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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. stef1

    Finite man attempting to unravail an infinite, eternal being.

    January 9, 2014 at 7:51 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Finite man questioning the superst-itions of thousands of years, and – hopefully – coming to the realization that there is no good reason to believe that such an infinite eternal being exists. Do YOU have any evidence to show that such a being exists?

      January 9, 2014 at 7:58 am |
      • devin

        Look around.

        January 9, 2014 at 8:06 am |
        • igaftr

          ok...I looked around...no evidence of any gods.

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

          Then you and Stevie Wonder share a common bond.

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

          devin
          No, you just leapt to an unjustified conclusion that because things exist, god exists, which is false. The existance of things is NOT evidence of any gods.

          I am not blind, and I also do not leap to unjustified conclusions like you have.

          January 9, 2014 at 9:29 am |
  2. devin

    Perhaps after this experiment he could form a new chapter of Heaven's Gate. Hale Boppe won't be coming around for awhile so that should give him ample time to "find himself."

    " Pastor tries atheism" You just can't make this stuff up.

    January 9, 2014 at 7:44 am |
  3. JC Copeland

    I have to congratulate Rev. Bell for taking this step. Scriptures tell us the Lord took 40 days in the wilderness and was approached by the Devil whom he turned down. Knowing the history and doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventist "Anglo-Israelism" movement, I am surprised more have not left the folds of Herbert Armstrongism. Seventh Day Adventists have for over 100 years walked the tightrope between sect and cult. For Bell to strengthen his faith by removing himself from it for a year is commendable. For the church to remove him speaks well of the "mindset" of fear within the church and universities that support it.

    January 9, 2014 at 7:41 am |
    • devin

      " For the church to remove him speaks well of the mindset of fear..." No, it actually "speaks well" of the church leadership to remove a man who has absolutely no business holding the position.

      January 9, 2014 at 7:50 am |
  4. mzh

    And they all shall appear before Allah (on the Day of Resurrection) then the weak will say to those who were arrogant (chiefs): "Verily, we were following you; can you avail us anything from Allah's Torment?" They will say: "Had Allah guided us, we would have guided you. It makes no difference to us (now) whether we rage, or bear (these torments) with patience, there is no place of refuge for us." – 14:21

    And Shaitan (Satan) will say when the matter has been decided: "Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, so you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I deny your former act in associating me (Satan) as a partner with Allah (by obeying me in the life of the world). Verily, there is a painful torment for the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.)." – 14:22

    And those who believed (in the Oneness of Allah and His Messengers and whatever they brought) and did righteous deeds, will be made to enter Gardens under which rivers flow, – to dwell therein forever (i.e.in Paradise), with the permission of their Lord. Their greeting therein will be: Salam (peace!). 14:23

    Peace!!!

    January 9, 2014 at 7:30 am |
    • truth exists because we face it

      christian/muslim, all the same.. both delusional

      January 9, 2014 at 7:32 am |
      • mzh

        I only hope all the bests for you my friend...

        January 9, 2014 at 7:37 am |
        • stef1

          An Atheist "Stalin" wasn't delusional?

          January 9, 2014 at 7:56 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Ruthless, murderous and megalomaniacal – absolutely.
          But was Stalin really delusional?
          He managed to make his own cult of personality and, kept nations under his thrall through fear and intimidation.
          I'd say he knew exactly what he was doing.
          And don't forget – he spent 5 years at a Russion Orthodox Seminary learning the art of dogmatic discourse.
          Historians have noted that his speaking and writing styles ape those of the Church in being declamatory and repet.itive, with liturgical overtones.

          January 9, 2014 at 8:10 am |
      • Padric2

        I don't know if "delusional" applies. At least, for the purposes of discussion, it can be seen as belittling, however I do see your point. All of the world's religions are in a sense crutches and often justifications. I believe in the power of my own destiny and the human capacity for love kindness as well as the deep human ability for hate and cruelty. I have no religious view point as religion is not something that I subscribe to. If it helps those who believe in it get through their day, then good for them.. I really don't need it.

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

      Still not able to think for yourself??

      January 9, 2014 at 7:34 am |
    • Padric2

      But it's a valid point that the beings that are in these writings never authored a single bit of punctuation of what you've posted. MEN wrote it…. and men are fallible and often ascribe their writings to sources that cannot possibly be verified. It's like saying that a jack-a-lope said to do this or that. All of these 'texts' were written by human beings with their own specific agenda. FACT.

