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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. wildmangreen

    what complete idiocy...i can't believe this is really happening...

    January 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  2. musclecar61

    I am a Christian and this man is no Pastor so stop calling him that, he is a back slider that chooses to walk away from his faith and the Lord. I have no sympathy for anyone that simply chooses to walk away from all they believe and specially broadcasting all over the net. His life will be in shambles and he will have to hit rock bottom to realize what his choice has done to him and his loved ones. Hell will be full of preachers that either had no faith but knew the word and those that simply walk away but not just because they walk but the lives and faith of others he has lead to sin. All this being said God is forgiving but it's up to this lost soul to make the first move and ask forgiveness.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Bitter and hateful much?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
    • Tom

      You are the perfect example of today's christian and a very good example why I would have nothing to do with today's christian faith.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
    • sybaris

      Don't wonder why christians are so repugnant to others

      January 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
  3. e-man

    Way to go, atheists! Instead of WE'LL PRAY FOR YOU.. it's WE'LL PAY FOR YOU. Love it. Atheism.. is spreading. And thank GOD for that.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Why would any atheist "pray" for him? It seems his religion stopped paying for him & someone needs to help his family until he gets back on his feet.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Bo

    seriously.? what did he expect.? I don't believe in a god of any flavor, yet even I can't fathom how stupid this bonehead is.

    As a pastor he must realize that religious fanatics, like christian schools, demand their employees to be supportive of the schools fruity teaching.

    Guessing his real problem is that he must be smart enough to see his "faith" is a bit flawed, why else would he denounce it for a trial period of non-belief.?

    January 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
  5. Bill From PA

    Look, Sparky, you don't 'try' atheism, or a belief system for that matter, like a pair of shoes. You either think you have a Friend in the Sky or you don't. Either way, act accordingly.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      I posit that there are very few who absolutely believe 110% for sure there is a God and there are very few who absolutely believe 110% for sure there is not a God. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  6. bostontola

    In the movie Matrix, the main character Neo is offered the choice between a red pill and a blue pill. The pills represent the choice between embracing the sometimes painful truth of reality (red) and the blissful ignorance of illusion (blue) .

    Mr. Bell chose the red pill.

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

      I need a little blue pill, so?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
      • bostontola

        Key word is "chose". You get to choose as well. Enjoy!

        January 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          Anyone can "choose" what ever they want ... that still does not make it reality.

          BTW, you completely missed Topher's joke.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
        • bostontola

          You're right, thanks for the extra swing.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
  7. sirhuxley

    I am really kind of sick of this business of portraying Atheists as people who "don't believe that god exists"

    Whether or not "god exists" is really not relevant to most Atheists, we don't know or care, he is as random as nature is apparently.

    What we contend is that the "god of the bible" does not exist, that "god" has an Anthropomorphic description, 'he' intervenes, he created the earth in "6 days" and he jealously kills the "enemies of Isr@el"

    HOGWASH! I say!

    But xtian theo-crackpots are controlling the agenda, they control the conversation, they control the political establishment.

    This Bell guy, is just coming to realize that the god of the bible is a FARCE and he is right.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • Frank

      When you say "we" you should say "I".

      January 8, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
    • ScienceSoma

      It is absolutely relevant to atheists. You certainly do not speak for all atheists, sir. Atheism by definition rejects the claim that any god exists, not just the Christian god. It is the wholesale rejection of theism in any form past or present. Whether a god exists is actually the only thing relevant to the position of atheism.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
    • Tracy

      Actually, by definition, atheists don't believe in a god. Any god.
      I think what you're describing more closely aligns with agnosticism.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
      • Randy

        Agnosticism regards knowledge claims. Atheism addresses belief claims. There are agnostic atheists, agnostic theists, gnostic atheists, and gnostic theists. They are neither mutually exclusive nor expressions of degree of belief or certainty.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:59 am |
    • Tom

      You're wrong actually.

      Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.

