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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. rockybopper

    To the religious people judging him: take a long look at your behaviour. You're not loving your neighbor at all. You're spewing hate. And you make me sick. It's not your call to say who should believe what. Stick to what you believe, let others make their own decisions, and don't you dare try to make them feel bad about it, especially when what they choose to believe doesn't hurt anyone.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • Russ

      @ rockybopper:
      so it's not ok to judge, unless you're judging the judgers, huh?
      but doesn't that just make you a more sophisticated hypocrite?

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

        The "I know you are but what am I?" argument stops working around the age of eight.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
        • Russ

          @ doobz: i never said judging was wrong. those who quote Mt.7:1 rarely read through v.5.

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

          "but doesn't that just make you a more sophisticated hypocrite?"

          No.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • Russ

          @ doobz: hypocrite = (literally) 'less judging' (of yourself)
          in other words, the hypocrite is blind to how he/she does the very same thing (even if in a more nuanced way)

          January 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
        • doobzz

          Yes, I know what a hypocrite is. That was my point. Everyone's a hypocrite, but most Christians won't admit it, and they sure won't admit it about this guy.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • Madtown

          those who quote Mt.7:1 rarely read through v.5.
          ---–
          And, so what? The writings of men, outlining when men can judge other men. Irrelevant.

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

          @ Madtown: the OP brought up religious people. you can't appeal to a system of belief (raising the subject) & then object to the fact that the subject was raised.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
      • rockybopper

        If I were an employer and I found out one of my employees was a 7th day adventist, I wouldn't fire him. I would say that makes me a hell of a lot less judgmental than these folks.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
        • Russ

          @ rockybopper: your analogy doesn't fit. it's not merely a coincidental issue in his employment – it's a pre-existing requirement.

          a pastor is one who leads in belief.
          seminary is pastoral training.
          a teacher at a Christian school signs a contract of belief.

          a better analogy would be a dentist who wanted to give up belief in teeth for a year. see the point?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • ME II

          p.s.

          He does clarify, on his blog http://yearwithoutgod.com/, that he wasn't "fired" but just did not have his contract renewed. Similar effect, but different.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
      • ME II

        @Russ,
        "so it's not ok to judge, unless you're judging the judgers, huh?"

        It's not ok to judge, if you claim it's not ok to judge, as Christians claim to do.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • Russ

          @ ME II: as i said above, those who quote Mt.7:1 rarely read the next few verses.
          if Jesus meant "never judge", how does one ever actually help remove a speck from your neighbors eye? and that was clearly Jesus' intention...

          Paul makes the statement you want in 1 Cor.5:12: "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." but it still entails accountability within the Church (which would be the case here).

          January 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
        • ME II

          @Russ,
          "how does one ever actually help remove a speck from your neighbors eye?"

          "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

          "... and that was clearly Jesus' intention..."

          ""You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye..."

          Apparently, not. He seemed to be more interested in you looking at yourself. Note: that he didn't say when you can tell that your "planks" are actually removed. Perhaps, because, as many believers claim, no one is without sin, or planks, ergo no one can judge... but that's just my view.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
        • Russ

          @ ME II: you go all the way through the passage, parsing it somewhat accurately... and then you jump to the exact opposite conclusion of what Jesus tells them to do: help your brother remove his speck.

          you want to say "never judge" but your read makes Jesus' words say "never help your brother" in the process. it's self-defeating.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
        • ME II

          @Russ,
          "you want to say "never judge" but your read makes Jesus' words say "never help your brother" in the process. it's self-defeating."

          Are you implying that one cannot help another without judging?

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

          @ ME II: not implying. stating.
          if you can't judge between right/wrong or in/justice, then yes – your "helping" would actually be hurting.
          "sure, just keep walking toward that cliff. everything will be all good."

          January 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  2. mk

    I suspect there are many Christians who question what they believe but are unable to let go of the "but what if I'm wrong and at the end of my life I'm thrown into the fiery pits of hell for not believing"? Without this scare tactic, I'm betting a lot more would be willing to at least think about questioning their beliefs. Heck, without this scare tactic, Christianity would probably cease to exist.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Psychological conditioning is a powerful tool.

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

      @ mk: is the message of Christianity "to scare the H.ell out of you" or that "Heaven comes to us" in the person of Jesus?

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

        @russ, a threat of eternal d@mnation seems to be a staple of the religious posters on this forum.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • Russ

          @ snowboarder: sadly, that is true. but notably, that's not how Jesus posed it:
          here are the less often read verses that follow the famous John 3:16...

          "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."

          January 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
      • exlonghorn

        Russ, Christianity is both. It's the classic carrot and stick approach to motivation. That theme is everywhere in Christianity. I will offer you the olive branch, salvation, peace, etc. But if you don't take it, then you'll get the rod, so you'd better choose what I suggest.

        The problem is that Christianity will punish you for things that are not torts. That's the fundamental problem.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
        • Russ

          @ exlonghorn:
          that's not what John 3:17 says. it says Jesus came to save, not condemn; and we "stand condemned already" by what *we* have done to ourselves.

          we rendered ourselves this way. do you blame EMT who shows up & says: "hey, you've wrecked your car!"? or is he just telling you the honest consequences of your actions? in both cases, left to your own devices, the results would not be good.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          So you're one of these adherents who conveniently ignores the Old Testament?

