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. sly

    Fella leaves his flock and gets fired. Decided to experiment with 'athiesm'.

    Same thing is happening to Crook Christie, who decided to experiment with being just another New Jersey Mobster.

    "I was misfed" whined Gov Krispy.

    January 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • Alias

      Next time you travel through Jersey, make sure there are Republican mayors in the cities you'll be driving through.

      January 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
  2. I worship a different deity

    Instead of losing faith (or having it). He could get a certification, learn a new skill set like the rest of us secular heathens. Now let me get back to work before my employers lose faith in me.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
  3. Alias

    I only see 2 possibilities here;
    1) he has lost his faith and is finally ready to try to escape the christians who had control over his family, friends, and income.
    His claim to 'try it for a year' would be an attempt at a gradual withdraw from his connectoins and obligations.
    2) He is planning to return to his religion and wants to be able to say he KNOWS all about atheists because he was one.
    aka snake oil $3 per bollte or 2 for $5.

    I'm going to be an optimist and hope he has finally figured out the bible is garbage.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I think there is a 3rd option...he is trying to "hedge his bet' while he figures it out in an effort to "leave to door open" to a smoth return.

      January 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • Alias

        That would mean he has lost his faith, but thinks it may come back?
        I doubt that.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          He may have lost his faith and is not ready to admit it to himself completely and feels he needs to gather more information before coming to a conclusion. It just sounds to me like a politician trying to keep his options open after a decision has been made.

          January 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Peach

    "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?"

    And already, this whole experiment is flawed. How does one "try" atheism? It's not like giving up eating meat, or switching to a hybrid car. You either are an atheist, or you're not. It's merely an answer to one question: do I believe in gods? If a person doesn't believe, then that person is an atheist. It has nothing to do with religion, as some atheists do belong to religions that do not center around gods).

    "“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.”"

    So, in other words, he's pretending, and that's why this whole experiment is nonsense. Just as I cannot pretend to believe in something that is fantastical and totally unsupported by science and logic, I cannot see how a believer can pretend to no longer believe. This whole things sounds like a joke to me.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
    • Jake

      I agree with your logic, however, I think in reality, most religious people are pretending to believe in god / their religion. I suspect it's more of a case where he's giving himself permission to stop pretending for a year and live based on what he really believes. Complete speculation of course, but that's my guess as to what's going on. I just can't fathom that there are many people who ACTUALLY believe in their religion considering how obviously wrong they are.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
      • Sungrazer

        I'm going to disagree here. I think most believers are sincere. I was, when I was a believer. Atheists are accused all the time of saying they don't believe in god because they are angry, or feel abandoned, or other ad hominems. "It's obvious God exists, you are just denying him." They are wrong to say that, so I wouldn't say it back to them. Delusion is very strong. It's delusion, but it's sincere.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
        • Jake

          I'm sure some of them are just dilusional, but I think a very large percentage of religious people are more in denial than delusional. They know it's ridiculous, but just try not to think about it because it's a deep-seeded part of their social structure. My (admitedly wild) guess is at least 50% of religious people don't actually believe in god.

          January 9, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          I grew up in a religious family with religious friends in a very religious state (Oklahoma). It simply doesn't occur to a lot of people that you could believe something different. Yes, they know atheism exists, but it doesn't register, or they think it's a depravity and not a free choice made as a result of examination and reason. It's anecdotal and non scientific, but my experience and impression is that a large percentage are sincere. I'd put it more around 90%, and that's probably too low.

          January 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
        • Jake

          That might be the case in a conservative, rural place like Oklahoma. However, I have lived most of my life in more populated / diverse areas and most of the religious people I know seem to think the stories in the bible are just as crazy as I do. I don't know how they continue to consider themselves religious, but I'm pretty sure they don't really believe in god in the way their religion defines it. So in my experience, the number would be 90% or more seem not to believe in god, but I am aware there are areas where it goes the other way, which is why I guessed about 50%.

          January 9, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          I see. I was speaking more towards belief in a personal god, regardless of how their religion defines it, as opposed to specific Biblical beliefs. I agree that rural, conservative areas will see a higher likelihood of believing in those stories than urban areas. Nothing like urban areas for exposure.

          January 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
  5. mrd

    IIf this christian gd is so great how come he requires blind faith and how come these folks need to punish this guy for testing out his faith? These are some really good Christians.. Do like we say.. or.. STARVE!

    January 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • greg

      if you have the good fortune to meet a TRUE Christian (there are a few out there, believe it or not), i think you'd be impressed and at the very least, give you pause to reflect on how Christian values, as opposed to beliefs, are essential to the maintenance and excellence of civilization!