      Has nothing to do with the bible. You may believe what you say but and Atheist says there is no God.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
      • Randy

        All atheists lack a belief in gods. Some atheists claim there are no gods. You're treating a subset as though it is the entire set, which is dishonest. If I said all Christians are snake-handling tongue-speakers, would that be accurate? Of course not. Just like you want others to recognize that a subset of Christianity is not the entire set of Christianity, we would expect the same respect by you recognizing that a subset of atheism is not the entire set of atheism. I don't think such a distinction is too difficult for you to draw, nor unreasonable to expect now that you understand. The next step is sharing this new knowledge with others, so fewer and fewer people carry false understandings of what all atheists believe. Sound like a plan?

        January 9, 2014 at 1:06 am |
  8. Dot

    Get out of my way family! Can't you see that I'm on a personal "journey"! Pathetic.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @dot, where are you going?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • Dot

        I'm on a quest to fill the giant, gaping hole in my life that my family and god could not fill. And I'll be damned if I let my responsibilities and commitments as an adult get in my way! Now, leave me alone so I can spend every available moment blogging about my adventure.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
        • Alias

          if he really thinks he has to avoid an eternity in hell, he may be justified.
          Neurotic, but justified.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
    • Randy

      There's the Christian spirit of empathy we hear so much about. Really living the faith, eh?

      January 9, 2014 at 1:17 am |
  9. Jhudstone

    Why is this result so suprising? Would the American Atheists allow a Christian to head up their organization?

    January 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
    • Frank

      Most atheists are cool with Christians. But then you got the atheist trolls that frequent this site... not so cool.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • Alias

      The American Atheists would proabaly allow teir leader to ask questions and explore his faith.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
  10. AverageJoe76

    There's no such thing as 'trying out' atheism. Either you believe, or you don't. If he goes back to theism, then all he did was make a statement then commit to actions under the name of atheism. Seems like a weird experience. But anything to get people to look at reality for a change.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
    • nathan

      EXACTLY!!!!

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

      +1

      January 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
    • Tracy

      Yeah! What he said. ^^^

      January 8, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
  11. how annoying -_-

    Why is this written like some hybrid haiku?! I really wanted to read this article but it's too annoying... -__-

    January 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
  12. huh

    Being a Christian:
    Friday night you get together with friends at church for a little singing and prayer instead of binge drinking and trying to get laid.
    Saturday morning you go to church instead of smoking weed trying to get rid of the hangover from last night.
    Saturday evening you play some basketball in the church gym or watch a PG movie with friends instead of binge drinking and trying to get laid.
    Sunday you hang out with friends at the mall or walk around the city instead of playing video games and smoking weed.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Not being christian does not mean that you do all the things you accuse non christian of doing. You are brainwashed.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
      • huh

        Well if you're not a Christian and you aren't doing the things I mentioned maybe you not enjoying yourself enough.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      Stereotypes may just outlive us all...

      January 8, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      This atheist does not drink alcohol, smoke weed (or tobacco), don't have hangovers or play video games. I do play basketball, go to the mall, spend time in conversation with friends, watch movies but I do occasionally get laid as I am happily married. So what was your point again?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
      • huh

        Have you ever heard of "The best of both worlds" Maybe you should try it sometime

        January 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          It's pretty obvious that I already am .. again, what's your point?

          January 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
        • huh

          i just wanted to know how many Athiests smoked weed

          January 8, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @huh, are you some kind of idiot?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
      • huh

        I was just describing the normal 20-25 year old. Was I far off?

        January 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
    • lol

      Being Christian sounds pretty awful...

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

        It really is so please be nice to us.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
    • JD

      Atheists are supposed to binge drink, smoke weed, and get laid every weekend? All I do is spend time with my wife and kids, finish household chores, hang out with family and friends, play some board games, help my kids with their homework, and try to relax.

