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Is Westboro Baptist Dying? Another Phelps-Roper Exits the Church

( [email protected] ) May 07, 2014 03:17 PM EDT

Westboro Baptist Church
Shirley Phelps-Roper of Westboro Baptist holds up protest signs (Photo: NPR)

The leading family of Westboro Baptist church is losing yet another family member. 23-year-old Zach Phelps-Roper has joined his two sisters and older brother in leaving family's notorious church. He exited shortly prior to the death of grandfather and church founder, Fred Phelps.

After enduring years of hate-filled preaching and picketing, the young man says his views on the world now differ greatly from what he was taught.

"I feel like I have unconditional love for every person around the world. The Westboro Baptist Church sees things differently than I do now ," Phelps-Roper told the Topeka Capital Journal. "I'm telling everybody I feel happier today than I did the day before, because I'm so happy to be alive. I see the world from so many different perspectives now."

He says he believes empathy and love are crucial in solving the world's problems-not hate-speak and anger.

"Most problems come from a lack of understanding of how we affect other people and things around us. I feel like I have found the holy grail, the overarching solution to solving all of our society's problems, and I want to learn more. I want to do more," he stated.

In the article, he talks about reuniting with old family members he was forbidden from speaking with and finding them kind and welcoming. He also finally got medical attention for a painful back condition his mother always disregarded.  

Although he disagrees with his family's beliefs, the young man says he harbors no ill-will toward them, as he feels they are simply acting out of the same unshakeable beliefs in the Bible to which he once held. 

"I viewed my creator as sadistic," Phelps-Roper said. "He sent them to hell because they sinned, but he compelled them to sin. I felt it was an injustice."

Now, the young man admits he is still searching for a faith of his own following his exit from the church, but no longer believes that God is the angry being he once feared.

"I still believe I'm being led by my creator here," he said. "I'm just not sure what his name is. I am sure he is one who has unconditional love for his creatures."

In the meantime, Phelps-Roper believes he is called to new mission: to help those suffering with neuroticisms and suicidal thoughts-something he formerly experienced. He believes he "has no choice but to speak up" now that he understands how to deal with the sickness.

"I feel like I can never pass by someone who is hurting in any way," he said. "If someone needs help, I will respond. I don't feel like I could ever walk away from someone in trouble."