home
RSS
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. lunchbreaker

    His "expirement" would have been better served if he had kept it a secret until completion and then revealed the results. But I'm sure he didn't want his fellow Christians to think he had actually become an atheist, then he would have seen thier true colors.

    January 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jac

      Or, perhaps he wanted to see what an actual atheist goes through when the public ally state they are atheist...

      January 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
      • markes1

        Amen to that (pun intended)! I have a devout father, love him to death, and it would break his heart to hear my atheist beliefs. I also teach at several religious universities that would not appreciate my beliefs. Regardless, my experience is that many religious people are intolerant when that is a tenant of their religion....just saying!

        January 8, 2014 at 4:44 pm |
        • Jac

          I'm glad you understood what I was trying to say without the auto correct rearing it's head... I meant publicly.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
    • tom LI

      Did you miss the part where it said that coming out is often the hardest part of being an atheist. Anyone can do things in secret, and at the end alter their results to suit a preordained agenda, or simply say it was a waste of time and revert back without real consideration of what truly took place.

      For someone so involved with a Religion, he's learning how true his pals really are...showing what many atheists know, Xtians are not very pleasant when atheists are around, or when one of their own leaves the herd.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
      • mtymouse

        Yeaaa... cause I'm sure the "Atheist Church" will throw a party when a member states they have found faith.

        January 8, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
  2. Rosa

    This is the stupidest article I've seen in a long time. He is a pastor, of course he lost his job when he became an atheist. I haven't prayed in 25 years and I still have my job, of course my job is not related to anything religious. Why don't you write an article on that?

    January 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
    • Daniel

      And you didn't read the article. He lost his job at the church because he felt the church should allow gay and lesbian leaders and did not support California's gay marriage ban bill. After he was kicked out due to those leadership disagreements he decided to give atheism a try. He was fired from the college he worked out because the school felt strong 'faith' was needed for students to lean on for help with their doctoral dissertations.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • bill

      what?!?!? Sadly, you're obviously an idiot rosa. SMH

      January 8, 2014 at 4:32 pm |
  3. Potion4

    Interesting and scary; God is merciful and may allow him to see the other side without him. The challenge with that is, the doors he's allowed to be open in his life. One the most powerful things that God has given us is free will, the will to choose to not believe or believe. Remember he said “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (Rev 3:15-16). (Powerful); but at the end of the day our decisions are our choices.

    January 8, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Scared? There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
      • Potion4

        Not saying you don’t but when you have that relationship with God and decide to walk away, not due to life challenges but as an experiment is scary. God is not something to play with; the old saying that he has a sense of humor is just that a saying and has no truth. This is scary, just a thought.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
        • Scott

          Just a weak Pascal's Wager.

          January 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm |
    • Mr. Freeze

      Ah, so one who is totally cold does not get spat out? Good to know...

      Someone forgot to tell that to Paul of Tarsus for his "moderation in all things" slogan, though.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
      • Potion4

        Not feeling you Mr. Freeze

        January 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
    • Nate

      Jesus died to give us a new spirit, perfect and without sin, though sin still remains in the body. Are you saying your soul/body can do something that causes what's been done to our spirit to be undone? Can we be unborn? I don't think so, and I think that's part of the good news of the Gospel. Once you accept Jesus, it is done and the spiritual change is immediate and eternal.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
  4. Angel

    This is an interesting story because a few months ago our Pastor was talking about a similar story. The Pastor was trying to get someone to join the church and this person wouldn't join because he said The most so called religious or Christian people will abandon you when you are at lowest. Based on what happened to him and these comments, they are proving Athiests right..

    January 8, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      amen!

      January 8, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
    • JJ

      What I've noticed about most Christian congregations is that they will love bomb you and make you feel really special and once ensnared, you're expected to help ensnare more new blood. If you don't tow the line they will jettison you quicker than you can say Jesus!

      January 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
    • Potion4

      Actually I disagree; some of the friends gave money to the atheist organization that did the fund raiser. I think any friend would try to talk some one out of doing something; you’re not a friend if you don’t.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
      • tom LI

        Unless there's a true risk to ones life, a good friend will allow a friend to explore alternatives and not try to keep them in box that they (the friend) are most comfortable with...!

