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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. Dennis Michaels

    I have another problem with this article in that Burke does not clarify until 3/4 in that in fact Bell actually considers himself agnostic. Therefore, this is not an experiment in atheism but an experiment with agnosticism. In my mind there is a considerable gap between agnostic and atheist. Is the writer, Bell or both confused?

    January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • CNN Belief Blog Co-EditorCNN

      Hi Dennis. Bell's experiment is to not rely on his faith for anything and to quit religious rituals, replacing them with atheist practices, for the year.

      It's a mental exercise to see what it's like to live as atheists do. Deep down, he admits that he's not sure about God's existence right now (ie, he's agnostic). But like his former faith, he's trying to put that aside for the year and live and think as atheists do.

      My point about the atheists being an unlikely source of help is not a dig at atheists. It's an acknowledgment that it's rare for nonbelievers to rush to the side of a man of God. Even atheists who have donated told me that they are surprised at the response from the atheist community.

      Hope that helps clarify a few things.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
  2. Joe Cynical

    I smell a book deal and a lecture series. "I was an atheist for a year but Jeeeeeeesus saved me!" Big money in that shtick. He might go for the inverse, "I abandoned my faith and my false friends abandoned me" shtick if he suspects there is better money in playing atheist.

    But I bet he intends to go back to his original faith, cash in big, and be hugged by the people who dumped him.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • WASP

      i can see merit in what you say; especially after the whole " i tried being gay for a year" thing before.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am |
  3. Evenstar

    I like how most non-believers resort to childish name calling of those of us who do believe.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • Right

      You conveniently ignore the many many incidences of Christian name-calling. Don't let the real world get in the way of your biases.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • ME II

      @Evenstar,
      While I agree that name-calling is childish, I would point out that there is no shortage of "bad" behavior by the religious here as well.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • Live4Him

      Agreed.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:40 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Although I have not done that, what I love is how "believers" have so little strength to their belief that they can't take it.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:40 am |
    • Mornstar

      Agree with MEII

      January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |
  4. steelerguin

    Everyone should settle in their heart and mind whether they believe in God and this man should not be judged for his sincere attempt to examine what he believes. As a Christian, I could not live a year without God because my faith permeates every aspect of my life. It is hard to describe to non-believers and I know other posters will ridicule me for stating this. However, this is what I believe.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • Somone

      I agree with you steel, however, the scripture is clear on this point. This is a man that has believed and is choosing to not believe any longer.

      Hebrews 6: 4-8

      4 For it is impossible to restore to repentance those who were once enlightened - those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come - 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people to repentance again because they are nailing the Son of God to the cross again by rejecting him, holding him up to public shame.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:40 am |
    • mk

      I would have said that I was very firm in my beliefs also...10 years ago. But luckily, I did start questioning things and when I did, the story began to fall apart. I'm now atheist and I applaud this gentleman for choosing to question and not follow blindly.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      steeler – please understand that manay atheists actually do understand exactly how you feel about your faith permeating every part of your life because most, at least in America, are former believers who had the same faith and devotion you currently do. There are several who had such strong faith that they either were clergy or were in training to be. It is very difficult to let go of such strong belief, especially when you feel it in every day to day event in your life, but it essentially comes down to a value judgement: is truth or comfort more important to you? Belief can be comforting, sometimes truth can be as well, but when letting go of your faith, the truth is not necessarily comfortable, but it is real. Many of us choose to live with as much knowledge of what is real, rather than what feels better. Thank you for sharing your belief, good luck with whatever path you may walk.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
      • steelerguin

        Thank you for your kind words. My only disagreement with you is my belief really has nothing to do with comfort as I believe God is the ultimate truth. Faith is just that, faith. In reality, science can't prove or disprove God. We are all left to draw our own conclusions. I sincerely appreciate a dialogue with someone like yourself who is willing to discuss their viewpoint without insults or angry diatribe. Hope you have an enjoyable day.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
  5. Somone

    Hebrews 6: 4-8

    4 For it is impossible to restore to repentance those who were once enlightened - those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come - 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people to repentance again because they are nailing the Son of God to the cross again by rejecting him, holding him up to public shame.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:36 am |
    • Lawrence of Arabia

      Romans 6:1-2 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:40 am |
      • Lawrence of Arabia

        Wind me up! I can say more! You can call me Paul or you can call me Saul!

