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Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?
Ryan Bell's "year without God" experiment has drawn a wealth of comments, from scornful to supportive.
January 14th, 2014
01:20 PM ET

Can you really 'try on' atheism for a year?

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(CNN) - Ryan Bell, a one-time Christian pastor, says he didn't expect his yearlong experiment with atheism to get much attention.

"This wasn't intended to be an international journey that was done in public," he told CNN's Brooke Baldwin last Wednesday.

But what began as Bell's personal project has now been covered by NPR, the BBC, Religion News Service, and, of course, here at CNN.

READ MORE: Pastor tries atheism, loses jobs, gains $19,000

It's not just the mainstream media that are along for the ride, either. Dozens of blogs and columnists have weighed in on Bell's "Year Without God," with responses ranging from support to skepticism to scorn.

Sikivu Hutchinson, a writer who has criticized the lack of racial diversity in the the atheist community, called Bell's foray into atheism "secular tourism."

"Bell joins a jam-packed, largely white, mostly Christian cottage industry of religious leaders who are capitalizing off of untapped reserves of atheist dollars, adulation and publicity by jumping onto the 'maverick ex-pastor' bandwagon," Hutchinson wrote in a recent blog post.

PZ Myers, an American scientist and prolific blogger on atheism, echoed Hutchinson's comments, and called Bell's experiment "simply ridiculous."

"It’s not a set of superficial practices, it’s a mindset," Myers said of atheism. "What’s he going to do at the end of the year, erase his brain?"

Since the responses have been so varied - and so interesting - we wanted to know what other thinkers and scholars have to say about Bell's experiment with atheism.

In short, we asked a whole bunch of smart folks if it's really possible to "try" atheism for a year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we got a wide variety of answers (The old adage about "three rabbis, four opinions" seems to apply to atheists as well.)

Some of these submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

Catherine Dunphy, executive director of The Clergy Project 

It would be accurate to say that some of our members tried similar experiments, though in a much less public fashion and for a shorter period of time before leaving their faith.

For myself, it was in stages. First, I decided to just stop praying and see what would happen.  Then I stopped going to church, and finally I decided that the idea of God just didn't make sense.

It was like learning to swim with "water wings." Eventually I realized I could float all by myself.

Testing the atheism waters, is in many ways an intellectual process but it is also intrinsically linked to emotion. God is often seen as a surrogate parent, a protector, a supporter. Untangling oneself from this type of over arching narrative is never easy.

Bell should be applauded for his attempt to ask the hard questions. Whether he'll be a theist or atheist on the other side of this journey, I don't know. But it is a good thing that he is wondering.

Penny Edgell, sociology professor, University of Minnesota 

What Bell is doing makes a sense if you remember that it is through daily practice that we become the people we are.  Meditation, daily prayers and devotions ... these are how people become Christian, Muslim, a believer of any kind.

And it's not just religion; there are all kinds of practical, self-help guides to being a better mom, a better husband, a more passionate lover, etc., all of which focus on doing the things that a better mom, husband, or lover would do until you a) feel more momly, husbandly, loverly feelings and b) it becomes a habit to act in the appropriate role-enhancing way.

So there is no reason to be skeptical about Bell's experiment.  Quite the opposite - it may work, and more profoundly than he anticipates.  A year is a long time, and if he really spends that year doing the things an atheist would do, he may not only act like an atheist, but feel like one, and in that union of action and feeling, find that he has become one.

Paul Fidalgo, spokesman, Center for Inquiry 

I think there is at least potential for profound personal and political implications to the discoveries Bell may make in his experiment.

Many people in times of crisis put a great deal of hope in the idea that God will come through, or execute a plan that makes sense of it all. But what happens when the mental and emotional energy that goes into prayer and wishing were put toward something more concrete?

Bell’s experiment won’t settle the religion-versus-nonreligion debate by any stretch of the imagination.

But he might help us to understand what powers we sacrifice when we spend less of ourselves on entreaties to an unknowable being, and direct those energies toward dealing with the real world, as it is, right now.

Dale McGowan, author of "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Atheism for Dummies"

Trying atheism is not only possible, it’s a very common step out of religious belief. The comedian and author Julia Sweeney called it “putting on the No-God glasses” to see what the world looks like when you stop assuming a god is running things.

A lot depends on how serious and honest someone is in the experiment. There’s a tendency to scramble back to old explanations at the first snap of a twig or the first feeling of wonder.