        January 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
        • Potion4

          True but the friend would give his opinion is all I'm saying; if the person still wants to go down that road you let them go and you don’t abandon them. True friends will hang in there with them because if they decide to return they will be looking for you.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
    • Nate

      Other type of people will abandon you at your lowest as well, and some of them will stick by you no matter what. Same goes for Christians. We're all human, though I know SOME Christians come off as being holier-than-thou. I chose the church I go to partly because we're not that way.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
  5. Cathy Burke

    Christians do not care if someone wants to question their faith. The real issue here is that this man took jobs that require faith to perform them. If he isn't able to perform the job, if he doesn't have the qualifications, then he loses his job. Plain and Simple. Some of you might think he doesn't really need faith to do the job, but you are wrong. Faith is a critical component of a faith based job. You can't help someone with their spirituality if you can't speak the same language...

    January 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      I disagree. The most help that you can give to someone's spirituality is to help them see how brainwashed they are.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • tom LI

      Thats simply a lie. Xtians do care when one of their own questions/doubts their faith. Because it shows a tear in the fabric. When one of the sheep merely considers that they are being led to slaughter, it freaks the others out! No one wants to know that maybe their beliefs are not so solid, but are truly built on a lot of wet and shifting sands. (sorry for all the metaphors)

      Having faith of not should in no way effects ones ability to teach a history class. Theological study is not about learning to be more IN faith, but learning all the history and actual facts about the Religion and whence they come from! Most people of faith have no idea what a real Theological studies encompasses! Most first year students are shaken by the the intro classes and many drop out!

      January 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
      • Nate

        I think it would be really awkward if there were an atheist church and the pastor/teacher/whatever you would call him/her decided to do the Jesus thing for a year. Everyone would know that person was conflicted with whatever he/she was speaking on. I don't think it would work out, but that's just my opinion.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
    • Potion4

      True that Cathy 10 thumbs up!!!

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

      I would bet he could speak the language as well or better than he could two years ago.

      January 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm |
  6. JimBob

    So basically thoughtful and understanding Christians threw this guy under the bus when he was searching for his spirituality rather than helping him through his hard times. Sounds like a great community.

    January 8, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
  7. Curt

    I am conducting the same experiment, except mine if for life, and no pretending. One must be honest about his beliefs, I respect beliefs, but I don't respect fronts posing as beliefs. I'll go play three card monty when I'm in the mood to be tricked.

    January 8, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
  8. Andre-Louis Moreau

    As someone who's a refugee from a cult. I've run the gauntlet of religious and philosophical believes and come out atheist. Most influential was my study of that which I'd been a victim of, mind control tactics. A close study of cognitive dissonance, how it's used within religion, strongly suggests this man will become atheist. Our minds are geared to keep our behaviour, emotions, and thought in congruent alignment. Behaviour, in particular, within a religious context, obedience is always a virtue. Though emotional controls are tapped to influence behaviour, or obedience. Once a behaviour is accomplished, emotions that the behaviour was 'good' fall in line, leading to the conclusion of thought, belief... in God. Information to the contrary becomes filter, denied, attacked, invalidated, ignored... The mind does all it can to keep its cognitive balance, and our minds take short cuts, it's easier to filter information out than to unravel the interconnected tangle of thought, (belief) emotion, and behaviour. Information on reality will become ones adversary.

    In Bell's case, with only my 'armchair' expertise, I think it's very likely he'll become atheist. If he really does behave as an atheist, the emotions and thoughts follow. He sounds agnostic already, I claimed agnosticism for a long time, not understanding I was really an atheist. Follower of (Danial Dennett should understand what I'm referring to.)

    January 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Well stated.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      well done!

      January 8, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
    • David B.

      Well said, and I had this same discussion. As well, if you look at the most fanatical religions they all have rituals. And the more physical rituals , the more programmed you will be and the less time you have to actually reflect on what may be truth.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
  9. tensai13

    Ryan Bell is a brave man to forgo the comforts of religious delusion. This sort of treatment is what we atheists face all the time in the work place in America.

    January 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
    • Steve

      At 37 years old, I have never faced a shred of discrimination due to my not being religious. If that was really happening to you, why are you not filing lawsuits?