      January 9, 2014 at 9:42 am |
  5. truth exists because we face it

    evolution proves a god didn't create man to be special. It proves we happened. A god wouldn't need to wait for man to pop out of evolution.

    January 9, 2014 at 7:28 am |
    • Im James Also

      What? smoking something this early morning... Do you do any research or just listen to whatever crap you hear while walking through Walmart.

      The evolutionist believes the evolutionary cycle is never ending, but they too cannot explain why according to their Darwin inspired calculations that there has been no new species recorded for hundreds of millions of years.

      Birds Prove Natural Selection is Naturally Wrong.. The idea of natural selection sounds great when considering deer. But don't stop their.

      The thought that a bird began to evolve a wing. Why this would occur is not answered by evolutionists. The wing stub did not make the bird more adaptable in his environment. The wing was much too small for the bird to fly. Why would a bird evolve a wing that was useless? This is backwards from the evolutionary natural selection concept that birds adapt and change in order to survive better in their environment. The bird with a half-size wing is placed at a disadvantage in its environment. Why would the bird continue for millions of generations improving a wing that was useless? The theory of evolution is based on natural selection of the most adaptable member of a species. A bird with a useless wing is at a severe disadvantage and the opposite from natural selection. According to natural selection the members of the bird species with the smallest useless wing would be the most adaptable and most likely to survive in the largest numbers. According to the theory of natural selection birds could never evolve to fly. Evolution is simply nonsense. This is so funny. We are then led to believe that some birds got tired of carrying around a worthless half-size wing so they grew fingers on the end to help climb trees. The wings became arms and a new species was developed.

      January 9, 2014 at 7:56 am |
      • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

        Wow! No new species for hundreds of millions of years? That claim says it all about your level of knowledge about evolution.

        January 9, 2014 at 8:01 am |
        • Im James Also

          Yes, I'm talking about macro evolution, as in one day monkey years down the road... we have a human...There is adaptation for sure but then there is a big drop off from that and new species evolving from single cells....

          Scientists a century ago believed the smallest single living cell was a simple life form. The theory developed that perhaps lightning struck a pond of water causing several molecules to combine in a random way which by chance resulted in a living cell. The cell then divided and evolved into higher life forms. This view is now proven to be immature to the degree of being ridiculous. The most modern laboratory is unable to create a living cell. In fact, scientists have been unable to create a single left-hand protein molecule as found in all animals.

          January 9, 2014 at 8:17 am |
        • Brother Maynard

          Scientists two millenia ago believed man was formed. The theory devloped that perhpas a being created man out of dust.
          The man propigated, populating the entire world
          This view is now proven to be immature to the degree of being ridiculous

          January 9, 2014 at 9:36 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Evolution is not a directed, linear process with an end goal in mind.
        Irreducible complexity is a poor argument.
        The very fact that there are intermediate examples of anatomical features like wings only further validates the evolutionary law of gradualism.

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

        Remind us all of where you got your Ph.D in biology. Clearly, you're privy to information nobody else in the scientific community has access to. I'm sure you've done plenty of rigorous scientific research in the lab and in the field, published articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and are widely recognized as one of the leading members of your particular field. Could you maybe direct us to one of your journal articles? Heck, just tell us the last time you used a microscope.

        January 9, 2014 at 9:37 am |
    • Im James Also

      Evolutions makes sense for a little bit but than you are going to need some faith to fill in the gaps of that religion because it breaks down real fast as soon as you start poking around.

      January 9, 2014 at 8:00 am |
  6. Subjective data

    Ok all CNN posters. I've noticed one thing over and over again in these arguments and that is how subjective data is managed.

    If you are a nurse or a doctor or a paramedic you already know pain is what a patient says it is. If a person is suffering from hallucinations it may not mean that the object is there but you can not state that they do not see it.

    The fact that a patient is experiencing pain, or hallucinations is not dismissed. It is saved as evidence under the category of "subjective data"

    I hope that makes sense.

    January 9, 2014 at 7:14 am |
    • magicpanties

      Ok, so believers in god suffer from delusions and they truly believe they are real.
      So? That's not new.

