January 8th, 2014
08:39 AM ET

Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. Shills

    This guy is baloney folks.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
  2. Aaron

    Saying you lost your job because you identify as Atheist sounds just awful. Until you realize that all his jobs were religious ones. Uhhh... Same with saying he contemplated going hungry or getting by on odd jobs. SHOCKING! Well, dummy, you spent your whole life learning no skill other than preaching. If you throw that away, what do you expect will happen? It's like me going to school to become an industrial designer and then going in and telling my bosses that I no longer like designing things and I'm not going to do it anymore. I'd lose my job too! DISCRIMINATION! THEY DON'T WANT TO EMPLOY ME BECAUSE I NO LONGER WANT TO DO ANY OF THE THINGS I USED TO DO AND THAT MY JOB ENTAILS! WAAAAH!

    Seriously this dude needed a reality check. And when he voluntarily stepped in one he was shocked by reality? And I suppose he views Atheists as the truly welcoming ones and his former religious colleagues as bigoted toward his new view? OK, how about he goes and gets a job at an Atheist magazine or blog as a writer. Then tell his boss that he's going to go back to being a full blown Christian preacher. Lets see how supportive the Atheists are then.

    Being a preacher was his meal ticket. When it didn't work out and he questioned the tenets of his faith MAYBE instead of throwing everything he believed out the window he could have realized that his approach to belief was simply wrong. Preaching for money is inherently wrong. Christ didn't do it and neither did his Apostles. Being a believer who shares and helps and encourages and serves without hope of monetary reward is probably where he should have stepped next. Instead of this sham experiment he probably figured would get him noticed. (Hey, it worked! My Atheist Experiment Youtube video just went viral!) And if he truly was a believer but had problems with the 7th Day Adventist faith, maybe he should have done a deep dive of the Bible to find a faith that most closely resembles the one that Christ established. But, then he'd be a Mormon and wouldn't be able to make money off of the belief or disbelief of others. He'd have to get a real job yet live a life more dedicated to his faith than he ever did as a preacher. And that would just be too hard...

    January 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
    • QS

      Wait...Mormons don't make money off the beliefs of others? LMAO!

      January 8, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jake

      You seem to think someone was saying that it was discriminatory and he shouldn't have been fired. You wrote this massive post saying he got what he deserved, yet I haven't seen anyone suggest otherwise. Who are you whining to exactly?

      January 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Ti.thing is an important test of our personal righteousness. President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) said: “By this principle it shall be known who is for the kingdom of God and who is against it. … By it it shall be known whether we are faithful or unfaithful” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 276)."

      "if a dest.itute family is faced with the decision of paying their ti.thing or eating, they should pay their t.ithing." (Lynn Robbins, General Conference, April 2005).

      January 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Don M

    Ironically, the "prominent atheist blogger" mentioned in the story, Hemant Mehta, did the best job pointing out the absurdity of Bell's so-called experiment. Either (a) God exists (theism) or (b) God does not exist (atheism), and (a) or (b) is true regardless of Bell's experiment or belief. If God exists, Bell's experiment would be like living as if gravity is not true. I suppose you can give it try, but your experiment will do nothing to change the fact that there exist something that, while unseen, is literally grounding your life.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @don, but that is not true. it may simply have had the illusion of grounding his life.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Gravity is proven to exist (even if we don't know exactly what it is) and can be measured ... gods have no evidence for existence, past or present, and cannot be measured.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
      • Don M

        @If horses . . . You might not believe the evidence for God's existence is compelling - e.g., the existence of the universe; the beginning of the universe; the fine tuning of the universe for life; the realm of objective moral value; the facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth; personal experience of God; etc - but that does not mean there is "no evidence." And, the evidence is certainly "measurable"; the arguments and the evidence supporting the premises in the arguments simply need to be more plausibly true than not. You might think the arguments and evidence are not plausibly true (for example, you might believe that the universe did not begin to exist at some point in the finite past, which is a premise in the cosmological argument), but that is a measurement you are assigning to the arguments and evidence.

