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January 8th, 2014
08:39 AM ET

Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - In the past, at times like these, when his life foundered and frayed around the edges, Ryan Bell often prayed for help. But this year, at least, the pastor has resolved not to.

For the next 12 months, Bell says he will live as if there is no God.

He will not pray, go to church, read the Bible for inspiration, trust in divine providence or hope in things unseen. He’s taking the opposite of a leap of faith: a free fall into the depths of religious doubt.

Bell’s “intellectual experiment,” which began January 1, has already borne dramatic consequences.

In less than a week, he lost two jobs teaching at Christian schools near his home in Los Angeles. He’s 42 and has been a pastor or in seminary for most of his adult life. Now he faces the prospect of poverty and taking odd jobs to feed his two daughters, 10 and 13.

“There have been times, usually late at night and early in the morning, when I think: What have I done? It really undermines the whole structure of your life, your career, your family,” Bell said.

But just as the man of God began to despair, he found help from an unlikely source: atheists.

'Suspending belief '

The seeds of Bell’s journey were planted last March, when he was asked to resign as pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Hollywood.

He had advocated for the church to allow gay and lesbian leaders, campaigned against California’s same-sex marriage ban and disputed deeply held church doctrines about the End Times.

Eventually, his theological and political liberalism became more than leaders in the denomination could bear, and he lost his career of 19 years. His faith was shaken, and for a while Bell became a “religious nomad.”

On the positive side, losing his church job gave him the freedom to question the foundations of his religious belief without fear of troubling his congregation.

“I could finally pursue those questions that had been bouncing around my head,” he said, while earning money from teaching, speaking and consulting jobs.

MORE ON CNN: Behold, the six types of atheists

Then, after lunch with a friend last year, he thought: What if he tried out atheism, and lived with no religion at all for a year?

“It’s like when you go to a movie and you suspend disbelief for three hours to get inside the story,” Bell said. “I’m suspending my belief in God to see what atheism is all about.”

Bell, who still holds ministerial credentials in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, thought it would be a neat little intellectual experiment.

He would interview atheists, attend gatherings of nonbelievers and read through the canon of skeptics: Friedrich Nietzsche, Baruch Spinoza, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, among others.

When friends got sick, instead of praying, as was once his immediate response, Bell said, he would “do something tangible and practical and supportive for them.”

He would start a blog, “Year Without God,” and write about his faithless journey. Bell thought maybe a few people would read his posts, follow along and offer advice or criticism.

“I didn’t realize, even four days ago, how difficult it would be for some people to embrace me while I was embracing this journey of open inquiry into the question of God’s existence,” Bell wrote on Saturday.

‘We need to talk’

The first signs of trouble came around the turn of the new year, just days after Bell announced his experiment online.

Texts and e-mails arrived from friends, family and colleagues with the ominous phrase, “We need to talk.”

Kurt Fredrickson, a friend of Bell’s and associate dean of ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, sent one of those messages.

Bell, a graduate of Fuller, had taught in the school’s doctorate development program for the past year. But Fredrickson told his friend that his sabbatical from faith meant a sabbatical from the seminary as well.

“From an academic standpoint, and even as a personal journey, I’m really excited about what Ryan is doing,” Fredrickson said.

"There is no honest person of faith who doesn’t have doubts, and Ryan is being courageous enough to take a step back and assess his life. This is bold stuff.”

But Bell’s job at Fuller was to help students through their doctoral dissertations, a particularly stressful time, Fredrickson said, when seminarians need to lean on a person with strong faith.

“They are flying solo for the first time, and we want to not only teach, but to nurture souls as well,” Fredrickson said. “Ryan saying he’s going to be an atheist for a year is a little contradictory to that.”

Fuller would be happy to talk to Bell when his experiment is over, the dean added.

MORE ON CNN: What Oprah gets wrong about atheism

Azusa Pacific University, where Bell had taught intercultural communication since 2011, also declined to renew his contract.

Rachel White, a spokeswoman for the school, wouldn’t comment, saying it was an internal personnel matter. But she said all school and faculty are expected to sign a statement of faith outlining their belief in Christianity.

Also this year, Bell lost a consulting job with a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Glendale, California.

Bell said he bears no ill will toward the church or the schools that let him go, though he wishes they would tolerate, if not support, his atheism experiment. The loss of income has led to some family stress, he said.

“I have kids to support and utilities to pay and the rent is due,” Bell said. “At this point I’m willing to do almost anything.” Bell said he and his wife are divorcing, though not because of his atheist experiment.

Meanwhile, the phone calls, e-mails and texts from friends and family worried about the fate of his soul continue to pour in.

‘A beautiful gesture’

“He learned what it’s like to be an atheist real fast,” said Hemant Mehta, a prominent atheist blogger and schoolteacher in Illinois.

Mehta said he knows many atheists who fear that “coming out of the closet” will jeopardize their jobs and relationships, just as in Bell’s experience.

Mehta said he doesn’t exactly agree with the premise of Bell’s experiment. How does someone pretend to be an atheist? It’s not like a hat you wear to see if it fits. Faith taps into deeply held beliefs and emotions. Even during his experiment with atheism, won't there still be a nagging suspicion in the back of Bell’s mind that God exists?

(For the record, Bell describes his current theological views as agnostic - somewhere between belief and atheism. But he's trying to put that aside for the year to live and think like an atheist.)

Mehta said he admired Bell’s pluck and sympathized with his plight. Though he had never spoken with the pastor, Mehta set up an online fundraiser for Bell on Tuesday. In just one day, nearly 900 people donated more than $19,000 to help “the pastor giving atheism a try.”

“I think more than anything else, people appreciate that this guy is giving atheism a shot,” Mehta said. “I mean, he lost three jobs in the span of a week just for saying he was exploring it.”

Bell said he knows Christians and agnostics who have contributed to his fundraiser as well, so it’s not an all-atheist effort.

Still, he’s impressed that nonbelievers have flocked to help fund his experiment

“It really validates that the (atheist) community is really all about the search for truth,” Bell said. “They know that I might not even end up as an atheist at the end of my search, but it doesn’t matter to them. It’s such a beautiful gesture.”

Will the support tip Bell toward atheism? The pastor is agnostic about that, too – for now.

MORE ON CNN: Can atheist churches last?

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Christianity • evangelicals • Faith • Lost faith

soundoff (6,251 Responses)
  1. Russ

    Well, it's a great way to sell books... and apparently CNN is buying.

    Facts are:
    some have left Christianity for atheism, some have left atheism for Christianity.
    some have written blogs about it before.
    many such "movers" have lost credentials & respect in their former circle of colleagues.
    what's so different here? apparently: marketing (& income).