      January 9, 2014 at 7:17 am |
  7. magicpanties

    The Christians, who've known him for years, take away his jobs for having differing beliefs.
    The atheists, complete strangers, selflessly give him money, no strings attached.

    hmmm, where are the "values" here?

    January 9, 2014 at 7:12 am |
    • tony

      That rather turns the good samaritan parable on it's head, doesn't it?

      January 9, 2014 at 7:14 am |
    • Im James Also

      Please don't lay eggs. Do you actually hear yourself? Lets see. Let me help you bridge the gap. Let's say you are a school teacher and one day you decided that we never landed on the moon and no longer accepted the codes of conduct you signed on the day of your hiring and just say heck with that I'm going to do my own thing. I hope any competent person should expect nothing but the door if you no longer want to do your job. Maybe after secret service agents are hired and no personally don't feel that whoever their protecting that they can change their job description and make there own rules as they go.. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME

      January 9, 2014 at 7:35 am |
    • Cory

      That seems to be my experience with Christians, even when I was one.

      January 9, 2014 at 7:52 am |
    • Just sayin'

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

      January 9, 2014 at 7:58 am |
  8. Milton Platt

    Correct., truth prevails. That is what you said. You addressed not knowing in your post

    January 9, 2014 at 6:55 am |
    • truthprevails1

      You need to learn the difference between knowledge and belief! Any honest person will be agnostic whether they believe in a higher power or not.

      January 9, 2014 at 6:57 am |
      • elec_eel

        you know someday you will die. so rather than not holding a belief because you dont have enough data it is better to hold a belief based on the currently available data. and if something new comes up you revise your belief.

        January 9, 2014 at 7:04 am |
      • elec_eel

        too complicated for you? ahh dont worry 😀
        by the way i'm an atheist but thats just to say that i laugh at agnostics. they are like the PR people of faith/belief.

        January 9, 2014 at 7:17 am |
        • tony

          First understand what data is, in case you really don't have any.

          January 9, 2014 at 7:20 am |
        • truthprevails1

          No not too complicated! You made zero sense. So you're an Atheist...are you a Gnostic Atheist or an Agnostic Atheist??
          Once again, one defines belief while the other defines knowledge.
          "An atheist agnostic is someone who does not believe in gods and also thinks that the existence of gods cannot be known. This might mean that they don’t believe in gods because they haven’t seen any evidence that supports their existence.

          A theist gnostic is someone who believes in a god/gods and thinks that the existence of gods can be known. This position is usually referred to as just ‘theist‘, since people who believe in gods, usually also think that their existence can be known.

          An atheist gnostic is someone who does not believe in gods, and who thinks that we can know that gods do not exist. A fairly unusual position, they might think they have found proof of the non-existence of gods, or might have been persuaded by life experiences.

          A theist agnostic is someone who believes in gods, but thinks that they could not know for sure that their god exists. Another fairly unusual position, as people who have faith in gods usually also think that their god can be known to be real."

          January 9, 2014 at 7:25 am |
      • elec_eel

        again the point is that there is no value of telling "don't know" when it comes to faith or belief. you believe in something with all your being. it is the strongest foundation you can build your life upon. of course all is under revivion but thats not a reason not to hold a belief. no matter how thin the evidence.

        January 9, 2014 at 7:29 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Oh my, you're reading far more in to this than necessary...that's rather silly and child like...should you not be getting to school now?
          There is value in admitting to not knowing, honesty is a good thing!

          January 9, 2014 at 7:32 am |
  9. Im James Also

    The study of physics tells us that matter and time and space must all occur together: if there is no matter, there can be no space or time either. Thus, before God created the universe, there was no “time,” at least not in the sense of a succession of moments one after another. Therefore, when God created the universe, he also created time. When God began to create the universe, time began, and there began to be a succession of moments and events one after another. But before there was a universe, and before there was time, God always existed, without beginning, and without being influenced by time. And time, therefore, does not have existence in itself, but, like the rest of creation, depends on God’s eternal being and power to keep it existing.

    Good questions.... Im here to educate

    January 9, 2014 at 6:52 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Not educate, more attempt to brainwash.