        As for gravity being "proven": How so? Answer: by our experience. We posit gravity to explain certain phenomena we experience, like falling objects. The same can be said of God's existence - again, regardless of whether you think the evidence is compelling or you think we don't "need" God (as I anticipate your reply will be to the evidence I cited).

        January 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Existence doesn't prove the existence of Abraham's God. Every religion has a creation myth.
          The "fine tuning" argument relies on the premise that the environment is adapted to us as opposed to us being adapted to the environment.
          Moral relativism is a truism. Morality is a covenant by and for human beings that allows us to live as a cooperative group. The rules followed are not the same for all communities – hence we've had so many different types of religion and government throughout history.
          What historical facts we have regarding Christ tells us that there likely was a radical rabbi who called out the Jewish clergy on their bureaycratic nonsense and who wanted to take his God to the gentiles.
          There is no proof of the supernatural elements in the Bible story.
          Many people have had personal experiences with aliens. Do you believe the greys are out there, ana/lly probing random rednecks?

          January 8, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
        • Don M

          @Doc. Not sure what you mean by "prove." Evidence can demonstrate that God's existence is more plausible than it would have been without that evidence. So, to use an example from criminal law: evidence that blood from the dead victim and the was found in the defendant's home, along with the murder weapon, is evidence that the defendant killed the victim. That evidence does not "prove" the defendant did it, but the evidence makes it more plausible that he did thant it would have without that evidence. That's all evidence does not.
          Even if the fine tuning argument contained the premise as you stated (it does not), you'd have to give some argument as to why you think the premise is false, not just assert it to be false.
          You are confusing moral ontology, with moral epistomology. The moral argument has nothing with do how people interrupt or come to know their moral obligations. Rather, the moral argument says that moral values and duties have their foundation in a transcendant anchor point, independent of people's beliefs and actions.
          I'm not relying on the "supernatural elements of the Bible," whatever they might be. I'm referring to historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth that scholars agree on - namely, that Jesus was crusified; he was buried in a tomb by a member of the Jewish sanhedrin; the tomb was found empty by some of his women followers; Jesus's deciples had experiences of Jesus alive from the dead; and the deciples began a movement that was so un-Jewish based on the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. Now, those are the facts. The question is: what is the best explanation of those facts. It seems to me that the best explanation is the one the deciples gave: God raise Jesus from the dead.
          I would say that one is justified in believing the veriticality of one's personal experience, unless he is given some defeater for the truth of that belief. So, no, I doubt the veriticality of the alien experience, because I know the likelihood of an alien being able to travel to this planet undetected is too remote. But, my doubt of someone else's (false) experience does nothing to defeat the truth of my experience.
          I hope that helps.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
        • Scott

          Predictions which are confirmed.

          The existence of the universe is not evidence of any deities. You can place post hoc explanations and claim gods, it does not make the claim 'evidence'.
          If this is your level of understanding of how Science works – it would explain why you might think other claims about Gods existing as being evidence.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
        • Scott

          Fine tuning argument –
          If I have six people with each one having some system to predict the outcome of a die roll – each one predicting a different number. Now roll the die. Does the fact that one person got it right make their system better than any of the others? Is that evidence? Well, I guess you might be able call it very very weak evidence.
          Move this up to a lottery with 20 million possible options. Can the winner claim some supernatural cause was the reason they won? Would they have blamed that same supernatural cause if they didn't win? Can't have it both ways.
          We exist, the universe exists – this is true if any deities exist or not.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
        • Scott

          How many women found the tomb empty? Which account should be trusted? If at least some of the accounts are wrong why can't they all be wrong? They all can't be correct, but they all can be wrong.

          When was the guard placed at the tomb?
          Was the stone already moved when the women found the tomb?

          January 8, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
        • Don M

          Putting aside your perjorative comments, you've suggested that the existence of the universe is not evidence of God. I think a cogent argument can be made from the existence of the universe (all of space, time, matter). One such argument, first defended by Liebnitz, would go like this:
          1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
          2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God (a spaceless, timeless, immaterial being).
          3) The universe exists.
          4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1, 3)
          5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God (from 2, 4).

