The Outcast Of Beauregard Parish

When a rabbi decides that she or he is a nontheist there is a warm, accepting professional home.  When the same thing happens to a preacher – and most especially a Pentecostal preacher – well, the option to stay in the career track are considerably reduced (eliminated).

Jerry DeWitt is a brave ex-preacher who came out as an atheist in Louisiana.  His story is the subject of a documentary that is in the works and you can be a part of making it happen.  The filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project about this fascinating man:

Jerry DeWitt had been preaching in and around Beauregard Parish, Louisiana since he was 17 years old. Full of warmth and gifted with electric Pentecostal oratory, he was a popular figure around town. He even planned to run for mayor. But when his 85-year old aunt discovered he was an atheist, the news spread quickly. Within a year he had lost his job, the bank had foreclosed on his house and his wife had left him.

But Jerry’s story only begins there. Thrust into the limelight by a New York Times profile, he unexpectedly finds himself at the center of a growing but dis-unified secular movement. He quickly learns to navigate the intricate politics of organized atheism and sets an audacious goal: to create a sustainable human-centered ministry in the heart of the Bible Belt. It may be an idea whose time has come. But can it happen in time to save his home and his family?

Anyone involved in Secular Humanistic Judaism should be excited by the idea of a “human-centered ministry.”  And after hearing him speak – with his Pentecostal cadences intact – I think he can pull this off.

The Kickstarter campaign has only 26 days to go and many thousands of dollars left to raise.  The film and Mr. DeWitt’s efforts could be an incredible shot in the arm for secular humanism.  Please consider participating!  You can find all the details at this link.

De Botton’s Religion For Atheists – A Review

Most humanists and other non-theists share a world view in most respects.  Overblown as it is, the main bone of contention in this community seems to be about how much respect – if any – should be shown for religion’s role in history and society.

Alain de Botton is one of those atheists who holds religious culture in high regard.  He has just written a book called Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion in which he suggests that non-believers have most of the same basic human needs as believers and should look to religion’s inventions for models of how to meet those needs.  It is a fascinating proposition and one to which I obviously subscribe. Continue reading

Warning! This Religion Will Require A God Upgrade!

Here’s a book review I’ve been working on.  The post is a little longer than usual….

Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold has written a book called “The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism’s 5,000-Year-Old Tradition.”  Korngold, who is also known as  “The Adventure Rabbi,” puts forth a theology of a non-interventionist God who is basically just an experience, and certainly not a being of any kind.  In this she is typical of many of the liberal rabbis whom I know.  They do not believe in a theistic deity, but they still claim a relationship with God.  Ask them what they mean and they give non-sensical answers such as this one in the book: Continue reading

Good Pointers For Advancing The Non-Theistic Message

I’m not the type to give tips to my fellow non-theists and secular humanists.  We all share about 99% of our intellectual DNA even if our styles are different.  So while I wouldn’t have written something like it, I really want to recommend Phil Zuckerman’s post in (GASP!) the Huffington Post about the mistakes that atheists make.

The wise professor enumerates them, adding some good suggestions; they are pointers that I will definitely keep in mind (and they fit my approach): Continue reading

Not Quite Wrestling With God

Last night I participated in a program for a local Reform temple’s youth group called “Sumo Wrestling with God.”  I will alway have a fondness for this congregation because I grew up there.  I was, nonetheless, a little flabbergasted that they invited me to sit on the panel.  I was also greatly impressed.

In the tradition of all gargantuan suburban Reform temples worthy of the name, this one boasts four or five rabbis.  Three of them were there. Continue reading