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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. John Flores

    Matthew 16:26 "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

    January 10, 2014 at 1:52 am |
    • Observer

      Integrity.

      January 10, 2014 at 1:54 am |
  2. Pejaten

    For what this pastor has done I am willing to be Christian for a year. Now all I need is a slave market, a wife-beating rod and an inquisition to persecute people I don't like.

    January 10, 2014 at 1:42 am |
    • saggyroy

      Just one word of advice. If you meet a talking snake DO NOT EAT ANYTHING HE TRIES TO GIVE YOU!

      January 10, 2014 at 5:33 am |
    • M.

      Funny how all of us who don't believe in a higher power expect respect and understanding from those who do, but a lot of us aren't willing to give that same respect and understanding to religious people. Isn't that weird? Wouldn't you say that's hypocritical? Oh, but it can't be hypocritical, because only religious people are hypocrites, right? You get what you give, and if what you give is disrespect, then you should expect to get the same.

      January 10, 2014 at 8:33 am |
      • saggyroy

        "Hate the belief, not the believer"

        January 10, 2014 at 9:43 am |
      • Iris

        I was going to say something like this, softer tone though. I respect everyone, and I know a lot of atheist who respect me as well. We honestly can't be grouped because everyone is different. I see so many hate comments. I don't hate on those who chose not to believe or believe differently. And so I think we should all be respected.
        That includes that if in our belief we are shown that a marriage is between a man and woman and there for shouldn't marry gays-why are we being pushed into it?
        If in our belief we know we must live by faith-why are we constantly having to PROVE it?

        I think people forget that Christianity is not obligated. it is a choice.

        I DID leave Christianity behind me for several years when i was younger. Because I was abused, hurt, doubted and had a lot of anger. So I left. I I almost winded up in jail.
        I saw an act of GOD in my life and it really made me believe that we in fact are not alone.

        January 10, 2014 at 10:09 am |
        • David

          You're being "pushed" into gay marriage? Is this because of something that happened in jail? Hehe I'm so tired of religious nuts whining that a certain lifestyle is being forced on them.

          January 10, 2014 at 10:15 am |
        • Joey

          If you don't want to be in a gay marriage then don't enter into one, nobody is going to force you to. However, you have no right to tell other people how to live their lives. It really is just that simple.

          January 10, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
    • Ben

      Have you read A.J. Jacobs' My Year of Living Biblically?

      January 10, 2014 at 8:35 am |
      • sam stone

        i have. good book

        January 10, 2014 at 9:23 am |
        • Ben

          Do you carry any gravel in your pockets? 😉

          January 10, 2014 at 9:29 am |
        • sam stone

          nope

          January 10, 2014 at 10:09 am |
  3. utalkintome

    i'll bet that after his experiment he doesn't go back....once you start to question everything and see that it is all BS, you don't go back to believing in santa(white jesus) lol

    January 10, 2014 at 1:32 am |
    • Ben

      Sure, lots of people do. They still have doubts, but they learn to suppress them successfully. It's called regaining Faith.

      January 10, 2014 at 8:37 am |
      • doobzz

        "They still have doubts, but they learn to suppress them successfully."

        LOL.

        January 10, 2014 at 10:42 pm |
  4. Why?

    It is so sad that he sold his soul for 19,000 dollars and a whim. I witness miracles everyday, I am sorry for those that don't just stop and look around and realize miracles are everywhere if you believe.

    January 10, 2014 at 1:07 am |
    • Observer

      Why?

      Sold his soul? Get serious. He got in trouble for following the Golden Rule when it comes to gays.

      January 10, 2014 at 1:11 am |
      • Joey

        Considering souls don't actually exist I would sell mine for less than 19,000.

        January 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
    • utalkintome

      witness miracles everyday? something that can't be explained?.....prove it

      January 10, 2014 at 1:19 am |
    • Kevin

      He didn't do this for money. The atheist community came to his aid AFTER he was fired. That's where the $19k came from. LTR!

      January 10, 2014 at 2:12 am |
    • sam stone

      why do you feel there is something called a soul?