But those whose will to know is stronger than the will to believe usually find their way out. And when they do, the most common emotion they describe isn’t the anguish and despair they were told to expect — it’s freedom and relief.

Dave Muscato, spokesman, American Atheists 

I think what Ryan Bell is doing is a great thing. It's important to try to see other points of view so that you can have a better understanding of why other people don't believe the same things that you do. I don't think it's quite possible to try on the absence of belief the way he's intending to, though.

If Bell has made the choice to drop faith in superstition in favor of what the evidence shows, then he can understand the atheist experience. If he is holding on, he's not doing what an atheist does. He's simply not practicing his religion. I would say that a better name for this would be a lapsed Christian, not an atheist.

An atheist is an active role, not a passive one. We don't simply stop reading the Bible and stop praying and stop going to church. We love the process of learning and exploring answers.

Instead of resorting to "God did it," atheists are comfortable saying "I don't know, but I'm going to find out." That's where the fun starts; it means we're on the right path to finding the real answers to our questions.

David Myers, professor of psychology, Hope College 

In my book, "A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists," I quote the Christian author C. S. Lewis:

"Believe in God and you will have to face hours when it seems obvious that this material world is the only reality; disbelieve in Him and you must face hours when this material world seems to shout at you that it is not all. No conviction, religious or irreligious, will, of itself, end once and for all [these doubts] in the soul. Only the practice of Faith resulting in the habit of Faith will gradually do that.”

Indeed, psychological science confirms that attitudes and beliefs tend to follow behavior.  Act as if you believe—or don’t—and in time your beliefs may shift toward your actions.

Mitchell Stephens, author, "Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World"

I admit to being uncomfortable with the notion of “trying” atheism.

Can you try to have a conviction? And atheism, unlike religion, is not something that is simply accepted on faith. It presumes to be the result of reasoning and investigation. Limiting the experiment to a year also seems a bit artificial: that reasoning and investigation should never end.

Perhaps by “trying,” however, Bell means allowing yourself to be open to arguments that challenge your convictions. That certainly is noble. And the reading list of atheists and some of the West’s great questioners Bell has assigned himself is impressive. I would hope that nonbelievers would be as eager to confront the ideas of Kierkegaard or Dostoevsky.

Doubt, too, is noble. Surely, there is enough of it recorded in the gospels. Bell deserves credit for exploring rather than suppressing his doubts. He seems a thoughtful and courageous man. It is easy to imagine this being a rich and rewarding year – or lifetime.

It is a shame that some of Bell’s co-religionists are not better able to tolerate this exercise in openness and doubt. Perhaps that is one of the limitations of resting convictions upon faith rather than reasoning and investigation.

Merold Westphal, philosophy professor, Fordham University 

I think it is possible to "try" either atheistic unbelief or theistic belief to see if it "fits" in the sense of doing the practices that go with the position - praying or not praying, going to church or not going to church, reading the Bible or not reading the Bible, etc.

But I very much doubt that it is possible to suspend belief in the sense Bell suggested.

We do get caught up in the world of a movie and feel, for example, real anxiety. But then someone coughs or talks and we remember that what we are watching and hearing is fiction and the real world is the one where I'm sitting in a theater. We haven't ceased to believe, and the sense in which we have temporarily suspended belief (for an hour or two, not for a year) depends on powerful external  aids.  I'm not sure ceasing the practices of faith can have the same result, especially over so long a time.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, spokesperson, Secular Coalition for America  

I'm not exactly sure how you would "try" it, because atheism is not a religion with rituals and obligations (attending church, fasting, not eating pork, etc).

Either you believe or don't believe. If you're on the fence, I would say you're an agnostic, not "trying" atheism.

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Faith • Lost faith • Nones • Spirituality

soundoff (3,260 Responses)
  1. Aesop Rock

    If you want me to push, then happy to push. But if you're pulling while I'm pushing, then why'd you ask me to push?

    January 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
  2. AE

    Atheism doesn't work for me.

    January 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      That's your perogative.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
      • Cal

        People who use a statement in place of a name are cowards.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          Get over yourself. When I first posted here I used my first name.

          Other people used the same first name so I changed my handle because it was confusing having two voices with the same handle.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
    • G to the T

      Then I'd try shooting for Deism. All of the belief, non of the baggage.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
      • AE

        Jesus has freed me of my baggage, actually.

        January 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • G to the T

          If it's your truth, go with it. I had the opposite experience.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
        • um

          u mean jesus told u to not care for the poor and be me me me?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
  3. Live4Him

    @Craig : Do you have scriptural verse that supports your claim/opinion?

