(RNS) California pastor Ryan Bell has a novel New Year’s resolution. For one year, he proclaimed, he will “live without God.”

Ryan Bell photo courtesy of Ryan Bell

California pastor Ryan Bell has a novel New Year’s resolution. For one year, he proclaimed, he will “live without God.” Photo courtesy of Ryan Bell


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It’s an odd resolution for an ordained minister, former church pastor, teacher at two highly regarded Christian universities and church consultant. Yet for the next 12 months, Bell, 42, plans to refrain from praying, reading the Bible and thinking about God at all.

Instead, he will read atheist authors, attend atheist gatherings and seek out conversation and companionship with unbelievers. He wants to “do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist.”

Still, his resolution is only an experiment — he is not, he said, an atheist. “At least not yet,” he wrote in an essay for The Huffington Post, where, on New Year’s Eve, he announced his plan and a new blog to document it.

“I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.”

But so far, it has also been about loss. Since announcing his plans, Bell has been asked to resign from both of his teaching positions and lost a consulting job. In the months before his decision to, as he put it, “try on” atheism, his health and his family relationships suffered too.

But even this early in his experiment, Bell feels he has gained something. Among the 20,000-plus people who have visited his new blog are many who have written to say that they, too, dance with doubt, but feel they cannot do so publicly because of the cost.

“In a way, it is like being gay and not being able to come out to your family,” Bell said in a conversation from his home in the Los Angeles area. “There have just been so many people who said they have wanted to ask questions too and didn’t feel that they could. So they are living vicariously through my spiritual journey.”

“Which,” he added, “in a way, is a lot like being a pastor.”

Indeed, Bell’s path has been marked by controversy before. Born to Methodist parents who converted to Seventh-day Adventism, he eventually led Hollywood Adventist Church, a Los Angeles congregation known as a liberal outpost in a mostly conservative denomination.

Over the years, Bell’s once-fundamentalist views became more progressive, he said. He advocated for women’s ordination and the full recognition and inclusion of gays and lesbians, both prohibited by current church doctrine. He also took issue with the church’s literal interpretation of a six-day period of creation and its end-times teachings.

Last March, after eight years at Hollywood Adventist, he was asked by denominational leaders to resign. And that, he said, in part led him to his yearlong experiment with atheism.

“Not being a pastor for nine months has given me the freedom to not have to believe in something for other people’s sake,” he said.

Others have documented their yearlong spiritual quests, although usually from a more religious point of view. A.J. Jacobs tried to follow every arcane rule in the Bible for “The Year of Living Biblically” and Rachel Held Evans did the same for “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” Others, including former Louisiana pastor Jerry DeWitt, have written about their loss of faith after the fact.

Linda LaScola, a clinical social worker and co-author of “Caught in the Pulpit,” a book of interviews with clergy who have lost their faith, said while no one knows how many clergy struggle with unbelief, various denominations deal with them differently. She knows of one Episcopal priest who admitted to a parishioner that he did not believe in the Nicene Creed, a core statement of Christian faith that’s recited every Sunday in Episcopal parishes. There were, she said, “no repercussions.”

“While it’s OK and even expected for many clergy to feel doubt — with the assumption that it is a temporary situation that defaults back to faith — clergy may hesitate to express their doubts openly to their congregation for fear it could affect people’s faith,” she said.

“For literalists like the Seventh-day Adventists and Mormons, there is little room for doubt. They know certain things to be true.”

Bell decided to share his doubts on a blog because writing has always been a way he processes his experiences. “Vocationally and spiritually, it was something I wanted to share with other people,” he said.

So far, reaction from the atheist community has been lukewarm. Hemant Mehta, writing at his Friendly Atheist blog, commended Bell for exploring atheism, but said until he gives up belief in God, his experiment is flawed. Others, Bell said, have condemned him as a “mole” and a “fake.”

But Bell seems to have struck a chord among readers who can be classified as “nones” — the 20 percent of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation, according to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center.

“There are so many other ways to think about and experience life than through the lenses of dogmatic Christianity, or dogmatic atheism,” one such reader commented. “I hope you find one that resonates with you.”

That’s Bell’s hope, too.

“If I have to be absolutely certain that there is no God, I don’t know if I can ever qualify for that group,” he said. “And if I need to acknowledge with certainty that there is a God, I don’t know if I can ever be a part of that group. But I am excited because this feels like a continuation of my spiritual journey. People seem to think I am leaping into this, but really this is just the next step for me.”

KRE/AMB END WINSTON

156 Comments

  1. Earold Gunter

    For most people I know, the de-conversion process is usually one that is private, starts with doubt, includes a whole lot of self-education, and ends in the realization that what you were told to believe, usually as a child, simply can’t be true.

    Since it is usually a private process no one really needs to know that you have doubts until you are ready to reveal them, which in my case was after I had gone more than half way through my self-education process.

    I’m no psychologists, but Bell’s choice to do this “flirt” so publicly seems to me to be a way to “burn the bridge” behind him so he will not be able to turn back. This could be because of his past position as a Pastor, he is more than likely much more well read in the Bible than the average believer, so is probably well on his way to reality by now, and he knows it.

    Also, perhaps he is tired of living a lie, teaching people what he’s come to realize is not true, and being paid to do it has finally came into conflict with his morals, which he likely realizes did not come from the Bible, and is compelled to end it.

    Whether he is a “Mole” or not is of no consequence though. Non-believers have no doctrine that can be debunked with the appropriate information, which of course we keep secret, along with our handshake and decoder ring.

    Many things will be learned along the way, and he has already leaned the first lesson as “Bell has been asked to resign from both of his teaching positions and lost a consulting job. In the months before his decision to, as he put it, “try on” atheism, his health and his family relationships suffered too.”

    I’ll follow along, and even be willing to help if the opportunity arose, although I will admit, I may at times sort of feel like a peeping Tom.

    Welcome to reality brother!

    • He may be well read, though I very much doubt it. However, he is certainly devoid of the Holy Spirit. You cannot believe for others. Either you believe or you do not.His so-called flirtation is a crock; he is using a situation to say that he was forced into this position. That is hypocrisy and dissembling of the worse kind. The Bible which he is supposed to have read says”Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them. If he has been advocating for those who purposely go against the law of God to be included in the community of God, what is he doing? if you are opposed to something, then what is your reason for wanting to join it, or remain with it? You could only have one purpose: to destroy it. Sadly, this is not unusual. This was satan’s very attitude and intention. it is good that he has gone out from us; it shows that he is definitely not of us and he made it manifest in all that he did.

      • I love your silly logic.

        You disprove him simply because he doesn’t agree with your narrow opinion. This is why their are 20,000 different christian denominations.. in just the US.

        Good luck with that logic in the real world.

        However since you are a woman, using Gods words.. you have no authority to speak in this conversation. Sorry it’s in the bible.
        1 Corinth. 14:34-35 Ephesians 5:22 Genesis 3:16

      • Your assertion that “…he is certainly devoid of the Holy Spirit” made me both chuckle out loud and cringe at the lack of reason (and lack of respect).

        It is a sad thing that your religion has allowed you to throw rational thought to the side and be so “certain” about something that is unknowable.

