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.
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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.
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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.
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.
Well, as for the real life problem of rent, God: 0 Real Humans: 19,000.
OK, let's go down the checklist
Has spent neatly his entire adult life in academia or pastoring a church, a fringe christian sect, picking and choosing what he wishes to support in the bible (gay marriage, etc), divorcing his wife.
This guy is not wrapped too tight.
He is having a mid life crisis and dealing with it by abandoning what he has always believed and trusted. The next step is maxing out the credit cards for a red sports car with a blond bombshell next to him with a little bit of nose candy on his lip and an 8-ball in his pocket.
You are either a "Christian" or you are not. It is not something you can turn on and off.
Quoting Chris: "You are either a "Christian" or you are not. It is not something you can turn on and off."
So he ought not to question what he believes? Telling.
One more thing: Really? The next step after questioning your beliefs is buying a sports car and snorting coke? That's all that comes to mind?
Get out of the house and meet some people.
That is no true. Beng a christian is a hard thing to do , and faith is tested always , we find our way back to God. It is written that God would rather have lost one of His sheep and found it again , then to never have lost Him at all, Meaning It is very easy in this world now more than ever to lose sight of God and your faith, we all sin even the most devote christian, But coming back to our faith and our christian ways after losing it is something that brings God joy.. Its as simple as when you lose something you love , like a favorite cd or your dog, the feeling you have when it returns or you find it again, is pure joy.
Your Bible-speak is touchingly naive.
It is sad when people are so confused, & so willing to swallow a comforting story.
… and you are an idiot who knows nothing of what he criticizes. that young man correctly characterized the alleged deity he believes in. As an agnostic who's read the bible a number of times and knows it neither scare me nor convinces me, I can tell you he's absorbed the point of christianity in a way that many of his peers have not. He makes more sense than you do.
Yeah, my dog 'Rough Rough' went away, he died. But I prayed harder than what I never did before. I prayed 'My little Rough Rough... come back to me by the POWER OF JESUS!!!" and guess what? when I dug him up 3 weeks later, he was alive – but didn't move very fast. And he no longer eats anything or craps on my carpet. It's a miracle!
Look up "No True Scotsman" it's the logical fallacy you are engaging in. All of christianity is just a bizarre fringe sect of Judaism so try not to throw the first stone.
That's my take as well, Chris. I feel for him, but this is just another reaction in a long chain of reactions.
Religion are a lot of things and there are a lot of people who are hypocrites that practice religion. That being said, Religion is a needed item to keep and maintain even the slimest of moral values, that draws the line between right and wrong. Take a look at the non-religious practices, evil creeps in, that leads to evil acts, you wonder why a man would keep 3 women locked up for 10 years in a basement, was it religion or atheism, which served the lauching pad that ended in this heinous result? I would say to all believers and non-believers you need god, he is inside you, all around you, in each breath that you have taken since the beginning of time. There are many things we do not understand, facets of god that has long been lost and long been rewritten by man in his own image to justify today's needs and actions. In an age of materialism, we ask who is god, since we live like god and have access to all things godlike. There will come a day beyond today, that the seeker and non-seekers will be called to answer for their actions, good or bad, religious, non-religious...what will you be able to say? In the pits of hell, welcome your own distruction, it is the result of your own actions. BTW, I am neither a Christian or a Muslim.....Science will prove religion to be true!
I agreed with your premise right up until the point at which you cited morality as a justification for religion. Morality is not the reason religion is a necessary facet of the human experience. Many need religion because sometimes life stinks. When a child is killed by a drunk driver a parent may need to feel solace in the idea that they will be reunited in heaven to ease the pain of loss. A person experiencing financial ruin may require faith in a higher power in order to find a renewal of purpose that may turn their fortunes around. The bible did get one thing right: this world is often a veil of tears and some need the crutch of religion to hold them up when facing it. Doesn't mean religion is right or wrong, just necessary and imminently human.
ya because , us simply hoping is what makes our good fortunes to come back.no our faith .. with faith in God nothing can ever destroy you, no matter what happens to you on this earth, he will never let you go through something that you cannot handle , I personally have prayed for help in many situations and not got the results i immediatly asked for , but was blessed in ways that worked out better for me in the long run. Blessed in ways that made me a better person and in turn helped others in ways I probably would not have if I didnt go through those experiances. Forget religion , its the faith in God that is important. some people almost praise thier religion more than God Himself....I persanally dont know how people BELIVE that gas just created itself and then exploded even though they didnt see it, but cant belive in an all powerful being because they dont see Him in a human form. I see God and his love evry day believe that.
