Seventh-day Adventist pastor plans to flirt with atheism for 12 months | Religion News Service

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

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.

Written By: Kimberly Winston
continue to source article at religionnews.com

39 COMMENTS

  1. This seems a bit…off. Though sincere changes of heart can and do happen, they seem a bit more believable if they come as the result of a private transition that is prompted by doubt and uncomfortable questions.

    If I were a betting man, I would wager that we are seeing the beginning phase of a “journey” that culminates in yet another vapid inspirational book about overcoming spiritual doubt and the need for Jeebus in everyone’s life. After all, what could bestow better “street cred” in the evangelical community like living and then rejecting the awful, awful lifestyle of life without god?

    • In reply to #1 by Matthew Lehman:

      After all, what could bestow better “street cred” in the evangelical community like living and then rejecting the awful, awful lifestyle of life without god?

      In a year, you will have the chance to say “Called it”.

      My cynical self says, this is a stunt. My less cynical self says, he might be sincere. Who knows!

  2. At least he now knows the nastiness dished out by the faithful, first hand. While reading our writings and trying to walk our walk, I hope he also takes a critical look at his former associates in the Clergy. Perhaps some of the folks in the Clergy Project could send him some pointers.

    • In reply to #2 by Quine:

      At least he now knows the nastiness dished out by the faithful, first hand. While reading our writings and trying to walk our walk, I hope he also takes a critical look at his former associates in the Clergy. Perhaps some of the folks in the Clergy Project could send him some pointers.

      The Clergy Project is for people who have already made up their minds.

      • In reply to #30 by Sara:

        In reply to #2 by Quine:

        At least he now knows the nastiness dished out by the faithful, first hand. While reading our writings and trying to walk our walk, I hope he also takes a critical look at his former associates in the Clergy. Perhaps some of the folks in the Clergy Project could send him some pointers.

        The Clergy Project is for people who have already made up their minds.

        Which is why I specified getting pointers from the people in the Clergy Project, not joining the project.

  3. Well, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to get started. However, if he thinks this is a way to become the missionary to the atheists, I have plenty of experience being on the receiving end of that, and predict it will backfire, and rather quickly.

    • In reply to #10 by Quine:

      Well, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt to get started. However, if he thinks this is a way to become the missionary to the atheists, I have plenty of experience being on the receiving end of that, and predict it will backfire, and rather quickly.

      Yep I’d give him the benefit of the doubt based on:

      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.

      I’m guessing that the outcome will be he will end up in some form of christianity where he can still use his skills but they tolerate his more liberal views. Interesting he didn’t just drift that way anyway instead of doing this year of atheism.

      Michael

      • Isn’t this how new denominations start?

        In reply to #20 by mmurray:
        >

        I’m guessing that the outcome will be he will end up in some form of christianity where he can still use his skills but they tolerate his more liberal views. Interesting he didn’t just drift that way anyway instead of doing this year of atheism.

        Michael

  4. I don’t think he is going to make it a week, let alone a year. Here is the end of his last blog post:

    So I find myself, on Day 4, without any employment. My savings will run out in about two weeks and I’m scrambling to find immediate work doing, well…anything—manual labor, waiting tables, other teaching and consulting, or whatever I can find.

    I understand so much better now why dozens of people spoke to me and about me as though I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Some aspects of my life did receive a terminal diagnose because of this journey. My hope is that I will find work to support myself and my family as I continue down this road, and my heart goes out to those who have suffered similar consequences as a result of following their conscience.

    • In reply to #11 by Quine:

      I don’t think he is going to make it a week, let alone a year. Here is the end of his last blog post:

      So I find myself, on Day 4, without any employment. My savings will run out in about two weeks and I’m scrambling to find immediate work doing, well…anything—manual labor, waiting tables, other tea…

      The article says

      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.

      So I’m confused. Was it really day 4 he lost his job ? Or last year ?

      Look forward to seeing him joining up here.

      Michael

      • In reply to #18 by mmurray:
        >
        So I’m confused. Was it really day 4 he lost his job ? Or last year ?

        OK it seems like job as SDA Pastor went last year and he took up some university positions with christian universities. The latter is what he has been sacked from in the last couple of days.

        Michael

    • In reply to #13 by Miserablegit:

      I am not sure what I am – I do, a media hungry publicity seeking fool.

      That’s his issue, he still needs support otherwise your doing the same as his employers, family, friends….

  5. “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”

    Well, join the club!