      January 9, 2014 at 6:56 am |
      • Im James Also

        I actually gave you something besides just name calling. You cant even argue your positions and make sense besides ... I cant prove it so I dunno whats real... truth is relative bla bla bla.. Go walk into a wall and see if your truth that the wall is not there is I pretend its not work for you .Hello. Its plain and easy to see that there is an a creator. Humans will search for all eternity the vastness of space and wont even scratch the surface because it was created by an infinitely brilliant God. Just like when I see a car... I don't have to know someone built it to know 100% that an intelligent being designed it. Everything Man makes has a purpose. The door hands, to the windshield, etc. That makes perfect sense. You don't have to jump to blind faith. It takes more faith to believe anything else. But maybe monkeys created the Subaru.

        January 9, 2014 at 7:26 am |
        • tony

          If you believe that the universe had a beginning, but that a god didn't, you have a very strange idea of reasoning.

          January 9, 2014 at 7:32 am |
        • Im James Also

          Tony you need to step back for a moment and for a second realize that there may be another paradigm than logical was things work and occur. Things with Mass or matter need to be in time and space. Things without matter do not need to be. Well if God is not matter he is not a created thing but something else. Therefore he is not bound to space and time like we do or have a beginning or and end. This is a classic category error. its like asking what does blue smell like. God can be everywhere at the same time. Omnipresence. Created things can only be where their mass is.

          January 9, 2014 at 7:40 am |
      • truthprevails1

        You gave nothing! You make a fallacious claim...no-one can possibly know with 100% certainty if a god exists, so why bother using the God of The Gaps argument to explain away the unknown? The bible isn't proof of anything more than the fact that man is a good story teller. If you want to claim God as the reason for everything, you then must back your claim with evidence for your god or you deserve to be called on it.
        What name calling?

        January 9, 2014 at 7:30 am |
        • stef1

          And no one can say positively that God doesn't exist. However, if you look at the complexity of the life forms , and our planet perfectly designed to sustain human life. If I were s betting man I'm going an intelligent designer.

          January 9, 2014 at 7:48 am |
        • truthprevails1

          stef: I will say it is highly unlikely the christian god or the muslim god exist. I have never stated that I know for certain a god doesn't exist, simply that I don't see any evidence for the existence of one and thus see no reason to believe in one.
          Our planet sustains human life due to the conditions on it and its location in relation to the sun. None of that points to a god.
          All you have done here is plugged an unknown into an unknown and that is intellectually dishonest.

          January 9, 2014 at 8:03 am |
        • Im James Also

          You actually can prove that God exist the in a similar way you can prove that their is also dark matter which is what the majority of the universe is made of. Light can actually travel right through it and you can never actually see it however scientist are sure that there is something in that space because the way it interacts with its surrounding.. To unpack that my friend would take sincere walk with God. And if you were sincere God would reveal himself to you and you would be blown away like I have.

          January 9, 2014 at 8:10 am |
        • truthprevails1

          IJA: None of that points to a god! That is merely your opinion and is not backed with evidence.
          What you obviously fail to comprehend is that most Atheists were believers. I don't need a god to get by in this world. Now you may need imaginary friends but not all are so weak!

          January 9, 2014 at 8:17 am |
        • midwest rail

          " You actually can prove that God exist ..."
          No, you cannot. You can have evidence that is satisfying to you personally, but there is no proof.

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

          Our planet is a lot of things, but perfectly designed for human life is not one of those things.

          January 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
    • nodummyheads

      If there was no time until after god made it, how did he exist before the universe was chronologically ordered? If there was no time, there was no "before".

      January 9, 2014 at 7:30 am |
      • Knowledge w/o understanding

        Why even bring up a topic that nobody can effectively argue about. If there is something outside "time" we don't have the knowledge or experience to discuss it. We also don't have the knowledge to know that it does or doesn't exist.

        January 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
    • Stephen Kelly

      It is possible for human beings to comprehend the age of the universe as more or less three times the age of our Earth. The size of the entire universe is more difficult but we could say that the part of the universe visible to us, compared to the entire universe, would be the equivalent of a single atom in relation our observable universe. Despite this virtually inconceivable vastness, to say that our universe is all there is in reality may be another example of our limited imagination due to our fleeting lives, tiny scale and desperate ignorance. It seems, to me at least, highly improbable that I can, as a human, conceive of the "beginning of time". The Big Bang may well have been a recent, local, hardly noticeable event in the scheme of existence. In the context of our lack of understanding and knowledge, belief in a supreme being and dismissal of the concept would both seem to be intellectually dishonest. I have no wish to insult you but to claim to be educating people on this question is aspirational at best.

