Jerry DeWitt grew up in Deridder, Louisiana, a dedicated Pentecostal, even feeling called to be a Pentecostal minister. He married young and began this journey to the clergy. He read his Bible, he prayed, he preached. Except there were always questions. It took twenty-five years and much introspection and questioning but eventually, Jerry DeWitt not only left the ministry, but acknowledged he is an atheist. Hope After Faith details DeWitt’s winding path from belief to the ministry to atheism.

I listened to the audiobook of Hope After Faith, narrated by DeWitt himself. His southern drawl fits the narration perfectly. Growing up in the south, with family in rural areas, I was easily able to identify with the small town life he describes. I’ve seen the concrete squares serving as the country Pentecostal church, so it was easy for me to visualize much of what he talked about.

DeWitt’s story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect. I anticipated that the “after faith” part of the story would be the bulk of the book. But it wasn’t. Instead it was more about the twenty-five years that led to his loss of faith. Thinking back on it, I realize that this slow process exposed the fractures and fissures and justifications that many people who leave faith go through.

The book is matter of fact and straightforward, not vitriolic or firebrand in its atheism. But one part really struck me. DeWitt recounts his trepidation of a visit to Wal Mart after he had resigned his pastorship and left the church and come out as an atheist. He was afraid that he would be treated differently by people he had long been close to. And he was. Running into a friend in Wal Mart, DeWitt found this “friend” who normally would have chatted with him for several minutes would barely acknowledge him. That made me angry, made me think “well, that’s HIS problem, not Jerry’s.”

On a fluke, I found DeWitt’s contact information and sent him an email telling him about reading his book and my reaction to it. We eventually ended up talking for over an hour as he drove through the Arkansas hills. I still have all that information saved, and I greatly appreciate Jerry’s willingness to chat about his experiences. However, Jerry and I have not been able to connect yet on the notes to my draft of the conversation, so I don’t want to post it until I can confirm I have accurate details from our conversation.  Hopefully I’ll be able to add that at some point soon.

But, if you’re a person who has ever delved deeply into why you believe what you do, and found that perhaps there aren’t clearcut answers, Hope After Faith is worth a read (or listen).