    A tithe is 10%. This is the ratio of giving that was given in the Law. Thus, God recognizes that some of the money should go to our own needs.

    <><

    January 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • Craig

      @Live4Him-"However, God understands our need to survive – which means that we can use some of that money for living expenses"

      –Really? Do you have a scriptural verse that supports this claim/opinion of yours?
      The question is where is it scriptural for you to use a portion of your t/the for your "living expenses"?

      January 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
  4. MrMightyHigh

    What a ridiculous concept. Nobody can live without God for an instant, let alone a year. God created and sustains the universe, and all life that is physically in it. His providence allows even the most vile denier to exist, to enjoy the delights of this earth, and to still have the opportunity to accept His gospel for eternal salvation. Want to know what it's really like to be without God? Keep rejecting Him, all the way to the grave, and He will grant your desire.

    January 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
    • G to the T

      Pure opinion and assumption. What evidence do you put forth that I should believe such a remarkable claim?

      January 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • igaftr

      Belief and opinion...nothing more

      January 14, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
      • Observer

        igaftr

        Belief and opinion and likely some trolling ...nothing more

        January 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • um

      then who created this "god" a super god? according to the original bible there is no "universe" so why do u talk as if there is one?

      January 14, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
      • MrMightyHigh

        No one created God. God is a self-existing infinite perfect power, who always was and always will be. That's the whole truth of what God is, and why we need Christ Jesus in order for us to be reconciled into God's eternal perfection.

        I'm not sure what you mean by the "original Bible" but it's true there was no word for "universe" in ancient Hebrew, but the Bible many times speaks of "the heavens" referring to the unknown vastness of the sky, and that God is rolling out these heavens like a tent. Funny how they knew then that God was still expanding His creation, which has been confirmed in recent years by science even though they have not yet discovered the reason for the acceleration, other than what they call dark matter and dark energy.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
        • Hear This

          Mr.
          " Funny how they knew then that God was still expanding His creation,"

          That's not what "stretching out" means. Don't be silly.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      Ridiculous? Well I've been going for over 6 decades, and still going strong.
      Haven't missed any gods. Suspect I never will.
      But it would sure be nice to not have BS artists like the evangelists around to scare children and the weak minded.

      January 14, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
      • MrMightyHigh

        Will you still be going strong after 12 decades? Better think it through. And that is not meant to scare you.

        Truly, God's invitation to His Kingdom is based on mercy, not fear. Evangelists who promote fear are preaching false doctrine, at their own peril, and so I agree with you it would be nice not to have them around, spreading a deceptive and ineffective message. True repentance comes from a desire to please God because of the grace He shows us, not as a way to escape His wrath. To accept Christ only to escape punishment is not the fruit of a humble and changed heart, but the act of someone grudgingly holding onto their self-righteousness and pride. Man is already fallen, and all are doomed. But God by His grace and to show His love and mercy, has chosen some of us to pull out from the abyss that we all deserve. Do you hear a knocking at your door?

        January 14, 2014 at 10:24 pm |
        • Randy

          So, you agree that we should all kiss Hank's ass.

          January 14, 2014 at 10:31 pm |
        • Randy

          Mating habits of the sasquatch.

          January 14, 2014 at 10:32 pm |
        • Hmmm

          " But God by His grace and to show His love and mercy, has chosen some of us to pull out from the abyss that we all deserve"

          Seems you think you're among the few, because you have the correct understanding of things and most others are deluded, eh?

          January 14, 2014 at 10:39 pm |
  5. ME II

    @Daniel Burke,

    Good article. Thanks for putting this together; it is a good survey of some excellent thinkers.

    January 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Agreed!

      January 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • G to the T

      +1 here. I thought it was giong to be another "here's what people in the comments section said" arcticle but this was a great way to get some more points of view.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
  6. bostontola

    If I remember correctly, Mr. Bell's split with his church started with it's stance on same se.x relationships. He could easily end up back in a Christian denomination that has more liberal att.itudes.

    January 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
    • G to the T

      Agreed. No what the outcome, I can't see him returning to the same faith he left.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
  7. Live4Him

    @igaftr : Simple reason is I have not drawn any conclusions, you have...see the difference?

    If so, then you will admit that the Biblical God is as likely as 'no god exist'. Do you?

    <><

    January 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @igaftr (2:04 pm): I am an atheist

      Never mind. A subsequent post revealed the truth. One cannot be both agnostic and atheist.

