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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. Choconet

    This man's whole world was saturated in Chrisitanity and he's disappointed that he's lost his jobs. Y

    January 8, 2014 at 11:55 am |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    Adventists, like a lot of religionuts, are certain that they are the sole arbiters of "The Truth".
    From birth until death, Adventist families are strongly encouraged to ensure that they interact almost exclusively with other Adventists.
    The consider everybody else part of "The World", doomed to a terrible fate once Jesus finishes up his paperwork and comes back (any day now).
    Like most elitist societies, they have their own jargon and unwritten social rules that bind them together and help identify the "wordly" fakes from the True Believers. (Anybody out there know what a "stripple" is?)

    If you explore their world, it won't take long to come across a reference to this passage:
    "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" – 2 Corinthians 6:14

    Adventists consider their church "the light" and The World (meaning everybody else) to be darkness – to the point that they say God won't bless a marriage between a SDA member and a non-member.
    Part of this comes from their prophetess' declaration that spiritual perfection IS attainable in this life and all of her followers should be working towards it by adhering to her commands.
    “Human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character.” — Acts of the Apostles, p. 531?
    This directly contradicts most other Christian denominations who teach that everybody is an imperfect sinner.
    Now, obtaining a perfect character isn't easy! You must abstain from dancing, sports, meat, spi.ces, alcohol, dairy, baking soda, movies, reading fiction, board games, picnics, circuses etc. ad nauseum.
    In fact – a good 7th Day Adventist isn't even supposed to SMILE OR LAUGH!
    “You sport and joke and enter into hilarity and glee. Does the Word of God sustain you in this? It does not. Christ is our example. Do you imitate the great Exemplar? Christ often wept but never was known to laugh."
    – Ellen White, Manuscript Releases Vol. 6, pp. 90-91

    So basically, members of this sect tend to lead extremely insular lives and are wary to the point of paranoia about any kind of outside influences.
    "The World" is to be kept at arm's length since it is the domain of the doomed and the damned.

    That's why what this pastor is doing is threatening to his community.
    His quest to a worldview outside of the religion is tantamount accepting a one way ticket to Hell.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:54 am |
    • huh

      As an SDA Im actually surprised that Im not offended by this. Probably because I love going to church. The music and the friends are great. Sometimes there are some drama but just the usual stuff like gossiping. You have to look at the things we enjoy like food after church. Game night on Saturdays. Aunties and Uncles who aren't even your family but act like they are. I just got married to a non SDA but its fine and nobody cares. But it might become an issue when we raise our son and we have conflicting views

      January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        How much emphasis is placed on Ellen White's declarations?
        I'm honestly curious.
        Other religions, like Mormonism, have moved away from many of the edicts of their early prophets.
        Is it the same in the modern SDA?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • huh

          Most SDAs believe in Ellen G White or at least admire her writing. Books like Messages to young people, Desire of Ages and especially her work on healthful eating. Yes she did make some weird statement like don't ride a bicycle but why dwell on those? A big reason Ellen G White is mentioned is because the bible said that the "remnant church" would have prophets among them who would prophecy. And since a "prophet" is a term held to such high scrutiny, we have all this controversy as to her legitimacy. However, the important thing which all SDA can agree with is that her writing is so conservative and closely connected to the Bible that if you were to follow it you would have to be a Saint.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Thank you for the polite and reasoned reply.
          The more I learn about various religions, the more I'm seeing how the declarations of "prophets" have far less of an impact on believers' day to day lives than is implied by their official doctrines.
          Kind of like how most Catholics use birth control despite the Vatican's proclamations.
          My parents are of different Christian denominations and when they wanted to get married, neither of the churches would perform the ceremony as inter-denominational marriages were considered to be "doomed to failure" – especially as neither of them would agree to raise their children in one or the other's church. They've been together for over 40 years now.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:45 pm |
        • huh