    Am I the only one that finds that highly suspect?

    January 8, 2014 at 9:26 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      This fellow, Bell, doesn't seem to be enjoying any rewards for what he is doing. Perhaps he will in time. Just now his experiment, willful suspension of belief, may be inspiring to people who really should be examining the underpinnings of their belief.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:29 am |
      • seriously ridiculous

        $19k and counting.

        January 8, 2014 at 10:03 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          That's not significant compared to what he's lost.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • seriously ridiculous

          @ TomTom the other one. He is still making money of religion.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
      • Russ

        @ TTTOO:
        the article says he's getting a divorce... "not because of his atheist experiment."

        note well: he most likely would have lost his job as a pastor anyway due to that alone, and most careers that follow seminary also see divorce as a substantial (though not completely insurmountable) hurdle on one's resume.

        it certainly seems he needed a new avenue prior to "his atheist experiment."
        is it unthinkable that this is largely a self-serving, marketing maneuver?
        this article alone is bringing him the sort of publicity he could only have imagined.

        January 8, 2014 at 10:44 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          It is not unthinkable that he could benefit from this exposure. Is it unthinkable that he has genuinely had a change in his belief in his God? Or that he might recognize that his experience might be valuable to others like himself? There are quite a few, I suspect.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
        • Russ

          @ TTTOO: it's not beyond the realm of possibilities. but considering:
          a) his divorce *preceded* this crisis of faith (& therein career, education, etc.)
          b) he is marketing this paradigm shift rather than simply experiencing it
          c) he appears to be reciprocating the recent rash of "i followed the bible for a year" model of book-writing & simply applying it to atheism

          yes, the cynic in me finds these factors highly susp.icious.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
    • Jeffrey

      Apparently you are.

      January 8, 2014 at 10:01 pm |
    • newatheistnation

      Bell sounds nothing like Jerry DeWitt or Teresa MacBain, who actually lost their jobs because they came out as atheists. Just the opposite, Bell was fired, then started this media campaign to "try" atheism, as if that's possible. Bell minces his words every time I hear or read an interview. His claims are ambiguous and tentative. Nobody with a genuine doubt is that ambivalent.

      February 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • lexingtonbobby

      Russ, you're on target. This guy is a whack-job, fake, who wants to sell books and push his crazy agenda. This is about money & about him. Boring, beyond boring…...

      April 20, 2014 at 9:04 am |
  2. Robert Raulerson

    I dint even bother to read this. I may not always recognize genius, but I know horse hockey when I see it.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:24 am |
    • ed dugan

      Well it does shine the spotlight on how wonderfully tolerant christians are. Stray from their misbegotten beliefs and they drop you like a hot potato. They should ask themsleves if Jesus would have done the same thing. Obnoxious people with obnoxious beliefs!!!

      January 8, 2014 at 9:33 am |
      • seriously ridiculous

        Yeah like you can conclude christians are not tolerant becasue someone a group of christians hired to teach their religion publicly states that he doesn't believe their religion and isn't going to acknowledge god or pray etc. And he is supposed to do his job how? Just a ridiculous conclusion and unreasonable expectation to expects a religious school to pay someone to denounce their beliefs in public, and refuse to engage in the activities required to do his job..

        January 8, 2014 at 10:07 am |
        • exlonghorn

          Well, you do have to admit that the church response is awfully hypocritical to their whole ExploreGOD campaign they've been promoting throughout 2013. Apparently it means that non-religious people should explore adding religion to their life, but not the other way around. Shows the church's true intent...stemming the losses in local congregations over the past few years. It's not about honest inquiry...it's about self-preservation of an archaic inst1tution.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
        • Bruce

          Agreed. If you were a Republican, and switched parties, I don't think you'd get invited to the Republican parties anymore, or expect to be hired as their spokesperson. The very idea is silly and an unreasonable expectation.

          January 9, 2014 at 5:03 am |
      • James

        For somebody holding a specifically Christian job (pastor, teacher, etc.), it makes total sense to fire him if he drops the faith. Think of it as services not rendered. If the head of some atheist coalition (I don't know what the appropriate job would be, but bear with me) became a devout Muslim, it would no longer make sense to have him on the board.

        I'd be interested to see how his friends/family treat him during and after this. Although, I would have to read his blog to do so and I don't want to buy into this guy's scam.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:29 am |
        • G to the T

          But he's not dropping his faith. He's doing a thought experiment to see what it's like to not have faith. Should he be fired for that? Or even if he did have doubts?

          January 9, 2014 at 7:44 am |
      • skalaballa

        So what you're saying is if one of your top atheist leaders being paid to be part of the Atheists Anonymous Association were to start practicing religion he wouldn't lose his job? You wouldn't be worried about him teaching religion to your kids for what he is paid to do? If you're speaking about his job loss, it's a simple concept.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          exactly

          January 8, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
      • markbond

        How tolerant are atheists of religious minded people working for them? I'm thinking of scientists who believe in intelligent design. They are often persecuted for their beliefs by their atheist colleagues.

        Is is such a shock that someone who has been hired to inspire and protect the spiritual wellbeing of students and church members would be asked to step down when he expresses doubt that there is a God?

        If I were an executive for Coca Cola, but I had Pepsi memorabilia hanging in my office, and wore Pepsi branded shirts to the office, and drank Pepsi from a logo cup in board meetings, I wouldn't be shocked to get a pink slip. If you like Pepsi, go work for Pepsi. Simple as that. Don't be surprised if your employer dismisses you when you state that you no longer believe in their product.

        January 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
        • David

          Scientists don't so much persecute creationists as deem them irrelevent (the who concept of the scientific method contradicts creationism). Similarly, I don't get mad at a three year old for not being able to understand calculus. I pat him on his head and encourage him to go outside and play with other children.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • seriously ridiculous

          exactly

          January 8, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • Jeffrey

          Sorry, scientists and intelligent design don't even belong in the same sentence. People are free to believe whatever they want but the "truth" is that the Earth is more than 6000 years old. Facts are facts and opinions, even those based on religious faith, are just opinions.

          January 8, 2014 at 10:07 pm |
      • Jeffrey

        Drop him like a hot potato??? If that is the only retribution he receives from the "Christian Community", he will be lucky.

        January 8, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
    • CosmicC

      You know this because you didn't read it? Wow. Are you clarivoyant?