      January 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
      • Sungrazer

        That's the No True Scotsman fallacy. I'm sure there's someone out there who wouldn't call you a true Christian because of something you believe (there are many different denominations, variants, etc., and they all believe in something different). Or someone is going to make a statement about a true Christian that you wouldn't agree with. Who's right? The True Christian is a myth in the sense that you're not going to find perfect agreement on what that is.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
  6. Adam from Jersey

    I cant wait for the next installment, "Muslim tries atheism." Bet he'll lose more than his job.....

    January 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • sly

      Adam ... you may want to remove that 'from Jersey' from your moniker for a few months – lots of New Jersey jokes floating around the web today. As one of your politicians said yesterday: "Gov Krispy set New Jersey back 20 years ...".

      January 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
  7. karl from az

    Should be interesting on 'judgement day' to see how God looks at this 'experiment'!

    January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      What makes you think you'd be privy to see such an interaction, if in fact there actually was a judgment day?

      Do you think that God is going to have bleachers where all you so called Christians can laugh at the poor nonbelievers as he casts them into the lake of fire?

      Sorry to break it to ya, but your little wet dream is never going to happen.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
      • Griffith

        It's as if he expects JD to be some kind of Roman bread an circuses...

        January 9, 2014 at 12:49 pm |
    • igaftr

      perhaps...if there is a 'god" or "gods" and if there is a "judgement day" you mean.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
    • Madtown

      God would probably give him high marks for using his mind, to attempt to seek clarification for questions he has. And, for clever marketing.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
      • James

        How does anyone worship this monster?

        January 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      @ karl: is your god so petty and paranoid that he would visit eternal punishment on one of his creations – that he is supposed to love – just because that creation decided to use its brain to question the existence of this god?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
      • greg

        you answered your own question there!

        January 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Judgement day. Shiver in your boots little christian. JUDGEMENT Day is around the corner. You better fall in line or an eternity of burning in a lake is in store for you..... Blah blah blah

      January 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
      • Lamb of dog

        I'm a pastor. I even have a little paper that proves it.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
      • greg

        sounds like some exciting real estate. would the owner be a man by the name of john milton?

        January 9, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
    • I worship a different deity

      My god does not discriminate. Your" does?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      Judgement day is every day for christians. I have never known a group of people so addicted to judging other people and finding lines in an old book to make them feel better about doing it.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
      • I worship a different deity

        Air of superiority some times help them compensate for low IQ and bad careers. Forgive them for they know not what they do

        January 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
    • eda

      I've always been of a mind that if there was a god, and again, there is that if, but if there was one, he would rather people who admire his creation and study it then people who blindly follow.

      If there IS an intelligent designer – it stands to reason that he is of a scientific mind and as such would appreciate people who understand and use their minds rather than turning it off.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Sophie Meyer

    Good lord, so his lack of belief in a mythical being caused him to lose his job? Gullibility. Why not blame it on the sky was blue, or because he put his right sock on before his left. Either of those were just as likely to have influence his situation.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
    • ransomstoddard1

      II agree. I think his inability to take accountability for his own life and destiny (rather than "placing it in god's hands") has a lot to do with what he has "lost."

      January 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
    • PaulieJ

      I think you might want to brush up on your reading comprehension skills or do more than skim the article as it's pretty clear with at least two of the jobs and fairly clear with the third why he no longer holds the positions he did.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
    • John Hillman

      His job was based on that belief. His work duties were based on that belief. The terms of his employment included that belief.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
  9. Lamb of dog

    I know a guy that was part of the family cult. He was raised to believe some crazy stuff. He was told that during the rapture he would be able to shoot lasers out of his eyes. And he truly believed it. Now after leaving the family he has seen how ridiculous they were and has become agnostic. But his story is no different than what the mainstream religions teach. I'm a pastor.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
    • Yellow#5

      Laser eyeballs? That sounds sweet.

      I may just have to reconsider this atheism thing.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
    • skarphace

      I know that cult: the Cult of the X-Men. Truly the best cult I have ever heard of.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The greatest trick Magneto ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
  10. Tom

    So, if everything we know of has a creator, what created god? There are forces at play that humans will never understand. Inventing stories to explain the unexplainable has no place in my life. I'd rather live my life honestly, and be good to my fellow man, and live with a sense of wonder as to what it all means, and hope someday I get the answer.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
    • SmartAlex

      We did, we created god in our own image. Somehow the omnipotent being that created the universe and all its potential life forms is male, often has a big full beard, and behaves like a human father. Interesting that this is common to many religions and cultures.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
      • skarphace

        As long as he isn't Black, I can live with that.