          Very nice speaking with you too Doc Vestibule. Im so glad your parents stayed together and beat the odds. I think its one of the best gifts a parent can give a child no matter what religion. Being a Christian I know im going to get called names and get into arguments. At least thats not boring though. That being said, If others knew what SDA's thought about the Catholic religion there would be a lot more screaming.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
    • Mike

      As you point out he's an SDA, so he' s considered on the edge by most main line denominations. The first rule, church has to be on Saturday, aligning with the tradition of the Jews and forsaking the admonition of the disciples to set themselves apart from the Jews by worshiping on a different day. But this guy was advocating for gay leadership in his church. Putting an person in charge of a group of people that believe gay practice is immoral is insanity. It's like asking a pedophile to watch your kids while you go out to the movies. If this guy is a true Christian, at the end of the year, he'll still know that god was there all along the way.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
  3. Spurgeon3333

    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.” I suppose the inference here is that Christians ONLY pray and do nothing 'tangible' or 'supportive', which is bunk. Studies have shown, repeatedly, that it is the Christians in this country who volunteer, support and give financially far more than non-Christians. Yes, we Christians pray, because we know that is the surest source of help in turning things around, but we also bring blankets, food, money, medicine and ourselves.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
    • Live4Him

      James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:55 am |
    • WASP

      the main difference is we don't require a carrot or stick system to do so.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
  4. Atheism is a religion

    Don't be fooled by what atheist trolls claim. Atheism is indeed a religion.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • ME II

      What is the Atheist doctrine?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:51 am |
      • Live4Him

        The doctrine of no deity.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • Doris

          Can you and "Atheism is a religion" both be correct? I think neither. You continue to try to pigeon-hole atheism when you don't seem to grasp the basics of strong/positive atheism vs. weak/negative atheism.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:59 am |
        • Brainwashed Christians

          I believe that I don't believe?... moron.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • ME II

          Many Atheists view Atheism as simply a lack of belief, not a belief that there is(are) no god(s).

          January 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • Paddy O'Furniture

          I am an a-leprechaunist... and an a-bansheeist. Doctrines? Blarney!

          January 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • Atheism is a religion

        Each atheist creates their own doctrine.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • Right

          Fallacy of equivocation again.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:59 am |
    • Right

      Fallacy of equivocation.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • toodark

      Atheism is a single position on a single subject. Nothing more.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
      • Live4Him

        It's a religion that begins with single position on a single subject, but leads to multiple positions on multiple subjects (i.e. abortion, gays, etc.).

        January 8, 2014 at 11:58 am |
        • Doris

          A drop in the bucket compared to the over 41,000 sects of Christianity.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
        • Right

          Fallacy of equivocation. Religion in a theological sense is the service or worship of a god or the supernatural. It does not fit. You must use a different definition to fit atheists. You are effectively saying bananas are cowardly Asians because they are yellow. But you have been told that already, and persist in your games, which makes it willful and thus a lie.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          If all atheists are pro-choice, please explain the existence of groups like Godlessprolifers.org and prolifehumanists.org

          January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • ME II

          @Live4Him,
          "It's a religion that begins with single position on a single subject, but leads to multiple positions on multiple subjects (i.e. abortion, gays, etc.)."

          A lack of a deity does not lead to any particular other positions, except a lack of a deity. Any moral or ethical positions require additional philosophical bases.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
        • hamhouke

          Incorrect. It is a position on a single subject that is arrived at by evaluation of the evidence and the application of critical thinking skills. When that individual then applies the same method to other questions, and rejects supernatural explanations, other positions tend to differ quite drastically from the dogmatic positions held by those who would accept "revealed truth" without natural evidence.

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

      How can you say being an atheist is a religion?. I am an Athiest. I do not believe in a God or a higher being. I do not attend any kind of church or social gatherings in regards to my non-religious beliefs. I just live my life without religion. How is that a religion? I don't force my non-beliefs on anyone.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Who Knows what?