      January 8, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • inscient

      So, you judged the book by its cover and went merrily on your ignorant way.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
  3. Not the Mama

    Such absolute B.S. One cannot 'try out' a different belief. You either possess that belief or you do not. His failings are his own fault and not that of another belief system. Sounds to me like yet another religious nutso trying to denounce atheism.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:24 am |
    • Econ301

      I'm not exactly sure how this works either.

      How exactly can you just decided to act like you don't believe something when you still do?

      Is someone who is acting like a doctor a doctor?

      Is someone who is acting like an atheist an atheist?

      I don't think so, and perhaps this whole "experiment" is ill-advised.

      January 8, 2014 at 10:46 am |
      • Jeff

        He's not "trying out" atheism regardless what the article (or he for that matter) states. He's just applying a different set of rules in his decision making process. In the past, when he would automatically pray for guidance in some situation, now he won't, he'll do something else. There may be some benefit in what he's doing if it helps him to find out more about how his life works without the intentional act of relying on his faith. Does life improve, stay the same, get worse? What he's doing is probably the result of whatever is behind his divorce and the fact that his beliefs don't seem to line up with the denomination in which he was a pastor. He's just going through a life crisis like everyone does at some point and it happened to catch the attention of a news reporter. Why is everyone so cynical? Because we live in an incredibly and increasingly stressful world where there's little safety of any kind anymore. Can't find a job, racial inequity, people doing heinous things. It's always been like that but it's a gigantic f*****g snowball that isn't going to stop collecting everything and everyone in it's path.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:19 am |
  4. Brian

    I applaud this man. I do not have the courage to tell my family that I have become an atheist. I have stopped going to church, stopped praying, stopped having anything to do with religion, but my whole family is Christian and they would not understand, especially my son who is 10 – who I unfortunately brought up to believe. How do I now tell him that I do not believe? I think that it would destroy my family if I told them.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:22 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Your family might see you as intellectually honest if you were to be open about how you came about disbelief.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:25 am |
      • Brian

        But as many people have noted – and one of the many reasons I have left religion – it is hard to rationalize with people of faith.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:27 am |
        • James

          So you've justified living a lie to your family, yet speak about the irrationality of people with faith. Right.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:13 am |
        • Rascal262

          Tell them you've decided to convert to the Church of Scientology, pause, then tell them "just kidding, I'm an Athiest". Their relief will be palpable.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
        • Don M

          Brian: I wonder if it is hard to rationalize with you. Have you considered the REASONS you have purportedly lost your "faith"? Have you considered whether those reasons are true and not just, as Charles stated, "convictions" (i.e., emotional responses to certain things you don't like). I would suggest that you not follow your "convictions" (those can be misleading), but rather seek the truth and follow it. Ask yourself: 'Is Atheism true? How do I know it's true?' Be brutually honest with yourself in answering those questions. Read something like The Case for Christ and/or The Case for the Creator, by Lee Strobel, with an open mind and an open heart.

          January 9, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • huh

      It probably would hurt him if you told him there wasn't someone who made the world and the animals and loved him unconditionally. Someone who would be with him everywhere he went and always watched for his safety. Its not like tellling him there is no Santa Clause

      January 8, 2014 at 9:30 am |
      • CosmicC

        I strongly disagree. You just described a parent. That's all children need, no belief in the supernatural.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:32 am |
        • huh

          But parents make mistakes, have mood swings, act selfishly sometimes. And your parents will not be around your whole life.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:52 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          The point being made is someone he trusted led him down a path and then changed course drastically. Any decent parent would ease into that an dnot make their personal dilemma their child's dilemma

          January 8, 2014 at 9:59 am |
      • laura

        What a load of horse hockey huh....always keep you safe?? Tell that to every child who gets molested or murdered. Tell that to the 6 million Jews who died at the hand of Hitler. Tell that to every Christian or God fearing person who died do to some religious over-zelous wingnut who harms someone else in the name of their religion.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
        • aldewacs2

          Or tell it to the many atheists who are being marginalized by the believers or pretend-believers.
          In many ways, it's more threatening to 'come out' as an atheists than it is as a gay person.

          January 9, 2014 at 5:53 pm |
    • CosmicC

      That's a pretty tough problem, but I think that in the end you need to find a way to be honest with them. I'm sure a 10 year old will forgive you. I would hope your wife is "Christian" enough to do so as well.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:31 am |
    • Patrick

      If your family disassociates with you for telling them you are an atheist, then I feel very sorry for them.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Brian
      I'm sorry that you feel that way.
      Much of it depends on the particular sect in which you were brought up.
      Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and other fundamentalist types can be pretty unforgiving of apostacy.
      If you do come out to your family, remind them that a Christian lives life in the image of Jesus Christ – but belief in miracles, divinity, resurrections, and other fantastical, supernatural flourishes isn't required to live a life of forgiveness, pacifism, charity and humility.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • Charles

      Brian your best option is to be honest with yourself, and then be honest with your family & friends. I was a pastor who became an agnostic in 2010, I left the ministry, I told my family and friends and have not looked back. You must have the courage to stand up for your convictions.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:18 am |
    • jkflipflop

      I think you put far too much weight into a silly, silly belief system and what it means to people. Your 10 year old knows nothing except what his parents (i.e. YOU) have taught him. You lied to him about Santa. You lied to him about the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. How about for once you fess up and be honest with your son.

      January 8, 2014 at 8:39 pm |
    • Bruce

      I'd suggest your real problem is losing your faith. What you tell or don't tell your family is inconsequential compared to that.

      January 9, 2014 at 5:55 am |
      • aldewacs2

        Nope. Losing your faith is like losing a ball and chain. You are free, and can handle life realistically.
        The biggest favor you can do for your son, is relieve him of the angst that religion will bring to his life.
        If you love him, set him free. He'll be so relieved...

        January 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
    • laura

      Brian,
      It's not as hard a thing to do as it may seem. I live in a family with both ends of the spectrum. My father is big bang and my mom is Protestant.
      After much review of both, I have come to the conclusion that I am an Agnostic Athiest. While not completely shutting the door on a higher power, but at the same time I can see evolution with my own eyes. It's tangible. Faith is something I just do not possess. I'm sorry but to take a literal translation of the Bible that a mystical being created an entire planet and everything on it in 6 days is ridiculous. Creating a human adult female out of thin air from the nothing but the rib of a adult male is also ridiculous. Logic and religion do not mix well.
      Just tell your family your beliefs. It's not up to them to decide what you will believe. They may not like it, but it's your life.