    • Earold. Thank you for your rational words and your peaceful, respectful tone.
      I so appreciated them.
      Indeed, “reality” is where we exist. As citizens of this shared reality it is my opinion that all of us should be constantly striving to understand it better. Willing and wanting to separating all truth from fiction as best we can so that we are not living nor promoting a lie.
      Does God exist? That is a pretty fundamental question in this striving to understand our reality that brings a lot of people to the Christian faith, for which Christians are certainly happy… but the same question can also lead them beyond that faith as well, which I believe Christians should honor, respect and to a degree, celebrate.
      As living beings it seems to me to be detrimental to be afraid to learn, grow, or ask the tough and/or unpopular questions in our pursuit of truth. To sit back and absorb and believe what we are told perpetually without ever questioning anything is surely not faith, it is willful ignorance and it is stagnation. If God exists, who would say that willful ignorance and stagnation is what he would prescribe for us?
      It seems fair to imagine a loving God, interested in establishing a relationship with us would be willing to reveal himself to anyone who is honestly, unselfishly searching for truth.
      Ultimately, who can say they can unequivocally prove whether God exists or not? I am unaware of any who can. But I know many who believe, and many who do not, both without sufficient empirical evidence either way.
      Who is able to stand on any belief (or unbelief) without first searching, learning, questioning and practicing discernment?
      My journey has many similarities to the pastor in this story so I really wanted to respond. The journey toward truth is in many ways a journey into mystery. It is both empowering as it is humbling. I applaud this pastor’s willingness to move beyond his comfort and convenience for whatever reasons he has chosen. As a Christian you are encouraged in the scriptures – Do not be afraid. Whether you are an atheist or a believer… we should all move forward toward honesty and truth, no matter where it takes us… without fear.

    • The end of religion as an institution is long overdue. It is a thrilling time to be alive to watch its demise in the West.

      May this new wave of common sense, decency, honesty and confidence in the Common Good continue at an even faster pace.

      • So many people have waited to see the demise of God’s church and have even done their best to make it fail, even to the martyrdom of the saints. But they have reckoned without God for even the blood of the martyrs is the seed. And silly people do not realise that whether or not you claim to have a religion, you have one: for atheism is a religion….of nothing; agnosticism is the religion of something yet to be decided. Amazing how people prefer to be neither fish, fowl, nor good red herring.

        • Nope.
          Atheism is the honest, decent and healthy response to a claim that our lives are in the hands of an invisible, unknowable authority figure.

          Nobody can believe in this nonsense anymore. It is fading quickly.

          • Stamp Collecting is quite different than having a set of beliefs. An atheist does not believe in God. Right. Then what does an atheist believe or better said, what does an atheist worship; worship being the act of imitation and adoration. What has possession of your heart? Of what or whom do you speak positively most often? Technically, this would be the atheists religion. i.e. “I believe in…self”. or “I believe in human reason”… or “I believe that there is no God”. or I worship…sex etc.

        • Atheism is not a religion, it is all about science and evidence, it is also not a cult, a sect or a doctrine. A true atheist beleives in proof while religions beleive in blind faith. And to talk about YOUR religion as the “only true one” is being naive, who has the evidence of one or other religion being the truth?
          Religion needs blind faith or “full acceptance” of the “sacred books” as being TRUE ..science needs no such thing, only evidence.

          • Sorry, don’t agree. I have met many “atheists” that are very emotionally attached to their beliefs while lacking in evidence.

        • You do realize that Christianity has been popular for several hundred years.. what about the religions that existed prior… and are much much older?

          “So many people have waited to see the demise of the Sol and Victus church and have even done their best to make it fail, even to the martyrdom of the worshippers. But they have reckoned without God for even the blood of the martyrs is the seed….”

          That is what you would have said 1,000 years ago in Rome… its ironic thats all…

          The roman pagan religions is what Christianity is based on.. do you know why Christmas is on the 25? This is 101 stuff…

    • Chip Johnson

      It is really more like piano hinge, and the world is slowly pulling the pin out from the left end.

      ‘The faith once delivered’ has been abandoned by the leadership in the denominations for over 60 years, and we are just now beginning to realize the loss.

      God grant that our recognition is out too late!

  2. secularactivist

    First of all, in response to another reader/commenter’s statement including the term “atheistic dogma,” there is no such thing. Dogma is “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.” There is no such authority in atheism, which by definition is a lack of belief in any god/goddess or supernatural entity.

    Second, Mr. Bell, I applaud your courage to set out on this next step of your journey, and even to hold yourself accountable before others. This is not an easy thing to do, and there will be a sea of infuriatingly tough times to navigate, especially the ones wherein you must closely examine your deepest thoughts and be intellectually honest with yourself. I believe that you can do it, as many of us have and made it through to a brighter side of life.

    Fair winds and following seas.

    • Yeah, there’s not only no dogma, but most atheists would readily change their mind on the existence of any god or gods given sufficient evidence. We just believe that the default position in the absence of evidence is absence of belief.
      And actual belief (in which decisions are made based on the idea that a thing is true) requires even more than simply no longer being atheistic.
      If I saw a man lay hands on a person I knew had his leg amputated, and the leg grew back good as new, I would be FORCED as a rational person to alter my views on the existence of the supernatural.

      • I think anybody looking for scientific evidence for a metaphysical proposition (either religious or not) is barking up the wrong tree….. BUT. Let’s be honest: no amount of evidence will convince the determined skeptic. Some people say they would be willing to believe men landed on the moon, they just don’t think sufficient evidence has been provided. And for them, it never will be.

      • “but most atheists would readily change their mind on the existence of any god or gods given sufficient evidence.”

        This is pretty obvious, since atheism relies on solid – science-backed evidence. So not most – but all.

        The problem is that its a riddle that cannot be answered, just like the existence of the spaghetti monster existing.. you can’t prove it one way or another. Therefore some will believe and others won’t until the evidence is found, which can’t happen.

    • I think of dogma more as a core proposition in a belief system, without which the other propositions don’t make sense.

      From this point of view, there is definitely at least one dogma you need to hold if you want to meaningfully call yourself an atheist :-)

    • For you. if you do not know God and are unwilling to find out, then he does not exist for you. My problem with atheists is that they are always looking for converts….to nothing. By the way, is it possible for an atheist to be moral? What code would he use?

      • We’re looking for converts? My doorbell is constantly being rung by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons even here in Japan. I can’t get away from the religious proselytizers no matter how far I move from America. You are trying to force prayer into the schools, creationism into school textbooks, religious symbols on public property, but you say the atheists are the ones seeking converts. As the bible says, “Get that plank out of your eye…”

        Is it possible for an atheist to be moral? Yes. How about the “Golden Rule”?

        • Yes it’s certainly possible for an atheist to behave morally. Most people manage to meet the ethical standards of the society they live in, atheists no less than anybody else.

          I’m not so sure it’s possible for them to justify it though. Can an atheist believe that the golden rule doesn’t just reduce to rational self-interest, or an instinct implanted more or less randomly in our genes?

          • Ryan provided the answer for this on Jan 7 post at YearWithoutGod.com. It’s not a difficult concept. It’s found in…

            - the Muslim Hadith (okay, that’s after the Bible).
            - Confucius (and the far less known Tse-kung; WAYYY before Christ)
            - The Old Testament (obviously before Jesus and, since he was a rabbi and, the New Testament would indicate, familiar with those writings. So he could have just been paraphrasing that.

