In a special episode of the God Discussion “Freethought Fridays and Variety Show” on January 25, a diverse and star-studded panel of guests will join us for a lively discussion about The Clergy Project. We’re featuring those who left the clergy – to become atheists or non-traditional theists – and a popular evangelist who returned to the faith after running away from God. This episode is being filmed as part of a documentary movie. Details follow the promo video and show notes below.
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Show Time: Friday night, January 25, 2013, 6 Pacific / 7 Mountain / 8 Central / 9 Eastern / GMT=Saturday, January 26 @ 2 AM
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The Clergy Project.
The Clergy Project has over 400 members. Launched on March 21, 2011, it is a confidential online community for active and former clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs. As we learned in a previous interview with Jerry DeWitt and Dr. Daniel Dennett, religious leaders who start questioning or leave the faith often face difficulties with their families and communities. Former pastors have trouble finding employment and adjusting to life outside of the church. Often, members of “the Body of Christ” suddenly shun these former faith leaders, even though the former clergy haven given years of sacrifice and selfless service to members of the faith community.
Co-host Al Stefanelli tells us that two producers and directors of several well-known documentaries, including Pizza! The Movie, and Meridian International Center film that featured with both Presidents Bush, Henry Kissinger, Condoleeza Rice, Tom Ridge, Christine LaGarde, and other political luminaries, are collaborating in the making of a feature-length documentary film about The Clergy Project and its members. This film will be featuring Daniel Dennett, Linda LaScola, Dan Barker, Dr. Darrel Ray of Recovering from Religion, Clergy Project members Teresa MacBain and Mike Aus, as well as our co-host Al, who is a member of The Clergy Project and serves on its board of directors.
One of Al’s parts in the film will include him co-hosting The God Discussion Show. The film crew will set up cameras at Al’s studio to film Friday’s show, and for this event, our show will not only be relevant to the topic of the documentary, but our guests will include former and current clergy who will speak to the topics of faith, doubt and the clergy. You're not going to want to miss the show and may want to call in to ask our popular guests questions or to share your experiences. We’ll keep everyone updated as to when the documentary is to be released.
- Al Stefanelli is retired author, writer, journalist and civil rights activist. He serves on the Board of Directors for The Clergy Project, and is the former Georgia State Director for American Atheists, Inc. He is the author of Free Thoughts – A Collection Of Essays By An American Atheist and A Voice Of Reason In An Unreasonable World – The Rise Of Atheism On Planet Earth. Al is also a former Ordained Southern Baptist Pastor, having served two churches and as pulpit supply for three counties.
- Dr. Darrel Ray is the author of the best-selling book The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture and two books on organizational psychology. His book, Sex and God: How religion distorts sexuality, was released Jan. 24, 2012. Darrel was instrumental in the formation of The Clergy Project and is the Founder and Chairman of Recovering From Religion, a practical support for people considering a life outside of religious and supernatural belief. A psychologist, Dr. Ray has also founded The Secular Therapist Project, which helps people find a secular therapist who will only use secular methods and not invoke prayer or tell patients to go back to church. Darrel Ray has been a psychologist for over 30 years, practicing counseling and clinical psychology for 10 years before moving into organizational psychology and consulting. He has been a student of religion most of his life and holds a MA degree in religion as well as a BA in Sociology/Anthropology and a Doctorate in psychology. Ray joined the Quaker church and later he attended the Presbyterian church. From 1969 to 1984, he taught Sunday school, preached, and was a tenor soloist in several church choirs. He left religion in the mid-1980s.
- Jerry DeWitt began to question his Pentecostal faith one night in 2011, when a member of his flock called seeking prayer for her brother who had been in a serious accident. As DeWitt searched for the right words to console her, he found that the faith which had once formed the cornerstone of his life crumbled to dust. Jerry DeWitt's ministry began when he was 17. After 25 years of preaching, including pastorship of two fundamentalist congregations, he became an atheist, losing his wife, job, and nearly everything he had known. DeWitt is the author of Hope after Faith, which tells the story of his life passage from a pastor with a deep Christian faith to a committed and considered atheism driven by humanism, a profound moral dimension, and the happiness and self-confidence obtained by living free of fear. Jerry is a member of The Clergy Project and served as Executive Director of Recovering From Religion.
- Jayson X graduated from Geneseo State College in 1992 with a B.A. in English and went to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, that fall, with the intent to become an Eastern Orthodox priest. “The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian sect after the Roman Catholic Church, and the two denominations are about 99% the same doctrinally,” he writes in an article published by The World Union of Deists, for which he serves as a spokesperson. JaysonX became the pastor of a mid-sized parish, but left after he kept thinking that “all of us would be better off if we had a more rational religion—one that was better defined, had far fewer distracting traditions, and strongly focused on love for God through love of all of God's creatures, especially human beings.” Jayson left the ministry and discovered Deism. His “conversion” to reason, not superstition, cost him many friends and family members, his career as a priest, and produced much agonizing soul-searching. To this day, he must remain anonymous because of religious bias that could threaten his employment. (NOTE: Our promotional video mistakenly states that JaysonX was a member of the Greek Orthodox faith — it should have read the Eastern Orthodox faith.)
- James R. Brayshaw spent years studying, teaching, and writing about the religion he was raised to trust and believe. James’ passion for research and quest to understand why we believe what we believe led to his revelation about the non-existence of a cosmic Satan and he has since become an authority on the subject. James journeyed through Pentecostal Christianity where, after serving as a leader for 11 years, he was asked to leave for questioning the status quo of traditional teaching. This once charismatic Christian has found freedom from Christianity's most notorious demon by taking the traditional teachings of religion to the grindstone of sound research. In four outstanding research books revieweed on his website, Imagine No Satan, James presents the concept that Satan is not a creation of God but is a fabrication of man. His work shows how history and the Bible support this view. Not only is James a prolific author, but he hosts the Imagine No Satan program on Blog Talk Radio and works tirelessly “to extinguish the fire of hell and Satan with the tenacity needed to fight a three alarm blaze.”
Rev. Bill Keller is the president of Bill Keller Ministries, which owns Liveprayer.com, “the first global prayer meeting.” LivePrayer.com is an internet ministry that has over 2.4 million subscribers worldwide. He also created the “Vote for Jesus” campaign for the November 2012 American presidential election because “if God allowed the upcoming election for President to be between President Obama and Mitt Romney, it would truly be Satan flipping a two-headed coin with his head on both sides!” Over 2 million Christians committed to vote for Jesus, creating some complaints that he was responsible for President Obama's re-election.
Bill was raised in the United Methodist Church and asked Jesus Christ into his heart at age 12, feeling a call of God into the ministry at a young age. But when he attended Ohio State, he started a successful small business that resulted in his “running from God” for 11 years. He says “God got his attention” again in 1989 when he became involved in insider trading of the stock market, was convicted, lost everything, and spent the next 2 1/2 years in federal prison. Shortly after going into prison, Bill rededicated his life to the Lord, received an undergraduate degree in biblical studies from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and was disciple by two charismatic couples. Upon his release in August of 1992, Bill went into full time ministry, holding evangelistic meetings in churches all over the country. Bill Keller Ministries was incorporated in 1993 and in addition to his Live Prayer internet devotionals, the LivePrayer Television Program was launched in 2003, airing on secular television stations.
Time permitting, during the show we will have some surprise "ethics and morality" questions for our guests to see the levels of agreement or disagreement, and you'll be able to chime in on our live chat. We welcome calls during the live broadcast. If you miss the live show, archives are available at the bottom of this and every page of GodDiscussion.com.