      January 9, 2014 at 7:52 am |
    • Brother Maynard

      Im James Also sez:
      "The study of physics tells us that matter and time and space must all occur together: if there is no matter, there can be no space or time either. Thus, before God created the universe, there was no “time, ... ”
      So no time means no matter no space. Time did not exists so matter and space did not exist. So god has no time no matter no space. So god is nothing.
      Got it

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

      Let me tell you about the family structure of sasquatches. What? There's no evidence that they exist, so I can't possibly make know anything about them? Exactly. Now, before you go telling us all about your favorite god of the last 10,000 years, why don't you demonstrate its existence. Otherwise, it's just as valid as claims about sasquatch family structure.

      January 9, 2014 at 9:44 am |
  10. Sean

    What did he expect? Oh I have a religious job but im giving up religion for a year but I want to keep my job... really grow up.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:46 am |
  11. hrpufnstuf

    Shoulda sold his soul to the Devil – then he might have really raked in some coin.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:43 am |
  12. Matt

    This is such a great experiment. I'm going to experiment too. I'm going to pretend I'm not married with 4 kids and a mortgage for a year. Makes sense to me.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:41 am |
  13. Milton Platt

    Not knowing would be agnosticism......

    January 9, 2014 at 6:24 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Right and there is a difference between knowledge and belief. Learn to use a dictionary!

      January 9, 2014 at 6:33 am |
      • Matt

        How do you know? Do you believe you know or do you know you know?

        January 9, 2014 at 6:41 am |
        • Randy

          Knowledge is belief that is justified by evidence. Knowledge is a subset of belief. You can believe something without knowing it, but you can't know something without believing it. As recommended earlier, a dictionary is useful for gaining a better understanding of what words mean.

          January 9, 2014 at 9:47 am |
  14. Richard

    All leftists deserve to live in poverty.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:14 am |
    • truthprevails1

      How very christian of you...pathetic!! Your god teaches that greed is a sin.

      January 9, 2014 at 6:19 am |
    • sam stone

      suck the business end of a shotgun, troll

      January 9, 2014 at 6:27 am |
  15. Aaron

    It does not surprise me at all that he was treated so poorly by Christians and that atheists came to his aid. This has been my experience except on rare occasions.

    January 9, 2014 at 6:13 am |
    • kyle

      Clearly, you have not been to a food bank. Ran mostly by religious organizations. Athiests running to his aid like he's the first person to doubt Gods existance. There are tons of people who don't believe in God, who could use some help, the only reason he's getting it, is because to these donors, he represents a big middle fingered salute to religion, and that gets them exited. Not to be a jerk or anything, but if it were the other way around, and a man lost his job running an athiest group, because he found God, Christians would more than likely aid him, and athiests would accuse those helping him, of only doing so for the medias attention. So here we are. Some people decide to help a man who lost his job, to the tune of some amount of money that will help him for a bit. As a pasture he's made enough money fooling others into believing they should support him. A man of real faith, wouldn't need to test God. A man of no faith, wouldn't need to do it publicly.. I'm not really sure where this guy falls, but I'm not sure he would be too quickly welcomed back as a leader of any church after this stint, after taking accepting money from athiests. Interesting article.. I might not follow it though. Just another dude out of work, which isn't news these days.

      January 9, 2014 at 6:38 am |
      • tony

        What about that texas food bank, which refused help from an atheist charity?

        January 9, 2014 at 7:24 am |
  16. Jesus was a Flaming Liberal!

    I think I can understand where he is coming from. I have a feeling that what he might actually be questioning is organized religion. I am a person of deep faith, but I began to question God as I saw how hateful Christianity can be. Then I realized that what I was really questioning was the role of the Church as a representative of Christ, and what I hated was its marriage to Republican politics. Once that distinction was made clear I left organized religion, and I now have a deeper relationship with God .

    January 9, 2014 at 6:11 am |
    • tony

      You are one last step away from realizing that morality was adopted by religion to help propgate itself. Not the other way around.

      January 9, 2014 at 7:26 am |
    • Chikkipop

      Private delusions are no better than organized ones.