          January 8, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
        • Don M

          Scott re Fine Tuning: You have the wrong analogies regarding the fine tuning argument. What you have demonstrated is that any particular roll or number is improbable. That's not the argument. The argument is that the fine tuning is both improbable AND there is a independent pattern that tips us off that the fine tuning of the universe is not just by chance but rather by design. The correct analogy would be a lottery in which there are billiions and billions and billions of black balls and just one white ball. If the ball picked is black, you die. If white, you live. It is true (as you try to show in your lotto example) that any ball being picked is equally improbable, but it is vastly more probable that the ball picked will be black, rather than white. If the one white is picked, that should tip you off that there someone behind the lottery rigging it. Now, take that lottery, and do it five times in a row. Each time, the one white ball is picked. That's the correct analogy.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
        • Don M

          Scott re Fact Surrounding Jesus: Again, the core facts I cited are agreed upon by the majority of historian. What you are complaining about (e.g., how many women?) are secondary details. Maybe some of the Gospel writers got some details wrong. So what? That's the job of the historian - to search through historical writings (in this case, letters) and figure out the nuggets of truth among the writings. Some historians argue about what John Wilkes Booth said to the audience at Ford's after he shot Lincoln (a secondary detail to Booth shooting Lincoln). But no serious historian argues that Booth did not shoot Lincoln.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
    • Scott

      No –
      Either the individual believes in one or more deities – theist.
      Or, the individual does not hold a belief in any deities – atheist.

      This is true regardless of if any deities actually exist.

      January 8, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
    • Scott

      Yes, but the effects of gravity can be tested very easy.
      Predictions can be made based on the Law of Gravity and then testing the prediction with actual data.

      Comparing not believing in deities and not believing in Gravity ... one of the most silly strawman arguments I have heard in a long time.

      January 8, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
      • Don M

        @Scott: You are still confusing "belief" with truth. Gravity is true, you seem to grant, and it's true regardless of someone's belief that it is not true. So, if God exists (notice, this is a conditional statement), then "believing" that God does not exist is the same as "believing" that Gravity does not exist. Bell's belief that God does/not does exisit does nothing to effect whether God exists. He is either does or doesn't; belief is irrelevant. This is not a radical statement, Scott. You just don't grant that God exist, but that does nothing to my conditional statement. My statement is the same as this: IF the sun exist, then "believing" the sun does not exist is the same as believing gravity does not exist. The sun exists or does not exist. Someone's belief that it does not exist does not change the fact of the matter. The same is true of God - His existence is not dependent on some random dude's belief, thoughts, actions, etcs.

        January 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
        • Scott

          I agree that reality is not dependent of beliefs. No argument.

          Atheism is not the claim that deities don't exist.

          Gravity, the Sun, ... Vs God existing would be the same if you can design experiments to actually confirm that any deity exists, set the criteria where your God is a better explanation than any other deities that have been claimed, and that a deity is needed for explaining what we observe. You do risk just falling into an argument from ignorance, by claiming God fills the Gaps we don't know yet.

          Funny that you find the issues with interstellar travel and just anectodes as evidence is not enough to convince you, yet anectodes and even more outrageous claims and you are convinced about Jesus/God. Why is one more compelling than the other.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
        • Don M

          Scott re "if you can design experiments to actually confirm": I doubt you apply this theory of knowledge - scientism - to other aspects of your life. For example, can you design an experiment to actually confirm that you exist, that you are not lying in "the matrix"? Can you design an experiment to actually confirm that you are not just a brain hooked up to electrodes by a mad scientiest who is stimulating your brain to make you believe you exist?

          January 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
      • Juanito

        I find gravity fascinating as we can experience it, test it, and make those predictions and arrive at conclusive findings, but yet it still remains a phenomenon as we cannot build anything to replicate it.

        So we have an experience that we encounter daily but cannot reasonably express what is happening(I've seen the mathematical formula for gravity and still yet to get the 'EUREKA!' I was hoping for). Some even hypothesize that the force acts much like a balling ball being dropped on plastic wrap that covers a pool of water. It's a push down effect, so it seems.

        Our human comprehension is incredibly limited. And still there are many who believe we have enough to deny the existence of God.