It's truly a shame that you disparage science and the search for understanding, and then go on about a loving being who is invisible & magical, even though you have no evidence at all for such a thing.
You get one life; why waste it believing in fairy tales when you can try to learn all the incredible things there are to be learned about the real world!?
"Many need religion because sometimes life stinks. "
This is nonsense! We don't need to tell ourselves comforting fictions just because we got some bad breaks.
What people really need is the courage to face the real world instead of escaping into drugs, alcohol, or fairy tales.
So the 76% prisoner population in the USA that is christian are not evil?
Morals do not come from a book and if you need a book to tell you how to be moral then you probably shouldn't be walking the streets because you're not very moral to begin with.
Karma isn't a moral thing. You have quite the imagination...how old are you-12??
Where do morals come from?
campbellsoup: Certainly not the bible considering our species existed long before that book was written. If you need that book to tell you how to be moral, then you're not very moral to begin with. The bible is not a book of morality, not when it promotes hate; oppression of women; oppression of gays; child abuse; mass murder; rape and idolatry (believe in this god or else suffer horrible torture).
@truthprevails1 – You still haven't answered my question. You seem certain morals don't come from "a book", but where do they come from? Does each person just conjure up their own morals? How do we really know, for example, that murder, stealing, pedophilia, etc are wrong? Is that just something each person thinks up for themselves? If there is no standard or source for morality, then how can we judge or assess another's actions as wrong? After all, that person could have a different set of morals, conjured up in their own minds that are distinct from our own. If that is true, then morality itself doesn't really exist. It becomes subjective to each person. Then, there really is no "truth" at all – just the subjective opinion of each person, that can vary from person to person and we cannot hold anyone to a standard of morality since each person has their own standards.
Morals come from an evolved social construct, or set of rules established by society in order for a group of a species to work together in harmony for the greater good of the group and therefore the individual. You see "moral" codes among all pack species including wolves, primates, and dolphins. Wolves hunt and share food together and while they have internal pack struggles to determine the alpha, they do not kill the loser for the fact that the group relies upon each other. Dolphins are known to take care of their sick and even sea stranded humans and primates have been seen to show altruism, denying themselves personal gain (treats) to prevent harm to a fellow monkey – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism_in_animals#Mammals – so that is where "morals" come from. An evolved social construct which grows alongside the species as the civilization grows larger and more complex. Is that a satisfactory answer?
Also, to address your point on subjective morals... Correct, morals are completely subjective and change from person to person based on internal chemistry and upbringing. And we as a society determine what behaviors are acceptable and what are not and we use our laws to solidify these behaviors as acceptable or for removal from society. Beyond that, each individual may judge another's actions and rule that their morals and actions are unacceptable and "kick them out" of their personal pack. Power does not come from God to the gov't, it comes from the people to the gov't. Similarly, it is the people who judge anothers actions as acceptable or unacceptable in regards to common good and ability to work within the society at hand. You and I have that power and we exercise it regularly.
Why should another person try and work within this shared moral code? Because this is the only life they have and they can leave all others and go live by themselves isolated or may work with the group. But humans are social creatures, we've evolved in that manner, so very few prefer that isolation. Also, due to evolution and the unique chemistries and upbringings of individuals, sometimes people must be forcefully removed from society, based on the power we appointed the gov't. This life is it, the be all and end all, right here, you can go be a dick, but then you lose this one opportunity at life, that is the punishment... That is why those who do not value this life are so scary and those who defend our lives are so valuable.
Sandi – you scare the heck out of me. Anyone who thinks that religion is the source of good morality is a danger to society. To assume that atheism caused anyone to lock three women in the basement... you think if that guy was religious he wouldn't have done that? That type of thinking is unstable... and downright scary.
Shows how little you know....
Religion does nothing for morality. Look at all the thug gangsters with their big gold cross necklaces... look at the Mafia, all strict Catholics... the Inquisition, the Crusades, THE MIDDLE EAST! All very religious people who commit the worst crimes of humanity. And how about that Bible Belt in the United States... nothing creepy or horrific ever happens there, right? Faith in the Lord keeps everyone on the straight and narrow, right? It's bull. I'll take an atheist from Cambridge over a Bible-thumper from Topeka any day!