        January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
  6. M

    A pastor becoming a temporary atheist is not like a plumber becoming an atheist. What did he think was going to happen? The church doesn't want to have anything to do with a former pastor who is now acting as an atheist. I think it's a little like someone who hates wine working at a winery. Obviously it's not the same thing but my point is he is acting like he rejects all religion so he can't do a job in the field of religion.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
  7. Knowledge bombs

    When inventing a God, the most important thing is to claim it is invisible, inaudible, and imperceptible in every way. Otherwise, people will become skeptical when it appears to no one, is silent, and does nothing.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      Although you must be sure it is very real in the beginning and intervenes in many day to day human events, that way you have a source to point to on how it interacts with the world regularly, and there's proof, but it does not need to anymore because it is testing whether or not you believe in it..

      January 8, 2014 at 11:58 am |
      • Thinker...

        That is why you always start at a low point and target those who have nothing to lose. Their lives can only get better and you can point to your god as the reason.

        January 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
  8. sylvie

    Religious doubt and atheism are not the same thing. Atheists don't believe there is a god ... interesting that they are the ones coming to his aid ... good old christian values at work in letting this man and his family down.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
  9. Dyslexic doG

    start questioning the cult and they'll boot you to the curb!

    January 8, 2014 at 11:34 am |
  10. Wayne

    You can't "try atheism". You can go a year without going to church or praying but you still believe in god.
    And does it surprise anyone that he lost two jobs at Christians school because he's "trying out" atheism?

    And finally... What's the point of this?

    Bell said. “I’m suspending my belief in God to see what atheism is all about.”
    Give me a break.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:34 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      He is definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer...

      January 8, 2014 at 11:37 am |
    • WASP

      i think he could have phrased it better; something like " i'm removing the blinders i was taught to wear to see what atheists truly have to say."

      that may be a more truthful way seeing you can't just turn off belief in something unless there wasn't any belief there to begin with.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • ScienceSoma

      It seems a diplomatic way with respect to friends and family to pursue his internal questions – "trying atheism". You are likely correct, his faith has been overtaken with the questions of a skeptic and this is most likely his graceful departure from the religious world. It is difficult when so many people you care about take it so personally, so while it is pretty transparent to us on the outside, I sympathize with his need to buffer the personal shock as much as possible.

      January 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
  11. cnet

    "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."

    You mean he'll have to actually work to make money??? NOOOO! What is this world coming to??? lol. Who's fault is it that he doesn't have a job? Who's decision was it to completely drop his livelihood to live the exact opposite lifestyle? Please don't blame the school and church who actually need a Christian to lead their Christian church and students. lol.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:32 am |
  12. kyzaadrao

    This is about as silly as a paid staff Democrat or Republican switching sides and then expecting to stay employed at his original job. He gave up the party and ideals or at least went so soft on them as to sacrifice their position.

    This person is embarrassing to both atheists and the religious at the same time. Too obvious a ploy to cash in on his doubts from both sides of the fence.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:32 am |
  13. Rich

    Yep, good ol' Christians, turning their backs on this guy immediately. If his kids suffer, oh well.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • steelerguin

      If you read the article without bias, Bell acknowledges other Christians have supported him financially as well as atheists. Poor reading comprehension and stereotyping are a dangerous combo.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:40 am |
      • Rich

        I'm sorry if you felt I was bashing every Christian in existence, but I was commenting on the Christian organizations that immediately turned their back on him. My experience with Christianity is that both the helpful and those who have turned their back on him are common. Given the nature of their Lord, this should not be such an even distribution, to say the least.

        January 8, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
  14. jones

    more foolishness when it comes to understanding atheists. it's not something you can try, he was just a non practicing christian. theists should really try to understand what they are arguing against

    January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  15. Wuxia007

    This is a very misleading article. Obviously being an atheist is going to bring support from other atheists while losing support from Christians. Obviously being a Christian is going to bring support from other Christians while losing support from atheists. Gaining support from one group and losing support from another doesn't mean one side is right or better than the other. Join the KKK and see how much support from racists you get. Does that mean racists are more tolerant for giving racism a try? It's ridiculous. Also, how many Christians have lost or have been threatened to lose their jobs for "coming out" in their field of work?