        His fingerprint is stamped on His creation. It's there.

        In His Love, Juanito.

        January 8, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
  4. Okie Dokie

    My path towards Atheism came as I was trying to be more rational in my life. It made me happier. I didn't have to suspend
    disbelief when turning on a TV station listening to a bunch of snake oil salesmen. I love old Christian/Buddhist friends as
    much as ever and never try to sway them in my direction. I did get wind of a job I was once about to apply for from an employee that they were a tight knit bunch all of the same faith. I bit my tongue, but felt discrimination knows no bounds.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
    • bostontola


      January 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
      • Aaron

        OK, so the mere thought of working with a group of tight knit religious types made you change your mind about applying and yet THEY are the ones discriminating?

        Realize one thing. The very things that many Atheists rail against religious people for, they act out themselves. Atheism is a belief. And the believers of that faith can be just as judgmental, hypocritical, discriminatory, and self absorbed as any religious person.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • bostontola

          He didn't change his mind, he bit his tongue (i.e. he had a concern).

          January 8, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
  5. kyzaadrao

    Apparently CNN didn't realize people on both sides of the fence can recognize hypocrisy and publicity stunts when they see them.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
    • bostontola

      I don't know what Mr. Bell's motives are, but I don't assume it's a stunt (it may be).

      January 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
  6. bostontola

    The Seventh-day Adventists don't believe your soul burns in hell if you fail, maybe that gave him a little breathing room to explore. Is the burn in hell thing an option in Christianity? If not, are these Seventh-day Adventists Christian?

    January 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
  7. peterz

    Belief was not for free?

    January 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Bootyfunk

    give atheism a try = give logic a try

    January 8, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
  9. Riiiiight

    Let me get this straight....in a nutshell–you ask me to believe a man suffered a horrible death on a cross to save me from my sins, sin brought into the world when some lady talked a guy into biting into an apple? Ri-i-i-i-i-i-g-h-t. The bible was written by man to control man. p.s. Yes, we all fake religiosity in the buckle of the bible belt.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
    • Lilith

      My favorite part is where this god impregnated someone else's wife!

      January 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
      • Riiiiight

        Right–Joseph got de-friended by many when he texted them THAT news!

        January 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        If I was a woman in a culture where unwed mothers were stoned to death by their neighbours, I'd claim that my baby was magical too.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
    • Lamb of dog

      Makes sense to me. Don't forget about burying dinosaur bones to try and fool us.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • Alias

      If you read your bible it will tell you that the all powerful creator of everything HAD to do that so he could judge us the way he wanted to when we die. god has no other options.
      Does that help?

      January 8, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • Aaron

      And you expect us to believe that without any intelligent direction, all existence randomly exploded into being from an infinitely small and infinitely dense point of matter that existed nowhere and now continuously expands into nothing. And that that expansion is not decelerating, but ACCELERATING. OK. That sounds completely logical and provable. It's like the friggin scientific Nicene Creed. Totally incomprehensible. But you go right on believing that Science has no mysteries and that nothing about Atheism is taken on faith.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Not believing in gods doesn't necessitate a belief in the Big Bang theory.
        Atheism is a negative statement that describes only what someone does NOT believe.
        It is like calling the singer in a band an "a-instrumentalist". While technically correct, it doesn't say a thing about what they actually do.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
  10. peterz

    First he saw the shadow of belief, the hatred?

    January 8, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
  11. AverageJoe76

    Can I pretend to be Billy Swaggart for a year? I'll mislead people, gain lots of dough, then wake up a millionaire!

    (I might actually be on to something......) Oh wait....... seems there's lots doing that already.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • Heddy

      Who's Billy Swaggart?

      January 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
      • AverageJoe76

        Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Swaggart

        January 8, 2014 at 3:53 pm |
        • Aaron

          Jimmy =/= Billy.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
      • shoos

        He's Jimmy's brother. 😀

        January 8, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
  12. stagger72

    It would be awesome if no one cared. I must be in a huge minority, because I don't care what my neighbor's religious beliefs are. I don't care where he chooses to stick his penis – as long as a child isn't involved. And I don't care what color his skin is. It's all you people screwing everything up... 🙂

    January 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
    • alliewines


      January 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • Alan Bryce

      So, given you don't care, why should it matter if a child is involved, or an animal for that matter? What about criminal acts if they don't harm others? How about minor thefts? Or acts of violence

      You seem to want to draw your own lines as to acceptable and unacceptable behavior, but then criticize those of us who definitions of morality, civility and legality differ from yours.