      January 10, 2014 at 5:22 am |
    • bcs2006

      Your standard for miracles is pretty low

      January 10, 2014 at 7:39 am |
  5. No Way Yahweh

    Hopefully this guy starts 2015 an atheist. Anyone who truly does question Christianity or ACTUALLY reads the Bible would at the very least see it for what it is, nonsense.

    And for those quoting the Bible... For every quote you put up in support of Christianity there are quotes in the Bible that directly contradict it. (2 of every animal-7 of every animal, no mortal man can withstand the sight of God and live-various people throughout the bible see God and/or walk with him on earth, don't kill people-go kill everyone that God tells you to) there is a verse to contradict any other verse you can think of.

    January 10, 2014 at 12:59 am |
    • fgk

      Just for clarification: 2 pairs of every unclean animal, 7 pairs of every clean animal. Enoch walked with God does not mean next to each other, and the rest were seeing visions. Even Moses just saw his back, though they talked face-face (personification not necessary). Dont kill is not a commandment. Dont kill for no reason is. Even God will eventually kill in judgement. This is just for clarification. If you make provision for language, geography, time and culture differences between us and bible writers, and also the fact that we are talking 66 books written by 40 people over 1600 years from 19 cultures, alot starts to make sense. Of course there are lots of errors, etc, thats expected with all the above. But study it as you would academically and dont use 21st century standards on bronze and iron age writers and you will appreciate it.

      January 10, 2014 at 2:47 am |
      • Fan2C

        fgk,

        I do appreciate The Bible as a record of a group of ancient Middle Eastern people and their myths, legends, historical fiction, rituals, fantasies and supersti.tions, and the laws and morality tales they used to help to civilize the primitive societies.

        The Hindu Scriptures do a lot of the same and are every bit as old, or older. Have you studied them? They have their own special supernatural "revelation" too. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/texts/texts.shtml

        Then there's Zoroastrianism - same deal. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/zoroastrian/history/zoroaster_1.shtml

        Pyramid texts of Ancient Egypt that date back to 2400-2300 BCE.

        Etc.

        All very interesting looks into ancient civilizations, with not a whit of verifiable evidence for any of their supernatural stories.

        January 10, 2014 at 3:34 am |
  6. Reality # 2

    Today's total for Ryan B's fund:

    $25,792.00

    http://www.gofundme.com/62mb6o

    January 9, 2014 at 11:52 pm |
  7. Dave

    Is it so surprising that positions in churches or schools that are based upon faith in God are denied to someone who denies that faith? It is like hiring a policeman or judge who does not believe in upholding the law.

    January 9, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Dave,

      He initially got into trouble for following the CRITICAL Golden Rule.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:38 pm |
  8. Bonch

    Luke 9:25
    For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

    This made me read the chapter again.

    January 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      How terrible that people give actual thought to what they believe. How terrible that they question what they are told and decide to investigate. If a person still believes when they are done, then their faith will be unshakable. If they end up not believing, then they never understood what they believed in the first place.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
    • IamMark

      These serious, excellent, upright, deeply sensitive people who are still Christian from the very heart: they owe it to themselves to try for once the experiment of living for some length of time without Christianity; they owe it to their faith in this way for once to sojourn ‘in the wilderness’ — if only to win for themselves the right to a voice on the question whether Christianity is necessary.”
      — Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (Cambridge University Press, 1997), 61.

      Pasted from this Pastor'website.

      January 10, 2014 at 1:03 am |
  9. Angle

    John, I also would hate to die within that year. Wouldn't that be a Hipocrite. Living a lie. How many ppl has he miss led? You preach & teach for God for 19 yrs & then you question if there really is a God. Is that not Blaspheming??? To know God in your heart & then to question & live as if there is no God?? And to preach & live for him & have to wonder if there is a God. You now the truth.If you really wanted tohelp them ppl you would teach them about God & lead them to the truth. Pray for them.Are your daughters also learnig to live that way.Train up a child in the way they should go. Iwouldnt want to be in your shoes when God cmes back. prayig for you.In Jesus Name.

    January 9, 2014 at 11:04 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Your god punishes for non-belief?

