8/31/2012—Last Sunday, in the New York Times Magazine, Robert Worth published a story about “a preacher named Jerry DeWitt.” DeWitt lost his faith and no longer believed in God. He met Richard Dawkins. He became a kind of hero to the new atheistic movement. He joined the Clergy Project, which is an anonymous Web site for preachers, current and former, who no longer believe.
The point of the story is the growth of the atheist and religiously nonaffiliated movement. But, on the other hand, the story is also about the cost of coming out as an atheist in the heartland.
Actually, the impact of the story is somewhat different from what the author perhaps intended. When DeWitt and the reporter attend church in the hometown that has reportedly treated DeWitt so badly, the Christians seem really nice and not at all violent or vindictive. And it is DeWitt who comes off as at least a little unbalanced. He sort of stumbled into preaching and then sort of stumbled into preaching against God and religion. And without any real basis shown in the article, DeWitt has now become a crusader against religion in general: “religion is a speed bump in the progress of the human race.”
But what is most surprising about the article is the absence of any engagement with the question of what the God symbol might represent and what might be the truth of that. The God concept that DeWitt embraces is a fully being-like God who does tricks. Having decided that this God does not exist, DeWitt does not ask what other kind of God concept might be possible. Nor does he explain what the lack of God means in terms of the nature of reality. Presumably DeWitt has embraced some form of materialism, but has DeWitt thought that through?
It’s all just naïve self-congratulation, on all sides. Not much spiritual seeking going on.