wonderfully written book. Five stars.
Absolutely. Listening to his life story was like living through it. Jerry DeWitt's wonderful voice and soft Louisiana accent is great to listen to. Though the ride through his life is emotional, and at times I cried like a child, still I'd be willing to go for that ride again.
The final goodbyes to deceased loved ones, and where he finally recognized the sacrifices his wife made to allow him to do what he felt "called" to do.
I was laughing at some parts, but absolutely sobbing at others. It was a true emotional roller-coaster ride in parts of the book.
I highly, highly recommend the audio version of his book. The fact that it was the author who read the book lent an emotionality that would not have been so strong otherwise. And believe me, that emotionality is strong.
The descriptions were fantastic. I could see and smell the old wood and dated, well-worn and impoverished interiors of many of the homes, hotels and churches that he visited during his ministry. I felt his hunger when they had no money for food. I felt his panic before he went on a plane back to a hostile church. When his heart sunk at what he encountered, mine did as well, right along with each of his descriptions.
It is obvious that this man, Jerry DeWitt, loved humanity and wanted to do everything in his power for others. That he is still doing so and still cares so much, is wonderful testament to his spirit and resiliency.
I'm a son, brother, husband and father. I design software and consider myself a free-thinker.
Seek The Truth
When Jerry was sitting on the couch and was told to leave his wife and son to follow the church and he had the realization of how the bible should be studied. The bible should be studied, its history, its authors, it characters. I get tired of being told, "because the bible says so". So!
This is my first review. I have listened to several of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, the Bible and many others on audible seeking to solidify my own journey to finding the truth. I too was raised in the Christian Pentecostal world, as an adult looking back on my childhood, I felt tortured, lied to and rob of peace-of-mind. You're going to burn in hell!
In today's world with the unlimited access of information there is no reason that the truth about religion and all that goes with it cannot be dismissed. The god of life after death is the only god we haven't dismissed....but we will.
This is a great book that demonstrates that when you seek the truth that we all will come to the same conclusion. There is no god. Many people, good people, get caught in the god delusion but never question what they believe and therefore will never be free to really understand and enjoy life.
This is a great book for the believer and non-believer. If you are on the fence about what you believe, if what you reason and what you were taught about a religious beliefs never seem to line up, read this book!
A powerful story of recovery from religious indoctrination, and so much more. Jerry tells it like it was and is. For those of us indoctrinated into religion as children, challenging the faith often (usually) leads to painful choices within families and communities. Jerry chose reason and critical thinking over superstition and dogma. More importantly, his work is helping many others to do the same. What I most admire is Jerry's commitment to using his talents for interpersonal communication and motivation to help others see the light of reason. With this book and his many personal appearances, Jerry has shouldered an important role as a leading secular humanist voice. I recommend this book without reservation. Well done, sir!
122 titles and counting i really should review more!
A very moving story. You can hear the pain in his voice. its so sad that people are still living in the dark ages and mistreat others if we don't believe the same thing as them.
Jerry's wife. She was portrayed as immeasurably patient as Jerry struggled to make rational decisions.
The story was captivating all the way through. What really bothered was Jerry blamed his failed marriage on Atheism. This couldn't more false. While the book is intended to document his path toward Atheism over many years, he also did a great job documenting his selfishness and resistance to making rational decisions.
I had to wait some time before writing this review as I cannot express how disappointed I was with the main character. As a literary work, it did it's job by emotionally investing me into the main characters' life.
First, prospective readers should be advised that this book is anything but self-analytical or polemical. It is, as its dust jacket suggests, a straight-up memoir, but unlike the best memoirs, this one lacks genuine introspection or cultural context. In other words, if readers hope to encounter a hard-edged story of the journey from faith to atheism, they are likely to be disappointed.
This is a surprisingly small-bore, sometimes dull, account of the life of a Southern Pentecostal preacher who vacillates and dithers about his beliefs throughout his life. It goes into great detail about his constant movement within the Pentecostal world as he tries to find "the correct doctrine" to inform his preaching so that he can lead the ultimate "revival."
The book ends with DeWitt feeling solid in his atheism, and perhaps that will stick. But honestly, he wavers and vacillates and dithers so often throughout his life, bouncing from one crazy cult to another insignificant, poorly paying country church, to high-powered jobs at city hall to ... let's just say the guy has a really, really hard time settling down, and many of his choices seem, on the surface, to be rather stupid. Given all that, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to learn -- since it happens so often in the story -- that he has, once again, taken up the mantle of preaching and his newfound atheism didn't really stick.
And pity his poor wife, Kelly. He drags her and their small son through bad decision after bad decision, yanking them from poverty to relative comfort and back again, usually excusing himself with his "need" to preach. The fact is, DeWitt appears to bring much of the family's misfortune down upon them, because he is so conflicted about his beliefs and his "purpose" in life.
It's charming at first, but in time DeWitt's backwoods diction and pronunciation begin to grate. PENNY-costals ... umble (for humble) ... futher (for further) and on and on. He comes off as highly uneducated, which he is.
As a study in the weird world of PENNY-costalism, "Hope After Faith" is pretty interesting. Who knew these wildly judgmental people were constantly skirmishing among themselves about "correct doctrine"? DeWitt's attraction to it all, right up until his accidental exposure as a new atheist, frankly doesn't speak well of his own capacity for judgment. Then again, maybe it's simply the story of the power of early indoctrination.
The book is self-indulgent, in that DeWitt feels free to describe the delicious chicken-fried steak he had at Brother Bobo's house and the wood paneling at every country church. Yet there is surprisingly little insight or even narrative about his transformation of belief, which is given pretty short shrift.
Most people probably pick up this book hoping for more of the latter, and they will be surprised by the extent of the former.
It isn't a bad book, if you're looking for a minutely detailed, see-saw story of an uneducated Southern pastor and an exploration of the bizarre beliefs and practices of Bible-thumping backwoods Christians. But it falls woefully short if you are hoping to gain a deeper understanding of why and how believers come to unbelief.
This is by far one of my favorite books I've listened to on Audible.
I've heard of another book with a similar premise: Dan Barker's "Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists". I haven't read that one, so I can't say how similar it is. I would suspect that it's very different, as these are effectively autobiographies. Both books are probably quite unique.
I was constantly finding myself being moved by this book, despite the fact that I can't truly relate to many of the experiences Jerry DeWitt describes. As someone who considered himself an atheist as far back as elementary school and who didn't grow up in a fundamentalist environment, some of the situations the author found himself in were utterly unfamiliar to me. But they're related in such a way that I felt like I understood at least some of what he was feeling at the time, and having the author himself reading the text only served to help with that.
It usually happens that the author is not the ideal choice to read his own work for the audiobook format. This is an exception. Jerry DeWitt did a fantastic job of narrating and very effectively used his voice to express the reflection, humor and/or heartbreak inherent in each chapter and scene. If the synopsis appeals to you at all, please buy this book.
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