      Nice guy

      January 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      An honest person questions their belief. A dishonest one hangs on to what they want to believe out of fear they might be wrong.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:13 pm |
    • Observer

      Angle,

      His church apparently was mad at him for ACTUALLY following the Golden Rule when it comes to gays. Says a lot for them.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm |
      • fgk

        read carefully. The church was not mad at him. Many of those contributing are his church friends, and if you read what his boss said, its more of a "you dont fit into the position for now". He was even asked to come after that one year! am I reading bias in your post?

        January 10, 2014 at 2:58 am |
    • Liz

      He is not questioning if there is a God. He is, in fact, practicing what he's been preaching for many years. Think about it before you speak on it. Do you really believe that all the people Jesus witnessed to were believers? If you do, then you are truly spiritually naive. And yet Jesus still witnessed to them. It didn't matter to Him because He was doing what His father instructed Him to do. This gentleman is basically doing the same thing. Wouldn't he be more of hypocrite if he just stood on one side (of his beliefs) throwing stones at the other side without at least listening and making an attempt to understand. Who knows, in the end this path he is on may open up new ways for him to witness to non-believers in the future. In general, if more people were open to walking in someone else shoes for even just a moment think about the possibilities of how awesome this world could be. Stop the hateful, negative criticism and try the compassion of Jesus.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
      • Beth

        Liz, there isn't actually anything for him to be witness to. The whole Christian thing is a giant ponzi scheme that only stupid people still believe in.

        January 9, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
        • The Real G

          I thought atheists were supposed to be tolerant. Keep saying things like that and the tolerance police are going to take away your COEXIST bumper sticker. 🙂

          January 10, 2014 at 1:29 am |
        • John

          You mean 2.3 billion people? Superiority complex much?

          January 10, 2014 at 10:24 am |
    • truthprevails1

      "Train up your child..."

      Yep, that's it...beat it into them, that is what the bible tells you to do. In fact there's a book all about that...maybe you already know about it and use it or if you don't have any children, please schedule the surgery to ensure you never do.

      January 10, 2014 at 6:29 am |
  10. bushgirlsgonewild

    You atheists just want to be sinning all the time. You and your logic and Mr. Spoke haicuts will suffer some day, just you wait and see.

    Genesis 15:9 The Lord answered, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat, three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle dove and a young pigeon.”

    See? you don't know how to argue against that, that there is the word of the most high God. That proves no evolution because they couldn't get those animals unless the Lord asked them to.

    January 9, 2014 at 10:48 pm |
    • doobzz

      "You and your logic and Mr. Spoke haicuts will suffer some day"

      LMAO.

      "See? you don't know how to argue against that, that there is the word of the most high God. That proves no evolution because they couldn't get those animals unless the Lord asked them to."

      Huh??

      January 9, 2014 at 10:55 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I have never sinned...I am without sin.

      January 9, 2014 at 11:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      Mr Spoke?

      Is this a POE?

      January 10, 2014 at 5:28 am |
    • bcs2006

      POE

      January 10, 2014 at 7:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Science fiction fulfills many of the same needs for wonder and awe that religion used to fill, but within the context of a more intellectualized, scientific framework. Science fiction has become the religion of our age."
      – James Kahn (Star Trek: TNG Magazine #28)

      January 10, 2014 at 9:49 am |
  11. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It's too bad religious beliefs aren't modular. I'd be willing to slot one in for year, be Christian. What is it like to believe the Universe is less than 10,000 years old and was designed and created entirely as a stage for a little drama between humanity, Satan and God? That God is real and so are miracles? And I am right, chosen and immortal?

    January 9, 2014 at 10:19 pm |
    • cooeerup

      Actually @religiousT on twitter has been doing just that. Living with a different religion each month over a year. Very interesting journey. He blogs about it too.

      January 10, 2014 at 2:16 am |
  12. milkingatheists'

    The guy diddn't have his fair purse and was trying to get a fatter one. He found a fatter milking cow in atheists' pasture.

    January 9, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
    • doobzz

      How do you know that he won't recommit to being a believer after a year and then milk believers? That's where the real money is.

      January 9, 2014 at 10:42 pm |
      • milkingatheists

        Actually, that's what exactly I'm thinking. He's just waiting for a higher offer.

        January 12, 2014 at 1:50 am |
        • doobzz

          Could be. I'd like to think he's sincere. I've read his blog and it's interesting. Not sure if I'll keep up with it over a year or not.