      January 8, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
  10. bostontola

    If Atheism is a religion, then Theism is a religion. All believers in any God(s) are part of the same religion. But of course neither is a religion. There could be an atheistic religion (some say Buddhism is an example), but Atheism is not a religion, it is a class.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  11. vdanker

    This is nonsense. You don't experiment with atheism any more than you experiment with religion. You believe or you don't. You ask questions or you don't. You live the life or you don't. It isn't a game that you play for publicity.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
  12. darknesscrown

    The fact that a Christian pastor wants to "experiment" with atheism gives me hope that maybe not everyone is a mindless catatonic who believes everything they are told. Then again, he could be one of THOSE Christians who is going to say something and do something completely different. If you doubt the idea of God, dude, it's cool. Oh how awesome it would be if after the year he's all like, "wow, I can't believe how liberating it is to be my own person! I can't believe I actually swallowed all that nonsense about old men living on clouds!" Fingers crossed...

    January 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
    • biggerdawg

      Where in whatever book you worshipped from, did it mention clouds with old men or living on them?

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

    So let me get this straight. This man, after losing his main job as a pastor, decided to believe for a year that God doesn't exist. Let's not even get into the ridiculousness of a decision like that. He could no longer properly fulfill his other job functions while doing that. He did not inform these places of employment directly that he was performing an experiment that made him unable to fulfill his duties (such as helping believing dissertation-writing students through a difficult time of life and faith) anymore or agree to the belief statement he promised to adhere to anymore. When these jobs found out, they spoke to him kindly about it and told him that during this year, he couldn't work there. At least one job said this condition probably wasn't forever, but while he was conducting this experiment.
    In much the same way, I would hope that if a doctor decided to act for a year as if germs don't exist, he would not be working at a reputable hospital for that year. If an actor decided to behave for a year as if pretending to be other people was wrong, I'm pretty sure he'd lose any jobs he'd have, as well.
    Somehow, this made atheists think that Christians are horrible people for expecting a man who works at a school with a faith statement to actually believe that faith statement, or a man who works helping students emotionally through difficult times at a CHRISTIAN school to actually be Christian. So they gave him a huge chunk of money to help him with it. Somehow, this makes atheists all nice people and Christians mean bullies. Wow. This just boggles my mind.
    PS. I wonder how much of a believer he was in the first place. His comment about not praying about people with troubles anymore, but offering practical help instead, makes me wonder if he ever bothered reading the bible. It's pretty clear that God expects His followers to both pray AND provide practical help. If he never noticed that, it makes me wonder how he even managed to get any of these jobs in the first place.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
    • Drivenb4u

      No one called Christians mean bullies (in the article). You inferred that.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
      • Dan

        My government shuts down on your holidays; references to your god appear on my money; you god's commandments were erected outside the courthouse; any time people object in the slightest to exposure to Christian beliefs, there is outcry and claims of persecution; I'm calling that bullying.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
    • matt

      an important distinction in your clever analogy of the doctor, is that the analogous doctor would "pretend that germs don't exist" in his personal life, while still using his training and skills to perform his job as if germs do exist. This distinction is even possible for people in faith-based professions, and this gentleman would not have been the first to tread this ground.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
    • Yakobi

      TJ–
      I recall another group of people who insisted everyone ascribe to their beliefs in order to do business or hold a job...they called themselves Nazis.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
      • Jerry

        I refer you to Godwin's Law.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
  14. FormerCultMember

    If I may offer a different view; in the last year, I've made a huge change in my own life. I was a part of a "Christian" group – which I was born into. After years of participating in and serving a minister for the last 10 years – I awoke to the reality the particular sect was abusive, controlling, exclusive and contrary to the bible.

    The fact is, it is the TRANSITION from one position/group (whatever their viewpoint) to an opposing position/group which causes the friction. It challenges and strains the fabric of all your relationships. You have deeply rooted relationships, from family to friends to colleagues who largely will not understand. Their reactions will range to abject rejection, anger and dismay to curiosity, caring concern and reinforcement of friendship regardless of the 'change'. Meanwhile, you will find the opposing group will rise to embrace and celebrate the 'change'.

    It would happen on either side of the equation, and in any similar dynamic. The fact is – when we have strong viewpoints, whether religious, political, ethical, moral or otherwise – 'change' is brutal road to navigate when it forces others to re-evaluate the value of the people involved.