      I guess I'm the one giving atheists a bad name. Oh well.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
      • huh

        Sorry I was just thinking of things I would to if i was not a Christian. Wishful thinking.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • Johnny

          Well the fact that deep down you are a dirtbag doesn't mean everyone else is.

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

          Your religious beliefs are the only reason you don't do things that can cause you harm? If you can't manage to figure out why harmful activities are harmful, and why well-being is preferable to harm, we're lucky you've got someone else thinking for you.

          January 9, 2014 at 1:22 am |
    • Randy

      A big ol' bucket of No True Scotsman. Someone ordered it, and I ain't leaving until it's paid for.

      January 9, 2014 at 1:09 am |
  13. Nodack

    He lost his religious jobs after declaring he will be an Athiest? Duh!

    He raised $19,000 in donations to help his cause? I have my own cause too and you all can donate to me as well, I don't mind.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
    • kyzaadrao

      If your cause is not liking beets, I might consider it. I too dislike beets.

      You need to start with a personal beet crisis though. Have you ever been an employee of a beet farm and then publicly "came out" with your beetphobia? Did you get fired from the beet farm or are they now hateful toward you?

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

      He didn't raise it; Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, raised it, and without any sort of request from Mr. Bell. Seems atheists have this thing called empathy. Maybe you've heard of it? Judging from the majority of Christian responses thus far, I'd assume not. Shame. I always thought that Jesus dude was kind of big on empathy and charity. I guess that ends where atheism begins if you're a Christian. At least, that's how most of your brethren seem to behave online regarding Mr. Bell's situation.

      January 9, 2014 at 1:14 am |
  14. joe

    Of course he lost his job. That's like a lawyer saying that he is going to try a year without practicing law. You're going to lose your law job, because practicing law is part of your job description.

    Not sure there is much of a story here. People lose/gain faith all of the time. Many are people of faith lose faith. Many hardened atheists gain faith.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
  15. Floyd Wilson

    And now this poor man will experience the dark undercurrent of hatred that defines the abrahamic religions. Instead of the love and acceptance Jesus demanded from his followers this man has been met with anger and derision for daring to question his faith much like Jesus disciple Thomas did. I wish you you nothing but luck and happiness in your future endeavors Mr. Bell

    January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • Someone Else

      Well, that's a little ridiculous. He wasn't ostracized from his community. His contracts were not renewed. What if an NFL quarterback at the end of a season came out and said, "Next year, I'm not going to try...I'm going to just throw it away after the snap."? No team would keep him on the roster. He didn't get let go from UCLA. He was working for a Christian college and seminary where they are expected and required to be a Christian. If someone says they're going to stop doing that, then why should they be kept on?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
    • Deb

      In reading the article I am not seeing the 'anger and derision' you referred to him receiving. I see concern for him from both Christians and atheists. Seems like you are adding your own slant to the story. I wish him the best too.

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

        Have you read the comments from Christians regarding Mr. Bell? Derisive, insulting, and rude. If you haven't noticed it, you haven't been paying attention.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:25 am |
  16. shoos

    I couldn't even finish this article, it's not article worthy. Lot's of self importance if you need to unload to a reporter.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • Floyd Wilson

      Too many big words?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
      • shoos

        No.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • ME II

      What? The author is reporting/describing a story or event, how is that not an article. Now the subject of the story many be self-important...

      January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
      • shoos

        I never said it 'wasn't' an article, it wasn't article WORTHY.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
        • ME II

          Fair enough. Although I disagree.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
  17. Hot, cold, lukewarm. Two get dumped.

    $$$$$$$$$$ 🙂 $$$$$$$$$$

    January 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
  18. David

    If the pastor can turn his faith 'on and off' at will – i call into question his ability to be a pastor in the first place.

    Reasonable discourse and the ability to judge for yourself based on your own conclusions is what reason is all about. If I am presented with reasonable arguments, my beliefs can change. Faith – by it's very definition – doesn't allow for reason and discourse.

    This is little more than a stunt on behalf of the pastor.