      A troll calling out trolls... how cute.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • RillyKewl

      If sleeping late on the weekends is a religion, and not seeing the invisible… yup!
      Where do I sign?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Why is it so important to you that the description, atheist, be a religion?
      Your assertion would then also have not believing in trolls riding unicorns as being a religion as well.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • Pegasus

      It shouldn't be a religion. But they sure do treat it like it is one. Verdict.... it is a religion now.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Brainwashed Christians

      Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god, not a religion, no matter how much you pi$$ and moan about it.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
      • Pegasus

        Right. Even a brainwashed person can be an atheist.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • Brainwashed Christians

          Yup that's true, except for being brainwashed about an imaginary god.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
        • Pegasus

          Right. Well, unless they are brainwashed to believe that God is imaginary.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
        • Topher

          Pegasus Live4Him, is that me?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
        • Lawrence of Arabia

          Pegasus, is that me?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
        • Atheist

          Name stealing troll, an atheist at work, is that me?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
        • Hypocrite

          An atheist, acting immature, is that me?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • Brainwashed Christians

          No need to be brainwashed to not beliving when there is zero evidence for a god, unless you can provide some? We're waiting.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
        • Brainwashed Christians

          the sound of crickets chirping...

          January 8, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
        • Pegasus

          BAM! There is your evidence of an atheist with a religious mind set. "We're waiting..." Who is we? All atheists disbelieve for different reasons.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
        • Pegasus

          Look at the evidence: you are so obsessed with Christians you call yourself "brainwashed christians" as an insult. It is a slur.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
        • Ernest T Bass

          Atheism = lack of belief in god.............. because there is no evidence for a god. Having a hard time understanding?

          January 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
        • Jump for Jeebus

          What exactly is a "religious mindset"? is not beliving in leprechauns a religious mindset?

          January 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
        • Pegasus

          Atheism means you don't believe in God. It doesn't mean there is no evidence for God or that is why you don't believe.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
        • Pegasus

          Jump for Jeebus

          The us vs them mentality. Like the idea that we atheists use science and intelligence to gain our knowledge. And those Christians use fairy tales and delusions to gain their knowledge.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
        • Jump for Jeebus

          I'm curious, what other reason would you have for a lack of belief in god other than there is no evidence of a god??

          January 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • Pegasus

          Misunderstanding. Ignorance. Self-centerdness. Bad childhood. Addiction. Ego.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
        • Brainwashed Christians

          How ironic, you just listed several possible reasons why people confuse mythology with reality, in other words = christianity.

          However I think you'll find that atheists do not believe there is a god simply because there is no evidence to indicate otherwise, unless as I said before, you would care to provide some?

          January 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
        • Pegasus

          I"m agnostic, so I'm not sure what evidence I can give you. I know a lot of anti-Christian atheists who are unreasonable and irrational and treat atheism as though it were a religion. There is the evidence that shows atheism isn't always logical or reasonable.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
      • skalaballa

        Religion itself is a manmade set of traditions... I'm a Christian, and it's clear to me that religion itself is the problem that Christianity has. Jesus himself fought and preached against religion and manmade traditions, which is why he was crucified. Religion is the rosary, humming Latin songs, going to Church(the act), and even things as simple as folding your hands while you pray. None of it gets you closer to God.

        Your relationship with God and his work in your life and soul is what true Christianity is. You begin to follow the Word of God and law therein out of your love and faith stemming from the Grace extended to you through Jesus. Noone is perfect, and all are sinners.

        January 8, 2014 at 7:11 pm |
    • mk

      You are correct that atheism is a religion. It ranks right up there with that religion where you don't believe in gnomes. What's that called again?

      January 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Chris

      If atheism is a religion, not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      January 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
  5. Who Knows what?