      <><

      January 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        "One cannot be both agnostic and atheist"

        Of course you can. You can disbelieve in God (atheist) but not be able to categorically assert that there is no God (agnostic).

        January 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
      • Joey

        I would say that given the qualities that god is described to have in the bible, and pairing that with reality, that the Christian god does not exist. However, there could be a god out there somewhere who perhaps caused the Big Bang and has not been seen or heard from since.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
        • G to the T

          Well said!

          January 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
      • igaftr

        L4H
        Yes one can be bboth atheist and agnostic. Why you keep trying to force your definition on everyone I will not understand.

        I do not believe any of the gods men have created exist.
        There is an energy in the universe that is life....since we do not know enough about it, it is possible that it is an effect of what one might define as god, but no definition of god is sufficient to encompass the possible realities.

        I know you cannot fathom the nuances of it, similar to the way that Einstein referred to god, not as an ent!ty but more of a concept.
        So yes, I am an atheist in the belief that all gods thus far have been created by men, and that none of them exist.
        And yes I am an agnostic in the fact that there are an infinite number of possibilities, so no conclusion as far as the universe is concerned can be drawn.

        I don't expect you to be able to fathom what I mean, based on your flawed understanding and representation of science and logic.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
        • RB

          Are you the one who said, God could be electromagnetism?

          January 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
        • igaftr

          RB
          Not that I ever recall.
          I see the universe as energy, in many forms, but I do not believe I ever associated those two terms.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
        • No Evidence

          "I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." (Albert Einstein, 1954)

          January 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
    • Barcs

      Wrong. It's not just as likely. It is far more likely that god does not exist because of the extreme lack of evidence. Burden of proof is on those who claim something to EXIST, not the person who says your claim is BS. Non existence is the logical default, so god not existing wins until evidence is presented that shows he does indeed exist.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
    • Alfred

      "If so, then you will admit that the Biblical God is as likely as 'no god exist'. Do you?"

      I tend to agree that it takes faith to assert there is not a god and faith to assert that there is a particular god. But the degree of faith involved in the two assertions is vastly different.

      "The amount of faith required to make any assertion varies inversely with the evidence supporting that assertion". I read that on one of these blogs once, so I'm not taking credit for it, but I think it eloquently puts the idea in a nutshell. In other words, lots of evidence means very little faith required, very little evidence means lots of faith required.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
      • aldewacs2

        You are sugar coating the FACT that there is zero evidence, hence accepting the existence of gods requires pure, 100% unadulterated faith. Unsupported, irrational, wishful thinking type of faith. More like accepting a known lie and wishing it was true.

        January 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm |
    • G to the T

      "If so, then you will admit that the Biblical God is as likely as 'no god exist'. Do you?"

      No. It may be better to say that the existence of "a god" is as likely as "no god" but the Christian god can be invalidated based on the attributes ascribed to him and the sources for those ascertations. No god vs. Christian god is not a proper comparision.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
  8. Happy Atheist

    I'd just like to see all the supposed Christians try and actually live like Christ for a year...

    January 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
    • Live4Him

      I try every year – and I fail every year. But this won't stop me from trying each and every day.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
      • um

        jesus lie like u?

        January 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Be careful what you say.

      Rachel Held-Evans might try to write another book on the subject.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
  9. Observer

    It doesn't seem realistic to expect someone who has opened their mind to questioning everything, would return to a religion full of some good morals, but also errors, contradictions, hypocrisy and nonsense.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
    • G to the T

      I'd be willing to bet that if he does go back to being a believer, it won't be the same belief that he left either way.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  10. Dr. James K. MacGregorr

    Atheists and just sad, angry and deluded people...

    January 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
    • Observer

      "Doctor",

      What is your degree in?

      January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      Indeed, it seems that is all you find on these blogs now...

      January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
    • igaftr

      "Dr."
      "Atheists and just sad, angry and deluded people"

      You know that it is against one of the 10 commandments to bear false witness, as you have just done.
      I am an atheist, am not sad, nor angry, and I do not know what delusions you speak of, and please don't try to say that not believing in h=gods is somehow delusional, since that would make no logical sense.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
    • Cal

      "Atheists and just sad, angry and deluded people..."

      Your use of the word inplies 2 groups of people: "atheists" AND "sad, angry and deluded people". And your "..." implies there is more to the statement. So what do these 2 groups do?

      January 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
      • Happy Atheist

        Yes, Doc here is saying that there are two groups of people, atheists and the sad angry deluded religious zealots who frequent this blog.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
      • ME II

        @Cal,
        I suspect that was a typo and s/he meant "are" not "and".