          January 8, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @russ, that's an old fallacy. by christian doctrine, we do not render ourselves sinful, it was one of those bizarre arbitrary decisions by god to bestow hereditary sin.

          the story is clearly a creation of the imagination of primitive men.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
        • Russ

          @ exlonghorn: no. the OT is the Word of God.
          and more to the point: Jesus said the OT was all about him (Lk.24:27,44; Jn.5:39-40; etc.)

          [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkNa6tLWrqk&w=640&h=390]

          January 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm |
        • Russ

          @ snowboarder: on the contrary, the Bible DOES say it is what *we* have done to ourselves...

          1) Adam & Eve were made good & free to choose (Gen.1-2) – yet chose to use that freedom to do evil (Gen.3)
          2) God holds them responsible for their sins (Gen.3 & 1 Cor.15:21f)
          3) we reaffirm Adam & Eve's decision to give God the bird every time we sin (& thereby do the same). we are responsible for what we do. (Rom.3:23; Rom.6:23; etc.)

          SUM: we rendered ourselves broken. we are responsible for our condition. if left to that condition, we have utterly destroyed ourselves. that's not God's fault. it's ours. we brought this on ourselves. that is what the Bible teaches.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      Wrong Mk: "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will s.natch them out of my hand." John 10:28. Once saved...always saved.

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

        @Russ: either way, you can think you get special rewards for believing or punished for not, makes no difference.

        @Responding to the Pride: what's the point of being a believer if you're always going to be saved?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          Wow–best question ever posted by an atheist to a Christian this page!

          I think your question stems from the wrong premise that the purpose of becoming a Christian is to be saved–and then the analysis ends there. That's simply not the case. My faith exists not to simply avoid hell (although, admittedly, its a nice benefit)–it exists to have a relationship with God (that's why we're here–that's the answer to why we're all here.)

          January 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          @ Responding to the Pride

          Your faith exists to have a relationship with God. Why do you want a relationship with a God? What's in it for God? What's in it for you?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          Exlonghorn...I honestly don't know what's in it for God. As for me, I want to know and commune with a being that, in my belief system, created me and died for me. I want to know and commune with a being that says He created me and died for me because He loved (loves) me. So whats in it for me...apart from salvation...peace, satisfaction, encouragement, etc. Why establish any relationship? Everyone's answer will be a little different.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          @Responding to the Pride.

          Thanks. I think your view is consistent with most Christians. I too want to commune with what created me, so I work to build that relationship with my parents and grandparents.

          How is it that you feel this certainty that Christ and God existed? There's a shocking lack of physical evidence for most of the Bible's more dramatic claims. There is no evidence of God in recent times that cannot be equally described by other simpler phenomenon. Do you think it's simply something you were raised with, and so you carry that with you? If you were born Indian or Mayan, do you think you would still believe in Christ today?

          January 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          Ex...all fair questions (even If i don't agree with some of the premises). Your asking questions that some have written books to answer, so in the limited time and space available...

          Do I think Christ existed...historical fact–many atheists even agree on this point. Is He devine? That's the real question here. Of course I say yes. My own study and research convinces me that the Christ's claim is true. Part of this how the first century church exploded out of nothing from men who, by all accounts, shouldn't have been able to pull it off; part of it is seeing (actually a big part of it) is seeing what God has done in my life–answered prayer that, by all accounts, shouldn't have been answered. I know a lot of you will say that this is coincidence: O.k. I have an amazing amount of coincidence in my life–it's almost surreal; and a part is, admittedly, nothing more than faith. There are other reasons-too many to really recite here.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          I agree they were all fair questions (that went largely unanswered)

          Did Christ exist...I agree that the likelihood is high. Is He divine? I can agree that is an interesting question here. How people choose to explore this is immediately where atheists and theists deviate. Theists require no real proof or logical consistency. Atheists require both. So let's look at your two examples of 'proof'. Rapid expansion of church followership is not proof...it's a time-correlated event. Duck Dynasty, the Internet, Kim Kardashian...all should not be as rapidly popular as they are...but it's not an indication of divinity. If anything, it's an indictment of how simpleminded and sheepish people can be...ironically backing the atheist view.

          I'm glad you've seen answered prayers in your life. So your logic is that these answered prayers happen out of your belief. If that makes sense, then praying should create positive outcomes for every believer. Clearly, it doesn't, so how does your reasoning make sense? What differentiates those who have ALL prayers answered versus those who have few if any prayers answered?

          January 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
        • Responding to the Pride

          "Theists require no real proof or logical consistency." Disagree. First, we have a semantics issue. The level of proof and the type of proof you require for you to believe is different than mine. That doesn't make yours better–just different. I see no logical inconsistency in my belief–I find it consistent. If you will explain why you believe that is not the case, I can better respond.

          As I said in the last post, you're asking a number of exceptionally broad based questions–you're not going to get the thorough answer you think I should give you because I can't give you a reader's digest version of my faith.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          @RTTP,

          Let's see if we can resolve that semantics issue then. because I've also anticipated your response regarding the definition of "proof" leading to a slippery definition of "truth" and then focusing on relativism...moral and otherwise.

          Proof has a synonym...evidence. So instead of proof, let's go with evidence. I require physical evidence for the Bible's claims. There's no proof of the great flood, burning bushes, talking animals, people turning to pillars of salt, etc. Are any of these occurrences repeatable? Are they something we can hypothesize based on our current understanding of the sciences? NOPE. And you have literally nothing but a single book...written by humans...upon which to base your evidence. That's a problem, and it does make my definition better. See, you must at least be able to hypothesize how these miraculous things could happen given our understanding of the world. You don't get to simply say yours is a different "truth". Conversely, I can simply say your Bible is a work of fiction, like millions of other works of fiction...and therefore i don't need to explain how people can turn to salt or how the seas can part on command, how immaculate conception can occur, resurrection, feeding thousands with some bread and fish, etc. Calling the Bible fiction is an adequate explanation in and of itself.