            = = =
            Confucius replied, ‘It is the word ‘shu’ – reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.’ Doctrine
            of the Mean 13.3.

            What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary. Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

            Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” Baha’u’llah.

            Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18.

        • It’s best not to paint all people of faith with the same brush. I am a Christian and totally believe in separation of church and state. And yes, atheists definitely seek “converts”. I have experienced that.
          Also, the question regarding a moral code was not answered. The question leaves an atheist to acknowledge that without any higher authority such as “God”, there really is no way of determining for certain what is right or wrong. Just how we “feel” about morality becomes the guide. The problem with that is that you may feel differently than I; so who is right? If the majority thinks killing and eating humans is ok, is it? Survival of the fittest says this is alright. Yum. :-)

          • Well, if killing and eating humans was alright in the age that the bible was written, that is what would be morally accepted as those who strictly follow the bible. same with gay marriage. if you think about it unbiased, is it really OK to deny two people to be together if they really love each other?

            we do have a system of morals, its called the law. a figure with higher authority wrote them too, except it is much more recent.

            my own moral compass, however, is determined by thinking how my actions would benefit or corrupt my community from a third person point of view. for example, bible or not, impregnating a woman without making a commitment to stay with them is bad, because it puts heavy stress on the mother in which I would not be able to support.

          • Dear Dave,
            If you only act the way you do because of your religion then I pity you. I do not need a book written thousand of years ago telling me how I must conduct myself. I do not need to be told that killing someone is wrong and that stealing is wrong. If you do not know this without a book or religious doctrine telling you then I believe it may be your morality that is in question, not that of atheists.
            I do not believe in the promise of Heaven, however this has never stopped me from showing another individual kindness and love. I would like to point out that this kindness is extended to EVERYONE despite colour, culture, sexuality or gender and I don’t expect anything in return. Furthermore I believe you can see empathy in all human beings despite religious upbringing.

      • Who still believes that Religious People have moral superiority?

        One doesn’t need dubious archaic moral values to be good, if without religion you will do wrong to others, then that speaks a lot about you

        • Ah, the old cheap shot.

          Perhaps they realize that having a standard of “good” that you believe in, helps maintaining a morality. Just simply assenting that you can you’re not anti-social enough to be unable to follow a group of rules that you can’t explain, doesn’t make you that effective, either.

          In the years that I didn’t believe in God, I didn’t need religion to act within society’s bounds of morality, either. However, the negative consequences were instrumental, and whatever standard I retained I found more and more negotiable.

        • “One doesn’t need dubious archaic moral values to be good, if without religion you will do wrong to others, then that speaks a lot about you.”
          So…what’s wrong with “archaic moral values then?

          • on the other hand

            Example: stoning as punishment for adultery (Deuteronomy 22: 23-24) is self-evidently wrong. If you disagree, no further conversation on this point is necessary.

            Other examples can easily be found.

      • Atheists dont need converts as much as religions do, religions impose beleifs on children and any other culture with different beleives, and there are horrible examples of these like the cruzades. While at the same time there hasnt been anithing like it from atheists.

        And more important, moral varies more between religions than for “us” atheists, is it moral to force a child to beleive on what you believe? or is it to forbid a woman to show her face publicly? to keep women out of priesthood? to kill in the NAME OF GOD?

        And being moral has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with basic evolution principles of the human species and our brains. There are tribes without religion that have the same basic moral principles as most religious people.

        • “Atheists dont need converts as much as religions do, religions impose beleifs on children and any other culture with different beleives, and there are horrible examples of these like the cruzades. While at the same time there hasnt been anithing like it from atheists.”

          In my experience, atheists generally believe that the world would be better if there were more atheists and fewer believers, so they do have an interest in “converting” people. I would be very surprised if an atheist couple didn’t attempt to try to raise their children as atheists: if they really thought it was a more rational and positive approach to life then why wouldn’t they?

          As for atrocities: consider the USSR and China, two attempts to impose a belief system on a scale which dwarfed all religions combined. Needless to say, atheism was a key part of that belief system. It was not optional.

        • This is why planned mass starvations work much better for atheists in the past. They know that there is nothing provably right beyond all skepticism, so proselytizing is of less value than bulldozing people out of your way.

        • “religions impose beleifs on children and any other culture with different beleives”
          If indeed atheism is a “religion” and I believe it is since it is based on many suppositions, then the public education system is quite guilty of the same.

      • I presume you do not spend your Sundays killing Walmart workers (Exodus 35:2) – why not? I further presume that you have concluded that to do so would be immoral. That is the kind of morality that atheists practice. Welcome to the club.

  3. You should try to start with the old book (1908) “Twelve Proofs of God’s Inexistence” of Sebastien Faure : http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives//bright/faure/does_god_exist.pdf

    Best regards

  4. The “churches” have lied and hidden the truth from people for centuries. Just about EVERY “teaching” is an UNTRUTH. Just because these have been exposed as liars and apostates from the original Christianity as taught in the Bible, doesn’t mean you can’t look/read the Bible (for yourself) as well as MANY other books and find truth…
    This poor man is very confused and it’s no wonder to me… his “religion” has taught him not to question but the Bible actually says you should ask questions and you should expect to get satisfying answers from the scriptures. If you’re not, it’s not because there is no God. It’s because the churches have severely flawed doctrines…

      • @Frank- I really DO LOVE the answers I find in the BIBLE. That’s where GOD’S word is found. The “churches” aren’t the appointed custodians of the Bible. God gave this gift to mankind so we could come to know Him. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day were teaching twisted doctrines that actually invalidated the word of God. (read Matthew 15:1-9) We see the same thing happening in Christendom from about the second century on up through today…

        • All gods are rooted in myth. All gods are constructs of early man. The individual human brain has to explain a phenomenon in order to comprehend and relate to it. This activity predates by far the emergence of language and caused it. Belief in the supernatural emerges from hypotheses arbitrarily assumed by individuals to explain natural phenomena that cannot be explained otherwise. The resulting need to share individual hypotheses with others leads eventually to collective religious belief. A socially accepted hypothesis becomes dogmatic backed by social sanction.

  5. “American Christianity is coming unhinged”

    Very true. American Christianity is going through the same thing that “Corporate America” and “American Education” is going through. A radical shift in human consciousness driven by the ability to share information and knowledge at an every increasing pace. Eg: this blog and the interwebs as a whole.

    Religion like business evolves in it’s business model based on the demands of the cultures in which they exist. For example, early Christianity was like a startup – lean, mobile and nimble. The “Corporate” establishment (Rome) felt the threat of the new upstart and dispatched lions to address the threat. When it became apparent that that would not work – they simply acquired it and adapted their business model. An viola – The Roman Catholic church. Of course they continued the aggressive geographic expansion of their brand – but instead of centurions and swords it was priests and education. Same business new model.

    Protestantism was the same. As an upstart in early America it was dynamic and engaging. As it grew it became more like it’s corporate parent – the Catholic and Anglican Church.
    The Seventh Day Adventist as a startup was an offshoot of the Baptist and Methodist churches. The same way the Instagram founder started at Google. And later got acquired by Google.