    No one is or claims to be absolutely certain about whether there is or whether there is not a god.

    One just needs to look at the evidence and make a decision whether it is likely or unlikely that there is a god or gods. I see absolutely no evidence for the existence past or present for a god or gods and conclude that their existence is probably not. Hopefully the pastor will approach the issue correctly and refrain from the influence that his long-suffering brain has received all of his life.

  6. I’m not convinced in the least. An honest approach would firstly have been to leave out the advertising of his intention – not even a word to anyone, including his family and closest friends. The next step would be declaring his new found atheist, non-religious freedom to all and sundry. Then, and only then, would he find out what it is like to be an atheist in a highly religious country.

    It’s only a poorly thought-out, bottom-of-the-barrel stunt. And he knows it. Done using the method above, he would capitulate in a week.

    • In reply to #15 by Missus Gumby:

      I’m not convinced in the least. An honest approach would firstly have been to leave out the advertising of his intention – not even a word to anyone, including his family and closest friends. The next step would be declaring his new found atheist, non-religious freedom to all and sundry. Then, and o…

      Really? There’s only one way of doing, then — your way.

  7. “Experiment with atheism.” Hmmm, sounds an awful lot like experimenting with sex. And I can’t think of ANYONE who tries that out and then decides to go back to innocence. Good for him. It does sound a little cockamamie to make such a big deal of it, but maybe he is trying to put a good face on the deterioration of his sky-father fantasy.

  8. As someone who has been out with an SDA for two years, all I can say I hope this guy can get his brain unwashed with all the crap they believe in. Methinks that this man is seeking attention though !

  9. I wish this guy all the best with his experiment. He has already experienced the power of the ‘dark side of the force’ with his employment, friends, and family not treating him as an equal. This social pressure is really the weapon the religious use to maintain absolute control over the minions of mindless servants to the cause. Not violence in the physical form (although Islam has a good go at that), but mental violence of the mind with the threat of losing all those you love if you lose your faith (and stop paying into the church or mosque).

  10. 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!

  11. It should be illegal in a modern democracy for someone to lose his job because he loses or changes his faith.

    How does this differ from idiot Islamics stoning someone for apostasy? Can America not at least aspire to be a little bit better than that?

  12. 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.

    Five days in, and he has found out who his real friends are.

  13. ..sounds more like a year of living rationally. While reading “atheist literature” he should also give the bible a good read. Good luck to him … I don’t think he’ll be able to go back.

  14. I submitted a discussion about this resolution (we’ll see where it goes.) I have made resolutions that parallel his experience that ultimately led me to atheism. I have to believe he is one of many who have decided to make a change during the Christmas holidays and new year and needs our support. Fortunately, I was not dealing with financial/employment issues that have to do with basic levels of living. Focusing on surviving leaves little room for considering higher levels of thinking. Deconversion takes time, if he could simply get that nearly all good and bad come from other PEOPLE his experiment will have been successful.

  15. We can’t have any experimentation, you’re either with us or your with the goats. Now he knows just how closely he was being shepherded and how deep the need to control is for his soon to be former belief system.

  16. Although Ryan Bell says he is trying on atheism, living without God for a year, he seems to me rather to be taking a year’s break from the religion he has been raised in – a sabbatical during which he will read the atheistic literature. At least he is trying to think freely, and the result may eventually be his realization that he has in fact been without God all along. Freedom from delusions is a sine qua non of rational freethought. I wish Mr Bell well.

  17. He’s flirting with ‘danger’. I’m an ex Seventh Day Adventist who just opened up his mind. If this guy does the same during this year, his belief in ‘the spirit of prophecy’ and other ‘wonders’ of ‘God’, when compared to Darwinism, will fall onto the sword of foolishness.
    He’ll realize how stupid it all is.

    • In reply to #35 by Eurekus:

      He’s flirting with ‘danger’. I’m an ex Seventh Day Adventist who just opened up his mind. If this guy does the same during this year, his belief in ‘the spirit of prophecy’ and other ‘wonders’ of ‘God’, when compared to Darwinism, will fall onto the sword of foolishness.
      He’ll realize how stupid it…

      I expect that will be quite soon. He is quoting Nietzsche on only the fifth day.

  18. Good on him. He seems an open-minded and honest volunteer, and even if he doesn’t change his mind about his religion, his willingness to see things from another POV is commendable. I hope the year proves instructive for him, and may he find himself in good company.

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