          I don't need or want you to explain your faith. I want you to explain what evidence exists, and if any of that evidence is less than 2,000 years old, then I'd like you to explain if your "evidence" has any relevance.

          January 8, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
      • Russ

        @ mk: the only reward that matters is life with God. everything else is ancillary.

        imagine a lamp that has unplugged itself. sure, you can decorate it (i.e., your 'rewards'), but it only functions as intended if it is plugged into its power source. it's quanti.tative vs. qualitative. to extend the metaphor: what lamp wants to be a glorified hatrack when it can be illuminated as it was intended?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          You're presuming there's only one way to illuminate that lamp. That is simply not the case.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
        • Russ

          @ exlonghorn: ah, now we come to it.

          on what basis do you make such an *exclusive* claim? (yes, it excludes my position.)
          and note well: how is that any different than the exclusivity you are mocking?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
        • mk

          I'm going to have to go with exlonghorn. Many, many non-believers are "lit lamps", doing good and being "lights" for others here and now. And they do it for the sake of human kind, not for some reward or punishment by a god.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          @Russ

          I don't think I'm making an exclusive claim. In fact, I think I'm making a more INCLUSIVE claim. Let's get out of the metaphors for a bit. By 'power source', I guess you're referring to our meaning/purpose. By 'illuminated', I think you mean fulfilling that meaning/purpose. I am simply saying one can get power (meaning/purpose) from thing other than your one socket (God/religion). I think about solar (secular humanism), batteries (belief in one's self), hand cranks, induction, etc. There are lots of other ways to find perfectly good purpose, meaning, peace, strength, will, altruism, and determination outside of theism/deism.

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

          @ mk: whose definition of 'good'? that's the rub.

          1) you can't appeal to *God's* definition of good (which has God as a pre-requisite) and then exclude God. that is to lose the fundamental meaning of good. it's calling evil 'good'.

          2) if someone does all the right "ethical" things, but neglects the MOST important thing – is that good?
          the example Jesus gives: a son does what his father says, but hates his dad & pretends his father doesn't exist. can that be called good?

          January 8, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
        • Russ

          @ exlonghorn:
          1) i anticipated that objection. which is why i pointed out that you were *excluding* me.

          the philosophical example here is the old "blind men & elephant" story – which is often used to attempt to debunk 'exclusivist' claims...

          "In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant… the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of it. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmations of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind, there would be no story. What this means then is that there is an appearance of humility and a protestation that the truth is much greater than anyone of us can grasp. But if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth, it is in fact an arrogant claim with the kind of knowledge which is superior that you have just said, no religion has."
          – Lesslie Newbigin

          2) you are assuming purpose is not itself based on truth – or at least that truth is relative. but that is the entire debate here. your conclusions about purpose assume relativism, thereby begging the question.

          consider the opposite: if there is a God, he/she/it alone determines what truth & purpose is. any other such fabricated purposes are merely illusions.

          and note: that is a critique often advanced against pure materialists. if evolution's "purpose" is primarily survival, it does that guarantee the human mind has *any* knowledge of what is real or true (so why believe what you think?), but rather only what is more conducive for your 'survival'. not only that, but considering the eventual heat death of the universe, it's a rather hopeless purpose at the outset.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          @Russ,

          1) Okay, how am I "excluding" you? I specifically stated that yours is simply one of many possible ways for a human to find meaning and purpose. You'll have to explain that one a little better.

          2) So let's discard the word truth, because believers have found great joy in wasting time debating the definition of truth and shifting to "God's truth" as their counterpoint. Instead, let's go with evidence. That simplifies things quite a bit. I am comfortable with the logic that says without evidence your "truth" is irrelevant. Is your "truth" of practical significance anymore? Not really, other than some emotional comfort you might receive.

          I am quite comfortable in not needing some grand purpose for my life or my existence. I was born...I'll live my life in the way I see fit. Part of that purpose is survival, to be sure. It's also to fill all those other needs outlined by Maslow. It doesn't need to me more than that...at least not for me.

          January 8, 2014 at 8:38 pm |
        • Russ

          @ exlonghorn:
          1) did you read the Newbigin quote? because your response still falls prey to his critique.

          his whole point was that those who *feign* humility in claiming "no one can make such exclusive claims" are actually DOING the very thing to which they're objecting. the pluralist EQUALLY is advocating an exclusive view – one which notably *excludes* each religion's own self-understanding.

          in the parable of the blind men & the elephant, the story is told from the point of view of the king... someone *with* sight in a room full of blind men. far from being driven by a humble claim, pluralism actually is making an *equally* (if not more, since it excludes ALL religious claims) exclusive claim about the nature of reality, truth, etc.

          SUM: you are claiming exclusively to have sight. it's the same claim virtually every religion makes. the difference is you seem to lack self-awareness, and so your critique is self-refuting.