    January 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @David : Faith – by it's very definition – doesn't allow for reason and discourse.

      Wrong. Jesus is known as the Logos : or REASONABLE word. Faith is based upon the evidence ("believe in me because of the miracles"). The Bible is rife with example of God providing evidence to get believers to accept his messager as being authentic.

      <><

      January 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
      • sybaris

        Circular logic

        January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        I guess God was a lot more demonstrative back when He flamboyantly parted the seas.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
        • Lamb of dog

          I would love for him to do something new. And post it on YouTube.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Back in the early 1980's there was a dude named Benjamin Creme who convinced a bunch of people that Christ was going to make a world-wide television announcement.
          Go back a few decades earlier and Rudolf Steiner was preaching that from 1930 onward, Jesus would grant certain people amazing psychic powers to enable them to commune with Him in the "etheric plane".

          January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
        • Happy Atheist

          It's a lot easier to fool a crowd when you don't have 90% of them recording your every move with their cell phones...

          January 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          The holy trinity are still stuck in the first 4 centuries when they were created by men, they can't figure out modern technology, hardly omnipotent. Jesus doesn't tweet except into the feeble minded minds, right Austin?

          January 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
      • kyzaadrao

        Sort of. Miracles were for unbelievers. The proof to believers was the fulfillment of prophecy, which yes is based on reason, history and much interpretation. It still all hinges on faith above reason, though.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          Jesus couldn't perform miracles in his hometown ... seems they knew him & weren't buying it!

          January 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
      • ME II

        ... for the witnesses of the event, perhaps, but for the readers of a retelling of supposed events, that's hardly evidence.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @ME II : for the witnesses of the event, perhaps, but for the readers of a retelling of supposed events, that's hardly evidence.

          So, you deny history? I guess George Washington, The Civil War, and WWII never happened for you either.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
        • Fan2C

          Live4Him,
          "you deny history? I guess George Washington, The Civil War, and WWII never happened for you either."

          There are some myths and legends concerning those people and events too, you know. Generally, our lives do not revolve around them.

          Better (myth-proof, legend-proof), evidence from an all-powerful, all-knowing being is necessary and should be a snap for 'him'... instead we get an ambiguous trail of bread crumbs, some of which perhaps, according to some, lead right off a cliff, no matter how fervently you follow them.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
        • sybaris

          I could get one of George Washingtons descendents on the phone, get his DNA off the teeth he wore, see actual pictures of the Civil War and WWII footage from a myriad of vastly different corroborating sources and all verified by independent unbiased legally accredited subject matter experts.

          You can't provide unequivical corroborative evidence outside the bible that your jesus god-man turned water into wine.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
        • ME II

          @Live4Him,
          "So, you deny history? I guess George Washington, The Civil War, and WWII never happened for you either."

          Are you comparing the evidence for the existence of Washington, the Civil War, and WWII, with the evidence for the miracles of Jesus. That is a laughable comparison.

          I don't deny that someone named Jesus likely existed, but his supposed miracles are a completely different story.

          Furthermore, as far as I'm aware, there are no serious claims of miracles around Washington, or the wars.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
      • Jake

        "The Bible is rife with example of God providing evidence to get believers to accept his messager as being authentic."

        Most of us consider the bible to be work of fiction. Therefore, you can not use its contents as evidence. I might as well just write, "God does not exist" on a piece of paper and present that to you as proof. Would you consider that valid evidence? Of course not, so stop doing the same thing.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
        • sybaris

          Exactly

          Based on the written word as "evidence" christians have no reason NOT to believe in any other god or practice any other religion.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Jake : Most of us consider the bible to be work of fiction.

          You're welcome to your beliefs.

          @Jake : Therefore, you can not use its contents as evidence.

          Why should my faith be controlled by your faith? There is plenty of evidence that the Bible is historically accurate (Egypt, Jerusalem, etc.). What evidence do you have that it is not?