He could have called himself religous..but if anyone truley had God in thier heart and had faith in the Lord....simply by folding your hands and asking God to enter your heart....(try it he will be there for you, and you will feel the joy of His love), then they would never do things like this...he obviously was not a person who loved God because No one with God in thier heart would want to do thing s like that...you HATE sin when you truely love God , No ones perfect though , even those who belive in God we all stray from our beliefs , its human nature and the devil takes advantage of this.
My goodness, you're a gullible fellow!
Just a reminder: it's the 21st Century; grownups with imaginary friends are getting rarer.
At least, I hope.
That is not how religion works, you don't just hold your arms out like a genie and expect jesus to come into your heart.
True, Sandi. One only need to read the bible to see how religion supports one's moral stability. Specifically, the stories of mass killings of people by their own god.
Oh please, the church has commited plenty of evil since day 1 of it's forming, yet the bible never changed so how do you explain that? Only bad people need religion, they need that fear of hell to keep them inline. I'm an atheist, I don't go around cheating, stealing, killing or molesting. I work hard, I pay my taxes, I donate to charities, I help people, I take showers, mow my yard and so on just like all the other productive people of society that are both atheist and christian. The only difference between me and a christian is I don't need a threat to be good, I just am, I want to be, and I want humanity to succeed.
your lost...and missing the best part of life...The joy of Gods love...if you think you dont need it , you are truley lost...doing good things is great but the love of God is is an unfathomable joy that I hope you find . also thier are human laws that land people in prison for doing evil things like murder , stealing things like you mentioned ...so many people who dont believe in God , or do for that matter keep themselves in line because of those facteers as well.
Dude, your grammar is lost. It's people like you who make me vomit in my mouth. This guy just made a perfectly logical statement about how he CHOOSES to live his life morally based on nothing but his own principles and logic and you have the nerve to tell him that he is lost because he doesn't believe the way you do. Truly pathetic.
"The joy of Gods love"
What god, how do you know about it, and how do you know it loves people?
Sandi, please trying educating yourself on the reality of life, which cannot be found in a fictional book, and then perhaps you won't be such a moron.
Religion its the lay place to find a good moral system. The Christian god is a mafia boss. Love me or I'll break your legs – forever, in hell. Worse than a mafia boss.
Everybody is Agnostic (without knowledge).
I don't know if there is a god, and neither do you.
But I would bet if there IS a creator of some sort, it isn't the one described in any book written by man.
I am also agnostic about garden gnomes, in the same sense.
There is a God and the Bible wasn't written by man in the way you mean. It is God-inspired. Men have tried for centuries to disprove the Bible and all have failed. There are NO doctrinal discrepancies in the Bible–NONE! God is real and he's coming back one day in the not-too-distant future. The one thing you need to know is this: if you are NOT a Christian, this is as GOOD as it gets. If you ARE a Christian, this is as BAD as it gets.
Spoken like a true Christian. They trained you to say that.
Michael, I can assure you, I have NOT been "trained." I read the Bible on my own and with others but there has been no training. I pray alone and with others but here has been no training. I worship alone and with others but there has been no training. There is no 'party line' I'm spouting. I KNOW there is a God. I KNOW Jesus died for me AND for you. I KNOW he arose from the dead and I KNOW he is coming back again!
"Men have tried for centuries to disprove the Bible and all have failed." I might recommend you get a little training it probably couldn't hurt. The bible is an amazing book for many reasons, it being "god breathed" isn't one of them. Do a little research, the development, translation and compilation of the bible is a fascinating subject and maybe you won't look quite as ignorant next time.
Actually, it has been proven that the stories in the bible were actually stolen from religions that came before it. Considering that you do not believe in those religions, why would you believe in that one?
No it has not been proven where did you see that on an alien special on a&e, Read up on it those other religions did not have Jesus as a Savior and did not have men writing 1000s of years apart talking about the same events , and phrophecizing about things that happened in later chapters written hundreds of years later ....and in no bok any where was there a man like Jesus , who spoke the words that Jesus spoke and died for people who hated Him like Jesus did, and spoke the parabales and life lessons like Jesus did....look at what Jesus spoke ....read it nowhere has there been a better teacher of life then in His words. follow His words and life will always be ok.
Science has destroyed the falsehood of Genesis and Exodus. Point science.
@Marcus please point out one example where someone tried to disprove the Bible and failed. How did they fail? And what were they trying to disprove? Any factual evidence of your claim would be greatly appreciated. On the other hand, I would like to suggest that religion has been trying to prove the Bible is fact for thousands of years and has been dis-proven or unable to prove many times. This is the entire reason that Christianity demands not only faith but blind faith.