    I hope he isn't doing this as a publicity stunt but I fear it is. Years ago I left the pulpit after 15 years and did some hard core study of religion as a whole. This study left little doubt that everything I had been taught to believe was nothing but smoke and mirrors. Once I left religion behind and embraced humanity I found myself less judgmental, depression subsided when I realized I really wasn't in danger of burning in hell at the discretion of a God, and found that for the most part people are good. I still love the people I "ministered" to and wish them well but I have moved on to a happier life.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
  6. Shelton

    Hopefully he loses his deity in this process and becomes a better Human for it 🙂

    January 8, 2014 at 11:48 am |
  7. sly

    Wow ... acting like an athiest for an experiment? What a wacko.

    I think I'll try acting like a TeaBillieRepublican for an hour – I'll spit on the poor people, threaten to shut down America, and maybe make a few homemade bombs.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • mike

      And those tea party folks are all right wing religious nuts. Some of the most selfish people on the planet, yet they think they are jesus like.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:51 am |
  8. Jon

    I went from Christian to Atheist, but it was a painful process that took much longer than a year. I think religious world views are like boats. Some people own boats and never take them out to sea for fear they might sink. Others have the courage to dare the waves and see if their boat is indeed seaworthy. The road from Christianity to Atheism involves stormy seas, but I have found calm waters on the other side. I applaud this man for having the courage to take his boat to sea.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Madtown

      Good analogy, courage.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:48 am |
    • mk

      Going from Christian to atheist is a journey that takes way more than a year. It is tough and you will face lots of opposition. I think this man has had doubts for awhile and is now just trying to come out with it.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • Kyle

      Yup, I like to say that it's like quitting smoking. You can only say that you've "quit" if you never take it up again.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • Bill

      Good analogy. The pious have a lot to risk; friends, family, professional and social associations.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:55 am |
  9. Marcus

    He never was a Christian.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      No, he was a Pastor. The typical christian would not have given as much thought to their belief as he did .. for that I give him much credit.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • Right

      Or a Scotsman!

      January 8, 2014 at 11:48 am |
    • hamhouke

      No true Scottsman. Just like I was never "really" a Christian? Right? I know what I was, and I know what I am no longer.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:49 am |
    • Kyle

      Are you saying being a Christian is like being an alcoholic? Is it really that addictive?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
  10. Ryan

    Either way, he's $19,000 dollars richer.

    Atheists have doubts that they're incorrect, Christians have doubts that they're incorrect – the absence of doubt is called extremism.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • Marcus

      He's not $19K richer. He lost his job!

      January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • kyzaadrao

      No, on either side it's called conviction. This article is so ludicrous that I wouldn't even dignify it with a believer vs. non-believer argument though. Neither side should be suckers to this kind of deceptive marketeering.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • Jesse

      I I don't agree with you on the doubt issue. I'm an Atheist. I have been all my life. I have never doubted if I was wrong for not believing in god.... nothing about god is logical. i've read the bible. I've studied many religions trying to understand why people believe there their flavor of reality is the only answer... everything is based on 1 idea. the golden rule. the gods are constructs of man to make sense of things we don't understand. either everyone is right, or they are all wrong... the audacity to claim your view on the world is the only true view is just as arrogant as stating firmly that there is no god. to claim otherwise is not being honest with yourself.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  11. stevie68a

    Like it or not, we're in a New Age, and religion is part of the old. It is time to get rid of the delusion that is religion.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • Live4Him

      So, why are you preaching the New Age religion?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Doris

      Here's what's not new – a belief that God might just have been a creator God and is not active in people's lives. The first handful of presidents thought a lot about, as have many people since.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:51 am |
  12. Seoras

    Why is this news? If a prominent atheist 'loses his belief' to Christianity, no one at CNN would care.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • doobzz

      Actually, they have done stories about that very thing.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  13. ScienceSoma

