Sidebar: Pastor’s loss of faith started with loss of hell

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(RNS) Jerry DeWitt’s transition from true believer to total skeptic took 25 years. It began, he said, with the idea of hell. How could it be, as he had been taught and preached, that a loving God would damn most people to eternal fire? By Kimberly Winston.


    When I read this stuff I wonder what kind of theology were they studying. Didn’t they ever hear of Rene Girard, Raymund Schwager, or Gil Baillie? So sad to see what fundamentalism can do to someone.

  • coltakashi

    Dewitt’s concern about the injustice of eternal hell for those not “Christian” could have been addressed without abandoning faith in God if he had considered Mormonism, which teaches that all good people will live in a degree of heaven that is far beyond their own conceptions, and that even those people who commit heinous offenses against others will suffer in hell only as long as is just, and will finally be resurrected to a lower degree of God’s light where, having been redeemed through their own suffering, they will serve God in some capacity.

    For Mormons, those who lived without an opportunity to hear the gospel of Christ will be given an opportunity between death and the resurrection to receive that message in its purity and accept it. The Muslim ancestors of a convert to Christianity will not be condemned to hell merely because their nation did not allow entry to Christian missionaries.

    Mormonism also addresses many of the significant challenges to religious belief, such as the problem of pain and the problem of evil. It addresses the big question, Why did God create us?

    The fact that Mormons with more education tend to be more dedicated to their faith is a direct result of the ways in which Mormonism provides satisfactory answers to these persistent quandaries. Before dedicating yourself to atheism, you owe it to yourself to check out

  • xpalmer

    In response to coltakashi: I used to be a Mormon. I’m now much happier as an atheist. But now for my credentials: I was a full-time missionary, elders quorum president (leader of men’s ministry), and gospel doctrine teacher (higher-level Sunday school).

    I recently did a whole 1.5 hour podcast on Mormon doctrine/theology/mythology. Listen here: It discusses all this stuff and more.

    Mormons do believe in a very different “Hell” as compared to common American Christianity. In Mormon mythology, hell is a state of punishment that makes all those who do not have a covenant relationship with Christ suffer even as Christ suffered until they have paid the full price that justice demands. And then they are released from hell and saved in a lesser form of heaven. It is not eternal hell, unless one becomes a “Son of Perdition” by denying the Holy Ghost. But I’m not going into what that means to Mormons. Suffice it to say that pretty much everyone will get saved in some form of heaven according to the mythology. So there goes the problem of eternal hell.

    Also, interestingly, Mormons do not have the Problem of Evil that much of Christianity suffers from. Mormons do not believe that God created the “intelligence” that is the deep, thinking, choosing part of you. It is “co-eternal” with God. God’s role is to provide a path for the intelligence to progress as much as it chooses to, even up to becoming like God is in a best case. Because God did not create the choosing thing, its bad choices are its own fault. And there goes the problem of Evil. Sprinkle in some “This life is the time to learn patience” and “This life is for but a moment” and there goes the problem of natural disasters.

    Finally, Mormons believe that all whether in this life or the next will have some good opportunity to accept the Mormon version of Christianity. Note that Mormons believe that the immediate next life will not be the final Heaven/Hell situation, but rather it will be a spirit world (right here) where people remain free believe and preach and think and observe as they desire. All people will thus have the opportunity to feel the Holy Ghost leading them to become Mormons in this life or the next. Accordingly each person has the free will to accept or reject that feeling. Regardless, all can still be judged (eventually at the resurrection) on how well they did live this life according to what their conscience said was right and wrong. So there goes the problem of the “honorable heathen.”

    All that being said, notice (1) that all these theological problems had been begging for solutions for centuries before Mormonism arose. Joseph Smith provided some simple and elegant solutions. (2) Every scientifically verifiable myth perpetuated by Mormonism has been shown to be false. E.g. Book of Abraham, Native American DNA, Book of Mormon technology and fauna, and many more. (3) All the ethical problems that post-dated Mormonism’s founding, e.g., equal treatment of women, blacks, and homosexuals remained or remain serious ethical failures of Mormonism long after its founding. (4) Their myths, not already shot down by good evidence, are no more verifiable than any other similar myths of other religions. (5) Mormons are not happier than others generally, though the culture does teach niceness very well, sometimes to a fault. (7) The ever-present guilt of frequent failure to live up to exacting standards is a common problem for Mormons. (6) Loosing my faith in Mormonism was the best event that has ever happened to me in my life. The overflowing of clarity, honesty, and love for my fellow humans is astounding. Folks in the Clergy Project, especially those who have come out of the closet know exactly what I’m talking about. For folks here who have not yet untangled the web of psychological knots that is leaving a serious religious paradigm, I’m not going to try to explain here how amazing that feels.

    Mormonism is evolving well to keep relevant like every other growing religion. Those that don’t evolve die. Mormons are well organized and well funded. They require amazing amounts of time and money from the adherents. They demand serious dedication. Some people respond well to that. Others become overburdened, despondent, and depressed and feel like failures even when they accomplish much. Again, listen to my podcast on the subject:

  • Brut

    It is sad to see that people allow the faults within organized religion to determine their faith.

    My advice: Read the old and new testament again and then the Qur’an with a mind and heart swept clean from religious dogma and you will find simple and accepting answers to all of your questions that the Religious Organizations lied to you about. God is real, you don’t need anything but to look out the window and feel your heart beating to realize it. All the simple things and big ones, there’s no way it came about by chance in such perfect order and harmony. That’s the love of God (Yahweh, Jehovah), allowing us to experience a human life and praise him for all his glory. He is worthy of praise and only him alone. The bible says that the Truth will set you free. The only way to the truth is to cancel out religious organizations and their false teachings that lead people astray and stick to God himself and read his holy books.