      January 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
  5. John Bergstrom

    This is fascinating – I think a lot of people who are basically atheists "try" religion in this sense – reading sacred texts, reciting prayers, even attending church. There seems to be some "deep" value to those practices beyond, or aside from, an intellectual "belief". (And one can't ignore the practical values of fitting into a community, and even holding a job, as in this

    January 8, 2014 at 9:20 am |
  6. Dan

    Seeing that no one will know how this experiment will turn out it is kind of ridiculous. After all it must be remembered that the results will only be known when this dude is dead and stands before God. Just imagine two people building airplanes. The one says that there are laws of aerodynamics that must be observed and is building his plane by those laws. The other scoffs and sneers at those old fashion laws and says that cast iron is as good as aluminum and how dare anyone tell him different. Now as long as both planes are on the ground they both look pretty good, but the day comes when both will be launched off of into the wold blue yonder and then and only then will the truth be seen. In the case of life, the proof only truly comes after we draw our last breath and all of the bragging and swaggering before that is utterly meaningless....

    January 8, 2014 at 9:20 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Who has ever stood before god that you know of with certainty?? Has anyone returned from the dead to confirm this or do you simply accept every 2000+ year old book as reality?

      January 8, 2014 at 9:30 am |
    • Jake

      Um, yes, we can see the result when we find out whether he sticks with it or returns to religion. No need to add all the rest of your mumbo jumbo. And btw, you got your analogy backwards...science is not the "old fashioned" side. Science is the progressive side. Religion, or cast iron in your analogy, is the "old fashioned" side.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:33 am |
      • James

        I think whether he returns or stays is irrelevant. This guy seems like he's just after the publicity, so it makes you want to take any "outcome" with a serious grain of salt.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:17 am |
    • Garrett

      Don't you find it ironic that you used an example in which science trumps blind faith in order to make a point about how blind faith is stronger than logical, critical, thinking (i.e. science)?

      January 8, 2014 at 10:22 am |
    • Ted

      Dan, google "Pascal's Wager". Read up on it repeatedly until you understand it, stupid.

      January 8, 2014 at 10:29 am |
      • IamMark

        And then google criticisms of Pascal's Wager to ensure you understand the fallacies related thereto.

        January 10, 2014 at 12:40 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      An airplane engineer can TEST materials to build airplanes out of. God doesn't let us test which religion will work. All religions rely on faith. Stupid god.

      January 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
    • jkflipflop

      What a small minded doofus this guy is.

      January 8, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
  7. Dave

    This man continues to live financially off of faith, either with it or without it. His entire life was financially supported by faith based jobs and now he's being supported to pretend he doesn't have it. Why doesn't he get a non secular job and develop relationships with non secular people? Then perhaps he could claim to have lived a year without Religion.

    I have a feeling that this is a big con job. I suspect that Mr Bell (as he is not a Pastor if he's an atheist) plans on returning as the prodigal son and enjoying the fatted calf.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:16 am |
    • CosmicC

      The article doesn't say he's an atheist. It says he will live as an atheist. He will not rely on prayer or his belief in God, but it does not say he will abandon his belief.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:36 am |
      • seriously ridiculous

        I don't see how he can do his job while openly stating he is "living" as an atheist and he says he wont acknowledge god or pray. Well I can't see how he could do his job not acknowledging god or praying when he is teaching religion and supposed to inspire seminary students....

        January 8, 2014 at 10:26 am |
      • James

        I don't see how you can live like an atheist without being one. To live your life as if all truth was relative would be pretty hard for anybody with any sort of consistency or conscience.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:23 am |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    At the end of his atheist journey, I suspect that he will again embrace his faith.
    I just hope he finds a home in a less nutty sect.
    It boggles my mind that a religion that experienced a "Great Disappointment" when their 2nd coming prophecies failed to come to pass in the 1800s is still around.
    Yep. The End Times are gonna start aaaany day now.... just you wait and see.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:14 am |
    • huh

      you know the history but you don't understand the people or the religion

      January 8, 2014 at 9:21 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Let's see – live simply, so no jewelry, fashion or anything ostentatious.
        Live a life of abstinence – alcohol, tobacco (well, any mind altering substances) meat, and dancing are all impure, evil things.
        Even though He didn't appear in the expected way in the mid 1800's, Jesus is up in his magic, ethereal office busily judging everybody in preparation for His 2nd Coming.
        As soon and Jesus is done with the paperwork, He'll be right down.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:29 am |
        • huh

          The difference is that SDA's understand that first you must have love in your heart putting God and others first. The rest of the things you mentioned come secondary.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:35 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Every Christian sect believes the former but few require the latter of their adherents.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:56 am |
    • jonathanL

      I did the same about 45 years ago and like quitting cigarettes, it helps to be around people who do not where bad habits. It doesn't metter where you are there will be a religion that will try to suck you in. Once in, the pressure to stay is great. It takes courage. I am free now of all the stresses, time wasting rituals, contradictions, impurities explained by faith alone, false teachings and illogical assertions which only faith based reasoning can reconcile (because it allows you to ignore facts, science, logic, and truth). If he is truly doing what he says, like I did, he will find that all the religosity is ineffective, useless and pointless. I hope he finds, like I did, that he can live good life, with a moral code based on real things like, common sense, practicality, being a part of a community, the environment, everything. We don't have to believe in fairy tales and lies, ever fearing the imaginary and hoping for things that won't ever be. Jon

      January 8, 2014 at 9:31 am |
    • Jake

      It boggles my mind that THAT ridiculous religious belief boggles your mind, but any other version of Christianity does not.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:36 am |
  9. AgnosticsAllowed

    I think he should seek employment teaching in the public sector. It does not surprise me in the least that his former Christian employers acted as they did. One thing Christians are clear on it's "my way or the highway". They are not tolerant people.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:14 am |
    • chieftrainer

      If you were the head of the English department at a school and suddenly one of the professors decides to only speak Russian to his students, would you continue to keep him on staff?

      January 8, 2014 at 9:22 am |
      • ThinkFree

        I would think Bell's education and training might make him able to fulfill majority of his duties, even if he had to fake them. Being a phony Christian is not uncommon. I doubt a Russian-only speaking teacher could fake a meaningful lesson on Shakespeare.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:33 am |
        • chieftrainer

          I believe you drove my analogy into a light pole

          January 8, 2014 at 9:54 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          Well you are just going to ignore the obvious fact that he got hired to inspire people of faith and now he can't do that job and he is openly questioning the faith and they aren't' and shouldn't be expected to pay him to do that. How was he going to not pray or acknowledge god and do his job? He wasn't duh

          January 8, 2014 at 10:03 am |
      • None of yer business

        How many professors of Egyptian Mythology do you think follow Egyptian Mythology as their religion? Pretty much none, I would guess. So why can't this man teach Christian Mythology without being a Christian, provided he is well educated in the subject?