          2) you can "discard the word truth", but your appeal to evidence is simply appealing to the same concept. what is real, true, trustworthy, etc.? it still assumes a set of metaphysical presuppositions (i.e., your faith).

          for example, pure naturalism often falls into this critique: an adherent says "only believe what is empirically verifiable" (evidence). that is their central litmus test for truth/reality/etc. the problem is, the foundational test fails its own criteria. the assertion "only believe what is empirically verifiable" is not ITSELF empirically verifiable. it is presupposed (i.e., taken as a given at the outset, not a product of evidence, a leap of faith, etc.).

          SUM: your appeal to evidence requires the very 'truth' you want to discard.

          3) your purposeless existence with self-determined purpose might be interested in the current debate going on between Ross Douthat of the NY Times & Jerry Coyne of the Univ of Chicago...
          http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-confidence-of-jerry-coyne/?_r=0

          January 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • Chris B

      Exaaaactly. It takes more strength to accept that bad things happen to good people, there is no plan except for the one you create and execute, and at the end of the day everything may not be ok.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
      • Chris B

        ^@mk

        January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
  3. snowboarder

    i'm not sure how you give up or pick up a belief. you either believe or you do not. it is difficult to reason someone out of religious beliefs because reason is rarely used in embracing religious beliefs.

    you can't force yourself to believe something. you either believe it or you don't.

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

      SB: agree. And hope you are where the snow has been falling lately.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
      • snowboarder

        i'll be at keystone for 4 days on saturday. thanks.

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

          Awesome, have fun! I'll be in Summit Cty. in a month, hopefully Keystone. Copper, Breck as well.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • snowboarder

          i have an epic pass. i'll be staying in frisco for a week starting feb 15th and then back country the week of march 3rd and then back in frisco the week of feb 8th.

          it's gonna be a good year. have fun!

          January 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      That's where the entire premise of this story breaks down.

      This guy was atheist .. but since he made his money from religion he is "claiming" to have given atheism a "try". He's like so many others ... just afraid to admit the truth to himself (that he doesn't believe what he was preaching).

      January 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • doobzz

      One way is to investigate whether your beliefs have merit. Most religious people don't do that, they just go to church and open their mouths for the force feeding of what they should think.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
  4. bob

    I think it hilarious that all his church buddies turned their back on him and atheists are writing him checks.

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

      It sure goes to show that atheists can in fact have purer hearts than religious people do.

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

      If it is true that many believers...including the clergy themselves...have doubts about God, then I have a question.

      How are they trained, instructed, suggested, or guided by peers/leaders to deal with these doubts? This will tell us a great deal about how their religion operates, behaves, and evolves.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:56 pm |
  5. Brainwashed Atheists

    Lets give him a year and see what happens.

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

      My guess is by the end of that year he'll be happy to call himself an atheist. He'll have seen the world as it is, from behind the eyes of someone who doesn't live their life judging others based on their spiritual beliefs.

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

        I bet his view correlates with his outcomes. If he's economically stable, with an improved home life, then he will surely end up atheist/agnostic. If he tailspins, then he may make the leap in logic to presume he's being punished and make the same logical error that EVERY believer makes...correlation versus causation.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Observer

    There is nothing new about Christian HYPOCRITES not following the Golden Rule.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
      • Non-Religious Dictator Lives Lost

        Joseph Stalin – 42,672,000
        Mao Zedong – 37,828,000
        Chiang Kai-shek – 10,214,000
        Vladimir Lenin – 4,017,000
        Hideki Tojo – 3,990,000
        Pol Pot – 2,397,0003

        January 8, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
        • Observer

          Yep. Just like God, they killed MILLIONS of people for not agreeing with them.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
        • Learn the difference

          Between totalitarianism and mainstream non-religious.

          And TJI did say that.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
        • Billy

          Is this a totalitarian regime here in the U.S.? Those are despots who controlled societies in many ways besides controlling religion. Troll loves to mix apples and oranges.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
        • Who Knows what?

          Good one... hey remember when that one dude you call God apparently wiped out all the people on the earth except for Noah and his family? Yeah, that was cool wasn't it?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • Non-Religious Dictator Lives Lost

          I'm not Christian or Jewish, guys. Just pointing out that lack of religion doesn't lead to peace by any means.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Hideki Tojo? How do you figure that Ja.pan in the 1930s and 1940s was non-religious.

          The Ja.panese were very religious and considered Hirohito as a divinely inspired/authorized emperor.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          So you're suggesting CAUSATION, and not merely correlation.

          BECAUSE these individuals are not religious, THEN they will kill millions. I am not religious, and I have killed nobody.

          And let's flip your logic around and test it that way....IF leaders are religions, then they will NOT kill millions. If your logic is sound, please explain Hitler...a clear Christian. Explain, the Romans, Crusaders, various kings.

          Your argument is laughable at best.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
      • Thomas Jefferson

        I am a Christian. Life wasn't that great before Christianity, either.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
        • Observer

          Thomas Jefferson was NOT a Christian.

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

          TJ was a Christian. But highly Deist as well. Deists generally did not believe in the divinity of Christ and did not believe in a God that played an active role in people's lives.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
        • And I quote

          "I am a Christian" – Thomas Jefferson

          January 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
        • Doris

          I said "TJ was a Christian." To clarify – he followed Christ's teachings.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
        • Doris

          He was enough of a Deist that he composed his own version of the Bible. His Bible had 84 pages.

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

          Jefferson thought the Bible contained so much NONSENSE that he edited it down to 50 pages.

          If people want to claim that Jefferson was a "Christian" who didn't believe Christ was the direct son of God, they are free to pretend that.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
        • But

          Thomas Jefferson said: "I am a Christian."