    The same way that corporate america is struggling to adjust their business models, the middle class is eroding and we are getting a bifurcated American populace – those on top who have the majority of the wealth and those at the bottom who don’t and are increasingly being required to go out on their own and “figure out” how to make a living, or becoming entrepreneurial by force and therefore creating their own brand, systems and value to make a living from.

    The point is this; Today’s America is increasingly one of big corporate brands, very few middle tiered companies and then a bunch of individual people / brands at the bottom. Religion is become the same – Big and corporate at the top and a bunch of individual beliefs at the bottom.

    Ryan represents this new breed – like in business the “Solopreneur” – he is becoming the “Solofaithful” forging his own path and exploring on his own.

    Where is american faith going to go? Well, I don’t really know. But I do know that if the business model of “Church” is going a radical transformation, and people will have an infinite set of “beliefs” personalized to their individual personalities and situations – their is an opportunity to forge new types of models for faith. Ones that loose the absolutist “protective” ideologies that denominational brands pursue in order to maintain member revenue and adapt instead to the individual needs of each member and who they are. Black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor etc.

    If you think about it, there was one guy who did this when Christianity was a startup. His name was JC.

    Religion 2.0.

      • Yes, so clearly it was moral and proper for God to cause a she-bear to mutilate and murder 42 young lads for telling Elisha “Go up, you bald-head!”
        (Go up, you bald-head is a mockery of Elisha- they didn’t know him, he claimed the mantle of Elijah, who supposedly ascended to heaven without dying. In essence, they were saying ‘if you are who you say you are, rise.’ which is a completely normal and natural thing to say to someone who tells you that God is speaking to him and he has the authority to tell you what to do, but won’t demonstrate any miracle to you- and in fact, believers are commanded to treat new prophets to skepticism and execute any who make any errors.)
        God is eternal and unchanging.

          • on the other hand

            You’re right! Now, we only need to somehow figure out God wants. If only there were some handy manual.

          • So only God defines morality? Even the killing of children?

            Then may you just clarify what’s the difference between your God and the Devil?

        • Here is where we read without understanding.. They saw Elijah go up. Elisha did not speak with them; they elected to be disrespectful of someone older and wiser that they. it is typical that in these times when disrespect for older people is the norm that this behaviour would be regarded as such by so-called educated people. Next, discipline of children is now a bad word; so God was wrong to allow these children to be mauled to teach them a lesson. But you see, he is GOD and He has rules which He judges by. One says to honour your father and by extension, those who are older. They got what they deserved

          • Funny how your god was willing to kill a whole bunch of children for disrespecting an elder yet won’t kill a single atheist to prove there is a god. I would volunteer. Let god strike me down in the most public and undebatable of ways, so that everyone else actually has a choice on whether or not to have faith in him.
            Until such time as a god proves it exists, I have no more choice to disbelieve in its existence than I do leprechauns and vampires.
            Once I know it exists, then and only then can I choose to be his follower or his enemy.

          • They got what they deserved? That is, they deserved to be killed by a bear for not being respectful?

            Wow, the immorality of religious people like you will always baffle me

            You will justify anything to make your devilish God look holy, now let me puke

          • Got what they deserved?

            Then GOD is a real cruel entity……….who gave GOD the right to judge?…
            GOD seems to be a contradictory entity that has more defects that his own “creation”…aka: no moral standard.

        • What do you know of “moral”? Morality in the naturalistic world is an adaptation for group coherency and survival. No being, fitting the definition of God would be in your survival group. Thus the “morality” that you best understand has no holding on different types of being.

          Sputter all you want about what you might think a non-empirical being which has clustered together an amount of knowledge and power that you don’t think is compatible with nature should think. Hopefully, eventually, you might understand how stupid you sound. Do you think that there’s an evolutionary pressure on the brain to evolve an abstract understanding of beings that don’t exist?!

          Contrary to this, as an imperfect adaptation, the goal of natural morality is not so everybody holds hands and sings like the whoos in whooville, it simply–if it is an apt enough adaptation–provides enough coherency to promote survival. If the human genome survives with only 20% of everybody getting murdered, this might be enough.

          This is the faith of atheists–not a professed faith, but a faith that underlies all they prattle on and on about: that this lump of tissue in our heads never designed as a figure-the-universe-out-er does anything more than positively or negatively adjust us for another round of survival.

    • At Malachi 3:6, God states the fact that HE DOES NOT CHANGE. Psalms 19:7-10 tells us that God’s laws and reminders are perfect. Religion is NOT “about people” and what people believe. True religion asks and answers the question, “What does God say is acceptable TO HIM?” Society changes constantly and there are too many cultural differences to list here. There is ONLY ONE GOD in heaven. That’s who we must please and that’s who we will answer to on the last day…

    • Except that the incomparable JC never did “flirt around” with atheism for even one microsecond.

      An “infinite set of beliefs”, or “flirting with atheism”, or “supporting gay marriage”, wasn’t going to cut it with Him, not even slightly, for any reason. Wasn’t an option either rationally or spiritually, according to the Scriptures that he openly endorsed, believed, and lived out.

      See, it wasn’t about any “business model” for JC. It was about a personal relationship with God, and there was only one way to get there — through Himself (John 3:16; 14:6). Jesus even upheld the now much-despised Genesis historical claims of a real Adam, Eve, Noah, Global Flood. Again, so much for allowing an “infinite” set of beliefs.

      What we are seeing in America is a LOSS of belief in JC (especially among Christians of whatever denomination) and a loss of belief of what He believed, lived, and taught. We even mess around and abandon the timeless infallible Scriptures, which He never did.

      Things have got to change soon. Tick tock, and not many of ‘em left for America.

      • Agreed, totally. Whether we believe it or not, God says it and that settles it for Christian and atheist alike. If we had time to look around when Jesus comes again, it would be interesting to see the faces of those who said He did not exist. But those of us who are faithful will be steadfastly looking on His face as He comes; the others will be busy trying to hide from what they did not believe existed…..Now isn’t that a blast!!

    • I found this interesting and thought provoking. Much I’d agree with. One quick comment, though.

      You mention “Religion 2.0″. That doesn’t fit. Not sure if you’re referring to JC’s “spinoff” from Judaism or Ryan’s solopreneur dealio.

      If you’re talking about JC’s “startup religion” it wouldn’t be RELIGION 2.0 It might be Judaism 2.0

      Judaism wasn’t the first religion. Judaism might be Religion v 3942. (Or pick your own large number).

    • Well said. He has the message to ALL in need and reaches All of us. The good thing we are reminded that in the end All will confess that HE is LORD. I want to be his friend at that time. The FOOL says in his heart there is NO GOD. Don’t be a Fool you All. Stop! all of this will end and it will come to a rapid end and we all know it. It is obvious we can all see and feel it..God is Love and that is why only Him alone can be GOD. That is why he sent JESUS Christ. That is proven as a FACT

  6. The good Pastor is about to find out he’ll never go back to religious nonsense.

    A much better, more honest, more beautiful and much more loving life awaits.
    I almost wish I could leave religion all over again!