    This is an interesting experiment – but it is less a discovery of 'who is right and who is wrong', but one of the fickle human condition and how we view things through the perspective of our own experience. What if this fellow were an atheist suddenly turned evangelical/charismatic Christian? I expect the results would be stunningly similar – his circle of friends would have concerns, and the Christian community would rally to embrace.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • Steven Gold

      I think your point about joining the 'other side' is valid. And for sure it depends on the group you are going from as to what their reaction is.
      IMO the difference is how well a person can answer tough and probing questions and are they able to still think independently for themselves without falling to the idea of 'so and so said, so I think that too'.
      If a person is blindly (or partially) just following what others say or do, long term that can be a bad thing.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
    • markes1

      Great point! This extends beyond religion to employment, social status, etc. When I started my own business I saw a backlash due to some "friends" who hated their W-2 jobs but did not have the Moxy to hang their own shingle. We are human after all.

      January 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
  15. Shorn

    Congratulations, CNN. You have published the stupidest story of the year. And it's only Jan. 8.

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

    Um, no it hasn't.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • EZ

      Shorn,

      "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..."

      Easy come, easy go, eh?

      January 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
      • Live4Him

        Don't forget – Reneged on his marriage promise. No integrity at all.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
        • EZ

          L4H,

          Yep... he should be more like Martin Luther King and Ted Haggard and Eddie Long and a whole bunch of other pastors who just go around having affairs of one sort or another!

          January 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
        • Madtown

          Or, she reneged on hers.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Madtown : Or, she reneged on hers.

          The article didn't indicate her changing life, but his.

          <><

          January 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
        • 9hydra

          Judge much?

          January 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
        • EZ

          L4H,

          Leap to conclusions much?

          January 8, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
        • Heddy

          L4H: it is still a massive assumption to automatically claim he reneged because of another decision he made.
          It stated explicitly the divorce had nothing to do with his trying atheism.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
        • Madtown

          The article didn't indicate her changing life, but his.
          ----–
          The article said NOTHING about why they were divorcing, or who initiated. It only said they were divorcing. You must read/see what you want to in literally everything in life. Sad.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @9hydra : Judge much?

          We can all judge by one's actions. What Christians are prohibited from doing is judging their walk with God (unless they state that they don't follow God).

          @Heddy : it is still a massive assumption to automatically claim he reneged because of another decision he made.

          I'm not making that assumption. Rather, I'm observing multiple changes that he is making – job, beliefs, lifestyle, etc. The 'why' I'm not making.

          <><

          January 8, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • Winnie

          Live4Him,

          “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” - A.A. Milne

          January 8, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
        • Bob

          Hey, Jesus' mom had a baby with someone other than her husband; I don't hear any complaining about that.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • Heddy

        How did he renege on his marriage promise?

        January 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
        • Live4Him

          'Til death do us part'

          January 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
        • Heddy

          Do you not think his wife might have had some say? Perhaps SHE is the cause. Perhaps SHE has no integrity. How very judgmental to assume it is him.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
        • igaftr

          You don't know that L4H...how do you know that was part of his vows?....nice job judging others though, minion of satan.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
  16. Danni

    This article and person involved is ridiculous. You cannot choose wether you believe or not. You either have faith in a supreme being or you don't. And if you don't, then you are atheist. I am an atheist and it wasn't because I chose to become one. In the deepest parts of my being, I do not believe in a supreme being. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and even went right trough to being Confirmed but inside me was always the thought that all of this isn't real. I went through the motions to please those around me. Once I was honest with myself, I realized that this faith that others seem to have does not exist in me. I am solely responsible for my actions and life is one way road. I don't get a second try at it so I better make it good the first time.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • Bill Sargent

      That's not true Danni. Some people actually used to believe there was a god and changed their mind after reviewing the evidence. Atheism isn't a born into trait or just something you have or dont have. You usually learn about it as you become old enough to think for yourself.

      January 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
      • Live4Him

        If the universe had a beginning, how did it begin?

        January 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Well obviously an anthropocentric, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent enti/ty created the unfathomable vastness of space and time just so that He could make us, the predilect objects of all creation.
          Everything else is just window dressing. The Earth, and particularly human beings, are what is truly the focus of The Creator.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
        • bostontola

          1. Nobody knows if the universe had a beginning or not.

          2. Our observable universe had a beginning and the there is no aspect of it that conflicts with known physics.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @bostontola : Nobody knows if the universe had a beginning or not. Our observable universe had a beginning

          Care to elucidate this obvious contradiction? How many universes can be observed?