        January 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
        • Cal

          I would assume so, just having a bit of fun.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
        • ME II

          Ah, now I feel a bit slow on the uptake. lol

          January 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
        • OTOH

          It's a rather Freudian type slip, though, idn't it!

          January 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
    • Cal

      I kind of wonder if the good Dr here actually used his real name. With google and all.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
      • No Evidence

        Doctor dumb a$$

        January 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • um

      religious nutcases are sane morally good trustable people. until they find out u r not of the same belief or as devout as u...

      January 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
  11. Saraswati

    When this story came up initially, a lot of people were questioning a person's ability to choose what to believe. In light of the fact that many people say they have done this, I think questioning how true this is says more about people who imagine it isn't possible than those who seem to be able to do it.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • Live4Him

      @Saraswati : I think questioning how true this is says more about people who imagine it isn't possible than those who seem to be able to do it.

      We agree. Ultimately, everyone chooses what to believe. Sometimes, this is based upon the evidence and othertimes they believe because it is the cool thing to believe in at that moment.

      <><

      January 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
      • G to the T

        In general, people tend to believe things for emotional reasons and then rationalize that decision.

        January 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
        • Live4Him

          Agreed. That was my point in the latter statement.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Agreed also. But rationality and evidence also play a role to varying degrees, just not as prominently as perhaps people would like to believe.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
      • Madtown

        And not everyone has the same choices due to some arbitrary factors out of our control, place of birth, etc.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • G to the T

          Also very true. It is the rare individual that's able to see beyond the time and place he was born in.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
      • Saraswati

        L4H,

        I wasn't saying that everyone chooses, but form some it is a choice. For others less so.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
        • Live4Him

          Do you know ANYONE who was forced to choose their belief? This is not including those who claim one thing but believe something different.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
        • Saraswati

          We may be thinking of choice in a different way so let me restate without the term. I think that some people can say "Holding belief X would make me happier (or be interesting) so I will adopt the psychological belief state with regard to that position" and then do it. I think some people do in fact do this. Others don't and would find it impossible. I don't have an opinion at this point that one type of person is better than the other, but I have met people of both types...who believe because they want the end of believing and who believe with less personal intent.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
    • bostontola

      People vary in their abilities and characteristics, I hope we all agree on that. One of those characteristics is suggestibility. It is strongly correlated to strength of belief. People with very strong beliefs may have a harder time empathizing with people that have weaker beliefs. That could lead them to assume that the person "switching" or questioning is not sincere.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
      • G to the T

        Absolutely. To me, deism is bascially a "false positive".

        January 14, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Yea, I think it's really a specific case of how difficult it is to empathize with those who are significantly psychologically different.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Agreed. I think the problem with the original article was that it was positioned as "trying atheism" (like a shirt or a pair of pants) rather than highlighting that he appears to doubt and can't decide whether he believes or not.

      The spiritual crisis of realizing he might not believe anymore is one that many atheists can identify with.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
      • Saraswati

        I think my point though is that some people can "try on" certain beliefs or world views. I did it myself once with a philosopher I initially didn't get. I stuck myself in the library a couple of days reading myself into that world view. It was very hard to get there but I did it and could have stayed.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Thanks, yes, I understand what you mean.

        The distinction is the ability to have a truly open mind on the subject.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
        • Saraswati

          I think perhaps it takes even more than what we think of as an open mind. An open mind says "If the environment or facts lead me to a belief I will accept that and let my neural connections rearrange". Actively choosing to adopt a belief or world view takes work and is hard enough that I have experimented with it rarely. Perhaps for others it is easier. But being open minded I see as giving myself more time to try on an idea. Like if this guy had decided to stay Christian but slowly start reading a few atheist books and see where it led him.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
  12. bostontola

    Interesting that the sociologist and the psychology professor had the same response. That actions and practice can lead to a change in beliefs and can solidify them. Mr. Bell may be more affected than he planned.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • G to the T

      It makes sense. That's why I've always been leery of the "pure agnostic". How do you live your life (behavior) as if you haven't decided to believe or not yet? If you aren't sure you're either going to act as if there isn't one (when convenient) or you may act as if there is one (to hedge your bets I guess). I don't see how you can act as if you aren't sure...

      January 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
      • bostontola

        Action leading to belief does not imply that is the only factor affecting belief. I don't know, but pure agnostics may simply not care about the answer and are unmotivated. Who knows.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
        • G to the T

          Oh I totally see where you are coming from. I guess I'd call them "agnostic apatheists" – Don't know, don't care.