        January 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
    • Rascal262

      Speaking as an Agnostic (thank you very much), isn't this the same situation as the Christian pharmacist who was let go by some big pharmacy chain because he refused to fill prescriptions for birth control? The Christian's beliefs did not allow him to fulfill all his required duties, therefore he had to be let go (and rightfully so). This Pastor is in the same boat - his new beliefs do not allow him to fulfill all his duties, therefore he had to be let go.
      Or do you believe the pharmacy must be forced to rehire the pharmacist, as the Christians demanded (using your very same argument) when this made news?

      January 9, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
  10. Sage

    I thought it was illegal to fire someone based on their religious beliefs...

    January 8, 2014 at 9:13 am |
    • Dan

      Not when your job requires religious beliefs!

      January 8, 2014 at 9:16 am |
    • seriously ridiculous

      Then you were wrong

      January 8, 2014 at 10:15 am |
  11. alex

    Organized religion – last bastion for the ignorant

    January 8, 2014 at 9:13 am |
    • seriously ridiculous

      Apparently they don't have exclusive rights to that...

      January 8, 2014 at 10:27 am |
  12. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Disbelief is easy. But how does anyone believe in something with no evidence or facts to support it? If you believe in God, do you believe as a result of something that depends on the existence of God as a fact? If God ceased to exist just now, would you notice? How would you know? If you can't know if God exists, I wonder not just why you believe, but how you can believe at all.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:11 am |
    • CosmicC

      Fear of the unknown.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:37 am |
    • Jeff

      There is intent and purpose behind the idea that not everyone is given a measure of faith in God. There's nothing to argue here, but if God does exist, he has a point to make.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:27 am |
      • uos_spo6

        Sounds like something a crazy person or large group of them tell themselves as part of the devoted ingrained mass hysteria.

        "they don't hear the voices because they aren't special!"

        January 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
    • inscient

      Some people truly believe that cutting taxes for rich people makes poor people richer. If they can believe that, they can believe anything.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
  13. sue

    What did he expect? How can you teach in a christian school and say that you are "taking a year off from God"? If he's familiar with the Bible, he knows that Jesus taught that God is love...but he also taught that actions have consequences. He's dealing with the consequences of saying he's a christian, but deciding not to live as a christian (for a year). Honestly, as a believer and a follower of Christ, I'm not sure I could do what he's doing. Having a daily relationship with Jesus keeps me centered, happy, content, strong, etc...in the face of every day trails and tribulations. Good luck to you.....since you won't be believing in God for a year your going to need some luck.

    I'm curious why CNN has so many stories now that are related to Atheism. Are they trying to make the lack of faith/belief more acceptable? Is the editor of the Belief blog a non-believer? Shouldn't the Belieft section be about those that believe...not non-believers or their issues?

    January 8, 2014 at 9:07 am |
    • TS

      Perhaps because more and more people across the country and around the world are coming to realize that there is no god in the sky.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:13 am |
      • chuckt

        Apparently you didnt read her comment. Why are they reporting atheism in the religious section? It's really kind of stupid or there is a hidden agenda with CNN.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:35 am |
        • CaseyT

          You're joking, right? You really can't see how this story applies to religion/belief/faith? If you only want to hear your preferred narrative then by all means don't read anything that isn't blessed by your pastor who drives that $70k caddy parked in his reserved spot in front of the church. Oh, and make sure that 10% is pre-tax...I don't want you to go to hell due to an accounting error. You'll get no respect down there from the others.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:36 pm |
    • DonnaS.

      There is no god. Deal with it.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:14 am |
      • eric

        or 'end of times' nonsense. lol. how does anyone have 'faith' with all the nonsense in religion?

        January 8, 2014 at 9:26 am |
      • chuckt

        That's why it's called faith. You belive or you don't belive. There are people who do belive and you need to deal with that. Understand when you die you will have to deal with God and not me or this person dealing with his study.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:37 am |
        • CaseyT

          Again you are missing the point. You are stating your adorable opinion as fact. Same as if I told you that its a fact that you will get a lump of coal in your stocking from Santa if you are bad this year. Its not me you will have to answer to...I personally don't care. Its Santa you will have to answer to on Christmas day.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
        • Yeager

          Yes the taliban also has a lot of faith. And yes the world does unfortunately have to deal with it. Of course only your faith is proper, correct? You can't possiblycompare the taliban or Islam to Christianity. However a big reason you are a Christian is because 1500 years ago Christianity was employing the same methods the taliban is now.

          January 8, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
      • John

        Donna, there is a God who loves you unconditionally and whether we believe or not, we will all have "to deal with it" at some point. We will all stand before Him to give an account for our lives. Judging if God exists by looking at some of His so called "followers" is a huge mistake. Counterfeiter's don't copy something that isn't real or worth something. Not many counterfeit $3.00 bills. A lot of $20's and $100 counterfeit bills out there. My hope and prayer for you is that God will show Himself to you & your eyes will be open to see the truth.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:43 am |
        • Johnny

          If god loved everyone unconditionally then hell wouldn't exist.

          January 8, 2014 at 10:02 am |
        • John

          Johnny, God does love us unconditionally but you have to understand, God calls the shots. It is His world, His universe. What possible good does a person have that deserves God to love them? None. What good is in a person that would allow him/her into His heaven to live with Him? None. God didn't create us to be robots. He gave us a will to choose to believe or not believe. Each choice has a reward/consequence. Heaven or Hell. You are free to make your choice. Your NOT free to choose the consequences of your choice.

          January 8, 2014 at 10:16 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Fail. If god loved people unconditionally then he wouldn't torture people in fire for all eternity because they don't say a magic spell to cause a spiritual energy to cleanse an invisible and undetectable disease (sin).

          January 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Here Come da Judge

          John,
          " God calls the shots. "

          And those are the CONDITIONS - lots of 'em. You need to quit the "unconditional" love slogan.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
        • CaseyT

          @John
          Everything you just said is based on the pretense that God exists. Maybe he does and maybe he doesn't. You prove to me that he does exist and I'll prove to you that he doesn't. Seems like a pretty tall task for both of us doesn't it? My problem isn't the potential existence of a God. maybe/maybe not... hopefully I'll come to a conclusion one day. my personal issue is with organized religion and the fact that there are people out there who prey on the weak-minded for insane amounts of income. Try meditating... it's cheaper.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:57 pm |
        • pfr1nk

          Clearly you dont understand the word "unconditional".