      The point is that something frames your way of thinking about the world and how humans should and should not behave and interact with each other. While religion is just one frame of reference, it is one that has stood the test of time for helping us organize ourselves and lead healthier more productive and more fulfilling life. And it also honors our creator and promises us something more than just +/- 72 years here.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
      • Madtown

        those of us who definitions of morality, civility and legality differ from yours
        You draw your own definitions of morality as well, thanks for the admission.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • Alan Bryce

          Yes, I understand that my moral code is different from Stagger72's, as well as from yours. I never professed to imply my code was the only code or that my code should be automatically imposed on you or others. I only pointed out that we all have some form of moral code that we rely upon or depend upon in some way.

          I am not a Christian who purports to know all the answers or seeks to impose my beliefs on others. Rather, I want to live a Christ-like life and, by example, demonstrate why the moral code of Christianity leads so many to a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

          January 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
      • snowboarder

        empty promises not withstanding.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
  13. jimbojonesiv

    So, is anybody familiar with the flies in your eyes conundrum? Take it from someone who has no flies in their eyes, I can see yours quite clearly, even if you never will. This article is complete bull. If you believe in God, how can you suddenly not? Not consciously praying and not going to church is not atheism.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • Heddy

      Aren't you rarified.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      “Would a fly without wings be called a walk?”

      January 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
  14. Michael

    This story proves that once again, people who claim to follow Jesus and his teachings have NO CLUE what Jesus stood for. he stood for humanity, forgiveness, love, and redemption. Not hate and turning your back on someone just because they hold different points of view. Christianity has become lost in people's own selfish creation.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
    • Bill

      He stands for scapegoating and thus the abandonment of personal responsibility and standards.
      He stands for a God who creates things knowing they will fail while also allowing a horrific and grotesque peril to loom over them.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
    • Topher

      Jesus stands for justice and moral perfection — and will be just in punishing lawbreakers. But because that includes every last one of us, He also stands for love. And if you repent and turn to Him, He will forgive you your sins since He already paid your fine.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin


        January 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
      • ME II

        How is it justice for God to forgive those who trespass against me, or forgive me for those against whom I trespass.?

        January 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
        • Topher

          Because as Creator, He's also the rule-maker. If you've wronged someone, He's just to punish you. He can't just let you go. That wouldn't be just. Justice must be served. So He paid your fine. And if you receive that gift, justice is still served and you can walk out of the courtroom. But if you reject it, He's also just to punish you.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
        • ME II

          If He want's to forgive "sins" against Himself that's his business, but how can He forgive transgressions against others?

          January 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • Topher

          Do you mean like if I wronged you, say, by punching you in the nose, why should he forgive me for doing that when it's you I wronged?

          January 8, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
      • Madtown

        He already paid your fine.
        "Never heard of him, has he paid mine?"

        – guy who grew up w/o christianity

        January 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Madtown : Never heard of him, has he paid mine?

          Only if you're willing to accept him as Lord of your life.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
        • Madtown

          Pay attention....I've never heard of him. Even someone as thick-headed as you has to admit that it's impossible to accept something if you're not aware of it's existence, right?

          January 8, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • jason

      I'm sure they are fine with his different beliefs. It's the problem of him trying to be a spiritual leader when he is not that likely is the issue. How can someone is is an atheist lead God's people and teach them to be holy and set apart, when they are not themselves. If there was ever a conflict of interest, this would be one. It would be the equivalent of the CEO of McDonald's publicizing an "Eat at only Burger King for a Year" experiment. He would be fired the next day. Hate has nothing to do with it.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
  15. grafikit

    I don't get this experiment. You can't just not believe as an experiment. It's like me saying "You know what? I LOVE Ice Cream but I'm going to pretend i don't like it and not eat it for a whole year!"