    For believers – are you surprised to know that most American atheists were believers that stopped believing for lack of evidence of their particular god? I am curious to know from a believer's standpoint why you think someone would choose to be an atheist? I most commonly hear the thought that atheists are angry at God, had unanswered prayers, lost their way, need a support structure for their faith, etc. but I never hear anyone address the root of the cause for most atheists: there is no empirical, indisputable evidence for any god – and that matters. It is important that god is real, not just to believe it. For many, it is the choice of truth over comfort with respect to this issue.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • OldSchool

      Yes, I get a kick out of the "you're an Atheist because you hate/are mad at god" nonsense. It apparently is very difficult for those people to even grasp the concept of Atheism.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
      • sly

        It does take a certain amount of intelligence to be an athiest, and obviously many religious people aren't quite smart enough.

        Ignorance is bliss, and from what I understand, these religious folks live in a constant state of bliss.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • Live4Him

      Here are the premises that I base my conclusion upon for the Biblical God / Jesus.

      Natural origins or Supernatural origins?
      a) Matter, energy and time exists. Where did they come from? There is currently no naturalistic explanation that has supporting evidence for this issue, but the Bible states that God created them.
      b) Life exists. Where did life come from? There is currently no naturalistic explanation that has supporting evidence for this issue, but the Bible states that God created all life.
      Therefore, this implies some supernatural event or being is necessary.

      Did the Judaism God Do It?
      a) Given accurate transmission of the Jewish Bible,
      b) Given the fulfillment of foretold specific prophecies (incl: Eze 37) in the Jewish Bible
      Therefore, the God of the Jews is a viable contender for this supernatural being.

      Did the Islamic God Do It?
      a) Given inaccurate transmission of the Koran Bible,
      b) Given the factual inaccuracies (i.e. members of the Trinity)
      c) Given the lack of specific prophecies in the Koran
      Therefore, the God of the Muslims is not a viable contender.

      Did the Christian God Do It?
      a) Given accurate transmission of the Christian Bible (i.e. Jewish / OT and NT),
      b) Given the fulfillment of foretold specific prophecies (incl: Eze 37, Rev 13) in the Christian Bible
      Therefore, the God of the Christians is a viable contender for this supernatural being. Since it includes the Jewish beliefs as well, it is the most plausible answer to how we got here.

      <><

      January 8, 2014 at 11:52 am |
      • Billy

        Summary: We don't know so God dun it.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:54 am |
        • Mark

          Athiest Summary: Our god of science doesn't prove it, and we hate the real God, so it just dun it all by itself.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • ScienceSoma

          Mark – does your God guide every sperm to every egg, or does the sperm "do it itself"? Does god guide water molecules to separate when heated, or does it "do it itself"? What exactly does a universe that was not created by god look like to you so that we can use it as a reference for this one?

          January 8, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • fintastic

          Yes Mark, tell us about this god of science you speak of.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
      • ME II

        @Live4Him,
        "Natural origins or Supernatural origins?
        a) Matter, energy and time exists. Where did they come from? There is currently no naturalistic explanation that has supporting evidence for this issue, but the Bible states that God created them."

        1) Lack of evidence is not evidence.
        2) What the Bible states is not evidence, by itself.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
      • OldSchool

        Well, that is some SOLID reasoning you have there, pointing to the Bible as supporting evidence for itself and all...

        January 8, 2014 at 11:58 am |
      • toodark

        Long story short....god of the gaps. AKA god-did-it.

        NEXT

        January 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
      • RillyKewl

        What contortions you have to go through to justify your belief system.
        I think that's what they call, Pretzel Logic. Good luck with that.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
      • WASP

        @HIM: we have been through this how many times?

        MATTER and ENERGY are the same fracking thing, matter is created from energy.
        thus stating it twice only proves you have no understanding of any of the sciences.

        the rest of your BS only goes to prove that you are a TROLL.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
      • ScienceSoma

        There is no evidence in your post, this is what is known as the "God of the Gaps" argument. Basically: I don't know, therefore God. Why not aliens, for example? (please no Ancient Aliens references) The scientific method is very different. It says: I don't know, therefore investigate and discover. It is this way of thinking that took humanity out of the Dark Ages – it is why we know anything about our universe. Religion starts with a conclusion and finds evidence to fit it, science observes evidence and follows it to a conclusion. They are diametrically opposed ways of thinking and science leads to a victory for humanity and our quality of life every time.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
      • G to the T

        Your apologetics classes must be a hoot. You just keep using the same old argument over and over again.