          And the atheists say he wasn't a "real" Christian.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Sure, Thomas Jefferson professed to be a Christian, but his beliefs were nothing like what you mean when you call yourself a Christian.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          “...those who live by mystery & charlatanerie, fearing you would render them useless by simplifying the Christian philosophy, the most sublime & benevolent, but most perverted system that ever shone on man, endeavored to crush your well earnt, & well deserved fame.” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Priestley March 21, 1801

          And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors. – Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

          Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

          "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

          "Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity." – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

          "If we did a good act merely from love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? ...Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God." – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Law, June 13, 1814

          January 8, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Oops, copy and paste fail! One of those TJ quotes was missing a bit:

          "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816

          January 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      Actually, their being consistent (and practical)...this guy wants to be paid for doing the opposite of what he is being paid for. It's no different than a football player, mid season, to say he wants to play professional golf, leaves the team to experiment with golf, and then expect the team to pay him? Please.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
      • Ben Chase

        Actually, if you read his blog, he defends his former employers' decisions.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
  7. ICBS

    "Will the real Christians please stand up!" (they all stand up)

    January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
  8. Bill

    This story is proof of how insecure religion is. Step out of the hive mind that feeds on itself for sustainment of a feeling of normalcy in magical thinking and you get tossed from the tribe for fear that others will see your courage to be faithful to real truth.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
    • Brainwashed Atheists

      The fact that atheists spend so much time on faith and belief blogs is evidence that atheism leads to insecurity, too.

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

        You must be on here a lot yourself, to be monitoring everyone's activities. What does that say about you?

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

          Gone one Lars.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • Brainwashed Atheists

          I am just as insecure as the atheists.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
        • Lars

          Good if you to admit it, even if it is hypocritical of you to point out behavior in others that you, yourself, display, BA.
          Now get that log out of your eye.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
        • Brainwashed Atheists

          Why is it hypocritical? Why post a Bible quote at me?

          January 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
      • Econ301

        I think you are confused. The search for knowable is not insecurity in the lack of belief in god per say, it's the belief that there is more to know and thus more to consume including your texts.

        What you see as insecurity is actually security in the belief that there is always more to be learned.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
        • Brainwashed Atheists

          Nope. These are idiots that just hate, for the most part. There is evidence of exceptions to this. But most aren't searching for any truth. They are just trying to prove they are right.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        An article on atheism was posted on a belief blog ... so what part of why atheists are posting here don't you get?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • Brainwashed Atheists

          They post on Christian articles the most. I'm not just talking about this blog. Check out other faith and belief blogs. Atheists hating on others.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
        • Brainwashed Christians

          Dissagreement is not hate........ the ignorance is strong in this one!

          January 8, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
  9. Joseph

    The article calls him a "man of God," which is a lie. He's not a man of God and, by his deeds, shows that he never was. HE was in it for some sort of gain. That didn't turn out and he undoubtedly wants to pursue some sort of lust as in the words of Jesus Christ, "men loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil." And why should it be surprising when he's fired from teaching at a Christian school after breaking his vows to teach the Bible? That's like a physics professor complaining that he was fired after saying he no longer believed in Newton's basic laws of motion or a doctor being fired because he no longer believed in microscopic germs... or a mechanic being fired for saying that it was no longer necessary to put oil in an engine. The man has become incompetent and it's no one's fault but his own.

    As for the athiests supporting him, of course the athiests are going to help him. He's their poster boy. But if he goes back to Christianity, they'll be the first to withdraw their support from him, so don't even try to make the athiests look like they're the charitable nice guys. They're not!

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

      Funny how Christians are always pointing at other Christians and accusing them of not being the real deal.

      -ICBS

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

      Belief in Christianity is all about personal gain.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • mk

      "But if he goes back to Christianity, they'll be the first to withdraw their support from him"

      You mean like the Christians did?

      January 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • doobzz

      Well, I'm so glad you cleared that up, since you're obviously well acquainted with him and what he's thinking.

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

      Joseph...I am an athiest and I am a very nice and charitable person. You claim that athiest are not is absurd. If anything, we are nice people because we want to be, not because the we are forced to be by a deity.

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

      Silly Joseph,

      My atheist friends are some of the nicest, charitable people I have ever met. You obviously live in a dark hole.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  10. MormonChristian

    I wish this man well in his journey. I just have one issue with the article: why do some think that people of Faith are not practical as in the given example of helping someone who is sick – praying for them vs. doing something for them? I don't know any Christians that act that way – they're pretty engaged in helping others in substantive ways. James said "I will show you my faith by my works." That's the way it rolls with true Christianity. Christ himself always fed and healed and cared for others before he taught. And he always loved everyone. Kind of sad that this man is leaving that influence...

    January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • Billy

      "true Christianity" hmmm.... let's see – over 41,000 sects... but I appreciate you identifying your type up front!

      January 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
  11. Econ301

    Very quick question for the Religious.

    In the Book of Genesis God punishes Adam and Eve because Eve eats an apple from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    Q: How could Eve know what she is doing is wrong when she decided to eat the apple, when the apple grants her the knowledge of good and evil. Prior to eating the apple she would have been unable to know if what she was doing was right or wrong. Why did god punish Eve for doing something she was incapable of knowing was wrong?

    Do we punish Polar Bears for eating seals because killing is prohibited according to the 10 commandments? No of course not?

    Why?

    Because they are incapable of knowing what Is right and wrong according to the will of God espoused in the 10 commandments.

    Does it make sense for God to punish Eve when Eve had no idea that what she was doing was wrong?