          January 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          At this point L4H will proceed to lie his ass off using every Christian apologetics BS he can dredge up. We have heard it all before, don't poke the troll.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
        • Jake

          "You're welcome to your beliefs."

          It's not really a belief. We have evidence that prooves the bible is factually incorrect. It's just knowledge.

          "Why should my faith be controlled by your faith?"

          I don't have faith, remember? I believe things when there is supporting evidence. I am not suggesting that I should be able to control your faith. What I am trying to point out is that it's pretty dumb to try to present evidence to support your position when those you are presenting it to consider your source to be a work of fiction.

          "There is plenty of evidence that the Bible is historically accurate (Egypt, Jerusalem, etc.)."

          There are things in Dr. Seuss books that are historically accurate. That doesn't mean it's not a work of fiction.

          "What evidence do you have that it is not?"

          Seriously? We know the earth is much older than described in the bible and wasn't created in 6 days. We know people can't walk on water. We know people can't be born from a virgin. The (LONG) list goes on.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
        • Someone Else

          "Most of us consider the bible to be work of fiction." Who do you mean by "us"?

          If it's poster's on these message boards, then that might be a reasonable assumption. If it's Americans, then I'd say you're wrong since (in 2008) 76% of Americans considered themselves Christian.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
        • Fan2C

          Live4Him,

          The fact that places mentioned in the Bible have been verified archeologically or historically has no bearing on the veracity of the supernatural stories put forth in that book.

          Mount Olympus (and many other places mentioned in their legends and myths) really exists in Greece. Does that mean that 12 gods really live there? Dickens' "The Christmas Carol" fairly accurately portrays the places and conditions of 19th century England. Does that mean that the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come were real? All sorts of fiction and fantasy stories are set in real places.

          The Bible is a book which includes *some* history of primitive Hebrew culture, and *some* good advice for practical, beneficial human behavior, but in great part, it is a compilation of ancient Middle Eastern historical fiction, myth, legend, superst.ition and fantasy.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
        • Jake

          "Most of us consider the bible to be work of fiction." Who do you mean by "us"? If it's poster's on these message boards, then that might be a reasonable assumption. If it's Americans, then I'd say you're wrong since (in 2008) 76% of Americans considered themselves Christian."

          Most of us...well, I meant the atheists he is trying to argue with. However, I would say most Americans as well. Even most Christians don't actually believe that the earth was made in 6 days just thousands of years ago, at least not the ones I know.

          And without a doubt, the vast majority of the world's population considers the bible to be a work of fiction (if they've heard of it).

          January 8, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
      • exlonghorn

        @Live4Him

        Should I have faith in David Copperfield because of his 'miracles'? I bet fire seemed like a miracle to early man as well. Miracles are not evidence of anything but a lack of understanding.

        I do like how Genesis has Adam and Eve fully understanding a developed language, and yet there is tons of evidence that eons of early humans passed with no evidence of structured language present.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
        • Nodack

          That's because Adam and Eve are made up people in a story.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @exlonghorn : there is tons of evidence that eons of early humans passed with no evidence of structured language present.

          Yep, and they couldn't leave any evidence (other than their bones) behind to justify that existence. No advancement in technology like farming, domestication of animals, etc. for more than 150,000 YEARS! And then MAGICALLY, they made the first advancement and the advancements kept coming one right after the other! So, did they really exist for those 150,000 years? You believe it, sure, but did they?

          January 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          At this point L4H is trying to goad anyone into his creationist evidence, a great store of knowledge which is a pathetic library of lies and delusions and the occasional bit of bad science.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          @Live4Him
          No evidence of their existence but bones?
          What about Oldowan stone tools and Acheulian tools kits that included axes, choppers, cleavers, and hammers as well as flakes used as knives and scra.pers?