          January 12, 2014 at 11:37 am |
  13. Voice Of Reason

    The people who gave didn't do so in order to 'tip him toward atheism.' I am not an Atheist; however, I have MANY friends who are. They are some of the kindest, warmest, most compassionate and giving people (not to mention MORAL!) that I have ever met. The assertion that morality and compassion exist solely within the confines of religion is preposterous. No, they gave because it was the right thing to do. This man decided to take a year to walk in the other guy's shoes (something I really see Jesus advocating), and his "christian" (religious, not spiritual), narrowminded bosses couldn't handle it so they fired him. The kind Atheists then picked up the clearly-dropped ball. There was no agenda. It's a shame that such an idea is being touted.

    January 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm |
  14. Steve

    Everyone has a right to make there own decisions, but for me the most logical decision is to allow a loving God to guide you. God is very real for me, and I believe it God will work for you but there are a lot of variables. If you believe that highly of and in yourself, more power to you, (personally I don't think anyone is very smart that does that) but because I believe what I believe, I would be very worried for you. That doesn't mean it isn't your choice, and it's not my job to make your choices, if you believe you can make the best decisions for yourself, and you don't need God, that is your God given right after all, God gave you that right, to make your own decisions with a free will, for you to decide upon what is good or bad as laid out in Biblical principles (as a matter of fact historicly). We get in real trouble when we start thinking in terms of individual beliefs of what is good and what is bad. The Bible is the only time tested text that puts this into an understandable perspective. (if your interested) Think about that?

    January 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm |
    • Yo. Steve. Get a brain.

      Steve-o, umm, free will gets an EPIC FAIL as an argument for your god. Seriously. Read up on that a bit.

      I hereby award you, loser, the GIANT FAIL WHALE OF THE DAY.

      January 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm |
    • Pete

      I can't just decide to follow a God that I'm not convinced is even real. I'm not convinced that any of the 1000s of gods are real, or not. So, why should I even favour the possibility that your God is the one to assume is real? His popularity in our culture?

      January 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      What God? Where is he? When was he ever here? Have you seen him?, talked to him? – correct me if I overstep here, but im going to venture a No answer to all that.

      Everything from the Bible, how it was written – When it was written, and who has influenced what it has said over the millennia screams scam...

      This guy the article is about should have long ago found some othe r line of work – instead hes going to see if the money is as good as his job at Religion, Inc. selling a line of crap to the gullible...

      January 9, 2014 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tee

      Hi Steve, you state "The Bible is the only time tested text" Could you clarify what you mean? In what ways is the bible time tested, as opposed to other holy books?

      thanks! Tee

      January 9, 2014 at 9:43 pm |
    • David

      For your information God is real however he is not found inside the cubicle of religion.
      The fact you have not experience him does not void his existence.
      I throw a challenge to you guys, If the pastor got the courage to test his life without God to weigh the
      evidence of both world, why dont you guys also try not for one year, just ONE WEEK a life with God by
      putting your trust in him, then you will be in a better position to see whether he really exist or NOT.
      By the way HE STILL LOVE YOU

      January 10, 2014 at 3:45 am |
      • chubby rain

        David,
        Many atheists originally were believers. I was raised Roman Catholic for 18 years. Eventually, I realized that the truth I sought wasn't in the Bible or any other religious text I turned to after that.

        January 10, 2014 at 6:17 am |
      • sam stone

        what makes you think that people can put trust in what they do not believe exists?

        can you put your trust in bugs bunny?

        January 10, 2014 at 6:45 am |
    • sam stone

      Free will and an omniscient god are incompatible, steve

      January 10, 2014 at 5:32 am |
    • sam stone

      people should make up their own ideas of what is good or bad.

      beats the hell out of allowing long dead iron age sheep molesters to do so

      January 10, 2014 at 5:35 am |
  15. urnotathinkerareu

    Here is why Religion can never get serious on REAL science.
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney?page=1

    January 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      Very interesting article...thanks for posting....

      January 9, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
  16. John

    The story will be different if he die during the cause of his experiment. u need not to be an atheist for u to know whether God exist or not. nature and space can expressly tell u about the existence of a super natural being called GOD.

    January 9, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
    • Bill Graham

      Your thoughts are totally incoherent.

