The Story of Jesse Kilgore and his exploitation by the Discovery Institute


On the Discovery Institute’s podcast, ID the future, there is a tragic story of how Jesse Kilgore took his own life.  Jesse was a college student who had spent most of his life as a devout and involved Christian who loved to debate people about his beliefs.  He was even had a couple of of blogs to his credit.  He had already spent some time in the military and by all accounts appeared to have a great life ahead of him.

According to the podcast, he was challenged with reading Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion by one of his professors.  His studies into the theory of evolution, as well as Dawkin’s book, appeared to have changed his worldview.  Jesse stopped believing in god, which led to him questioning everything he had previously believed.  Although he left no suicide note, many believe that this change is what led to his death.

The Discovery Institute wasted no time in blaming Jesse’s death on the belief in evolution.  This is another example of their use of fear-mongering to persuade people that evolution is evil.  They have even blamed the horrors of the Nazis on evolution. Yet, their exploitation of Jesse or even the holocaust victims does nothing to show that evolution did not happen.  Besides, there are hundreds of millions of people that believe in evolution that have not taken their own lives or become evil because of it.  Furtherore, Jesse had already made references to committing suicide well before his new encounters with evolution and Dawkin’s book.  Putting the blame on the theory of evolution and its proponents is simply wrong.

On a personal note, I also had a relative take his own life.  I understand the pain that Jesse’s family must be feeling.  I also understand the need to blame anyone and everyone for his death.  This is why it angers me to see the Discovery Institute use this tragedy for some small gain in pushing their pseudoscientific fairy tale. They should be ashamed.


13 Responses

  1. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but why is the Discovery Institute even bringing this up? Are they trying to say that evolution leads to suicide or are they saying that losing one’s faith in God leads there? Seems like, no matter how often they try to separate themselves from Creationists and religion, they find themselves coming right back home in defending the very same.

    BTW, very thoughtful and insightful post. Thanks.

  2. It seems to me that this young man discovered some truths that didn’t sit well with the brain washing process he had previously been living under. Did his change of heart lead to his death; who knows, but if so, then those who helped lead him to believe in things he later began to question as possibly untruths can’t escape part of the responsibility if any is to be shared out, which, of course, there shouldn’t be. Question allthings, use your reason, follow your own heart based on the evidence, not what others tell you.

  3. Actually you are not reporting very accurately, the father is the one who believes that Dawkins book is responsible, he is eager that his son should not die in vain.

    I think that the logic is clear, Dawkins book sets out to undermine faith, while it cannot offer any rational and sufficient explanation for hope, joy, peace, justice, good, truth, or indeed the value of life itself. The result, a regrettable martyr to blind faith in Dawkins extremely biased “religious hate” tract. He should be held accountable in a court of law.

    I admire Jesse for showing the true consequences of Dawkins faith in hopelessness. My sobering thought is that Jesse so easily could have been me, if it wasn’t for my encounter with Jesus 16 years ago, and daily relationship since.

    Finally I dont see what you are getting upset about, according to Dawkins, in 10 billion years we will all be dead and no-one will be here to care one way or the other. The universe doesnt care whether we live or die, why should you?

    The creator Jesus, does care, and that makes this particularly tragic.

    • the creator cares so much that this fictional invention bred and took care of Hitler and left him torture and kill men, women and children… what a beautiful creed!

  4. keith that is an argument from ignorance, stop it

    • I must say that I agree in part with Keith. I personally believe in God Almighty and that He created this universe and this world, and whether He has used evolution or not to get us where we are, is another argument all together and has been debated for over a century.

      Just in case some of you haven’t read a full article on this tragic accident, The God Delusion was actually found under Jesse’s bed, with the very last page earmarked. We have no way of knowing for SURE why Jesse commited suicide, but the book seems like the clear answer, especially when a family member reported the emails between himself and Jesse, pointing out the loss of faith brought on the book, and comments from friends who mentioned the mental devastation he had experienced throughout the book. No one also mentioned the fact that Jesse’s biology professor was the one who assigned/challenged Jesse to read The God Delusion, despite the fact that the book was not put of the curriculum. Jefferson Community College, where Jesse attended, contacted other professors in the department and none had reported even reading the book.