          January 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          L4H, That's because the advances were cumulative; once farming and agriculture were introduced it reduced or more typically eliminated the nomadic lifestyle and more importantly reduced the time and luck involved in finding food, humans had more time to advance knowledge and technology. The same argument could be made for the advances since computers were available.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          L4H, Writing was another major advance – once knowledge could be recorded for future use, it wasn't limited to what one person or tribe could discover and pass on to their offspring.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          And L4H will now abandon the thread.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
        • exlonghorn

          L4H, exponential development in various groups throughout history is a completely docu mented and repeatable process...
          1) Moore's Law
          2) The explosion in mathematics through the basic establishment of algebra, and then calculus
          3) The explosion in materials science after the discovery of the atom
          4) The explosion of the internet and computing after the invention of the transistor.
          5) The explosion in literacy and communications with the invention of the printing process.
          6) The wheel, which substantially enabled pottery-making and eventually human mobility, advanced quickly after road networks developed.
          7) Discovery of biology led to antibiotics, with exploded into our current ability to clone creatures and create primitive cellular life forms from nothing but rudimentary chemicals (look up J. Craig Venter). That all happened pretty quickly.

          The next 100 years are going to advance at a rate that is difficult to comprehend.

          In fact, Neil Tyson persuasively argues that religion effectively damaged the development of mathematics in Arabia. Look up his recorded lecture.

          January 8, 2014 at 7:12 pm |
      • Observer

        Live4Him,

        Being REASONABLE creates agnostics.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Observer : Being REASONABLE creates agnostics.

          Is it reasonable that dino soft tissue survived for 68 million years when it has been shown scientifically that it cannot survive for more than 10,000 years in the environmental conditions in which the tissue was found? I think NOT!

          <><

          January 8, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • Observer

          Live4Him,

          Being REASONABLE means that the claim that the moon and sun suddenly STOPPED moving is pure NONSENSE.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
        • ME II

          @Live4Him,
          "... it has been shown scientifically that [soft tissue] cannot survive for more than 10,000 years in the environmental conditions in which the tissue was found? "

          I think you incorrect about that.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
      • sam stone

        the bible is the word of god because it says so....

        thanks for the logic, lie4him

        January 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
      • Someone Else

        Faith isn't based on evidence...it IS the evidence. Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Jesus never complimented someone because they saw a miracle and believed. He praised those that didn't see the miracles and believed. He chided those that only believed once they had seen. Jesus performed miracles because he was God, not to prove he was God.

        And reason will never lead someone to God. Reason would say the Bible is just a book and that the miracles are not logical and therefore could not have happened. Faith and reason are not the same.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
        • sam stone

          faith is evidence? so, someone with faith in the god is islam has evidence?

          sort of watering down the meaning of evidence, no?

          just as you cannot reason people into god, you cannot threaten them into god, either

          i say this keeping in mind those who blather empty proxy threats of hell

          January 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
    • derp

      "Faith – by it’s very definition – doesn’t allow for reason and discourse"

      A truer statement I have never read.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • Madtown

      i call into question his ability to be a pastor in the first place
      -----
      Good for you. The fact that he has questions means he's a human being. The fact that he's willing to question faith in this context means he's a very reasonable human being.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • GAW

      It's very much like the Christian who faked being ga y for a year.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        I'm not convinced that guy was faking anything. That whole set up looked like he was trying things both ways.

        But only one person really knows the answer to that question.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "(For the record, Bell describes his current theological beliefs as agnostic – somewhere between belief and atheism.)"

      Who says he has "turned his faith off". Presumably this man is having a crisis of faith – so much that he no longer believes strongly enough to tell other people they should believe.

      The idea that he (whose only means of support is being a pastor) will simply stop acting as a pastor and still expect to pay his bills doesn't really seem very well thought out, and seems a bit suspi.cious and perhaps we'll see an 'epiphany' followed by a book deal after 12 months, but we shouldn't automatically assume the cynical viewpoint.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
    • Bill

      So what you are saying is that faith is and has to be completely and willfully irrational.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  19. WhatIDontUnderstand

    What I don't understand is why Americans are so obsessed with religion? I thought they were more civilized and developed!