          Regardless I think it's safe to say that if you act a certain way for long enough, it can stop being an "act" once/if you've internalized it. Once heard it takes 8 weeks to generate/break a habit. Guess we'll know more in a couple months?

          January 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
      • Madtown

        How do you live your life (behavior) as if you haven't decided to believe or not yet?
        ---–
        I don't think this is a true representation of the agnostic, it's not for me. I don't think you "decide whether or not to believe", I think you admit that these things aren't knowable for certain. Admitting we can't know for certain seems much better, to me, than accepting something that has been created by man, simply so you can choose a side.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
        • G to the T

          But I'm not talking about what you know or don't, I'm asking what you believe. I guess that's where I get stuck when someone says they're agnostic. Agnostic what? It's only answering half the question. IMOHO

          January 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
        • Madtown

          I believe that we can't know the true and real answers to these questions! 😉

          January 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
      • Barcs

        Simple. You live your life based on what's tangible and real. You can believe god might exist without haven't to apply it to any decision or thought process in life. You seem to think that morality vanishes without a structured belief system, but this is false and Jesus taught that very concept. It's really about empathy.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Simple. You live your life based on what's tangible and real. You can believe god might exist without haven't to apply it to any decision or thought process in life. You seem to think that morality vanishes without a structured belief system, but this is false and Jesus taught that very concept. It's really about empathy."

          Noooo... I believe we all create our own morality within the confines of the cutlure/time we live in. All I'm trying to say is that I don't see how you can live as ONLY an agnostic as it only speaks to knowledge, not belief.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
        • RB

          “It's really about empathy.” Except for those who don’t secrete oxytocin correctly and what chemical is it that would make you turn the other cheek?

          January 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • aldewacs2

        I think that people who claim to be agnostics are really atheists who don't want to enter into pointless conversations with pushy religionists who want to claim another soul. Easier to straddle the fence and say "I don't know".

        January 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm |
  13. Alfred

    The only things a religious person does that an atheist wouldn't do seem to be pray and regularly attend a church. Most "religious" people I know don't do those things anyway.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
    • bostontola

      What about the things atheists do that religious people don't?

      January 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
      • Alfred

        Can't think of any–can you?

        January 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
        • bostontola

          Question the existence of God.

          January 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
        • Alfred

          I think religious people can do that.

          January 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
        • bostontola

          Difference between "can" and "do".

          January 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
        • Alfred

          I think there are religious people who "do" question the existence of their god, but the answer they come up with is that he does exist.

          January 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
        • bostontola

          I'm sure that is true, but do you think religious people really question to the degree that atheists do? Do they follow that up with a search for objective evidence?

          January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • Alfred

          Probably not. I don't know any statistics or anything, but I imagine most atheists started out being religious, then something triggered some doubt/skepticism and they began to question and investigate. Some people stop investigating when that gets too uncomfortable for either social or emotional reasons, some stop when they've reached an answer they're comfortable with, whether it's affirmative or negative.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • bostontola

          That's probably close to the target.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
      • Cal

        How about masturbating without feeling guilty about it?

        January 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
        • RC@Cal

          AHHHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

          January 14, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
      • Barcs

        You mean like critical thinking, scrutiny over beliefs, living life based on what is proven to be true, etc etc?

        January 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
      • aldewacs2

        Think critically and look for supporting facts.

        January 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
    • Live4Him

      You forgot tithe in your list.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • Alfred

        Do you ti.the? If so, why?

        January 14, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Alfred : Do you ti.the? If so, why?

          Yes, I do. Lets assume that someone gives you $80,000 to use as you see fit, with the condition that you must give 10% to a group(s) that further's his/her cause. Would you do it? Most people would. I consider everything that I or my spouse earns belongs to God. However, God understands our need to survive – which means that we can use some of that money for living expenses. So, I consider it a blessing to have been loaned this money.

          <><

          January 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • Alfred

          "I consider everything that I or my spouse earns belongs to God."

          I find that a strange idea, since it was seemingly also his before you earned it and will also be his after you spend it.

          But what I was wondering is if you believe there is a directive to ti.the (and how did you get that word past the filter?). If so, how do you make sure God receives it? Merely giving it to a church doesn't mean it gets to God. It used to be people had to take their offerings to the temple–that's how God "received" it. No temple, no way to get anything physical to God, no reason to ti.the.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
        • Craig

          @Live4Him
          "However, God understands our need to survive – which means that we can use some of that money for living expenses"

          –Really? Do you have scriptural verse that supports your claim/opinion?