    • You mean to say that is that ONLY ‘MAN’ that will get rid of all the terrible conditions on this planet including all sickness, disease, old age, death, prejudice, hate, war, pollution, poverty,etc. and bring true peace and security, love, true brotherhood, happiness, purpose in life, a clean planet worldwide, youth for all, and everlasting life, all on his own??? It is ONLY our CREATOR, our Heavenly Father or God, who created the universe, the heavens, earth, and everything on it, including mankind, who has the LOVE and POWER to accomplish ALL of these things (Psalms 37:10,11; Isaiah 11:1-10; Revelation 21:1-4). These promises are held out by God in his Word, the Bible, and he never lies; unfortunately, many religions do not bring these truths to the attention of people. It is no wonder, then, that many do not believe in God since they really do not know him, his personality and his marvelous purposes for man.

      • The fact that no supernatural deity has yet solved
        all the problems you listed should give you a clue
        that waiting for such a thing is nonsense.

        There is no reason to believe in a God.

        But Atheists have been curing diseases, distributing food and solving housing needs much more effectively than, say…
        …..the power of smoking goat flesh, for example.

  7. The Pastor is about to find out he’ll never go back to religious nonsense.

    A much better, more honest, more beautiful and more loving life awaits.
    I almost wish I could leave religion all over again!

      • Religion poisons everything. You don’t even understand why you are wrong.

        If God is love, why do you pray to it? If God is love, why were his commands of rape and slavery okay?
        No thought – that is the problem with people connected to religion.
        They have given no thought to anything.

        Gods obliterate love.

        • I agree, “bad” religion poisons everything. However, the questions that you ask reveal that you never knew….There are reasonable and legitimate answers to these questions. You probably never heard them.
          Sorry.

          • There is no “good” religion.
            Anything that comes at you from an authority figure is destined to corrupt everything it touches.

            And if that Authority figure is a “perfect God”, then hold on to your hat. Because that imaginary creature always creates a Hell of its own.

  8. Daniel Berry, NYC

    being absolutely certain there is no god is no more possible than its opposite. The kind of certitude he’s referring to is inappropriate in religious discourse. The Bible proves nothing except, perhaps, that the various people and groups responsible for its production had a wide variety of religious beliefs–and gods. The world would be better off without most of them.

    Having said that, I’d like to add that Ryan Bell’s pretty sexy. Hope he’s gay.

  9. The only thought I have is that it would be impossible for me to “flirt” with atheism. It would be like flirting with the idea of 4 sided triangles.

    I actually feel bad for the guy.

  10. BelieverinHIM

    I grew up in a country that life was worth two pennies or less… Went to sabbath school in the seventh day Adventist church since birth. At the age of 18, stopped going to church for about 3 yrs and started my spiritual journey. Read hundreds of books, seeking the meaning of life on this cruel and at the same time beautiful planet. After squeezing and expanding my brain to the limit, I still didn’t find what I was looking for. Emptiness was all I was left with…
    One morning I left my home, and had to do various stops at a few places to collect money from a few clients. I had a fever of a 105. On my second stop, after collecting the money, got into my car in would not start. 45 minutes of anguish trying to to get the engine going to be able to finish my task, and nothing… Outside of my window everything was covered with snow, and the temperature was quickly dropping… At that moment, I had but just one choice, and it was to test GOD, and see for my self if HE was real. (it went like this) “Father in heaven, I’ve read about You, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit many times in scripture, but none of that can help me at this moment unless You are real. Today I need to know You are. I’ll try one more time to start my car, and if You do exist, please have the car start for me, but not only make it start, but allow me to finish all my work, in Jesus name… amen”
    I was in agony, as I didn’t want to go through the pain of confirming the is no god. To my shock and amazement, there IS a GOD, he’s real and He cares for you and I. ultimately, he created us, and sent His only begotten son to pay with his blood, so humans can live eternally with Him. It’s however our choice, to choose to believe in Him. He does not, and never will force anyone to believe in Him.
    My experience above was just the first of many tangible experiences, that transformed my life through the years… he has given me a life of joy, peace that surpasses human understanding, and abundance.
    Dear atheist friend; It takes twice the effort and faith to believe there is in no god, when if we pay close attention, we could see a GOD’s fingerprint and a pattern in all His created beings.

    With much love,

    A true BELIEVER

    • Earold Gunter

      BelieverinHIM,
      You didn’t say if he got the car started or not, and I am looking for a good auto mechanic, just kidding. By the way “105 degrees F is usually considered the heat-stroke level, where brain damage can occur”, (http://askville.amazon.com/fever-dangerous-ADULT/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=9059356) so you may want to see a neurologist about that.
      Better yet, I know a good neuroscientist that can help you even more, you can find him at http://www.samharris.org/

      A better life awaits.

    • If I pray fervently, will God fill my inside straight? To what degree does God intervene in our lives? If I pray to Zeus, the Greek king of gods, that my sick friend recovers, and he does recover, believers in the current God will tell me that Zeus is a myth, it is futile to pray to a myth and that it was a coincidence, and that other factors were involved. When they pray to their one God that a sick friend recovers, and he recovers, why do they not say that it was a coincidence and that other factors were involved? If the believers’ sick friend dies, why do they not say that their God is a myth? If my sick friend recovers and your sick friend dies, it would appear that Zeus in the real god.

    • So…

      Moses, in a time of trouble and need, prayed to his God for a miracle to save his people. And God parted the Red Sea.

      You, in your time of trouble, prayed to your God for a miracle to save you from a crappy day. And He caused your car to start.

      Heck of a miracle dude. About on a par with “Couldn’t find my keys ANYwhere. So I prayed…and found ‘em”

      It’s a mechanical process. Either it works or it doesn’t. Maybe you warmed it up with your previous tries. Maybe just (twenty) third time’s the charm. Maybe the breather you gave it while you prayed did the trick Whatever.

      It’s not a miracle when a doctor’s skill saves a patient (though God far too often gets the credit). And it wasn’t a miracle that your car started. Nor even an answer to your prayer. It’s just a thing that happened. As it was supposed to. If you turned the key and your car turned into a Lexus, then started, well…

      You’re not alone, though. Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project…and former atheist. He “found god” when, on a winter walk, he saw a waterfall frozen into three parts. Wow. The Trinity! (This actually happened)

  11. Lots of reading and research! Good start would be to read some history of the origins of religion and when each was introduced. Also developing your critical thinking skills would be paramount. It is amazing on the wealth of information that is out there. Of course, you will also need to learn on how to adjust to the level of ignorance out there, as well :)

    • If you do not believe in God, why study religion? Is it because all atheists have a sneaking suspicion that they are wrong and keep looking for supporting evidence? You do not have to be on the outside looking in, for God has extended His invitation to ALL THE WORLD, for He wants to save all of us.

      • Patricia,

        For two reasons. The first was research which led me to atheism. The second is, conversation and debate. Since folks such as yourself continuously attempt to convert. My reading and research gives me some understanding of what you are attempting to convey. Much like learning the language of a country you are going to visit.

      • Having read the Bible, I would be happy if God could save us from… himself

        Why not grab a Physics book? Your neurons if you have any, will thank you

      • Being an “atheist” and “educated” is part of the same picture, while blind beleif is part of being religious. You “blindly” have a set of “beleifs” that were rooted into your brain by early being exposed to religion itself. You were educated into thinking that there is “just one way”, they way of the scriptures.
        For ahteists knowing about religion is like knowing about anything else, it is general culture.
        But yes, at some point by reading the bible or any other sacred “book” we come to realize that religion hinders our ability to decide for ourselves, it imposes a system of beleif that doesnt explain anything, we have to accept it as it is……so there is no space left for “free will” or more exactly “free thinking”.
        Science is what we embace, as being the only means of knowing the truth about ourselves and about the universe.