          January 9, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
        • Karen

          He loves unconditionally, but you have to give a full account of your life? To what end? I mean, if you're loved unconditionally, who cares? Also, he loves unconditionally but he will send you to burn for eternity if you don't believe the way he commands. That sounds pretty conditional. And not very forward thinking for an Omnipotent to never expect that the loved ones who go to heaven while one of their own is burning, that they wouldn't stage a revolt against said conditions and go to hell to get the burning one. I know I would. Remain in Lalaland if you like it, that's fine, but do think through what you're saying when you say it.

          February 6, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
        • Burned Marshmallow

          i'll believe it when I see it. No proof = no care.

          February 6, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
    • fatbeard

      Why would he need some luck to get through a year without god? I've lived 30 years without believing in god, including 13 months in Iraq patrolling much of the southern provinces, and I don't consider myself particularly lucky. But I'm definitely luckier than the believers I knew who were killed though. It seems to me that it's the faithful who should hope to count themselves as the lucky ones, because their god clearly doesn't care very much for them.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:27 am |
      • James

        Yeah, I remember my tour in Iraq. I'd hear the chaplain boast about there being "no atheists in foxholes" and think "uh. no..."

        January 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      If you need imaginary friends and faith to keep yourself centered than you're not really living your life for you. He will be fine without the belief as most who leave it behind are. He will find support from others like him and that support won't offer him an imaginary cure (ie; heaven) or threaten him with eternal damnation for not believing as they do.
      This is a Belief blog, Atheists have beliefs just not beliefs in god(s). You might wish to research who Ted Turner is and if that turns you off, maybe try a blog more suited to the special brand of crazy you accept as truth-something like FAUX news might be more your intellectual speed...right up there with conspiracy theorists and children.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:28 am |
    • AJR

      I find it very interesting how strongly "Christians" come out against individuals like this pastor. He's fired from not one but three jobs. "Christians" on this forum are denouncing him.

      Is your faith/religion so tenuous as to be unable to bear the weight of a little inquiry? Are the "Christians" fearful of the light of reason being turned on the foundations of their beliefs? And it's questioning by one of the flock – so there can be no arguments that he doesn't know the scripture or the bible.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:29 am |
      • seriously ridiculous

        Whether or not Christian indivisuals "denounce him" (???) has no bearing on the facts and reasonable expectations of any employer. If you can't and wont do your job you can (and should) be fired. It has nothing to do with Christians really. Well you are just going to ignore the obvious fact that he got hired to inspire people of faith and now he can't do that job and he is openly questioning the faith in public. They aren't' and shouldn't be expected to pay him to do that. How was he going to not pray or acknowledge god and do his job? He wasn't duh

        January 8, 2014 at 10:17 am |
        • CaseyT

          So what you are saying is forget the whole "Christian" aspect of the argument. I think its refreshing that you admit that you do not hold yourselves to a higher standard that anyone else. Thank you for that. I'm sure Jesus would've fired his a$$ too.

          January 8, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
  14. Gyrogearloose

    I don't understand how one can switch beliefs as an experiment for a year.
    This would seem to suggest that both beliefs on his part, religious and atheist, are simply an act.
    I wonder what this guy really believes?

    January 8, 2014 at 9:05 am |
    • huh

      My theory is that he is gay since he is pro-gay and lesbian and thus his mind is in conflict with his religion. Which may have resulted in his divorce. Just speculating. Ive seen it before. Its something with which there is almost no support because a straight person cannot emphasize or understand it because they cannot read minds.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:25 am |
      • russellsteap0t

        So you have to be gay to support gay marriage? I don't think so.

        Two people love each other and want to make a life together. They'd like to affirm that relationship in a ceremony in front of friends, family and community.

        Sounds good to me...the world needs a bit more loving in it.

        Does such a relationship diminish my love for my wife? No...not one iota.

        Does such a relationship lessen the commitment we have made? Not a bit.

        Does it have any impact whatsoever on the relationship I have with my wife? Not at all.

        Does it have any impact on the way our friends, family or the community view the relationship between my wife and I? Nope.

        Do I have any problem with two people who love each other voluntarily committing to the sort of relationship that my wife and I enjoy and calling it Marriage? None whatsoever.

        Live and let live.
        Love and let love.

        January 8, 2014 at 10:26 am |
        • CaseyT

          Nice sentiment...I actually agree with everything you just said. However, I don't understand how or why that was a reply to this particular comment. From everything I just read you guys could both completely agree on this. He just stated a theory that he could be gay which led to his divorce and question of faith. I don't see a debate on gay marriage here at all. Well said though..

          January 8, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
        • CaseyT

          actually I take it back after re-reading the initial comment. this statement is grossly subjective and incorrect: " Its something with which there is almost no support because a straight person cannot emphasize or understand it because they cannot read minds." <– wha??

          January 8, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      So true. I've always wondered how a god is going to handle folks who 'play it safe.' Religious folks have asked me many times if I shouldn't SAY I believe 'just in case?'
      Wouldn't an omnipotent god that demands blind faith see through such a LIE?

      January 8, 2014 at 9:31 am |
      • huh

        Fred, Of course it doesn't make sense to say you believe when you have doubts. However, life is less about what you think/believe and more about choices you make. When you say you believe you are saying that you are choosing Jesus and you want his help. God will work out the rest. Yet many do not want to surrender their life and have a book tell them what to do.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:46 am |
  15. b

    I am sure after this year, he will make a ton from a book deal. I feel like he has financial motives. Still I am interested in seeing how things turn out.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:04 am |
  16. mandarax

    While the religious often claim that doubt is normal and thinking about your doubt only makes faith stronger, his schools, employers, and family clearly don't meant that. They are terrified of it.

    There are all kinds of mechanisms in religion to discourage questioning it, leading me to suspect that they know it falls apart under scrutiny.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:03 am |
    • Zach

      Couldn't agree more. There's a reason they preach blind faith.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:09 am |
      • Zachary

        You're both wrong. Religious believe questions lead to the truth. Anyway, he lost his job not because his employers were afraid he'd learn that religions is BS, but because he contradicted his mandated responsibilities. If you work for a bank then go and say that you don't believe in money and they you think people should rob banks, well, you might get fired.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:22 am |
        • AJR

          Zachary...actually you are the one who is incorrect. For centuries all Abrahamic religions have enforced "laws" regarding blasphemy and heresy. The accepted questioning of God is, historically, only a very recent trend. And, as this story demonstrates, it still is not tolerated. So, while they may say that questioning strengthens faith, they truly don't mean it...because logical contemplation on the subject matter can lead reasonable people to the conclusion that there is no God...or at the very least that their "chosen" God is not real.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:33 am |
        • Zach

          There's a pretty large difference in not believing in religion and being an advocate of robbing banks, which is highly illegal. Also, it's easy for you say that they believe in questioning things, but none of the religious people I've ever met were very open minded to that sort of thing.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:34 am |
    • John

      It is totally ok to question God, and the Bible. He is big enough to handle it. This isn't something new. God and the bible have been questioned either openly or privately through all of time. God's Word doesn't change. It has stood the test of time and disbelief. And to us who believe, God & the bible has been proven to be true, reliable, and unshakable. Some of God's followers are not always the best examples to follow. Sort of why Jesus came to save us...we aren't perfect.