          <><

          January 8, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
        • bostontola

          L4H,
          To fully understand it you need to take some physics but the gist is, our observable universe started as a quantum fluctuation (happens all the time right under your nose). When this happens in nothing (as opposed to the vacuum of our space), it can expand in an inflationary way, creating an observable universe. Science doesn't know of any mechanism to see outside that universe if you are in it.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
        • Scott

          How does 'God did it' provide an answer that is any better than I don't know? One makes the empty claim which provides zero explanatory power and the other gives direction for needed investigation.

          January 8, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Sorry, Bill, but you're wrong when you say atheism isn't a born trait. We are all born as atheists, i.e, without religion. Religion must be _learned_.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
        • TC

          How do I "Like" this comment!? Very well put.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Danni : In the deepest parts of my being, I do not believe in a supreme being

      Then that is your choice in beliefs.

      <><

      January 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
      • Wendy Britton

        Atheism is actively denying the existence of God, which is not inborn, first you hear about this God and religion thing, and then you decide if you believe it or not, definitely NOT inborn. Further, I think it's child abuse to teach religion as fact to anyone under age 18 and that should be a crime. Just look at all the psychos out there citing religion as what makes them do crazy things, like murdering their own kids...and it's because it makes no sense to a rational human. So then they go nuts and say God told them to kill all those people...religion is very dangerous and should not be taught to children.

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

          Atheism is not an active denial of any deities.
          Atheism is the stated position that the individual does not hold a belief in any deity.

          If I take a card out of a standard deck and claim it is red, Do you believe it is red? If not, does that mean you are actively denying it is red? Would that mean you are claiming it is black?

          What if I claimed it was the 10 of hearts? Are you making any claims about what the card actually is?

          January 8, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
  17. Gheorghe Gheorghe

    Don't do it Ryan. It is a foolish – and as Metha points out – an illogical experiment.

    Work on firing up your faith, not on putting it on hold!

    Many blessings and joy!

    January 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
  18. Reality # 2

    $19,000 for declaring himself an atheist? Where do we sign up!!!

    January 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  19. crob1664

    Hey. What this guy did was crazy, and maybe irrational, but you have to give it to him for having the guts and sensibility to do this.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  20. Amanda

    I am not religious, I do not belong to a church, but I would NEVER deny God or my love for Jesus. I will be praying for Ryan Bell and his family. God knows how to deal with his children...it is not for us to judge this man.
    Religion has always been the problem...religious rules and doctrines were created by men...religion is what is causing wars and politicians to act foolish. True Christians follow Jesus not religion. We are to LOVE not judge:)

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

      you're religious.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
      • Live4Him

        As are you.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          No matter how many times you tell yourself that, it still remain false.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          I'm religious too but I think that god is a real jerk and when I see him I'm going to drive my boot so far up his a$$ he'll be begging Zeus to pull it out

          January 8, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • snowboarder

          @him, i can't wait to hear the illogical gymnastics you perform to come to that conclusion.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
        • fsmgroupie

          I was trying too be as logical as liveforhim

          January 8, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • And

          Predictably, Liver ran away.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
        • Science Works

          L4H soft tissue thread ran away too it looks like.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
      • Strange

        Good one 😉

        January 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
      • Juanito

        The religious embraces orthodoxy. It's the man-made rules which acts as a conduit to God.

        Jesus unmistakenly pointed it out to those in power and broke it down. Man built it back up again. We have this tendency to put our brand and flavor on what He offers.

        Ay follower of Jesus will be called many things(as He said would happen), so being called 'religious' is hardly surprising.

        In His love, Juanito.

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

        oops-- to

        January 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      You are definitely religious, no matter how you spin it, define it or separate yourself from others you don't agree with.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      Yep, you're DEFINITELY religious.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • Larry L

      Semantics.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm |
    • Raj

      All beliefs created by mankind only.I have no issue with his actions.Athesim is another belief.He already know the consequences.Just like Gelileo's story.People should let him experiment what they think rather critising or harassing. Church's actions are justifible bcoz that is for religious beliefs.History shows religion a threat to independant thinking.Same thing happening here also.I dont understand people worry abt him kids and wife.This is 21st centuray come on !!

      January 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • Scott

      Take away the religion and there is no Jesus or God story to believe in.

      January 8, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49
Advertisement
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.