    It STILL doesn't change the fact that I LOVE ice cream. Seriously.

    He may not have prayed or did any of his daily religious activities but at the end of the day he still believes in God.

    And of course he risks losing his credibility and his job because HE'S A PASTOR. Anyone who loses their job will go through hardship. It has nothing to do with faith in God. To be jobless sucks and it ends up causing more problems when you're unemployed both in spirit and in life.

    Had this guy been a bank investor or doctor he would have retained his job. Life would move on as normal the only difference would be the practices he used to do.

    Again, this to me doesn't make any sense of an experiment.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
    • Observer

      It does make sense. He has already shown that Christians are hypocrites and that atheists DO help other people.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
      • Real1tyCheck


        January 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm |
    • Mike

      You don't get it because it's not a legitimate experiment. It's a publicity stunt / propaganda stunt disguised as an experiment. There is absolutely no validity to what he is doing at all. Anyone who knows anything at all about the scientific method is laughing uncontrollably right now.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
      • shoos

        Yes! Thank you.

        January 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
    • culuriel

      Actually, people try to live as if they don't love ice cream all the time. It's called a diet.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
  16. DarkLordWalking

    Please don't refer to him as a pastor if he is going to be an atheist. Atheists don't have pastors. Sounds like he is taking a cue out of the fictional congressman Francis Underwood's playbook. "I pray to myself for myself."

    January 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
  17. Irwin

    For me as a Messianic believer, when I asked Yeshua into my life it was quite dramatic. I know that God has forgiven me of all my sins, and I now have a deep peace that I did not have before. I can't speak for this man, but I sure wonder if he was sincere before the Lord.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      I have a deep peace as well. Mine comes from the acceptance of my finite existence and the reality we live in. I am free to be a caring, moral, ethical human being completely by choice and not by threats of punishment or reward. Being atheist is truly freedom.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
      • Ron

        horses, your peace comes from "acceptance of this finite life", well that is nice, but that is not knowing the peace Irwin is speaking of, that is God's peace that comes from forgiveness of sins. You do not have this peace, and you do not have freedom, but rather, you remain in bondage to the flesh, void of the Spirit of God.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
        • alliewines

          Athiest: I am happy
          Believer: No you're not

          January 8, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Thanks Soren, but you can keep your Kierkegaarding BS to yourself.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
        • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

          A believers peace comes from a self reinforced delusion. I'm not saying they don't have peace, just a peace by a different means. But if telling me I'm wrong brings you peace, enjoy yourself since none of it changes reality.

          January 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • Yakobi

          You miss the point, Ron. "Sin" is just a made up idea, just like all of the gods. Your "sins" were already "forgiven" because they don't really exist.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
  18. Practicing religion is for the professionals. Oldest trick in the book.

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

    January 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Swaggart

      January 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
  19. Jeff

    "You don't always know where you stand
    'Til you know that you won't run away"

    If you never challenge your beliefs, if you never dare to ask yourself "what if I'm wrong", how can you hold firmly on to your beliefs? I give Ryan Bell two thumbs up for having the courage to go outside his comfort zone to learn more about his fellow man.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
  20. Topher

    I'm going to try and be rational for a year.

    January 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Good Luck

      January 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
    • Topher

      Thanks, Fake Topher.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
    • fred

      If this is the real Topher I just want to say thanks. A few things you said regarding evolution and the dating error of volcanic rock made me rethink the atheist in the Gaps explanations for the unknown. I did not think there were any valid arguments against an old earth and evolution. Now, I have few to look at closely.

      January 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
      • Topher

        No problem, dude. Not only are there reasons not to trust in an old earth, there's plenty of evidence in support of a young earth.

        January 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • Jake

          LOL, having fun talking to yourself Topher?

          There are no valid reasons to think the earth is only thousands of years old.

          January 8, 2014 at 4:41 pm |
      • Johnny

        Most likely everything Topher said is not true. Having read his posts on those issues before I can assure you he doesn't know what he is talking about.

        January 9, 2014 at 10:06 am |
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About this blog

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