I find it fascinating the way full-grown adults can be so self-deluded.
No one has DISproven an ancient book!? What is there to disprove!? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to show how claims in an old story were verified in the modern world, considering we are thousands of years more advanced in our knowledge?
The burden, as we must always say, is on those making the claims. The more outrageous the claims, as for example the claim of an invisible being who is only found in the minds of people who have had a "private experience" of it, the more convincing the evidence must be.
What have you got other than an old book, & questions about how we got here!?
How do you know that anything you read is real unless you were there to witness it? If I follow your logic, I can't believe anything written.
I totally agree. Many will be surprised that there might be a god who is very indifferent to the human condition.
He does have other skill sets that could translate to other jobs, like counseling or even as a teacher....at a public school.
You're right. Good thing he lives in LA and not Waco, otherwise it wouldn't make a difference.
Conservative religious folks are the best at promoting anti-religion. They do more to discourage people from believing in God than anyone.
Lost 3 jobs, losing his family, can't pay the bills... nothing wrong here, just a little experiment. I feel terrible for this guy, but it looks like he is bringing this on himself.
“It really validates that the (atheist) community is really all about the search for truth,” Bell said.
Ahh yes, atheism is indeed the truest pursuit of truth, albeit a flimsy and relevant truth-ish kind of thing.
Care to elaborate?
Yes, in a sense he is. But have a bit of sympathy. Should he pretend to believe something he obviously is not sure about?
Lie to his friends and family?
It's telling that this religion has such a powerful mechanism for preventing its members from questioning it.
He was more than a "member". His was a position of TEACHING and COUNSELING. He has not been asked to abandon membership in the church. He obtained his position based on his confirmation of his belief. He now says he no longer believes. He negated the major qualification for his job.
Why don't you pray for him and see if his life turns around.
Victim blaming another stronghold of the religious.
I would be curious when the year is over and if he were to go back to religion, would the atheist community be as kind and supportive? They could be, I have no clue either way, just will be curious to see how the year pans out for him.
Atheists are not at war with anybody. Revenge, threatening damnation, killing, shunning,... those things are the purview of religion.
God says judge not unless you want to be judged yourself......so true christians are not damning anyone or shunning anyone , if they are thier not following what Jesus asked us to do. He said to love all ....even our enemies..Jesus Himself kissed the man who first arrested him at the start of his execution.
@andy you say "true Christians" a lot. What is a "true Christian", do you get to decide that? If the Bible is so factual and clear why is there over 1,000 different versions of Christianity? I bet southern baptists don't believe LDS memebers are true christians and Vice Versa. By your definitions (the plural is intentional) most Christians aren't "true Christian's" then.
"God says judge not unless you want to be judged yourself"
You tell your god I said this: I will always judge, and I am always willing to BE judged.
Oh, and let me know how he communicated this to you. You may not know this, but lots of god believers actually point to an old book, which was obviously written by people promoting a religious idea, as proof of what their god said.
Can you imagine anyone being that gullible!?
There isn't really an atheist community.
You can have a logical, theoretical debate about this point as much as you want, but the following experiment will prove my point. Open up your phone book, and look up "atheist" or "agnostic" or "secular" to try to find an organization. Then do the same thing with "church".
You're a bit behind the times, aren't you? Citing the phone book as a reliable source of contact information for secular and Atheist support groups and organizations is a bit like saying you need a taxi and, then, searching out a horse and carriage (Amish community notwithstanding). You expose your outdated beliefs and understandings in such a seemingly trivial mistake: no one uses a phone book anymore, but, a quick Google search will provide contact information for literally dozens of support groups, organizations and communities ready to embrace and assist those seeking to practice Secular Humanism with others of like mind.
Yes, literally dozens... get it? You missed my point entirely. How many of those are in a particular community?
Step 1: choose a community. Step 2: count the churches in that community. Step 3: count the atheist/secular organizations in that community. Step 4: divide result of step 3 by the result of step 2. Step 5: Reflect on the fact that the number is very small; in fact it's quite a bit smaller than the percentage of non-believers in the population. Step 6: Choose between rationalization and admitting that I have a point.
Some will and some won't... atheists are individuals; they don't have some sort of group dogma.
There's a difference between atheists and anti-theists. An atheist just doesn't believe in god – that's it. It doesn't mean they speak out against anything, or that they don't respect others' rights to believe what they want. But like another comment said, people are people and they will react differently.