    January 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • Jake

      Unfortunately, at least half of the country is about 500 years behind the rest of the world.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      "I thought they were more civilized and developed!" compared to who?

      January 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The Puritan ethic has always maintained at least a subconscious edge on the American psyche.
      The U.S.A. is a nation founded by a self-righteous tribe of people disillusioned with what they saw as the moral degeneration of their homeland.
      Holding an entire race of people at musket point and condeming their cultures from a fiery pulpit, the arrogant, confrontational and technologically superior invaders saw no hypocrisy in killing those who refused conversion.
      This type of “convert or die” Christianity still exists in some parts of the world, as exemplified by groups like The National Liberation Front of Tripura who are known to forcibly convert Hindus.
      Once those pesky pagans had been both diminished in numbers and relocated, America lapsed into a century and a half of insular navel gazing. Ignoring international politics, the nation's methods of rationalization became widely accepted and formalized. While paying lip service to the lofty ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Const.itution, the pervasive mentality was obviously contrary to the "self evident truth that all men are created equal". White, Christian land owners may have been equals in at least an abstract, moralistic context but a slave based economy can hardly be considered egalitarian. The eventual abolition of slavery in a legal sense did very little to help the former slaves. Though denied the right to whip them thar ne.groes with impunity, the social elite were firmly established, milky white, “God fearing” and totally unwilling to alter the status quo in any meaningful way. No one save for the Mayflower descendents could realistically aspire to affluence or power.
      Some argue that this dichotomy still exists.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
      • Floyd Wilson

        America was not founded by Puritans. In fact the very small number of Puritans that were expelled from Europe by hateful christians actually played no part in the system of governance or the laws. Most of them were long dead by the 1700's

        January 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
        • Jake

          That's correct. Our founders were mostly essentially atheists.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Right. The Massachussetts Bay Colony had no impact on the colony's development whatsoever.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          "Most of them were long dead by the 1700's"

          What a silly thing to say. May I draw your attention to Cotton Mather.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton_Mather

          It is people of his ilk that drove Franklin to run away to Philadelphia as a young man.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        America was not founded by Puritans.

        Yes and no. It was founded by Anglicans in Virginia, and non-conformist separatists in Massachusetts who were essentially overwhelmed by the Puritans who followed them. It was also founded by Catholics in Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Anglicans in the coastal southeast and Presbyterian Scots/Irish in the piedmont, not to mention Catholics in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

        But Doc's comment that "The Puritan ethic has always maintained at least a subconscious edge on the American psyche." is irrefutably true.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          I forgot the Calvinists in New York and Connecticut and Lutherans in Delaware.

          There are more too of course.

          The United States was not founded on religion at all but the colonies were a fetid religious stew.

          January 8, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
    • sybaris

      The U.S. epitomizes capitalism. There is A LOT of money to be made in religion.

      Religion, the ultimate ponzi scheme

      January 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
  20. Dot

    Weeeeeee...look at me internet! I crave the attention and validation that only the internet can provide. This story is about nothing. This guy is so self-absorbed that he is willing to jeapordize his family's future. To what end????

    January 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • Live4Him

      He already has – they're in the middle of a divorce.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
      • Salem

        Maybe she was a witch! Burn her! Burn her!

        January 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
      • Him4Life

        I have a gay crush on Jesus. Help me!

        January 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
      • Observer

        Yep. Maybe they don't agree on the importance of the Golden Rule.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      So ... he should just keep believing something that's absurd because of the reactions of those who don't like it? That would pretty much be the definition of a sheeple.

      January 8, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
    • daniel

      You sound like an angry judgemental "christian", sullenly envious of the attention he is getting about living out his true(albeit confused)convictions. Pray for him and his family and everyone falling under the influence of darkness and unbelief, if you really believe, as he needs help...

      January 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
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About this blog

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