        (Do I really have to say that I am being sarcastic here?)

        January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
        • G to the T

          Sorry skarphace – SHE is most definitely the big black woman in the sky (note – sarcasm as well).

          January 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
    • Im James Also

      You are doing what is called a category error. You are only looking at it from your own field of experience. God is not a created being... He is an eternal being meaning he see's all space and time at the same time. The first day of the big bang is still in his mind as fresh as what i'm tying at the moment and also your death in the future. God created time and space. Keep asking questions. Good one though.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
      • igaftr

        Im JA
        That is but one of an infinite number of possibilities.

        Where did god come from (other than from men's imaginations)?
        We clearly can see that men LOVE to create gods to explian what he does not know, replace ignorance with "god".

        Why is the mountain shaking and spewing smoke? (several gods created to explain volcanoes)
        Why does the sky flash like that and then boom? (several gods to explain lightening)
        Your god is no different.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
      • G to the T

        Interesting, but it sounds more like an opinion than anything.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
      • mdd

        Umm, no. Sorry to burst your imaginary bubble.

        January 9, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
    • 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.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
      • Bill

        How long did it take God to create time?

        January 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
        • Im James Also

          Again your making a category error. Like what does blue taste like? God sees the beginning of time and the end at the same time. He see all points on a linear timeline all at the same time. The big bang to your death are as fresh in his mind as the present right now. Its hard to comprehend when we don't have the faculties to that are eternal.

          January 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
      • igaftr

        ImJA
        What created god? What created whatever created god?

        All you have is speculation, and have completely disregarded the other infinite number of other possibilities.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
      • Gary

        Im James Also made a series of Gross Concept Errors. He's very stupid, but tries hard at pretending to be otherwise. That is likely just his own vanity ruling him, since he is too weak to suppress it.

        January 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
  11. MilitaryAF

    From the sounds of it, this guy's faith was his life. He's been a 'professional student' of his faith, a fringe one at that, his entire adult life, learning & teaching about it and nothing more. His faith group is the type to shun those that dare question their faith. Its no surprise his life is falling apart after announcing his grand experiment.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
  12. joel

    Before knowing how the universe was created, one must first ask why it exists in the first place...

    Anyways one cannot simply decide to stop believing in something for a year as an experiment leaving all personal presuppositions to the side. That's like leaving your believe in a certain religion outside the door and resetting your mind before stepping into a world religions class. The human brain does not work like that. I question the faith this man had in the first place.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Why ask a question no one can answer in a fair and unbiased way?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
    • Madtown

      one cannot simply decide to stop believing in something
      -----
      Yeah, but he didn't say he's doing that. He said he's going to "live AS IF there's no God". In other words, the outward manifestations of his life in faith, his faith practices, is what he was going to stop.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
      • joel

        Well if that's the case the majority of "Christians" are already trying that experiment out right now.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
        • joel

          Ok maybe not a majority. But a lot anyways...

          January 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
        • Madtown

          Ok, but according to what benchmark?

          January 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
      • skarphace

        Yes, but living "as if there is no God" does not make one an atheist. If you believe in God then you aren't an atheist. If you question your belief in God you are an Agnostic, especially if you choose not to worship and this is the case with Bell.

        The only reason he wants to think of himself as an atheist is so he can blame all his woes on his lack of faith. This presupposition makes his entire self-study meaningless as it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course he is broke; he gave up his career without any preparation for another career. Duh!

        January 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
        • Madtown

          And it doesn't appear as though he's trying to become athiest. Again, he's just going to live like one for a period of time, as an experiment.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm |
        • skarphace

          Again, you cannot "live like an atheist" if you are not one. How can you live like you don't believe in God if you believe in God? This is a contradiction.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:41 pm |
        • Madtown

          I don't disagree that it's contradictory, he probably wouldn't disagree either. That's likely why he calls it an experiment.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      More likely that he "lost" his faith somewhere along the way. This is NOT uncommon, happens to a lot of pastors, who then have terrible emotional struggles, feeling as though they're living a lie. There are even support groups for them.