    January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Econ301 : How could Eve know what she is doing is wrong when she decided to eat the apple, when the apple grants her the knowledge of good and evil.

      You seem to have confused the terms evil and wrong. One can know that murder is wrong without commiting that evil act and having personal knowledge of such.

      <><

      January 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • Econ301

        Please explain how you know murder is wrong if you are incapable of knowing good from evil.

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

          In Genesis, God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of good and evil.

          16The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." Genesis 2: 16-17

          This shows that God commanded Adam to not eat of the tree of good and evil.

          2The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'"… Genesis 3: 2-3

          This shows that Eve was aware of God's command to not eat of the tree.

          When God told Adam and Eve that they "would surely die" he meant that they would die an eternal death from the consequences of sin and disobeying God. Your argument assumes that even though Eve had no "knowledge of good and evil" that she didn't understand the concept of disobeying God. For instance, when you were a child your parents likely told you to stay out of the road. You may not have understood why your parents told you to stay out of the road, but it doesn't negate the fact that you understood it was wrong to disobey them. Lacking the knowledge of sin doesn't make you an animal. It doesn't make you some automaton that can't understand consequence. While Eve may have not have had knowledge that disobeying God was a sin, she was very well aware that God had commanded them to not eat from that particular tree and that she was supposed to obey or she would die.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          @Phoenix

          So why put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there in the first place? What sick id10t of a God would do that in the first place?

          You then say "God told Adam and Eve that they "would surely die" he meant that they would die an eternal death from the consequences of sin and disobeying God. " But wait! Christ comes along and this goes right in the garbage...believe and your sins are forgiven!

          Classic carrot and stick motivation. It just took them a couple thousand years to figure out that the old testament misfired...all stick, no carrot.

          January 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
        • G to the T

          "God told Adam and Eve that they "would surely die" he meant that they would die an eternal death from the consequences of sin and disobeying God. "

          Sounds like someone is adding to the bible. It says they would die, who are you to say what god "really meant"?

          January 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • Econ301

        I agree that one does not have to do something to know if it is the right or wrong thing to do, but please tell me how you know right from wrong if you are incapable of knowing good from evil?

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

          Indeed. Even in our own "mortal" justice system a person cannot be held accountable if they aren't mentally competent. Adam and Eve (lacking the ability to know good and evil) were not mentally competent.

          January 9, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
    • Billy

      And since the God of the fundies is all-knowing through time, was he just playing a game? Could he have been encouraging her to make the wrong choice?

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

        Be careful, not all of us believe that "outside of time, all-knowing" thing.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bored

      Dear person, Genesis 2:17 answers your question sir- you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
    • NotTheBigGuy

      ... in my Bible, it says God told her not to! He gave her choices of every other kind of fruit, and said "not this one."

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

        And then he put the serpent in the garden to tempt them anyway. That God! Always a jokester!

        January 8, 2014 at 5:53 pm |
  12. drh1214

    the lesson to be learned here is be an atheist and get handed free money? The man's first mistake was choosing religion as a career. In the New Testament it states that Jesus was a carpenter and Paul was a tent-maker. I go to a Christian university and I am sickened daily by those who treat Religious Studies like a career field. I see huge mega-churches being built and these preachers driving around in their expensive cars. Not very Christian-like if you ask me.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • drh1214

      sorry this was previous statement was poorly written. I was just ranting.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
    • Live4Him

      Agreed. One has to wonder which god the mega-church leaders are serving.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
  13. Mom0four

    How sad. "He lost three jobs!" Of course he did. His job was to tell people about Christ, whom he declared no longer mattered. And people are surprised atheists wrote him checks? Really? There are lots of atheiests that will support someone who will further their cause. They hate anything that smells of a faith in a God that loves them, just like the bible predicted. Read the bible people. ALL this stuff is predicted in there.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • randog

      Thank you. If I hired a man to build my deck and at the last minute he said he decided to maintain lawns but he would still continue to work for me I'd say he's crazy, fire him and get another deck builder. The article makes it sound like some divine intervention caused him to lose his job, Hello!! His job was as a pastor/priest. Once he denounced god why would they keep him on? His whole lie apparently was to teach about Christ. I'd have a hard time getting a job as a dentist when I have spent my whole live in construction.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bible Loving Athiest

      It also says that women should remain silent! Read your scriptures and shut your yapper!

      January 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
  14. There, their, and they're

    I think it is obvious that if his former employers were truly Christian, they would have reassigned him within the organization and given him all of their support in his quest.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  15. Dan

    This is insulting.

    January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • Maleficent

      How? How does a total stranger's journey affect your life in anyway whatsoever?

      January 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
  16. DoubtingThomas

    Hmm..maybe I am cynical.. book deal and made for TV movie already in the works... he believes in the Benjamin's

    January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • Maleficent

      Isn't that the Christian way though? There is money to be made in Christianity. There are at least 4 or 5 megechurches in the city where I live. The pastors are living in the best neighborhoods, driving the best cars. But let's forget all that and bash this guy for writing a book! Remember, it only makes money if the public buys it (much like church).

      January 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
  17. JFCanton

    There's a BIG gap between a revivalist denomination like Seventh-Day Adventists and a worldview that COULD accommodate atheism. It doesn't sound like he was in the right place to start with.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:58 am |
  18. TX Rick

    He wasnt really a Christian anyway.. No Christian would make decisions such as he has. And why does cnn have stories such as this anyway. 90% of the people reading are from blue states and are atheists anyway.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • Live4Him

      Could they be appealing to their base?