      January 8, 2014 at 10:04 am |
      • Zach

        I'm not really sure how something can be proven to be true when there's no hard evidence, and it's essentially founded on the fact that you need to take a leap of faith and believe without proof. That being said, I have no problem with people believing in God as that is certainly their right to do so. What I do have a problem with, is people making outlandish claims (not really referring to you here John, please don't misunderstand) and trying to force their beliefs onto people who don't want any part of it.

        January 8, 2014 at 10:09 am |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          No, thankfully, the flood couldn't have occurred. Of course, it could have happened and then god misled us by magically erasing all evidence of a global flood.

          And really, aren't we glad about that? Who wants a disgusting terrorist god who drowns every woman, child, fetus, and kitten on the planet? I imagine it'd be the same sort of person who could handle partying with some being who is allowing eternal torture to occur when he could just end it.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
        • CaseyT

          Finally! Please do us ALL a favor by presenting your proof and end the madness.

          January 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm |
      • inscient

        "proven to be true"? Ha!

        January 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
    • photographermom1

      That's the best you can come up with?

      March 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
  17. ann

    I don't think the schools were saying, "not on our dime". They were saying that he couldn't perform his job at the level it should be performed if he was an atheist. Clearly you cannot mentor and support others in faith if you state you have none. That would be like a Science teacher saying they no longer believed that the earth was round etc and expecting to still keep their job. I think his church should have been trying to help him through this time in some other way though.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:03 am |
    • fatbeard

      So you agree that science teachers who want to teach psuedo-science in place of biology and natural history are unqualified to hold their jobs? Wonderful!

      January 8, 2014 at 9:31 am |
      • ann

        Science teachers should teach whatever is the current knowledge about science. I do not feel it is their role to teach religion of any kind to children.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:53 am |
    • seriously ridiculous

      I think they were doing both and they couldn't avoid that. He couldn'tt and wouldn't do his job which he basically stated to them and they had no reason to keep him and simultaneously had not reason orexpectation to let him not do his job and continue paying himwhile (andtehrefore to do his experiment. They shouldn't be funding his experiment

      January 8, 2014 at 10:30 am |
  18. Michael Hunt, Esq.

    “It’s like when you go to a movie and you suspend disbelief for three hours to get inside the story,” Bell said. “I’m suspending my belief in God to see what atheism is all about.”

    The difference, however, is that going to a movie requires to you accept some non-truths in order to appreciate the story, while atheism requires that you seek truth and remain skeptical in the absence of evidence.

    January 8, 2014 at 9:01 am |
    • AJR

      There is a plethora of evidentiary support for atheism. In fact, reasonable thought leads to the conclusion that there is no God (the fact that people choose to ignore that conclusion is another matter). There is, however, not one shred of evidence for religion (as established by the need of a religious individual to resort to a book of mythology to support their positions).

      January 8, 2014 at 9:36 am |
      • Oh Brother ^

        There will never be the "evidence" you are looking for because belief is about viewpoint. The WAY in which you see the evidence presented to you and the condition of your heart will be a determining factor in how you interpret the evidence. Garbage in = garbage out.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:51 am |
      • ann

        Religion is not based on evidence. It is based on Faith. I'm sure that is unacceptable to an atheist. But everyone has free will to decide their own path.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:59 am |
        • inscient

          When you choose to believe something without evidence (god), then you put yourself in the same boat with people who believe in sasquatch, leprechauns, and godzilla. At least little kids have a reason (evidence) to believe in Santa.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
        • James

          The problem is...evidence allows you to make critical distinctions between competing ideas. Faith is just a clash or opinions.

          Of course, we CAN make objective, evidence-based claims about BEHAVIOR. And while we have to admit that Christians aren't flying airplanes into buildings...neither are atheists! And this doesn't prove their supernatural claims...

          January 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
      • John

        That comment is marinating in ignorance and misplaced anger. Actually, there is a significant number of Christian scientists, who will argue that reasonable people should believe in an Almighty God. But you aren't Dawkins, you are part of new atheism, you use their arguments without actually studying them and other rebuttals to their arguments. That is the equivalent to blind faith. I actually do find evidence supporting Christianity and God in general throughout history, mathematics, and science, but you will call me blind nonetheless because you adore grouping people together to discriminate against them for actually comprehending something you cannot fathom.

        January 10, 2014 at 10:29 am |
        • midwest rail

          "...because you adore grouping people together to discriminate against them ..."
          It is true there is discrimination and persecution around the world. If you are a Christian in the United States, no.

          January 10, 2014 at 10:31 am |
      • photographermom1

        Please explain the thought process you used to prove that God doesn't exist. I would like to see you break it down. I have yet to hear an atheist give a clear answer as to why they don't believe. I am open to hearing it, though.

        March 5, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
  19. highplainsparson

    If he no longer wants to be a pastor, he will certainly be better off financially. The vast majority of pastors faithfully carry out the most important leadership post in the world for extremely low pay compared to what they could be making in some other field.

    January 8, 2014 at 8:56 am |
    • Zach

      The most important leadership post in the world? That's debatable.

      January 8, 2014 at 9:07 am |
      • highplainsparson

        Indeed. To proclaim the everlasting good news of the Lord of glory, appointed by him, to be a messenger of God himself, is the highest calling to which any human being could aspire.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:34 am |
        • Zach

          That's an incredibly narrow minded thing to say. Just because you believe in God doesn't mean that being a preacher is "the highest calling to which any human being could aspire." You do realize that someone of a different faith could say the exact same thing about someone involved in their religion, but you would say they were wrong and you were right. Why? Because you believe differently than they do. Intolerance is a staple of your religion, despite what it attempts to preach.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:39 am |
        • highplainsparson

          It has nothing to do with my beliefs. God says so, and that makes it true. It is no vice to narrowly hold to that which is objectively true.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:40 am |
        • Zach

          LOL now I almost think you're just trolling. How can you say it has nothing to do with your beliefs? Someone who doesn't believe as you do would never agree, which suggests that it has EVERYTHING to do with what you believe. And OBJECTIVELY true? Really, objectively is the word you're going with there? Please explain what makes the existence of God "objectively true." Is it the collection of stories that you can't prove are true, or is it the blind faith they force upon students of their religion?