    January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  16. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    What a contrived and intentionally misleading (no, outright lying) story. No one "tries" atheism .. it is not a lifestyle to try on, it's simply not believing in a God(s). He also lost his Pastor job prior to "trying" atheism. There is so much wrong with this story it's too much to list on a blog post!

    January 8, 2014 at 11:28 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I particularity enjoyed the 'unintended consequences"... really? You didn't think that there would be any consequences, after working for a religious institution for 19 years stealing people's money? Me thinks this guy is none to bright.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:34 am |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        You'd think that would be pretty obvious to the guy!

        January 8, 2014 at 11:42 am |
      • WASP

        he lost his job of 19 years because "He had advocated for the church to allow gay and lesbian leaders, campaigned against California’s same-s_x marriage ban and disputed deeply held church doctrines about the End Times."

        after being fired he decided to "try atheism" and lost the other two job offers.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Galumbits

      You're missing that they aren't linking his loss of the pastor's job with his experiment. He DID lose three jobs because of his endeavor.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        It's right in the beginning of the article!

        "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 lesbien leaders, campaigned against California’s same-sax marriage ban and disputed deeply held church doctrines about the End Times."

        January 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
  17. RillyKewl

    Why are people so scared of nonbelievers?
    What happens when you point out that the Emperor has no clothes?

    January 8, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • Live4Him

      What makes you certain that others are afraid of you?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:28 am |
      • Johnny Noir

        How can you describe the extreme reaction against this guy if not fear? His friends abandon and shun him because he is trying a different paradigm? Real friends don't do that.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:32 am |
      • RillyKewl

        Well, the guy lost not one, but 2 jobs. He lost "friends" and former colleagues.
        If its not fear, what are they running from?

        January 8, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • dconklin58

          So you want him to be an atheist and keep his Christian jobs and Christian friends? Either he's in the boat or he is out on his own–lets be consistent here.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • ME II

          @dconklin58,
          1. It is supposedly an experiment, not that he has rejected belief forever.
          2. Can Christians not have friend with different, on no, beliefs? Are they that insular?

          January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am |
        • Live4Him

          Should a person who doesn't understand Russian teach English-speaking people the Russian language? No. Likewise, how could a non-Christian teach others how to be a Christian?

          January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am |
        • Live4Him

          @ME II : Can Christians not have friend with different, on no, beliefs? Are they that insular?

          Sure, they could be friends, but for how long? They are on different paths. Are you still friends with your earliest friends (i.e. kindergarden)? Most likely not. Why? You grew apart because of your different roads that you traveled.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
        • ME II

          @Live4Him,
          "Sure, they could be friends, but for how long?"

          So, you are that insular?

          January 8, 2014 at 11:48 am |
        • RillyKewl

          dconklin, I think you may have a different definition of the word, friend.
          As well as what reasonable grounds for dismissal are.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • Thinker...

          @Live4HIm

          One of my friends is a devout Christian and I have been friends with him for 14 years. He knows I don't believe and so we just leave that topic alone. We talked about it a couple of times early on, but we accepted each other's position and that we wouldn't be able to change it. Still friends and I was his best man at his wedding. All you need for friendship are shared interests and respect.

          January 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
      • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

        It is simply by their actions and reactions.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:33 am |
      • Kyle

        They're not afraid of non believers, but they are afraid of the growing number of nonbelievers because that signifies that their beliefs are losing the popularity that they enjoy.

        January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
        • skalaballa

          We are not afraid of popularity contests. We know already that we are in the world but not of it. This is not a surprise, but more of a sadness for the lost souls and the pain and eventual spiritual death they are going through when they could be saved. It is a love of you, not a fear of you.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • RillyKewl

          Ultimately, I think Kyle's got it right.
          They're afraid of losing majority status.
          They want to be most popular!
          Its like the world is just one gigantic high school cafeteria.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          'lost souls' ..'spiritual death'... and 'saved' all superstitious mumbo-jumbo... what are you, 5 years old?

          January 8, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      They're afraid we're right and in the depths of there minds know there is no God(s) .... which is why they "choose" to believe, and keep telling themselves they believe over and over and over ... trying to convince themselves against their own common sense.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am |
      • Matt

        My common sense says, that as I look at the complexity of the universe, I cannot help but believe that it was created by some sort of higher power! In my experience anything with this sort of complexity did not come about by random chance!

        January 8, 2014 at 11:38 am |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          You are simply anthropomorphizing the universe you don't understand. Not understanding something does not automatically lead to a god.