      You have one more step to take.

      January 10, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
  17. The rapturists go gaga over Margaret McDonald levitating.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ 🙂 $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    January 9, 2014 at 6:00 am |
  18. mickar

    What a crock!!! You can't 'try' to be an atheist. An atheists knows there is no such thing as gods. You can't turn on and off your beliefs.

    January 9, 2014 at 5:45 am |
    • truthprevails1

      No honest Atheist says they don't know, they merely state that they don't believe...big difference in words.

      January 9, 2014 at 6:07 am |
      • Milton Platt

        That would be agnosticism........

        January 9, 2014 at 6:26 am |
        • truthprevails1

          No Agnosticism applies to knowledge not belief. Dictionaries are useful tools!

          January 9, 2014 at 6:32 am |
  19. Ellen G. White never saw the rock coming.

    ************ 😦 ****************

    January 9, 2014 at 5:11 am |
  20. Bruce

    We live 50-80 years, if we're lucky. During this short time, we don't have the apparatus to understand God. Just as we couldn't do many sub-atomic experiments before the Hadron super colider was built.

    Depending on how old you are, in 1-50 years you'll have more empirical evidence than you can possibly handle.

    January 9, 2014 at 5:07 am |
    • midwest rail

      Are you saying there will be evidence of God based solely on observation ?

      January 9, 2014 at 5:10 am |
      • Bruce

        I'm saying "every knee shall bow". Every person, in the grand experience of their life will go beyond that shroud after death and discover God. We don't get to do that now, because apparently that is not how God designed it. In my view, there is no need for faith if God is right in front of you. We're challenged in this life, and given a choice. Its setup that way.

        January 9, 2014 at 5:16 am |
        • midwest rail

          So the empirical evidence you speak of will only come after death, is that what you're saying ?

          January 9, 2014 at 5:18 am |
        • Bruce

          Yes, irrefutable evidence for most people can only come after death. We have to rely on faith now. There are exceptions, if some person is miraculously healed, or there has been some miraculous event in their life. For me, I was awoken at night during Hurricane Rita, after Hurricane Katrina hit. I was 'strongly urged' to leave my home, and my high paying job for 3 months and plunge myself into a disaster as an aid worker. I pray, and wait for the next time I'm called up.

          January 9, 2014 at 5:25 am |
        • truthprevails1

          You can say that all you wish but none of what you have said points to a god. Apparently you failed science also given the fact that you have no understanding of what a scientific theory is. The Big Bang is fact backed with much evidence that has been peer reviewed. Evolution is the same!
          "When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena."

          January 9, 2014 at 5:28 am |
        • truthprevails1

          "irrefutable evidence for most people can only come after death."

          What? That is funny considering you have no way of knowing this nor does anyone else.

          January 9, 2014 at 5:38 am |
        • Bruce

          Truthprevails... I have a science degree, and I graduated with close to a 4.0. I'm well versed in the scientific method and that has led me to believe that 'big bang theory' is about as supportable as the 'flat earth theory' of the 16th century. Take a second, come off your pre-conceived notions and re-examine your beliefs. Re-run the larger science theories through the 'scientific method' and see how much of it passes the filter.

          January 9, 2014 at 5:40 am |
        • sam stone

          bruce: how could you possibly have any knowledge of life after death?

          January 9, 2014 at 5:42 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Bruce: You can disagree all you wish but it doesn't change the fact that it is what is accepted in the real world. My pre-conceived notions are no different than you using the bible to defend your god. Come down from the Holy Roller status and pay attention in science class next time because obviously you don't comprehend it or perhaps simply don't care to!

          January 9, 2014 at 5:49 am |
        • Knowledge w/o understanding

          I love how everyone says that science disproves God. Hardly, the problem is lack of proof. Lack of proof does mean you can conclusively say no to God's existence. Everyone acts like the Big Bang isn't a theory. "THEORY" it is what science has decided is the best plug for the information they currently have. Truthfully I put it in the same boat as the flat earth theory. It was good until it wasn't.

          January 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
        • Chikkipop

          "there is no need for faith if God is right in front of you"

          Note how Bruce just naturally assumes faith is a good thing.

          Bruce: there is no need for faith about gods AT ALL.

          January 10, 2014 at 8:08 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.