Did you know that it's possible to respect someone's right to believe something without agreeing (or even respecting) that belief?
Why, in your view, must atheists not express what they think?
Funny how that works. The religion who claims the very foundation of their belief is love so much so that God sent his son to sacrafice his life so that the rapists, muderers, child molesters, theives and other sinners can be saved! Now that's love. Yet the so-called Christians that Ryan associated himself with for 19 years were really only concerned about people who viewed things the way they did....and had no love for him. Jesus died for sinners...not Christians. What have Christians (especially conservative Christians) done for sinners lately? Oh sure, they contribute everytime there's a natural dissaster or something, but have an abortion...they ain't going to be around to help you through the emotional issues you have afterwards, because none of them actually "walk with God", they simply use him to validate their biases against everyone they're uncomfortable with or don't like.
Wrong, Jake. There are many churches who have post-abortion programs for women. Mine has a food pantry that is stocked year-round. We also fund missions in the poorest parts of our own country, Venezuela, Kenya, and Eastern Europe. Christians are called (commanded) to care for the poor and sick. Christians are also imperfect and miss these commandments some times.
There are numerous Secular organizations that do the same without the imaginary cure (ie; heaven) being tossed in.
What are Christians "called" or "commanded" by?
And why do they need such "calls", when the rest of us have no trouble understanding on our own that it is important to help our neighbors and do good works, because that is the type of world we all want?
Are Christians a kind of special needs group?
This man losing his job because he changed his actions should be viewed in the same light as any other job and outside job requirements. One cannot blame an employer for firing an employee going vegan if the vegan employee is a chef who doesn't want to cook with meat products and yet works at a steakhouse. I am involved in law and will lose my job if I act in a manner that is contrary to the law, including being involved in civil protests. I am not sure how a teaching position can be modified to take a teacher out of direct contact with students. When your job is teaching faith and scripture and how to produce sermons, you need to have faith and read scripture and listen to sermons. Employers have the right to impose certain mandates on employees when it is important to the job they were hired to do; they should not be expected to bend the rules for some who don't want to be bound by those expectations and requirements. I am sure Bell must have known this going in.
I don't think you are speaking from experience and you are oversimplifying and stereotyping thousands of churches based on no information. My church doesn't turn its back on anyone who is struggling or suffering – regardless of their beliefs. An atheist could walk in today seeking help and would get it.
The church he was WORKING for has not declared they do not love him. They have not turned their back on him. He swore that he believed as a condition of his JOB. When he declared he no longer believed, he violated the term of his employment.
what a crock.
What a phony! This guy isn't a minister. He is just an individual who is riding the current anti-establishment trend, like the lesbian Marine waitress who pretended to be stiffed by a familyl of believers. She lied about her Marine service in an ongoing scam to convince the public to support her. This former Seventh Day Adventist is doing the same. Anybody who gives him a nickel is as big a nut job as Dennis Rodman.
Yes, someone willing to lose their jobs and friends is "riding a trend". I can see that you've thought it through.
Interesting that you can read all these minds and throw all these individuals into the same pot. I'm not saying I would trust this pastor, but what good do such generalizations do?
So as long as he belongs to your group, you'll love him, but as soon as he makes a different choice, you shun him. I see how that works.
"The truth shall make you free" John 18 12-58; Not a first person comment, but according to John! Hmmmm? I agree with the naked statement and commend the pastor for his bold effort dispite the financial setback.
My understanding is that the quote is actually "and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." Seems to me that this Pastor is doing exactly what he should be doing, embarking on a journey to "know" for himself, his truth – and the last people to criticize this fella imo, should be his brothers in Christ, who one would hope, would celebrate the experiment, because somewhere in that same book, I recall that one can perish for the lack of knowledge....
I applaud the effort to give atheism more exposure. Anyone who takes the time to read and digest Hitchen's "god is not Great" or Dawkin's "the God Delusion" and not realize that religion is man-made crap is...brainwashed beyond reason. I hope he makes million's on his book deal after the "experiment" is over.
The God Delusion is a terrible book from what I remember. I'm an agnostic, so I appreciate good, fair arguments when it comes to faith and atheism. Dawkins merely tore apart the fundamentalist conception of God – hardly a dismantling of religion or the belief in God. There are so many other views on who/what God is, and all they can do is attack the most logically inconsistent one (that there's an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God that personally cares about every detail of your personal life). Let's see some of these big time atheists actually right a book worth reading imo.