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

      What qualifies as atheist to you; not believing in a god, or not believing in your god?

      January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • bob

      How very christian of you.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      And there are lots of pastors with day jobs. This one needs to leech off of a fundraiser though to become an atheist.

      And apparently was too lazy to stop praying and get out there and do hospital visitations, bringing groceries to peoples homes, working in soup kitchens, etc., like many other pastors.

      Sorry, this is all about one person that seems to expect a free ride off hot topic issues. Time for this person to pick up a shovel and live life.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
    • Billy

      "No Christian would"

      What's a Christian? I get so confused when I look around at how different they are. Did you know some of them still sacrifice people?

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

      No true Scotsman anyone?

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

      Nope, sorry. Born in Longview, TX. Grew up as a dependent of an Air Force dad (who is awesome, BTW). Lived in Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina. Christian (as are my parents) from about 7 to 30. Evangelical, and formerly very proud of it. Now, embarrased by it and an Atheist living in the very red state of Kansas.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • Malory Archer

      It's telling how the most hateful comments on this thread were posted by so-called "christians".

      January 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
    • Paul

      Typical response of a christian. If a christian disagrees, or is disgusted by something, spew hatred, but do it in a backhanded way, just in case there IS a god, maybe he won't notice how much you hate his creations.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
    • Maleficent

      That is pure BS. I was a real Christian and now I'm not. The only reason Christians cannot accept that a Christian could leave the faith is that, for that to be possible, it destroys one of the foundations of your faith, so in order to believe in what you believe you have to dismiss us as "not really Christian". To entertain the reality that we were Christians, is to question, if not downright destroy, your own belief system. I used to think like that too, when I was a Christian.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
  19. Maleficent

    What I learned being raised as a Christian and spending the first ten years of my adult life as a Christian, is that most Christians are afraid of question and of anybody who asks questions – including Christians who ask questions. I spent a lot of time ostracized by fellow churchgoers because I dared question meanings and interpretations of biblical passages. That mentality pushed me further away from the faith, and I eventually left it. I consider myself agnostic now. On the flip side, I think Mehta ought to rethink the fact that he doesn't agree with Bell's "experiment". Call if whatever you want, but Bell's experiment is his own personal journey out of the shackles of religion. Mehta needs to understand that religious people have to go through de-brainwashing process that takes time – years usually. I personally ping-ponged back and forth between religion and non-religion for a long time before accepting that we humans are truly only guessing at things, and likely inventing things, that are impossible to know for sure. That doesn't make you a bad person to come to that logical conclusion and doesn't mean that some higher power is going to gleefully roast you for all eternity for it.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Live4Him

      @Maleficent : most Christians are afraid of question and of anybody who asks questions

      It sounds like your fear caused you to turn aside rather than digging into the facts. My questions lead me to a deeper faith in God. But, I'd rather know the truth and need to change my position rather than being wrong and never knowing it.

      <><

      January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
      • Econ301

        Please provide some of the questions you asked and answers you arrived at. I'd love to know what questions you've had.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Econ301 : Please provide some of the questions you asked and answers you arrived at. I'd love to know what questions you've had.

          Q: How can we trust the Bible if there are so many errors in it?
          A: When comparing like-for-like, the Bible has been transmitted down 99.9% accurate.

          Q: Where did matter, energy and time come from?
          A: Genesis 1:1-4 states that God created them first.

          Q: Why does God allow evil?
          A: God uses evil as a learning tool to draw us closer to him (like a test does for students)

          I could go on for hours – as I now teach apologetics (i.e. defending one's faith) to others.

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

          LOL....only 99.9% accurate. I think you have that backwards.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
        • Paul

          If the bible is the source of it's own truth, and there's errors in it (and there's a BUNCH of things that are inaccurate in the bible, and every other holy text) how are you sure that it's only 0.1% that's been translated, or passed down in error? Seems silly to me to say "it's true because the bible says so" when you already admit that the bible isn't true in everything.

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

          Even if the bible is 99.9% the same as the original (Highly doubt), how do you know the original is true and accurate? As far as I have researched there are no contemporary accounts (AKA outside the bible) of ANY of the supernatural events described within the bible.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm |
      • Maleficent

        What fear? I wasn't afraid of asking questions. I know more about the bible and christianity than most christians do. I spent years delving into the facts and learning all I could, which is a big reason I became an agnostic.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Maleficent : What fear? I wasn't afraid of asking questions.

          Asking questions is the easy part. Two-year olds do it all the time. Searching for the answers is the real work.

          @Maleficent : I know more about the bible and christianity than most christians do.

          So many atheists claim this, but know only what they find one atheist websites. The question is do they understand it enough to connect the dots.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
      • Charm Quark

        L4H
        You know only the truth that you believe in. People will find their own truths anywhere around the world, it has nothing to do what you believe, that is what you cannot understand. The trouble with the Christian cults is they just cannot simply butt out of others life choices, but try L4H.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
      • L.S.B.

        Which god?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
      • Maleficent

        I didn't just ask questions, I found answers (and no, not from "atheist" sources – I'm not an atheist). I spent YEARS of my life trying to prove that Christianity was the ruth, and the conclusion I came to (not at all an easy one, and one that took a long time to accept) was that it was not truth. It was one of thousands of ancient religions that tried to explain the unexplainable and give people comfort that there was someone out there looking out for them.

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

          May I ask what your definition of an atheist is?