  12. Anybody should be able to publicly declare rejection of religious (or any other bogus) ideas without any negative consequences. I hope this man will think and understand that the sole possibility of not being obedient to religious “authorities” makes organised religion at least obsolete.

  13. This sounds like ‘The Hunt for Red October’. Probably, this guy is already a closet atheist and wants to get out, and now, in an effort to do some damage control and not to lose face (and lose his friends and family) he has come up with this elaborate scheme. One ping only!

    • on the other hand

      Poor guy. Imagine how hard that must be. At least he is entertaining the possibility that he is wrong, or apparently he is.

      A question for those who condemn him: what do you have against wondering if you’re wrong?

  14. D. Lynn Bryson

    Experimenting with open unbelief is a sure way to the destruction of faith. The end result will not be good. This is a sad story. Those who still believe and who know this man, need to surround him with prayer. My initial reaction at this moment is to fall in my knees for this brother who has been playing with fire and who now is being consumed by it.

    I just went to John 6:66-69 and read the following; “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    We all are tempted at moments to not believe. Satan is desperate at those moments to pull us away from Him who has the power to bless us with eternal life. In those moments of doubt I find myself running back into His arms clinging to Him who is my Saviour and best friend. As I am writing this my eyes are welling with tears and I can hardly see for I know I could not live or survive without Christ Jesus.

    I’m going to write a prayer right now. “Dear Lord and Father, please be with this brother who feels he needs to experiment with living without you. Please do not let go of him. Chase him, surround him with demonstrations of your realness and draw him back to you. He says he’s not going to pray for a year, well the rest of us can pray for him and because of our prayers you can work on redeeming this brother for whom Christ died. Amen!”

    When you are confronted with doubt cry out to the Saviour. Think of Him who while on the cross cried “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” In that moment of His desperation He then cried out “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” Yes He died for the moment but three days later He lived and He still lives to intercede for us. Never let go of Him. Never let go and when you can’t hold on any longer pray to Him that He will not let go of you.

    It’s been 27 years since I stared death in the face when we were about to crash in that small plane in Mexico. I remember the presence and reassurance of God being there and Him taking away the fear. Friends HE is real.

    He was there when I faced surgery on my brain a year later. I’ve been free if cancer now 26 years. He is real. Even if I had died He has promised resurrection. He is life. Make Him your life.

    • on the other hand

      @D Lynn Bryson:

      I would like to invite you to consider some things:

      Since experimenting (openly or otherwise) with unbelief leads inevitably to unbelief, doesn’t this suggest that belief is not reasonable? Doesn’t it also suggest that this is why your religion has mechanisms for discouraging doubt and questions?

      One such mechanism might be to teach that the source of the doubt is an evil boogeyman. I’m afraid I can’t take that part seriously.

    • Gosh, God can start cars and fly airplanes and do brain surgery. Too bad he couldn’t cure my mother’s cancer (and she was a devout Catholic).

  15. Eden Outpost

    It is unfortunate that he is called a Seventh-day Adventist since he believes little that a true SDA believes. One more casualty to the deceptive lies of the evil one. Entertaining doubt is deadly to the spiritual life. Everyone has moments of doubt, no matter what is their belief system, but to embrace that doubt is ever so dangerous. Prayer by his friends and associates will be his only hope of recovery. Jesus, our Creator, is dishonored by such actions on the part of a pastor and leader. Truth is easy to find in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy writings, if one is open and honest and willing to surrender self.

    • on the other hand

      Paraphrasing your post: “doubt is dangerous because it might lead to changing your view (because it goes without saying that SDA is correct). Not only that, doubt comes from the boogeyman”.

      I feel compelled to point out that you are following a template for stifling thought.

  16. Richard Burnett

    This Brother has GOT REAL, SERIOUS PROBLEMS that involve and reflect his heart, mind, and soul. I DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING, NONE OF US DO, BUT I KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES. That SOMEONE IS GOD, The Father, GOD The Son, and GOD The Holy Spirit! Perhaps A COMMITTED,, HONEST, SINCERE of time IN THE WORD OF GOD, and IN PRAYER, and THE SPIRIT OF PROPHESY, and LESS TIME IN WORLDY, SECULAR LITERTURE would help and contribute TO A POSITIVE CHANGE TO THE LOVE AND WILL OF GOD!!!! What a TRULY, SAD STORY. May GOD HAVE MERCY on this SICK MAN’S SOUL. I WILL PRAY FOR HIM. IT IS NOT TOO LATE. PROBATION IS STILL OPEN. JESUS STILL STANDS IN THE MOST HOLY PLACE OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY THIS BROTHER’S CASE, Mine, Yours too, before the GREAT, ALMIGHTY GOD of ALL CREATION. May WE ALL COME TO THE PRAISING OF GOD AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST FOR THE HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, SAVING CLEANSING BLOOD OF JESUS SHED ON THE CROSS OF CALVARY AS OUR SACRIFICAL LAMB FOR SINNERS SUCH AS YOU AND I. To GOOD BE ALL GLORY and PRAISE, GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE and GREAT IS MY REJOICING IN and THROUGH JESUS HIS SON!!!!

    • SAD STORY? this is not sad at all, it is the story of someone that wants to know the FACTS to find the truth.
      Being an atheist is nothing like being religious, there are no rules other than forming your own view of the universe based of scientific facts. There is no “punishment” no “hell” no “satan” that follows our steps, so for an atheist it is as normal as it is for you but with one big difference, we have no fear.

  17. Richard Burnett

    THIS IS AN UPDATED VERSION. Hopefully, without the mistakes of my previous Posting. This Brother has GOT REAL, SERIOUS PROBLEMS that involve and reflect his heart, mind, and soul. I DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING, NONE OF US DO, BUT I KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES. That SOMEONE IS GOD, The Father, GOD The Son, and GOD The Holy Spirit! Perhaps A COMMITTED,, HONEST, SINCERE effort of time IN THE WORD OF GOD, and IN PRAYER, and THE SPIRIT OF PROPHESY, and LESS TIME IN WORLDY, SECULAR LITERTURE would help and contribute TO A POSITIVE CHANGE TO THE LOVE AND WILL OF GOD!!!! What a TRULY, SAD STORY. May GOD HAVE MERCY on this SICK MAN’S SOUL. I WILL PRAY FOR HIM. IT IS NOT TOO LATE. PROBATION IS STILL OPEN. JESUS STILL STANDS IN THE MOST HOLY PLACE OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY PLEADING THIS BROTHER’S CASE, Mine, and Yours too, before the GREAT, ALMIGHTY GOD of ALL CREATION. May WE ALL COME TO THE PRAISING OF GOD AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST FOR THE HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, SAVING CLEANSING BLOOD OF JESUS SHED ON THE CROSS OF CALVARY AS OUR SACRIFICAL LAMB FOR SINNERS SUCH AS YOU AND I. To GOOD BE ALL GLORY and PRAISE, GREAT THINGS HE HAS DONE and GREAT IS MY REJOICING IN and THROUGH JESUS HIS SON!!!!