      He describes himself currently as "agnostic", which tells me he's likely rejected the specific doctrine (LDS) he grew up with, and is now just totally unsure. Probably always thought atheists were evil, then began to question that philosophy. Hopefully he's now discovered what fine people they can be.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
      • John Hillman

        LDS (Mormon) is far different from SDA (Seventh-Day Adventist). All SDA ceremonies are open to anyone. Only vetted LDS members can attend ceremonies in the LDS temples.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • tom

      Why does there have to be a "why" to the universes existence? This implies purpose, and just like our existence I disagree that there has to be a purpose.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm |
      • skarphace

        Well, most people need to feel like their life has a purpose. This is why God was invented.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
        • tom

          Unfortunately I am very aware of this. A clarification of my thoughts is in order though. Ascribing a purpose above and beyond what purpose that YOU (the individual) create for yourself is what I mean. It is the overarching meta purpose as in the purpose of human existence as opposed to an individual self created self bestowed purpose of life (such as caring for ones family) that I was musing about.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
  13. marc

    Not sure his bad luck has anything to do with being atheist or not. Common sense would have told the guy that if you're a teacher at a Christian school, you might get let go for taking a year off from being a Christian. And, Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby are definitely off limits now. They'll take his money for purchases, but won't be giving him a job.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • skarphace

      Yes, but he will write a book a year from now about how God saved him from atheism and it will all have been worth it.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
  14. DRJJ

    " It's impossible to govern America without the Bible"! George Washington

    Einstein re creation: We're like little children entering a huge library with 1000s of books, written in many languages-the little child knows someone must have written those books!

    The big bang and the heavens declare his glory-no brainer! This painting required a painter!

    January 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
    • Science Works

      and your ass requires tp or birch bark to wipe after you go no ?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Who made the painter?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Bob Ross exists outside of normal time and space, in a land of happy little trees and clouds.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
        • myweightinwords

          I could stand to live in a world painted by Bob Ross....it would be mellow and soothing and no fear of damnation from our "happy accidents".

          January 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
    • skarphace

      " It's impossible to govern America without the Bible"! George Washington

      Very true, unfortunately. Any politician who publicly admits that he is an atheist or a Muslim or a Hindu, or anything other than a Christian would not get enough votes to get elected. Why you think this is a good point is beyond me.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:24 pm |
    • sybaris

      Actually it cannot be proven that that quote is from GW though most christians/christian websites throw it around as fact.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
    • Peach

      "" It's impossible to govern America without the Bible"! George Washington"

      False quote. Washington never stated this or even remotely close to this.

      ""Einstein re creation: We're like little children entering a huge library with 1000s of books, written in many languages-the little child knows someone must have written those books!""

      Twenty years later, Einstein said this: ""My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.""

      "The big bang and the heavens declare his glory-no brainer! This painting required a painter!"

      Then who created the painter?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
  15. Going Ashore

    Being an atheist is easy. Living your own belief system isn't a challenge. LOL

    January 9, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      It's also very relieving not living under someone else's silly dogmas.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      It can be when all you've ever known was a strict set of rules and a way of thinking that was handed to you when you were young.

      Coming out of that and learning to think for yourself and allowing yourself to believe what your heart tells you rather than what others tell you is a frightening experience.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
    • sybaris

      I was once asked how I describe religionsts so well.

      I responded: "Easy, I think of a child and remove all accountability, logic, reason and curiosity."

      January 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • Auggie

      Any idiot can be an atheist.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
      • Jake

        That's true, but studies show (as do the posts on this board) that idiots are much more likely to be religious.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm |
      • myweightinwords

        Out of curiosity, what do you gain with such a statement?

        Do you need to dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with you as an idiot in order to feel confidence in your own understanding?

        January 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm |
  16. farmerjeani

    A relationship with God is very much like the relationship with a spouse. You aren't always 'in love'; in fact sometimes you aren't even in like. But you know with time those rough patches will fade and you come through stronger and closer. I have not always 'believed'. I have pondered how its possible that there is a God. Why things happen the way they do. The tenants of your faith really aren't important. Who could possibly know what God thinks and feels? But God will always bring you back. You can say 'there is no God' but in the deepest part of your humanness, God is there. If you say you are lucky, how do you know that it isn't the hand of God? it is very difficult to encompass the idea of 'God' because we want to translate everything into human experience and God is not human. Most people who dispute an almighty power have no trouble accepting the Big Bang theory. But what was there to bang? Where did it come from? I too believe in that scientific theory, but to me it is just part of God's creation of the world. The bible isn't inerrant. It is not possible for people not to err and humans recorded both history and creationist stories, woven together as best people could understand them with their limited grasp of the physical properties of the Universe. That doesn't negate God. On the contrary, it points to an organized progression in which all of the laws that govern the universe preexisted before its birth.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      A relatioinship with God is a bit 1-sided.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
      • Yellow#5

        Anubis never calls me any more, he's such a jerk.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Seems like you are doing a great job at convincing yourself.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • WC

      Um, to which of the many, many gods were you referring?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
      • karl from az

        The One, True God, a “self-existent, self-conscious, personal Being, which is the origin of all things, and which transcends the entire creation, but is at the same time immanent in every part of it” contravenes no epistemological tenets nor any Formal rules of logic and reasoning.