          January 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
        • Live4Him

          @Alfred : since it was seemingly also his before you earned it and will also be his after you spend it.

          Consider this – A slave on a plantation works for his master and 'earns' his/her master revenue. The slave collects the money for his/her master and then subsequently disburses those funds as needed – giving a full accounting to his/her master later.

          @Alfred : ti.the (and how did you get that word past the filter?)

          It's a pain, but enter it as "t<b></b>ithe". The HTML fools the filter and it appears as normal. Please note, offensive posts could still be deleted and offensive people could be banned from the forums, so don't use this technique for offensive posts.

          @Alfred : what I was wondering is if you believe there is a directive to ti.the

          They're 'more like guidelines than rules', but yes. If you cannot give cheerfully, then don't give. But, if you can give cheerfully, give as much as you can do so cheerfully – be it 1%, 5%, 10% or even 50%. But the criterion of cheerfully should never be sacrificed.

          @Alfred : Merely giving it to a church doesn't mean it gets to God. It used to be people had to take their offerings to the temple

          Temple/Church – its all the same to God. Both can be corrupt and both could be wholesome. So, you need to understand how the money is used by the organization receiving you contributions. Your responsibility is to God, not the church. So, if the church is misusing its funds and you could have found out about it, you will be held accountable.

          @Alfred : no way to get anything physical to God, no reason to ti.the.

          What's God's purpose here on earth? To spread his message of redemption. A church could be part of that effort, but so could an individual. If the church is only lining its own pockets (or the pastor's), then it doesn't deserve your contributions. God doesn't need your money, but others who do the will of God do need it.

          <><

          January 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
        • Barcs

          I never understood why people give so much credit to god for everything they do, but won't blame him for all the bad and refuse to acknowledge their own successes. Why would your income belong to god? Did he help you earn the money? Did he give you investing advice? Did he have anything to do with your job whatsoever aside from being referenced in a book? It's lame. Professional athletes always have to thank god, as if their success has nothing to do with their work ethic and ability to learn. But yet when teams lose and the players are interviewed, you don't hear them blaming god for the loss. It's always so one sided. If god is responsible for everything, he should be thanked for everything good and cursed for everything bad.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Richard

          Alfred, you're right, the entire concept of ti-thing doesn't make sense. I'm giving God back some of his money? Supposedly, IT'S ALL HIS anyway, wherever it is, whether you "give" any to him or not! And you're right, giving it to a church doesn't get it to God, it gets it to a pastor. No burnt offerings anymore, no sacrifices required.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
        • ME II

          @Live4Him,
          "Consider this – A slave on a plantation works for his master and 'earns' his/her master revenue. The slave collects the money for his/her master and then subsequently disburses those funds as needed – giving a full accounting to his/her master later."

          Not to offend or anything, but it makes me sad that anyone would view themselves this way or even make the comparison.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
      • Joey

        Plenty of atheists donate money to charities which is pretty much the same thing.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
  14. G to the T

    I'll never understand why people are still trotting out CS Lewis as if he's the be all end all of christian philosophy...

    That being said, I agree with much of what was stated above but am once again embarrassed that Muscato seems to think he can speak for what all atheists "believe". Even though I agree with much of what he says, this kind of generalization tends to irk me.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
  15. David

    Proverbs:
    3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
    4 Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

    5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
    6 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]

    January 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
    • igaftr

      Jesus freaks
      Out in the streets
      Handing tickets out for god

      Elton 19:71

      January 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
    • doobzz

      "The kites of olden times, as well as the Swans, had the privilege of song. But having heard the neigh of the horse, they were so enchanted with the sound, that they tried to imitate it; and, in trying to neigh, they forgot how to sing.

      The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of present blessings." – Aesop

      January 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
    • RB

      Very good David, I like the words used in the KJV

      Proverbs 3: 5-6
      Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
      • OTOH

        RB,

        "Jeremiah 17:9

        King James Version (KJV)

        9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

        January 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
    • Topher

      "I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak
      There ain't no disguising the truth"

      DC Talk 19:95

      January 14, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
      • igaftr

        Yes , another one who cannot distinguish truth from belief.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
      • Corbin

        Jesus freaks > Elton freaks

        January 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm |
    • OTOH

      David,

      The Book of Proverbs? Written allegedly by Solomon? The same guy who said not to spare the rod on your child... and whose own son, Rehoboam, turned out to be a desp.icable tyrant who lost half the kingdom?