      • John Horstman

        We may never Know. I heard Once that one is supposed To capitalize any words that Describe Yahweh, one of his avatars, or any Of their actions, but this in no Way accurately describes the actual behavior That is (what I’ve dubbed) Christian Capitalization Syndrome.

        My favorite snarky commentary on CCS comes from the illustrious Douglas Adams, in the form of the thoughts of an Electric Monk (a sapient alien appliance designed to believe in things for you, so you don’t need to bother with believing in them yourself): “The door was the way to… to… The Door was The Way. Good. Capital letters were always the best way of dealing with things you didn’t have a good answer to.”

  18. I’m the son of an evangelical minister and a Baptist missionary – the only agnostic atheist in my large family. It was a long and painful de-conversion, overhung with early programmed fear of hell. Obviously, I’m considered bound for fire lake by my loving god people.

    I think the pastor will discover that he does not change in the course of a 12 month. He will remain a good person. His values will not alter. He will be forced to own his actions and face a raw conscience, with none of the balm of jesus to wash his mistakes away. He will know what it feels like to be human.

    It’s interesting reading the comments of the fundamentalists in this thread. They are masters of bald assertion. Lords of ad hominem and kings of appeal to consequence. I think before even opening a discussion with a Christian there are three things that must be agreed upon. What is truth. What is evidence. What is god.

    • And those three itemss will never be agreed on between athiests and Christans. Indeed, the very phrase “agnostic atheist” means that atheists can’t even fully agree among themselves regarding atheism itself.

      • QUOTE: “agnostic atheist” means that atheists can’t even fully agree among themselves regarding atheism itself.

        That is not exactly true, because being “agnostic” is not being an “atheist”.
        Agnostics might be “in the middle” they still have doubts, and could move back to religion or move entirely to being atheists.

        I am an Atheist in the whole expression of the word, without a god, without blind faith and without a doubt.

        This mans journey or experiment will take him at some point to be an agnostic, and maybe someday to being an atheist.

        Ah..and btw, there is no atheist “creed”, “book”, no “group”, no “church”..we are simply tagged “without a god”…..but i think of “us” as free thinkers devoid of any agenda, pursuing knowledge, that is all.

      • John Horstman

        Actually, most atheists are agnostic atheists, we simply sacrifice pedantry for brevity. It’s technically impossible to prove a negative (and also functionally impossible to prove a positive with 100% certainty: because you are not an outside observer of yourself, you have no way to verify that every single thing you experience is not a hallucination – any attempts to verify this fact could themselves be delusions), so any lack of belief in something is necessarily agnostic, though we can still be conditionally (and perhaps for all conditions we’re ever likely to encounter) convinced of something (like the lack of gods) based on lack of evidence in the face of an exhaustive search for it (see Bayes’ Theorem).

        As far as “atheism” is concerned, we’re in agreement about that as far as I know – it’s the lack of belief in any gods.

  19. Dogmatic atheism? What’s that? Is it like militant non-stamp collecting?

    Time and again when I argue with religionists, they resort to some variety of the “But religion has made me happy” argument. That is what religion is: a crutch. As long as people need that emotional crutch, they will cling to it and no atheist argument will ever convince them. It sounds like Ryan Bell had that crutch kicked out from under him by his church. He will either learn to live without it or search for another crutch. I wish him luck in his journey.

  20. I am sure this will be an interesting journey for a human being who does not understand the urgency of faith. What I love about God is the gift of choice that He has given each one of us. That being said, I ponder the benefits of playing atheist or playing Christian–for that matter. Being a Christian is a life-style, a way of being that can’t be placed on a hanger. The being of Christian involves the heart, mind, and soul; it involves the Holy Spirit. I would like to know what the Holy Spirit is saying to Pastor Bell. For sure, I know the former pastor will gain many readers, and he may even get a best selling book out of this journey. I hope that as Pastor Bell (And I say Pastor because, indeed, the being of pastor is a “called” experience) matures. There are so many people who need an authentic, mature relationship with God. I hope Pastor Bell receives the answer he thinks he needs. If not, I pray that he strengthens his relationship with the Lord and recognizes what it means to have a relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The question I ask myself is this: Where is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the One who helped Pastor Bell realize his health was failing and he was jeopardizing his family relationship and probably confusing some young people. I am so thankful that folk like the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Rosa Parks, Senator Robert Kennedy and others did not play at their commitment to helping disenfranchise people. I pray that as Pastor Bell is on this journey he finds that playing “atheist,” Christian is bad news. He might want to, instead, spend a year study the being of Christian and the implicit wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

    • QUOTE: What I love about God is the gift of choice that He has given each one of us.

      Did you have a choice as a child to become religious?

      Being an atheist is ABOUT CHOICE, being religious most of the time means being RAISED by our parents inside religion, it is imprinted in the young minds of children. Free choice is a “human attribute” that we are able to “excecute” in adulthood.

      Many people will become atheists later in life, when they discover they HAVE A CHOICE.

      • I like Rob’s reply. Had a few other things to add.

        Parts of Christianity seem to include care for the disenfranchised (though often, as in soup kitchens, it comes with strings attached; ie sit for the sermon, then we’ll feed you”. Often it doesn’t (ie the link between Republicans and the “Religious Right”; somehow they claim Christianity while ignoring the words he is supposed to have said.)

        I heard about this story on an atheist podcast “Thank God I’m Atheist” btw). I decided to do some further reading on it. And got sucked into reading and commenting here..

        I was concerned that his “flirting” with atheism was like that of a rabbi who wrote an OpEd thing awhile back. He decided to try being athest for awhile. And write about it. But all he reported was his emptiness and fear. The stereotypical view by theists of atheism.

        Ryan is coming from a more healthy direction. Although, since it was at least in part precipitated by his firing, he’ll be somewhat hamstrung when he gets the “aww, you’re not a believer? What bad thing happened to you that turned you away from God?” question.

        Matt Dillahunty, host of the Atheist Experience, often says “I”m more moral than your god…and so are you”. That’s part of Ryan’s problem. He’s more compassionate and inclusive than his denomination (or much of Christianity) is.

        And your comment that maybe he’ll get a best selling book out of it…well, why not? Sure, Dawkins and Hitchens books sell well. But more often and more recently, what’s at the top of the charts?

        Heaven is for Realz
        Who’s YOUR Angel?
        The Case for Christ
        etc etc et blah di blah cetera.

        You say you’re glad he resigned, elsewise he’d be “playing” at his role. You cite Kennedy, King and Parks and how they didn’t “play at” helping the disenfranchised.

        What you’ve missed is that it’s his compassion for the disenfranchised that prompted his church to ask him to resign. He’s the compassionate one. And not playing at it. He’s walking the walk. And they, uncomfortable with that, asked him to, well, take a walk…out their door.

        So he could no longer represent them…because he was TOO compassionate.

        “Implicit wisdom” of the Holy Spirit?

        No, not gonna even start on that one. This is far too long already.

  21. This last comment by Ramona has been the best advice I have read in this passed blog, I will certainly pray for Pastor Bell to be guided by the Holy Spirit and be drawn to a stronger relationship with his heavenly father GOD.

