Bible Belt Atheist

Sep 25, 2015

John McCusker, The Times-Picayune

By Jason Cohn and Camille Servanschreiber

Growing up in Los Angeles and Paris, we both were raised secular and embraced atheism early and easily. It’s not that we didn’t ponder life’s mysteries; it’s just that after we reasoned away our religious questions, we stopped worrying about them and moved on. When we learned about the former pastor Jerry DeWitt’s struggles with being an “outed” atheist in rural Louisiana, we realized for the first time just how difficult being an atheist can be in some communities, where religion is woven deeply into the social fabric.

This Op­Doc video shares those challenges, for Mr. DeWitt as he grapples with his changing social status, and for his community as it struggles to accommodate the idea of secular morality. This difficult conversation is becoming increasingly common in this country: As one Pew Research Center study showed, the percentage of American Christians is on the decline, from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014, and the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, including atheists, is steadily growing (from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent in that same time).


Watch the video by clicking the name of the source below.

2 comments on “Bible Belt Atheist

  • Using an analogy of gay lib: I was the first out person in western Canada. I got about 350 abusive calls and 3 death threats a day from Christians. As more and more people came out, this has now dropped off to 0.

    The abuse is spread thinner and the need to abuse is not so urgent.



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  • I guess all change needs a pioneer who takes the flack so others have an easier ride. When it works we look back and wonder why there was ever an issue. My initial reaction to previous articles on Jerry such as ‘fair enough, quit as a preacher and get a proper job like the rest of us!” Misses the point of how he has had to deal with abuse since coming out. Your analogy has made me rethink a bit. I’m emotionally weak enough to feel crushed when I find out a couple of people mildly dislike me. To be hated on a national and even international basis must be terrible.

    A very irritating friend of mine would twist your comment to point out that only a minority of Christians phoned you and less than 1% of those threatened your life, thus showing what a peaceful and tolerant religion it is! He would also praise your ‘Christ-like’ self sacrifice for sake of others.
    So to put things right – to me it is a brave and human response to injustice of the sort I suspect I’m not capable, but for which I’m grateful that there are others prepared to do it.

    I’m off to leave an abusive message on my friend’s answerphone and to tinker with the settings on my iPad to stop it capitalising the word ‘Christians’.



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