Atheists have written numerous books, virtually all of which acknowledge countless god concepts, while pointing out that NONE of them has the slightest evidence in their favor.
You always hear the tired comment from theists that The God Delusion and other books don't describe the god they believe in, but nothing they ever tell you makes the slightest sense. For a nice take on this, read this article:
Atheists have no great obligation to shoot down every incomprehensible, evidence-free, blathering theist's god concept in order to demonstrate some kind of impressive thoroughness!
Give me a break!
It's amazing how many people believe that the opposite of atheism is Christianity. Of course these would be mainly Christians who get this wrong. The opposite of atheism is theism. Once one goes from a lack of a belief in a deity to a belief in a deity then that person is no longer an atheist. How that person then makes the further monumental leap into Christianity is another matter all together.
False. Atheists constantly bombard the idea that Christianity is both the root of all evil and the opposite of atheism. The funny part is that Atheists are the new Christians. They constantly attack religion and oppress those who follow it in the same manner that they curse out Christian history.
Um, false. Atheists think it's equally ridiculous. You just live in a Christian nation so that's where you see the criticism.
Please tell me you are just being a troll arsh... There are atheists all over the world. And it also appears that the happiest countries are a majority atheists, Sweden, Denmark, Norway... Most atheists that I know just want to be free from religion and are very peaceful when expression their opinions of any particular mythical sky dweller.
Everyone should be free from religious or irreligious pressure, to that I whole heartedly agree. Now to your countries that are mostly atheist .. . .you really need to check your facts, Denmark is predominately Christian, same with Norway and Finland but there is a majority that do not fit into any one particular major religious group. hopefully your not using the Dentsu poll as your source, it is based only upon those who answered they do not fit into any religious group and their statistical sampling is notoriously skewed (there are 3 kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics......Mark Twain)
Arsh...you are incorrect. Its easy to see:
Atheist dont believe in ANY GOD...
Theist do...some of them are Muslim...some are Christians (then..within Christians..THEY can't even agree on important stuff.....it allows for endless escape holes when they get pinned in debates about God with atheist.)
Atheists don't need or should make a distinction. Your point is that there is. And if you still hold to your point...I ask you which story about Christianity are you referring and how do you know its right?
See the complexity there...us atheists see it..know it...and rightly refer to non atheist as theist NOT JUST SIMPLY CHRISTIANS.
"They constantly attack religion and oppress those who follow it"
First, all false teachings should be attacked; the only ideas we should respect are those that withstand scrutiny.
Secondly, I'd sure love to hear more about how you're being oppressed.
People in this argument love to define things as they WANT them to be. Atheism comes from the Greek. A- "without" theos – "god". It means without a god. Agostic uses gnosis – "knowing" to form agnosis (not knowing). Many atheists claim they do not deny the existence of a god. That makes them agnostic, they do not know but can still doubt. Atheism is the active denial of the existence.
Theism is the true opposite of atheism. Theists believe in the existence of a God without embracing any particular set of doctrines. Christians ADD the trinity of "father, son and Holy Ghost". Some acknowledge a "Mother Goddess" (i.e. Virgin Mary).
The quicker countries move away from religion the better. Most "Christians" in my life are total hypocrites and are only practicing when it's convenient. It's all brain washing people! We know for certain that earth is among hundreds of billions of planets yet, you really think a bearded guy appeared to create us. Get on a plane and look down. We are microbes on a speck of dust! Teach your kids facts we know are true. Teach kindness, love and empathy. Don't teach from a book that divides people.
I'm a Christian, but I'm inclined to agree w/ you. The vast majority of "Christians" do not serve the name well and it's not a suprise to me that the world in general has a bad taste in their mouth where christianity is concerned. However, although it is a vast majority, it is not ALL Christians who live like that. There are some, genuine, loving, honest, Bible living Christians out there who are an example of the love and character Jesus showed to all mankind. The BOOK doesn't divide people, people do that all on their own. ANYONE who has taken the time to actually STUDY the book and the God who wrote it has found that there is more than popular opinion to be said about it's sacred scripts.
I have no doubt, that anyone who is sincerely searching, with an open heart and a HUNGRY spirit, for the existence or lack thereof of my God, will most certainly come to the same conclusion that I have. He is real, he does exist and he WILL show himself to you...when you search the matter out!
"There are some, genuine, loving, honest, Bible living Christians out there who are an example of the love and character Jesus showed to all mankind."