  22. This man is turning facets of faith into a money-making scheme, just as the money-changers in the temple did. There is a good change he is already working with a publisher in mapping out a book deal. And, underneath the scheme is one more dangerous: promotion of the idea that God is only real if we want him to be. Never mind the fact that truth comes from God and exists whether we believe it or not, if we merely FEEL like changing our minds about God’s existence, that’s all it takes. Truth does not change, as Jesus is truth himself (cf. John 14:6), who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). (From a merely philosophical perspective, one may also point out the contradiction in the idea that the only truth is that there is no truth at all.) Far from using this as a faith experiment with the ruse of potentially strengthening the faith of others, this will in reality damage the faith of others through the implicit promotion of the idea that God exists or doesn’t based on whether we one day wake up and decide to change our minds about the matter.

    • Money making scheme?

      If there’s no market for it, it won’t make him a dime. If there is, he will.

      Let’s put aside that the whole God Industrial Complex that is organized religion has, throughout history, sold an ethereal product and charged real world money for it. And obedience. And respect for its trappings and representatives. The Catholic Church is among the oldest and best–but certainly not the only–example.

      There has been a market for apologists in the hundreds (Lee Strobel, Joel Osteen are just a few of the more recent examples of many through history) of using people’s religious faith to get them to cough up dough. Their books are legion.

      And, though I’ve only skimmed Ryan’s blog and a few news stories, I don’t think he’s claiming it’s an exercise to strengthen people’s faith. Nor to take it away. It’s the recounting of a journey of exploration. He doesn’t claim to know the end point. To my mind, that makes it more interesting. Not less.

  23. I find it very comical to read the comments from the Atheists.
    None of them seem to have the slightest grasp of the big picture.
    Everything is all about me me me now now now.

    The fact is that for decades Western Civilization has been decreasing in size and in a few generations will be gone. With the exception of America most of the Western world is largely atheistic. Most of the “Christian” Western world has about a 2% amount of the population attending church. The birthrates of these countries are so low that they will be extinct relatively soon. History belongs to those that show up for the future. So in the long run, you really don’t matter.

    Self-extermination is not a definition of success.
    Atheism is a large reason for this extermination.
    So the Atheists can claim victory, but in their victory have lost. The cultures that are replacing Christendom are far more backwards and savage than our post-modern post-Christian society we have today.
    I don’t see any glorious atheistic Utopia rising out of the ashes.

    In the long run the God of the Bible will succeed. God isn’t like a corporation, always needing new customers to survive.
    God doesn’t need anything or anybody.
    He’s revealed his wisdom to the world. If we chose to ignore it to our own self-destruction, so be it.
    He’s quite capable of starting from scratch again.

    • on the other hand

      Quote: “Everything is all about me me me now now now.” My plans for the night are to crank up heavy metal and snort coke off my mistress’s back. I bought the coke with the money that should have gone to my ex-wife’s kids. That’s what we non-believers do, everyone knows that.

    • Dunno where you’re getting your numbers. But whether or not their correct, your conclusions aren’t justified.

      While I disagree with the too-common trope “America is a Christian Nation”, it is certainly not an Atheist Nation.

      Over 80% of North Americans claim, at least, to be Christian. You seem to put church attendance as the bench mark of “real christians”. I think the number of people who claim to be christian might be inflated somewhat. They’re not active, but they’ve just always considered themselves Protestant or whatever.

      We don’t expand (or expand much) by birthrate. But that’s not because there aren’t enough Christians. Or people being Christiany. Corelation does not equal causation. Or just because A happens and, later, B happens, B is not necessarily CAUSED by A.

      I disagree with both your A and your B

      The decline in birthrate isn’t caused by an increase in Atheism. It does have to do with a number of factors, including that for the first time in history we can actually have sex without it necessarily leading to the pregnancy. And, given that choice, western people are opting to have kids later and less often.

      Finite family resources can provide a better life when their providing for fewer people. A couple that has two kids can feed, clothe and house them better, even provide funds for college, trade school or whatever, better than a couple can do for 6 kids.

      And the planet doesn’t need MORE people than it has right now. Global resources are also finite.

      But the population of western countries isn’t declining. We’re in no danger of “extinction”. We’re having some kids. Just not “more than replacement” level. And we’re increasing due to immigration.

      Western countries are, in general, prosperous. Thank capitalism–and science–for that. People want to come here to be prosperous. And they’re more prosperous if they have fewer kids. And if they don’t figure that out, their kids will.

      And as long as we’re more prosperous (or they can otherwise enjoy a better life here), they’ll continue to want to come here.

  24. See, the thing is, we can believe, say and do anything we want to, and live any way we want to, because we have been given the freedom of choice. The universe does however have perfect laws, put into place by it’s Creator (Owner). And in the end of everything–whenever that may be–every human being will be judged by those perfect laws–or by his/her acceptance of the grace offered by the Owner, in lieu of his/her inability to live up to the perfection of those laws.
    Oh, and Truth does not change even a tiny bit because of someone’s inability or refusal to believe in it.

    • But if God is the Creator and He is perfect, all powerful and all knowing, how could some people not believe in it?
      And what would any of that have to do with Jesus?

      Seems there isn’t a shred of a reason to believe any of that.

    • That’s right Chris. “Truth does not change even a tiny bit because of someone’s inability or refusal to believe in it.”

      Which can also mean that just because you want to believe there’s a God doesn’t mean there is one.

      The universe has laws that are demonstrable. Gravity. Speed of light. Thermodynamics.

      Don’t lump your asserted ones, ie “and one day ye shall be judged!” in with those.

      Science has questions that may never be answered. Religion has answers that may never be questioned.

      Science is demonstrable. Religion is words in an old book.

      • To Chris (cont’d)…or, if there is one, that it’s the particular one (of the many thousands that man has created, then worshiped), that you follow. And, if there is one and it happens to be Yahweh, that It’s anything like your conception of It.

  25. Clay Stanwick

    Religion is simply a set of beliefs taught to people willing to be taught and Christianity is one of those religions. If God is real then he must be able to be experienced and too many Christians have not experienced Him but merely claim to know about Him and that can lead to one day wondering if He really exists. For those who have experienced His presence in a very per found way and even supernatural way, they will NEVER question His existence nor feel a need to check out other belief systems including atheism. I am happy to say I am one of those who have experienced God in a number of very profound ways. Those of you who question His existence, I would encourage to sincerely ask God to reveal himself to you and He will because He loves you.

  26. One year? I hope that through all this and he will somehow see that God has always and will always love him. If someone has hurt him so deeply before, to make him doubt and be angry with God, I hope he will find comfort in God’s everlasting loving kindness. No one is perfect, and has the right to cast any stone at anyone, no matter what. And yet, discipline must be administered by imperfect people to other imperfect people. May God’s love reign in every heart!

  1. […] So this week an Adventist pastor announced he is going to practice being an atheist for one year as his 2014 resolution.  He’s going to stop praying, stop going to church, stop reading his Bible, and stop thinking about God.  I’m not sure how you do that last one, but good luck.  Anyway, Ryan J. Bell is a former pastor for the Hollywood Adventist church.  He’s had some differences in opinion over the years with the church which ultimately led to them firing him as the pastor.  As a result of his resolution for this year Mr. Bell has already lost his teaching positions at two Christian universities and his job writing for a Christian magazine.  He’s also had friends and family distance themselves from him.  You can check out the full story here. […]

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