261: Hope After Faith by Jerry DeWitt

by Gerard


261.21092: DeWitt, Jerry. Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2012. 266 pp. ISBN 978-0-306-82224-7.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 260: Christian organizations, social work, and worship
  • 261: Social theology and interreligious relations and attitudes
  • 261.2: Christianity and other systems of belief
  • 261.21: Christianity and irreligion
  • +092: Biography

Jerry DeWitt was a man of faith. The “was” is critical part in this book. For 25 years, he spent his life preaching, pastoring, and ministering to congregations in Louisiana and Iowa. Raised in the Pentecostal church, he grew up believing that he was destined to become one of the great pastors he’d seen on television. He spent his youth connecting with his religion and the Bible so that he could become such a preacher. And for a while, that worked. Until, one day, it all came crashing down. DeWitt’s Hope After Faith is a hard look at what happens to a person who decides that faith isn’t the answer for him.

While DeWitt’s early ministries were by no means blessed—he spent many seasons working menial jobs just to pay the bills—he saw it all as a step to a higher calling. But each person he met on his journey left him disappointed. From the revival preachers who seemed to want just a little too much money to the preachers who seemed to build churches around themselves and not Jesus, he found that he could not only reconcile his faith with the faith of others, but he also could not reconcile his faith against all the damaged lives he encountered along the way. One day, after a quarter-century of preaching, he realized that he had no answer for a woman whose brother had been seriously injured. That day, his faith failed him and he became an atheist.

DeWitt’s personal philosophy is one that espouses morality without theology, basically a secular humanism. On his journey, unfortunately, he loses his job, his house, and his family. He actually credits his eventual conversion to atheism to both his experiences and the writings of Christopher Hitchens, Dan Barker, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. His journey is sad and sometimes delusional, but DeWitt’s memoir is intensely genuine. Usually spiritual crises strengthen one’s faith, but is this case, they changed it entirely. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to read this one over and over, it was intriguing to read about one man’s journey with such raw, tragic, but ultimately rewarding experiences.