Unfollow & The Gospel of Doubt

How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs.

As a non religious person, I’m always interested in learning what faith means to believers. Discovering the amount of hate speech justified by religion for the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, was a shock to me.

Thanks to the headline I kept reading the journey of Megan Phelps-Roper, from her 23 y.o. to 26 y.o., at ease with new technology and social media, and what led her to leave her community, family and the church founded by her grandfather in 1955.

She has since talked at TEDNYC in Feb 2017. Go Megan!

Maslow’s pyramid of need and brand pyramid tell us that people (consumers)’s values and core beliefs are stable and don’t change very often.



Megan’s story reminded me of Jimmy Carter’s courageous choice “Losing my religion for equalitywhich he confirmed in his 2015 TED Talk

“I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”

These 2 stories are extremely similar and show that when facing injustice, it’s never too late for people to listen to their heart and take ownership of their mind.

In a very personal tone, Casey Gerald shares his personal experience of losing faith in favour of humble “gospel of doubt”: he was 12 year old, it was at midnight on 31st Dec 1999  (aka Y2K) when the saviour did not come.

“It struck me that it would have been strange anyway, for Jesus to come back again and again based on the different time zones.”

And this made me feel even more ridiculous — hurt, really. But there on that night, I did not stop believing. I just believed a new thing: that it was possible not to believe.

His personal journey, leading him to Yale, being an intern at Lehman Brothers in 2008 (yes it happens to people), a young staffer in Washington DC, Harvard Business School and founding MBAs Across America is an extraordinary one. His TED talk is highly recommended. I couldn’t help remember philosophy classes with Descartes’ famous “Dubito, Ergo Cogito Ergo Sum


To understand Megan’s story, here’s some background on the Westboro church founded by her grandfather Fred: he preached a harsh Calvinist doctrine in a resounding Southern drawl, believed that all people were born depraved, and that only a tiny elect who repented would be saved from Hell. A literalist, he believed that contemporary Christianity, with its emphasis on God’s love, preached a perverted version of the Bible. He denounced other Christians so vehemently that when Megan was young she thought “Christian” was another word for evil. Phelps believed that God hated unrepentant sinners, that God hated the politicians who were allowing the United States to descend into a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. He hated the celebrities who glorified fornication. He believed that 9/11 was God’s punishment for America’s embrace of homosexuality, but that, instead of repenting, Americans had drowned this warning in a flood of patriotism. He also believed that Obama was the Antichrist, and that his Presidency signalled the beginning of the Apocalypse.

Megan’s decision to leave started with changes in the church instated by her mother’s brother Sam that reduced her mother’s role to a caretaker and when an all-male group of nine elders took control of church affairs. Previously, decisions at Westboro had been hashed out in church meetings, where consensus was required before moving forward. But the elders met separately before bringing their decisions to the rest of the group. The church became more secretive, as members were reluctant to discuss important issues for fear of appearing to go behind the elders’ backs. Women had always been among the most public and influential members of the church. Westboro members drew on stories of powerful women in the Bible, like Deborah, a prophet and judge of Israel. But now the emphasis shifted to passages about women submitting to their husbands.

“It suddenly sucked to be a woman,” Phelps-Roper said. “It was, like, I would need to get permission from Dad to talk to anybody else.”

Westboro women had long been forbidden to cut their hair, and had restrictions on other aspects of their appearance. But now the elders required more severe standards of modesty. After one shopping trip with her mother and her sisters, Phelps-Roper had to show her clothes to her father and her brother Sam, to make sure that they were appropriate. She was barred from wearing colorful nail polish and her favorite gold sandals to church. Phelps-Roper was upset to learn that some of her cousins lived under more liberal standards. How could God’s judgment differ from house to house?

In 2012, she was twenty-six years old, but she was still being treated like a child. Once-minor indignities, like being accompanied by an adult chaperone while eating lunch at a restaurant with other young church members, now seemed unbearable.

The beautiful lesson of Megan’s journey is that wherever she and her sister Grace went, they met people who wanted to help them, despite all the hurt they had caused. It solidified her increasing conviction that no person or group could claim a monopoly on moral truth.

Her video LOSING RELIGION THROUGH TWITTER is very touching: http://video.newyorker.com/watch/westboro-baptist-church-twitter