          January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am |
        • Lucifer's Evil Twin

          Quantum Mechanics or Matt's 'common sense'... hmmm... that's a hard one

          January 8, 2014 at 11:45 am |
        • RillyKewl

          In YOUR experience?
          That's adorable!

          January 8, 2014 at 11:46 am |
        • doobzz

          What is your experience in studying the complexity of the universe that makes you say that? Do you just look around and say, "Wowee, lookit all the plants and animals and stars and clouds and volcanoes and thunder and stuff. I don't know how any of this got here, and learning science is hard, so gawddidit."?

          January 8, 2014 at 11:49 am |
        • Matt

          Your right doobzz, science is really hard. I'm so glad I have people like you to explain it to me.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • Matt

          If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses, it also doesn't lead to no god either! You are the one claiming common sense leads to no god, I am simply claiming the opposite.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm |
        • huh

          Im with you Matt. If life was spontaneously created in a soup bowl then why is it impossible to create with todays technology. Life and death seems so basic yet it still is a mystery.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          Matt, you are correct ... it does not lead to no God(s) either! They question is WHY is your answer "God(s)"? There are infinite possibilities and you choose "God", why? Because that's what you've been told to think.

          All choices need to have a reason and, of the infinite possibilities, there is no "reason" to believe a God(s) did it.

          January 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm |
    • Lars

      Well, according to this article, you lose your jobs...

      January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • skalaballa

      On the contrary, Christians are not scared of nonbelievers, they love and want the best for them. Just as you probably are trying to get Christians to buy into your atheist beliefs for what you see as their own good, TRUE Christians are wanting to share the good news and saving love of Jesus for your benefit. TRUE Christians don't judge and condemn, but love and try to help. If you see hate and condemnation, this is a sign that that person is not a true Christian.

      You know the most famous Bible verse of all? John 3:16? Many people fail to read John 3:17.

      16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

      If only the factions of both Christians and Atheists would take this to heart that we only want to help each other see the respective "light". Maybe we wouldn't be so hateful and bitter towards each other.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Person 1: "All Scotsmen love ale."
        Person 2: "I am Scottish, but I don't love ale."
        Person 1: "Then you are not a true Scotsman."

        January 8, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • aka

      I am not afraid of non believers but the atheists that I know personally, make it a point to shove it down my throat that they are atheists. If I say "Thank God"...response I get is "There is no God" or "there is no proof that God exists", etc. etc., etc. I believe in God. I do not preach it to anyone. I don't force it upon anyone. It is my belief, however don't consistently badger me with your beliefs that there is no God, science, etc. I don't care. Stop trying so hard to convert to your way of thinking.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Oh, the irony

        January 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
  18. rysciple

    While the tempation to make this a faith vs. no-faith argument, I think what we're clearly dealing with in this situation is a very eccentric individual who is doing – surprise – eccentric things. I nether support nor oppose him in this endeavor, which sounds like a bad reality show or a boring segment on NPR's "This American Life."

    January 8, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • Lars

      ...starring a young Al Franken.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am |
  19. Terry

    It is a difficult thing to do.. and you will be shunned for it. On my facebook feed I see a constant barrage of christian posts and memes from friends and family.. especially this year with the supposed 'war on christmas'. I have shared my views, not constantly but on occasion.. and they are mild and not hostile.. on how I view things. Some days it is like living in a world where a cult has taken over and if you don't 'say the magic words' and do what they do you are somehow 'evil'. On those days I have to keep reminding myself that I am sane

    January 8, 2014 at 11:25 am |
    • Thinker...

      Reason #86 that I am not on Facebook...

      January 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
  20. huh

    Let get down to it the facts. Atheism is a lonely experience. relationships, love, family are all just in your mind. Religion is social cuddling.

    January 8, 2014 at 11:25 am |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      I am not lonely... however, the 'religion is social cuddling' comment was pretty funny

      January 8, 2014 at 11:30 am |
    • ME II

      "relationships, love, family are all just in your mind."

      Unlike god(s), their is evidence for most of that, i.e. actual family members, people who claim to and act like they love, and people who you can relate to and have a relationship with.

      How is that lonely?

      January 8, 2014 at 11:36 am |
    • JJ

      Atheism is a lonely existence if you are surrounded by only religious fanatics.

      January 8, 2014 at 11:37 am |
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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.