          January 8, 2014 at 9:45 am |
        • CaseyT

          @Zach
          You stole the words from my finger tips. Perfectly put sir.

          January 8, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The median pay for a 7th day Adventist pastor is around $40 – 50,000 a year (src: glassdoor)
      Not bad for a job that is free of work in the dreary sweaty, sense.

      "The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history."
      – Robert Heinlein

      January 8, 2014 at 9:09 am |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Clergy address something basic about our lives – fear. They have an ancient product that still instils fear in many people, or cultivates fears people already have, and offers the one and only solution. It's a proven money-maker.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:18 am |
        • photographermom1

          Since becoming a Christian, I have never felt as much freedom as I do now. It's a shame that you truly do not understand what the Christian faith is about.

          March 5, 2014 at 7:22 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        Maybe 40-50k is not bad for someone with no college degree, but to be a church pastor it takes an advanced, 3 year Master's degree beyond the Bachelor's, including difficult disciplines like ancient Hebrew, Greek, counseling, preaching, etc., plus an arduous candidating and credentialing process in the church. Most pastors could easily make much more money quicker if they went into business, engineering, or some other field. And yes, it has its "dirty" and "sweaty" moments, from hospital visits to consoling families who have lost a loved one to church maintenance "work days."

        January 8, 2014 at 9:37 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          7th Day Adventist pastors are required to hold a Master of Divinity degree from either the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University or the H.M.S. Richards School of Divinity at La Sierra University.
          It surely is a long commitment and a fair chunk of change to get such a degree – but most people who get a master’s in library and information science, English, music, or education can expect around the same salary as a pastor.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:54 am |
        • highplainsparson

          A good rule of thumb for a pastor's salary should be the equivalent of what a local school principal makes.

          January 8, 2014 at 10:35 am |
    • Marinela

      Tell that to Joel Osteen!!! He make millions!

      January 8, 2014 at 9:22 am |
      • fatbeard

        So did P.T. Barnum.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:33 am |
      • highplainsparson

        Sure he does. But he is quite atypical. The big names you hear about are a tiny fraction of the 6,000 pastors in this country doing their duty for low pay because they love God and love people.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:39 am |
  20. ThinkFree

    Wow. Seems the bigotry from his colleagues was a bit harsh. I would be interested in a follow-up at the end of this experiment. How persuasive is the atheistic life-view? Does indoctrination go both ways? As effectively? What is he telling his kids?

    January 8, 2014 at 8:53 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Define the Atheistic life view...the only thing Atheist's are guaranteed to share in common is a disbelief in god(s). How does one indoctrinate one to disbelief exactly?

      January 8, 2014 at 8:56 am |
      • ThinkFree

        Your point that disbelief is a non-belief is noted. I was curious of his process of going from public theist to public atheist...Bell was hanging out with atheists, reading atheist lit, etc. Curious as to what such exposure did to his point of view. I liked that he saw most atheists as seekers of truth. Majority of believers don't characterize us that way.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:02 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Look up The Clergy Project. This is a group of 'Pastors' who have left the religion. It gives a better view point with far more examples.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:13 am |
    • highplainsparson

      It should be no surprise that in order to pastor a church, or teach at a Christian school, you would have to adhere to their beliefs.

      January 8, 2014 at 8:57 am |
      • ThinkFree

        Yes, coming out as a "probationary atheist" might provoke a religious organization to give you the boot, but the only difference I see between Bell and the many atheists already in our churches was his admission/confession to being one. His counseling to struggling students might be no different than that of a closet atheist, yes?

        January 8, 2014 at 9:05 am |
        • highplainsparson

          A closet atheist has no business continuing as a church pastor, Christian school teacher, or theological student. It would be deceitful and dishonest to continue in such paths while struggling with basic belief in God. He did the right thing by being honest. This should not be viewed as a punishment. Sometimes, it just is what it is. An atheist is an atheist and not a Christian.

          January 8, 2014 at 9:32 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          He publicaly stated he wasn't goin gto pray or acknowledge god... Can't quietly fake that... He wouldn't and couldn't do his job and he made it clear he was challenging them and not going to do his job

          January 8, 2014 at 10:36 am |
      • huh

        There is nothing wrong with what he is doing. And he should not feel guilty at all. No one should be forced to stay in a religion and there must be a lot of peer pressure from his friends who are still in the church. Im sure he is under tremendous stress from his divorce and I hope he has the support and love that he needs. That being said, a person should not call themselves Seventh-Day Adventists if they told follow the principles of the religion.

        January 8, 2014 at 9:18 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          There is nothing wrong with his decision, but he shouldn't expect to be employed by people who he is publically disagreeing with and openly stating he cannot and will not perform duties he was hired to perform

          January 8, 2014 at 10:38 am |
      • ThinkFree

        Be that as it may, closet atheist must exist in the clergy. Having no business doing something doesn't necessarily disqualify that person from doing it. Like many posters here are claiming, it is not easy to leave the flock, so some just don't. Deceitful? Yes. Dishonest? Sure. Avoids being ostracized and ridiculed by his peers? Sadly, this seems to be the deciding factor to stay put.

        January 8, 2014 at 10:03 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          even if one acknoledges you have are correct, His case is not the case you are describing. He publicly questioned his beliefs and told his employer he wasn't going to and couldn't do his job. Unlike someone who would pretend to believe, continue their duties, and privately disagree.

          January 8, 2014 at 10:41 am |
        • seriously ridiculous

          even if one acknowledges you have are correct, His case is not the case you are describing. He publicly questioned his beliefs and told his employer he wasn't going to and couldn't do his job. Unlike someone who would pretend to believe, continue their duties, and privately disagree.

          January 8, 2014 at 10:41 am |
    • seriously ridiculous

      Bigontry? This man publicly not privately made his doubt overtly public and went out of his way to do it. He told his employer and he was employed by an employer that required him to perform certain duties and hold certain beliefs to do that job. He told his employer and the public he did not believe what he earlier claimed to believe and was unable to provide spiritual advice and unwilling to acknowledge god or pray which are part of his everyday activities. Saying that rhis colleagues are bigots is ridiculous. They hired him to do a specific job he cannot and will not do and he made a spectacle of it.

      January 8, 2014 at 10:34 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.