        Have you done any texual criticism work? I'm curious as to the origins of your knowledge.

        January 9, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
    • Mark

      Here's the response.

      What evidence would you athiests accept? What is it exactly that you want to see? Everything that's offered up as evidence is discounted or dismissed.

      We try to offer up creation, but you won't accept it. You hold to your evolution theory despite the fact that there's more evidence for creation than evolution. (Notice I didn't say there was NO evidence for evolution because I desire dialogue about it). There's just MORE real, hard evidence for creation. The sheer mind boggling complexity or living things, and the fact that when you study them, you can real DESIGN in the forms. When we see a design, we have to believe that someone or something did that.

      We try to offer up the concept of Moral Law. But you won't accept that either. If there's a moral law, there's must be a moral law GIVER.

      We try to offer the Bible, but we get laughed at. We're accused of using the Bible to "prove" the Bible is true. In fact, we don't do that at all. Despite what people say, the Bible is entirely accurate. It's never been disproven. Archeaology and accounts told by other Historians support the Bible.

      What exactly do you WANT to see. God has given you ample evidence to believe in Him. The rest is up to you.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
      • ScienceSoma

        Mark – I appreciate the response. Unfortunately, I think we are too far apart in our understanding of the data being debated. For example, there is certainly not more evidence for creation and evolution is a fact at this point because the evidence is so overwhelming (genetic evidence is so strong, fossils are no longer even needed). Intelligent design, especially Michael Behe's work, has been not only debunked, but has never offered a single peer reviewed scientific publication. Moral Law, which I will call moral behavior, is entirely dictated by culture and society. How can two people in the same church with the same belief think differently on gay marriage or abortion? The Bible itself contains many contradictions, moral and otherwise (please run a search for them, it is highly annoying to spam the board with them here). When you say the Bible is accurate, in what way? In that it contains real places and/or people? So does Harry Potter, so does Iron Man, and many other fictional stories, but their use of real events or people does not make them accurate. The existence of Jesus of Nazareth does not make him supernatural or divine any more than a historical Paul Bunyan would force the conclusion he was 100 ft. tall with a giant pet blue ox. You are laughed at when you use the Bible to prove the Bible is true because it is the definition of a circular argument and has no basis for a rational conclusion. If I wrote a book and then told people it is real because I wrote it down I would be considered mad. I do not WANT to see anything to prove the existence of any myth, all I WANT to do is see the world and our universe as accurately as possible based on evidence that exists. About proof of a god, let me ask you: what would prove to you that Zeus or Brahma exist? Why are you sure they don't? Atheism makes no distinction on which god or gods do not exist, it is the lack of belief in any of them.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • Ernest T Bass

        @Mark, "Despite what people say, the Bible is entirely accurate."

        Nonsense.... the bible is full of outright contradictions and there is no historical evidence for any of the supposed miracles reported in the bible. It was very obviously written by man as a method of control.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • Kev

      There is also no empirical or indisputable evidence that there is no God either, and yet you are saying that it is a matter of truth over comfort? What truth is that? That there is no empirical evidence period either way?