– OK..how do YOU define those genuine actions? How do you define what loving is? You and every living person that has ever lived can MAKE UP what loving truly means. I would bet my life that MY definition is much more solid and deep than yours. So you are only saying feel good words here...not true feeling.
" The BOOK doesn't divide people, people do that all on their own."
The book is a claim. It is not proof. An honest person..as you say would understand that and know that. And if you except that it is the claim..the nothing from it is valid, to honest people that understand it is a claim, not proof The Book has many 'editions" with no one, who believes it, showing any concern of the lack of authenticity when they defend or refer to the BOOK. Its easy to keep it fuzzy....the BOOK that condones slavery. Again those conflicts are dismissed in the ambiguity of the BOOK's authenticity . A loving person would FEEL my pain about the importance of those discrepancies. Is that your understanding to be of loving? Or is it to lie to me and pretend that it isn't a HUGE deal that the authenticity of the bible is not possible?
"ANYONE who has taken the time to actually STUDY the book and the God who wrote it has found that there is more than popular opinion to be said about it's sacred scripts."
What is the criteria for establishing what is "found" from studying it? I say we use reason and logic..THE GOLD STANDARD for all other experiences of being human. Theists can not allow that standard. THEY WILL ALWAYS come to "trust me and my super human ability to feel things that are beyond reason and logic". To me..a loving, honest person would feel and understand the weight of this paragraph I just wrote.
"I have no doubt, that anyone who is sincerely searching, with an open heart and a HUNGRY spirit..."
You are not being sincere even as you speak the words. If the BOOK is the claim...you can't speak of "spirits" as if they are real. They and the idea of them are products of the claim. If you can't use the BOOK until you prove its authenticity...you can't mention the ideas in the BOOK. Follow? NO? Read again until you do...its important. Then...an "open heart" should have been an "open mind"..because an open heart are just feel good words that describe a super human ability to feel something. NOT REASONABLE.
I think you didnt intend to start a heated debate...but if you are truly honest and loving and sincere...you will take my words here and try to understand them..then honestly answer yourself when you think; "I can't defeat his points"
otherwise...to me, an atheist..you are absolutely no different than those YOU discredited...to be sure.
Regardless of your insults to the One who created you, He still loves you and yearns for you to come back to Him. You are supposed to live your life based on the Word of GOD and not based on what others are doing. You may be right to "move on from god (i.e. with the small "g") which would represent the things that take the place of GOD in your life. But to move on from GOD? My friend that would be catastrophic.
Repent and turn to HIM through JESUS CHRIST before it is too late
OMG, You have so touched me and you are right. The impending doom that your statement made me feel... I better repent before it's too late... /end sarcasm
Are you for real?
Because if you "move on from god", he, the all-loving god, will smite you.
You said "from god". Doesn't sound like this person was ever anywhere (other than his kin to Adam) close to being from God.
This isn't like trying on a new coat and seeing how it fits. I made up my mind a long time ago that there is no god, but I don't think I could ever go out and try man-made religion for a year.....it's not in my being for it to be an honest and valid experiment.
nor is it in my being. We must be from the same planet. Nice to have bumped into you here.
As an athiest myself, I hope he finds whatever he is looking for, whether he embraces athiesm as a new lifestyle or he returns to his faith. A true athiest is one who searches for the truth and tolerates and accepts all religious and cultural views. They do not have to believe or agree but they do have to accept the fact that there are others out there with different beliefs and respect the fact that, that is what they believe.
"A true athiest is one who searches for the truth and tolerates and accepts all religious and cultural views..."
Say what? Let's get something straight – atheist means "no god." That's all it is. It doesn't mean a good or bad person, so why are you ascribing virtues that you find desirable to a word that is morally neutral?
Knock that "no true scotsman" nonsense off. It has no place in an intellectual conversation.
ummmm..NO NO NO...an atheist rejects all theistic religion...but may tolerate other humans...to a point.
To be clear
All those claiming the schools and the church was wrong, listen he taught theological courses at a theological school, which by definition means that you have to be a person of faith (not to mention that these are not theological schools at state or public universities but denominational theological schools) and to pastor or counsel a church you again by definition have to be a person of faith. If he is going to be a person living without faith (an athiest), then by definition he cannot have these jobs. If he had a regular job, he wouldn't have lost it. It's like a doctor who decides not to practice medicine keeping his position at a hospital. He says "I will not operate, prescribe or see patients." What would the hospital do? They would fire him. Same thing with lawyer who won't take cases, decides to live like a criminial and won't go to court. He would lose his law license. Why should the churches be seen as hypocritical for dismissing someone who is saying "I'm going to live like you don't matter in my life and I don't hold the same beliefs you do"? It's contradictory.