          As a reminder an atheist is not someone saying " god(s) do not exist", it is "I don't believe god(s) exist" huge difference.
          If you are confused look up the relationship between agnostic and atheist, and how they are not mutually exclusive. I consider myself a "Agnostic Atheist".
          If you are still confused look up "jar of gumballs" example of atheism

          January 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm |
      • Maleficent

        I love how you sourced the answers for the questions you asked from the Bible. You didn't go any further than that. That isn't truly questioning anything. Also, how is that any different than your complaint about contrary information being sourced from atheist websites?

        January 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • jpintx

      Maleficent – I am one of those Christians who likes to ask many questions and tend to make other Christians uncomfortable. Just like Econ301, I would love to hear some of the questions you were asking, if you are inclined to continue. The God I believe in doesn't mind if I ask a lot of questions. He's big enough to handle it 🙂

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

        First my questions were within the parameters of Christianity, meaning I wasn't questioning the faith, just the way things were interpreted, but once I started digging and seeking answers I started questioning the religion itself. We would be here forever if I went into the questions I asked. I spent years obsessing over this, and it was a very hard time in my life, because I was having to learn to rethink everything I'd ever been told. I also had to deal with the ingrained fear of hell, and on the off chance it did actually exist, I would go there for rejecting christian beliefs. But I also had moral issues with some of god's actions in the bible, and I can't worship some higher power that makes little old me question it's morality. I wouldn't want to be in the "heaven" of such a being, if all the bible said about him was true. That was years ago, and although I am an agnostic, I am openminded to the possibility of a higher power, but if there is one it is so much more than any religion could define or contain, and far bigger than any human could attempt to conceptualize or comprehend. And that alone renders any human authored "holy book" invalid.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
      • illusive

        As an atheist with a similar story I will provide some of the basic questions I asked myself and others during my de-conversion.
        1. "What do I actually believe?" (in as much detail as possible)
        2. "Why do I believe it? (what are my reasons, 1 Peter 3:15 told me to be prepared to give good reasons why I believe)

        Those 2 questions combined with my desire to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible, led me down a long path of research including reading the entire bible cover to cover without someone else telling me what each line "really means".

        January 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
        • Maleficent

          One of the most important things a Christian can do is read the bible cover to cover – and more than once! Instead of cracking it only on Sundays at church, or like you said, having someone else tell you what each line "means".

          January 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
        • illusive

          I have learned that the bible and it's contents are one of the best arguments against Christianity as a whole.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
        • Maleficent

          I have learned that the bible and it's contents are one of the best arguments against Christianity as a whole.
          -
          Absolutely true!

          January 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • Karen

      Excellent thoughtful response!

      January 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
  20. TYRANNASAUR

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

    This is funny since he only thinks there was a god because like most people that's what's been drummed into their heads by preachers and society as a whole...... if you don't want to be ostracized which most people are taught is a bad thing...the REALITY is that there actually is NO GOD....THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DOES NOT ALLOW IT.....PERIOD.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Live4Him

      How can laws which only pertain to the natural be applied to the supernatural?

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

        You'd have to demonstrate the supernatural before your question would even be a reasonable question.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
      • hamhouke

        They cannot. That is, by definition, supernatural. I understand that you ask the leading question.

        But, the better question is this, "Do you accept evidence derived by supernatural means?" If so, with all of your senses being natural, how would the "supernatural" revelation be recognised? I am sure glad that modern courts do not accept "supernatural" evidence of guilt.

        I think, if you look into it, you will realize that "supernatural" is just a human concept to compartmentalize aspects of the natural world that we do not yet understand. It is a model, not reality. A construct, formulated in the minds of man to explain the currently unexplainable. This is where your god and all others throughout history originate.

        In science, we use models too. The critical difference is that the models are not sacrosanct; they are experimental. It is only a tool to form better questions and attempt to predict outcomes. The "best" models are the ones with the most evidence. As it turns out, they most accurately predict outcomes. But when new evidence is discovered, tested, plugged into the model, and breaks it, the model is abandoned or rewritten to conform to the evidence. Science is all about discovering, not "knowing" in a supernatural sense. The god model fails this test, utterly.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • ME II

      @TYRANNASAUR,
      "THE LAWS OF PHYSICS DOES NOT ALLOW IT.....PERIOD."

      I hate to say it, but this is incorrect. Nothing in science, so far, disproves god(s). Some would even argue that science can not disprove god(s).

      January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • FSM

        Similarly, nothing in science disproves unicorns, leprechauns, flying spaghetti monsters, Zeus, Thor, or the Christian God. Science doesn't "prove" anything, it's a way of making models about the world around us.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
        • ME II

          Agreed.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
      • Alias

        It does prove many biblical stories never happened.
        I see that as proving god does not exist in the context of the story.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
        • ME II

          Agreed.
          While science does not disprove god(s) it can, and I think does, disprove specific claims as portrayed in a literal reading of the Bible.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
    • Torquemada

      Where in the Laws of Physics does it say that all the energy and matter in the universe can "big bang" into existence?

      January 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
      • ME II

        Quantum Mechanics, I think.

        January 8, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
      • G to the T

        You seem to be assuming that Classical Physics are suffienct to explain events during the Big Bang. They are not, but quatum mechanics is helping us to better understand it. Regardless of all that, we can tell something like the Big Bang (whatever the origin) because when we "roll back" the motion of all the galaxies we can see, they converge.

        January 9, 2014 at 2:35 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.