      This whole thing about truth over comfort as if someone of faith never has had their faith being tried and never has had any struggles in maintaining their faith for those who do in the end loose their faith and become atheists there are also others who also have been through similar trials and yet not only maintain their faith but even has their faith strengthened, and it comes from a no pain no gain situation. Having faith isn't something that always comes easy easy, in fact this article is a good example of that.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
      • ScienceSoma

        "There is also no empirical or indisputable evidence that there is no God either" – I do not think you understand the breadth of this argument. Every person of every faith can make the same argument, and by that logic, it means EVERY god that has ever been posited should be accepted because there is no evidence to the contrary. So, I should accept that Zeus, Marduk, Apollo, etc. are all real because they have not individually been disproved. Do you accept all Hindu gods? If the answer is no, you cannot stand by this argument. All of this is beside the point, however, because the default position in any belief is evidence – meaning, something exists if there is evidence for it, otherwise the default position is to believe only what has been proven to exist. If not, it is not just all gods we must accept, but unicorns, leprechauns, etc. because no one has proven they do not exist. Atheism does not select one god not to believe in, it is the lack of belief in any god or gods including the Biblical one. I would wager you are an atheist when it comes to all the gods I mentioned.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
      • ScienceSoma

        Wrestling with one's faith in God (as most American atheists did at one point) and abandoning the god concept altogether are quite different. I really cannot comment on your particular brand of faith since I do not know it, but for the purpose of response I will assume you believe in a god that is kind and loving and has a plan for everyone and that tests of your faith include internal questioning of whether these things are true. For example: "my wife was killed in an accident, I do not understand how this is loving, kind, or how this fits into a plan for me." Those put into question your belief in the characteristics of the god, perhaps even the existence of the god itself, but it is still more comforting to assume something more powerful than yourself has your best interests in mind vs. the idea that we are left to our own devices – especially when you are surrounded by people that agree with and reinforce that idea and shun you when you do not agree with it. It is more comfortable to be socially accepted than not, which is unfortunately also often the case for apostates. I have no intention of a straw man here, if that is not what you believe, I am happy to address your beliefs specifically.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
  14. Nisiek

    Two things bother me, why jeopardize your children's security for this experiment, and why do it??? I mean everyone has doubts I their faith, but being a Christian raised by atheists, turning your back so publicly is the same as saying your faith was a joke....it is insulting to believers, a crisis of faith is normal in life, denouncing faith is shameful

    January 8, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Sometimes you cannot deny the truth just for your own comfort.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Bill

      Normalizing belief in the unfounded is what is disgraceful. you become an accomplice in the intransigence of your fellow pious to ever negotiate on matters of ethics and human well being because: "God is on your side.", "You walk the righteous path", "Non-believers are evil or in darkness." etc. etc..

      January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        Righteous indignation is the undoing of reason and civilized cohabitation.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • toodark

      Jeopardizing his livelyhood in regards to his children is pretty heinous. But I have huge doubts that it's anything but a stunt.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
  15. Mark

    "He had advocated for the church to allow gay and lesbian leaders, campaigned against California’s same-$-e-x marriage ban...."

    Doesn't sound to me like he had very far to fall anyway. With those beliefs, he either didn't believe in God anyway, or at the very least, didn't take Him very seriously.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • doobzz

      Maybe he realized that he didn't want to be a bigot any more.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
      • Mark

        Or maybe.....his true colors are shining through....

        January 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
        • doobzz

          They seem to be. He seems like a guy who saw through the hypocrisy of his church and his religion, knew it was wrong, fought against it, and is now paying the price.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
  16. Erasmus

    So a Christian wakes up one morning, in his 19th year of Christianity, and comes up with a bright idea.....i want to TRY out atheism, and this is considered normal! So Mr Bell (former Christ believer), before this epiphany, you did believe in God and Satan, I ask, which one prompted to you to try this grandose experiment? (this is rhetorical of course). This is not all of a sudden, this has been brewing for years, now it has come to fruition. Hows it feel to be still confused, stating your an atheist, and your actually an agnostic? Thank the Lord that Jesus's heart is not the heart of man, only He can judge. But i would ask that you remember Ruth chapter 1, and there 10+ yrs experiment of leaving what they formerly believed to be right, they lived, they prospered, .......then......... .