My thoughts exactly.
Incorrect. Many theology teachers are non-religious. Theology study requires absolutely zero faith, in fact it's best studied without faith to get a non-biased viewpoint. Which is why atheists are often more well versed in theology than your average person..
I agree! I tried to make this point earlier. Saying something is a certain way "by definition" seems narrow-minded to me. Could a theist posing as (transitioning to?) an atheist bring value to a struggling seminary student? I say "Hell, yes!" Having doubt is healthy. If beliefs can't stand up to scrutiny, then why have them? If they can, then rock on!
"Same thing with lawyer who won't take cases, decides to live like a criminal and won't go to court." Hilarious . . . you have just perfectly described 90% of the business and transactional lawyers in the United States. Unfortunately, they don't lose their jobs. Instead they have quite lucrative careers.
How do you "try" a religion/belief? What a strange concept.... almost insulting to all religions and atheism... let's try another religion later to see if that's more beneficial.
exactly what i thought.
Depends on how mentally flexible you are.
Here is the difference between a real Christian and someone pretending to be a Christian; turning your back on God. A true Chrisitan when faced with trouble; life issues or stresses, turns to God. The person who pretends to be a Christian; turns away from God. I have no idea what Bell is trying to prove; but the lost of income; his wife and potentially his home, should be a wake-up call that God is trying to get his attentions. For those saying there is nothing wrong with what he is doing; that is your ignorace talking and many of you do not know God anyway; so your point is worthless
If you don't explore and test your faith, then it is not your faith...it is just what someone told you to believe.
I agree with Hilikus. No matter what your religion, you have to be faithful to who you are. Mr. Bell is being honest about the fact that he's not sure what he believes, and is choosing to confront them instead of denying them. He's also choosing to walk a year in the shoes of those whom he previously disagreed with. I think he's showing a tremendous amount of courage.
Sometimes you need to wander in the wilderness for a while before you know who you really are. People should support Ryan Bell in his wanderings.
I understand your point, but I don't think it is quite true. I suspect that most folks use religion as both a teddy bear and a crutch – it gives them comfort and something to lean on. It is not something that they want to change or to test.
Hogwash! We are fully persuaded.
If anything the loss of his wife speaks to her intolerance and ignorance but I guess it is not different than disowning your child for being gay.
Most Atheists were TRUE christians at one point. People like you don't get to redefine what a christian is just because you disagree. No-one is born a believer, everyone is indoctrinated to be one. Your god is only believed in by 2 billion of the 7 billion on this planet...are the 5 billion who don't share your belief wrong and if so, how are you so certain of this?
" I have no idea what Bell is trying to prove; but the lost of income" – it doesn't make a lot of sense for a man of no faith to teach at; Christian schools....."his wife" – not related, read the story..... "and potentially his home"- once again, related to his jobs at Christian schools. "should be a wake-up call that God is trying to get his attentions" – It's a wake-up call that there are natural consequences to any decision. Example: If I were in the military and decided I would be a pacifist for the next year, that would not bode well for my career path in the military or my existence in the respective branch.
It should be a wakeup call to you just how polluted and discriminatory religious ideology is to nonreligious individuals, but you just keep peering through your keyhole.
uhhhhh, okay.....I think we are on the same page. You don't read into my posts very well do you?
Hilikus is absolutely right. If your beliefs can't tolerate testing then you are just brainwashed and gullible. Most people follow a particular religion because it's the one their parents believed. It is the responsibility of thinking, rational human beings to question everything they were taught to see if it still applies to them and their world. Questioning and tossing out old, obsolete ideas is what led to desegregation, women's right to vote, gay marriage (albeit as slow as molasses), and even many simple everyday things.
So your saying you don't really believe what you believe because it makes sense, you just believe what you believe because you were told to believe it.
Are you saying that god in his supposed infinite wisdom is punishing this man for questioning his faith?
I'm not cool with anyone that Pretend's that they know who god is, who he likes, and who he doesn't. What I do know is we ALL will be judged by him, so save yourself the trouble.
So your god is so fragile that he lashes out at a single man that decides he wants to maybe see what else is out there? What a petty, vindictive god you have.