      Jesse’s relative to whom he was emailing reported Jesse saying that “murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences.” A book changed his belief system that much. And by the way, Dawkins IS one of the most well-known and outspoken atheists in the world is known for his anti-Christian works.

      I don’t believe that Dawkins is the sole culprit. I do believe that his book, did, however, have a part in the mental distress and devastation that Jesse experienced.

      Luke, I would like to hear your argument if Keith’s is “an argument from ignorance.” I believe you will find my argument not as ill informed as you believed Keith’s.

      • I feel very sorry for anyone who thinks that “The God Delusion”, atheists or scientists share any responsibility for anyone doing anything negative. The experience of life is empirically valuable, and we should all love and forgive each other. We have each other, and we have an ability to cherish and explore life.

        Richard Dawkins, myself and a great many thinkers cherish some of the philosophy of Jesus that has inspired so many people, as evidenced by such campaigns as “Atheists for Jesus”

        You have no idea what you’re talking about, and are part of the problem of the “lost youth” of the modern age when you imply that free inquiry and logical empiricism are dangerous.

  5. Just to be fair on behalf of my former friend and classmate, not all professors Jesse ha at J.C.C. were contacted, and a FEW said they had not read the book. I think its disgusting that all of you find it fun to debate over the death of my friend. What Jesse did has brought sorrow and greif to many of us that shared him in our lives, and to see people who didn’t ever meet, know, or hear Jesse out on his TRUE beliefs and feelings is despicable. Get a real life or atleast someone to argue over that can still fend for themselves rather than ruin their memory with slander and disrespect. R.I.P Jesse, you were a great person that impacted many people in many ways. I love and miss you.

  6. I just stumbled upon this story because it concerns me. About one year ago I discovered that belief in god is false. Since then I have been in a lot of conflict with almost everyone around me since they are all christians. I’m not a very social person but now I feel really alone since my friends and family don’t understand me. I too agree that the brainwashing makes you want to commit suicide when you figure out it’s all wrong. Especially in combination with the stress it causes in social groups. While I don’t know about this case, I feel very sorry for what has happened. I wish you all the best.

  7. Having had the displeasure of listening to his dad Keith deliver a so called sermon as a guest at my church I can fully understand what drove this kid to the edge. I have a problem with military preachers who kick the ten commandments to the curb while supporting war and destruction of those ‘made in the image of God’.] His father is and was a hypocrite and Jesse couldn’t live up to (or down to) his fathers expectations. Jesse’s army career was no doubt shoved down his throat from the time he was a toddler. The kid never stood a chance.\

  8. I’m undergoing a bit of an, ahem, existential crisis myself at the moment, but it is not just despicable to blame evolution, it’s just plain wrong. Constantly questioning everything is liberating but also immensely depressing sometimes. I would blame my own psychological idiosyncrasies for this however, not the science.

  9. yeah let me tell you something you darn,i dont even wanna cuss.Jesse Kilgore could have had suicidal ideas before reading the book.though it took that book to bring what ever was bothering him to the dangerous extreme which made him take his own this i’m trying not to cuss really badly.this richard dawkins is an arrogant, disrespectful, egomaniac, deluded,hateful person,especially towards people with faith.i didn’t read the book and i wont,because i don’t want my money going to the jackass.22 years old man,22 years old,one year older than me.i am so disgusted at all these dawkins,harris,hitchens propaganda.i didn’t even read the book as i said before but i can imagine what filth and brainwashing material was in it.if i could explain the anger right now….oh know what though it is okay because richard and his bullshit book will come to and end,like everything in this earth will eventually.i leave it in Gods for richie dawkins ….sorry i had to do it…..FUCK YOU,YOU PIECE OF FUCKING ATHEIST DOG SHIT.FUCK YOU.

    • STEP, That is a completely awful way to talk about anyone, a fellow human. I don’t think your “god” would approve…just sayin.

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