    When I was immersed in religion, yeah, I was agnostic, then atheist, because their teachings lead you to believe things that aren’t true and you question what you believe. When I separated myself from religion and read for myself, I understood the truth and all the lies that they tell.

  • SBKinsella

    I use to be a mormon as well and a RM. Smith was a fraud who KNEW he has no “gift” to translate and has been proven to be incorrect on his “translation” of the book of abraham, as well as plagerizing from the KJV of the NT. “Educated” mormons are NO better off then any other faith and that is one of the most ignorant comments from a TBM I have ever heard! Religion is man made and a poison on humanity! Mormonism would be the LAST of the brainwashed myth faiths I would let anyone I know join and would be the first to show them Smiths BS is BS!

    Mormonism is a business and IF you want to be with “god” you must pay 10% of your wage to go to the temple. No tiths paid, no recommend, no admittance to the temple which means no endowments hence no being with “god”. It also destroys families as well since they teach your spouse MUST be a member IF the member wants to go to the celestrial “kingdom” and be “sealed for all time and eternity”, I have seen more then enough families devorce over this issue in split religion families, I have been part of this as a missionary and as a counselor in the Elders Q presidency and now that Im no longer brainwashed I feel sick even thinking on it!

    MORE LDS members leave then join the church, more so in their 1st yr as they come across doctrines that they are not brainwashed into as kids and cannot accept the twisted answers the church gives for them. A lot of LDS youth leave the church as soon as they can or go inactive for life. Mormonism teaches one thing and does another. It is a sick and twisted faith and has NOTHING to do with the man myth Jesus BUT to do with Smith who himself states, that he did more for mankind then even jesus himself did. MOST LDS talks are based around Smith and his teachings and less on what “jesus” taught.
    Get out of here with your mormon bull bunk! None of us atheists want to hear from you or your faith as its one of the WORST out there! Took me 8 months of fighting and threats to get my name removed from lds records and harassment afterwards!

  • SBKinsella

    fathercarldiederichs – Most likely the same theology as yourself. A man made one that is full of discrepancies, cannot agree with accounts from authors who were “supposedly” eye witnesses, studied a book which has NO other historical accounts to back it up. Most likely had to question why the Torah and Christian Olt Testament do not match up in accounts (Christians changed the OT to fit their dogmas).

    Take into account that when you read about the “life ministries” of jesus the contradict taught by Saul of Tarsus, whom also faught with James and Peter on doctrines. I use to have issues with “Paul” as a christian as he often contradicted the synoptic gospels. Saul was a Roman “jew” and had NO clue of Judaic ways and preverted a militant jewish sects beliefs and came out with Paulism aka Christianity.

    Now I know there are MANY clergy out there still teaching this horse crap because they either are scared of losing their jobs and finding a new way of supporting their families OR they are conartists who openly are robbing their members and are full of deceit. Once I got my mind out of the brainwashed dogma of god, it was SOOO easy to see where religion is a man made myth and concept and how the Jewish/Islamic and Christian faiths are 100% man made myths! Add in that science has proven religion wrong on so many cases where “god said it was so” (earth flat, earth center of universe, no gravity and so on). Either your a brainwashed minister who has never really read the bible with an objective view or your a conartist who is robbing his “flock”.

  • Wassa.

    SBKinsella, where do you get your information from…the garbage dump? “Supposedly eye witnesses? There were over 500 of them. A book with no historical accounts to back it up? How about hundreds of prophesies about the life of Jesus, to say nothing of the archeological proofs. Torah IS part of the O.T…show me where they don’t match up.
    And that’s just in your first paragraph. If you’re going to criticise Christianity, at least get your facts right. There is no compromise with Jesus Christ.

  • Stephen de Bruyn

    Hi, I think that Mr De Witt might appreciate what the bible really says about hell. You could do your own Bible study using the word hell, and you might be suprised that it does not describe that hell burns for eternity, but rather that the wicked will be ‘ashes’ and they will be ‘burned up’. God is love and cares about children and sparrows etc, and so hell is not meant for PEOPLE, but ‘prepared for the devil and his angels’. I find comfort in the knowledge that child-molesters and hitlers etc will finally get their punishment that justice deserves, and that those that choose to be selfish and stealing, cheating etc be happier NOT being in heaven, and there is no reason to believe that such people will be tormented, but rather as john 3:16 says ‘whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH’. The wages of sin is ‘perish’, not burn and burn and burn. thank God for that! God will have ‘ be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth’, but sadly in 1 Cor 6 is a list of those that will not be in heaven, by their own choice, and a promise that some of these same sinners were ‘washed’ and became part of the church.
    and a new film coming out called Hell and Mr Fudge,
    or his book, Hell – A final word.
    I hope you can rediscover not just the God of love who in LOVE destroys sin (instead of tolerating it for eons), but in LOVE saves sinners from Sin, and that His Word is the way to not just eternal life, but to a relationship with the God who loves you, for ever.

  • spiritdragon

    All the deluded theists need to get off the poor guy’s back already. He’s been through enough of that faith crap and is obviously over it- he’s shed the veil and can see- he’s not going back into the dark. Instead of pushing your own brand of myths on him, maybe you should try exploring a bit of sanity and reason yourself. It’s better for you, and society and the world at large.