        January 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
        • sybaris

          Zeus!

          January 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
        • Madtown

          The One, True God
          --–
          If there's only 1 true God, how come everyone doesn't follow the same notion? Where do you get your knowledge of this true God? How do you know the notion of God you hold is the "true" one?

          January 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
    • sybaris

      Yeah, the old relationship with god/jesus meme

      My sister, I know her
      Hair color
      Eye color
      Height
      Weight
      Birthmark
      Education
      Husband
      Children
      Where she works
      Where she went on vacation
      What makes her happy
      What makes her sad
      Political views
      Religious views
      Car she drives
      Dog and cat's names
      Her temper
      I talk to her once a week and text her all the time

      THAT is a personal relationship

      You couldn't even pick your god or jesus out of a line-up

      Personal relationship.............please

      January 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
    • bushgirlsgonewild

      A relationship with god is like having an imaginary wife. And if you walked around having such a relationship, you'd be locked up.

      January 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
  17. Dr. Chris

    So what if an atheist tried religion for one year? would his community and family and job cast him out as they did with this man? Probably not because there is a double standard. I believe in what he is doing. You can't fully appreciate the people you are trying to serve, unless you understand where they are coming from. Isn't it the job of a pastor to bring faith to those who have none? How would he understand how to approach that unless he has lived as they do.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That depends.
      If a professor of evolutionary biology announced that they were going to spend the next year as a young earth creationist, they'd lose their job and their peers would likely deride the decision.
      Losing your income can put serious stress on you family, which could lead to divorce at worst and resentment at the least.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • Knowledge w/o understanding

      Doesn't say that his community or family cast him out. Divorce problems were before this experiment, and it sounds like the religious community was concerned and reaching out to him, even it it was to convince him this wasn't a good idea. Jobs based on religious views cancelled contracts which I'm not that surprised by. I'm mean what if an Atheist promotion group had an employee who was going to act likely God existed for a year and espouse that. Wouldn't work really well would it.

      January 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
  18. Debby

    Here's the part of the piece where bias exposes itself:

    "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."

    He had already been ousted from his cogregation by the time he tried this stunt. Move along, nothing to see here.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
  19. Lamb of dog

    Looks like little live4him got his posts deleted.

    January 9, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      There were just so many of them! Full of sound and fury but signifying nothing....
      L4H's habit of posting replies as new threads is getting pretty old.
      The tactics seem to be
      1) Dismiss. Ignore actual content and find a way to summarily invalidate the poster's credibility.
      "Where's your evidence? Oh! You don't have any!"
      2) Deflect. Often done with semantic arguments
      3) Obfuscate. Often done by posting replies as new threads, thus eliminating context or be focusing on on a tangeant.
      "Soft dinosaur tissue!"
      and when all else fails
      4) Ignore. Abandon the discussion entirely. Possibly put the offender on an "ignore" list.

      January 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • Live4Him

      So, were you the one flagging them?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
      • ?

        Live4Him,

        Did you get the "moderation" message, or did your posts just completely disappear?

        January 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • Live4Him

          moderation only.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm |
        • ?

          Live4,

          That does sound like a flagging issue. It's pretty low, whoever is doing it.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The only posts I've ever flagged have been from the "lol??" troll or the obvious spam (I make $350 a week working from home).
        I don't engage in, nor support, censorship.
        People aren't able to make informed decisions unless they have access to all pertinent information.
        If someone wants to call me a liar, I'd invite them to show me where, when and how I've lied. If the conversation has been suppressed in one way or another, neither side can prove anything.

        "When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him."

        – Robert Heinlein

        January 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
    • doobzz

      Why even respond to it when it hijacks a thread to start a new one or just starts c/p bible quotes?

      January 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
      • Live4Him

        @doobzz : Why even respond to it when it hijacks a thread to start a new one or just starts c/p bible quotes?

        The c/p quotes was a response to Dyslexic doG's c/p posting. And they were only directed at him/her.

        <><

        January 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • doobzz

          My response was directed only to LofD and Doc V.

          January 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
        • Charm Quark

          L4H
          That is what makes you come across as so pompous and arrogant that you can direct who you respond to on an open blog. The fact that you duck and weave makes you not an open debater but a liar and coward but you don't get it, do you?

          January 9, 2014 at 12:42 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.