      January 9, 2014 at 9:07 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Yes, John, and they tell us that there is no evidence whatsoever of this god being of yours. None whatsoever.

      January 9, 2014 at 9:10 pm |
    • James Leon Mahan

      I need a new roof or major roof repair. I would do anything to get it repaired as long as it was legal and did not hurt anyone physically! 🙂

      January 9, 2014 at 9:17 pm |
    • Jonatan Rivela

      Really John? Do you even read the things that you write?

      January 9, 2014 at 9:25 pm |
    • Pete

      John
      So, your basic argument is that you personally can't think of how the universe could have occurred naturally, so it just had to be created by this God character you were taught to believe in? Isn't that like someone who doesn't understand rocket science assuming that rockets fly by magic, or people ignorant of modern medicine believing that illnesses come from demonic possession rather than germs? Hell, isn't it even like some guy who hasn't a clue about car engines tying to tell professional mechanics ow to fix cars? There are experts on how the universe formed, John. They're called scientists, not theologians. Why are you so arrogant as to presume to know better then them?

      January 9, 2014 at 9:37 pm |
      • Lisa

        Pete,right on!I personally grew up in the church, my mother is the head deacon but I constantly questioned the Bible and the faith. I am now 31 years old and after carefully researching Christianity, its origins and upon how it was founded, I found all the answers I needed to determine that it was not at all what I believed to be the truth. The Bible and its discrepancies and contradictions on every page also left me questioning. The fact that in order to be a christian, is purely based on faith and faith alone also didnt sit well with me. I have been reading many books on different religions, yet I am still unsure but do know that I believe in reincarnation:) My religion is simply love others, do the right thing and spread love for all.

        January 9, 2014 at 10:08 pm |
  17. R.M. Goodswell

    How do you 'try' Atheism??

    You either buy into the supernatural and all its baggage or you don't....there isn't an atheist lifestyle.

    Article says hes actually agnostic? yet hes a priest .....

    the whole concept is stupid.

    January 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm |
    • urnotathinkerareu

      It isn't stupid. Indoctrination takes years and getting out of it may also take years. It's not a suddenly I'm an atheist....especially after what he has been involved in. For him..it'll be a process.

      January 9, 2014 at 9:01 pm |
      • R.M. Goodswell

        Read the article.. hes not trying to get out.... this is an experiment for him.

        Hes a pastor...but hes agnostic....and going to 'try' Atheism for a year....

        he has a lot of people sucked in... atheist groups kicking money over to him to try their brand.....

        Humanity is absolutely absurd ...from our BS religions to our politics to our half hearted attempt to explain the physical universe. When we finally quit screwing around and get serious about saving ourselves it ll be too late. Centuries of utter crap like this....Hes a religious LEADER who doesn't believe...sounds like he hasn't for quite a while.

        January 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm |
        • AtheistSteve

          And he's not alone. Check out the clergy project. A support organization for clergy who are still preaching even though they no longer believe. Stuck in a no-win situation where they stand to lose everything if their view were to become known. Participants can remain anonymous if they so choose and acquire assistance rebuilding their lives if the result of them coming clean results in a loss of job, friends, family and community. A pastor who leaves the faith is regarded as a pariah by his congregation if they believe they've been deceived.
          Are you 100% certain your pastor isn't a closet atheist? You shouldn't be.

          January 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm |
  18. Name*YENNY HERNANDEZ

    Foolish

    January 9, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
  19. M.E.

    I certainly commend him on being open minded and willing to give new things a try. Even if he doesn't stick with it, at least he'll have racked up a year of tangibly helping people rather than just thinking certain thoughts for them and maybe whispering them before bed at night. Why he couldn't pray AND help in the first place is beyond me, but that's beside the point. I hope he accepts the hands outstretched to help him, I'm sure he'll find many new friends amongst atheists.

    January 9, 2014 at 8:27 pm |
    • Pete

      You're right. When somebody needs help I not only give them real help, I generally think about their problems afterwards and hope that they get resolved. Isn't that basically the same thing as praying, along the lines of "Our thoughts and prayers are with you"?What I don't do is just hope and not do anything else that I'm capable of doing.

      January 9, 2014 at 8:38 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.