    January 8, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • Guest

      For someone saying that only Jesus can judge you are being quite judgemental about this mans decisions.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
      • Erasmus

        I have asked questions, and they are rhetorical? The only judgement i made is me calling the questions rhetorical? If i labeled my questioning incorrectly, please (someone) answer them? Preferrably Mr. Bell

        January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
  17. Oi

    Faith and fortune are not related. Jesus proved that. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am |
    • Right

      Anyone who says "Jesus" is selling something.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am |
      • dconklin58

        Hmmm, Jesus. What am I selling? What is the price?

        January 8, 2014 at 11:44 am |
        • doobzz

          Last time I was in a church, it was 10% of my gross income.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:52 am |
        • Right

          Point proven.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • hamhouke

          What a Christian buys is servitude in this life, at the cost of his liberty (and often property), to people who claim to be authorized agents of God, on hope of reward that can not be verified until they are dead.

          The return policy sucks.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
    • Abril

      Amen.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Drew

      I think someone should have told my former pastor this 20 years ago....BEFORE arriving to church in his brand new Bentley.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
  18. Come out Come out where ever you are !

    #http://outcampaign.org/

    January 8, 2014 at 11:41 am |
  19. forty

    him and rodman are peas in a pod

    January 8, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • That's silly

      this guy can speak English...

      January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am |
      • Lars

        Right?? What was that Rodman was trying to speak the other day? Korean?

        January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
      • sly

        Try going to church some day and understanding anything they are saying. Everything is spoken in some medieval slang or something, and it's all "Palm 14a2a3b paragraph 293b section 1iksoid" ...

        I have a lot easier time understanding african american slang. But then again I haven't been exposed to too much godspeak, so perhaps thats why it's all gibberish to me.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:55 am |
  20. Yep-Yep

    Interesting that many people fail to see the difference between The Church and faith and spirituality. Most atheists and agnostics I know lost faith simply because of The Church's behavior and proceedings, not because of the spirituality or the message behind it.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • Right

      Not quite. A lot of the message is pretty repulsive too. Love me or I will torture you forever. Most of the Old Testament. And in that context, the spirituality is pretty bogus.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am |
      • Yep-Yep

        You assume incorrectly that I speak of just Christianity. Last time I checked, it's not the only religion in the world.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:54 am |
        • Right

          You spoke of The Church, which is singular, and of course Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, and most others do not describe themselves as The Church. Any misunderstanding is of your own making.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
      • skalaballa

        Actually you have it all wrong. We are already lost and destined to die without Him. God's love is what saves us from this destruction, not places it upon us.

        January 8, 2014 at 7:05 pm |
        • xetaprime

          Oy vey!

          January 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm |
        • G to the T

          Yup – create a problem (i.e. sin) and then sell the solution. Pretty classic manuever really.

          January 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
    • ernie

      you still will have differences over what God is. Was God a creator only or is God an active player in the world, playing the game as he sees fit?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • ME II

      @Yep-Yep,
      ... or simply a shear lack of evidence.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I find it humorous that you say "lost faith" .. since religious belief and religious faith are not something any human being is born with, it's indoctrinated into them.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:49 am |
      • Yep-Yep

        Curious where the concept of spirituality and faith originally came from then... care to explain it?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          The evolution of human's ability for abstract thought ... not it's your turn.
          Care to explain where God came from and/or why God is the answer to everything you don't understand?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • Yep-Yep

          I am a person of science. I believe in evolution and the scientific method. However, I do not fail to recognize that there is a difference between spirituality and religious doctrine. I rather like the idea of a spiritual realm and the existance of the soul but do not prescribe to any particular religion. I would not say I am agnostic nor atheist... just understand that what the human race knows is nothing compared to what is to be learned. Is the human race so full of hubris to think we have all the answers? So... because of this we have neither proved nor disproved the existence of a higher being. Unless there is something you know that the rest of us does not... care to share? Lol 😉

          January 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
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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.