      Rehoboam: " My father laid upon you a heavy yoke, which I will make heavier: my father beat you with scourges, but I will beat you with scorpions." 2 Chronicles

      January 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm |
    • Jon

      In the context of this article that is an excellent passage from the Bible.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
  16. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    What is wrong with Ryan Bell seeking truth (small -T) and knowledge? Isn't that what we all seek as humans? Since he has already started doubting his religion, it seems like a natural progression to explore a different path. After all, most atheists are born and raised religious... until some point in time that they realize that it is nonsense.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
    • RB

      Big T Truth = Jesus.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
      • G to the T

        RB – your opinion. There are billions of people in the world that would disagree with your "Truth". If there were a big "T" truth, I would think it would be easier for people to access.

        January 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
      • No Evidence

        Big "M" = Mythology = Jesus.

        January 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
    • No Evidence

      "most atheists are born and raised religious... until some point in time that they realize that it is nonsense."

      Exactly what happened to me.

      January 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      NOBODY is born religious. We're all pure atheists at birth. Pollution comes afterwards, in a form that depends on the geography of your birth.

      January 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
  17. Topher

    Ridiculous. You either are or you aren't ... if you don't know, you're agnostic.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
    • igaftr

      Most people do not know the distinction, or that one can be both atheist and agnostic, such as I am.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
      • G to the T

        Here here. I'd be willing the bet the majority are angostic atheists and just don't know the terminology well enough...

        January 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Very black and white... except you know that nothing is rarely that cut and dry.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      Theist – Someone who, regardless of the lack of evidence, believes in God/gods.

      Agnostic – Someone who can't decide if the evidence they have supports the idea of a God or maybe it doesn't, they just aren't sure.

      Atheist – Someone who, based on the lack of evidence, does not believe in God/gods.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
      • G to the T

        That sounds about right. And then you can combine them – Gnostic Atheist, agnostic atheist, gnostic theist, agnostic theist (though some are certainly rarer than others).

        January 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
    • Topher

      Pretty fair definitions. But of course I reject your "lack of evidence" parts.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
      • Alfred

        How about "extremely limited evidence"?

        January 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • Topher

        No, I'd say there's TONS of evidence. Of course whether you conclude it's good evidence or enough to sway you, that can be debated. So I think you'd need to say for an atheist it's a perceived lack of evidence. And would be the opposite for a theist.

        January 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
        • igaftr

          The problem you have with your "tons if evidence" is that none of it is exclusive evidence, excluding all other possibilities.
          You have just accepted it as if it were exclusive.
          You do not have evidence that there are any gods. When there are MANY other possible explainations, your evidence fails to show any gods.

          January 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • Topher

          I can use that in reverse on you. If the evidence is for God and you still reject it ...

          We all have the same evidence, but we also all have presuppositions.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
        • igaftr

          No, you cannot use the reverse on me. Simple reason is I have not drawn any conclusions, you have...see the difference?

          January 14, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
        • Topher

          You said earlier you're an atheist.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
        • Aesop Rock

          There is no objective evidence of god, whatsoever, and that's a fact.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
        • Topher

          How is that a fact?

          January 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          yes topher I am an atheist and agnostic.
          None of the gods men have made are real. Men have been making gods for a long time. so yes I am an atheist when it comes to mans concept of gods, mens defintions of gods. I see the history and the psychology behind why men need the crutch, I just do not need the same crutch so it is a fascinating behavior, but at the same time, my mind can be changed, and my conceppt of "god" is nothing like your definition.

          I know you will not be able to understand the nuances, so apply whatever label you like, none really apply 100%.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
        • Topher

          igaftr

          "None of the gods men have made are real."

          I agree with that.

          "so yes I am an atheist when it comes to mans concept of gods, mens defintions of gods."

          Me, too.

          "I see the history and the psychology behind why men need the crutch, I just do not need the same crutch so it is a fascinating behavior, but at the same time, my mind can be changed, and my conceppt of "god" is nothing like your definition."

          Might I suggest another possibility? So many people believe in a god, not because it's a crutch, but simply because we all know there's something higher than us. We look at the Creation see its order and complexity and say, "There's just no way this all came from a cosmic accident."

          January 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
        • igaftr

          topher
          But everything can be a "cosmic accident", well within the realm of possibility.

          It is very likely that there is no reason nor purpose for the universe.
          Also, there is no reason to believe that there is any sentience whatever is not known. You claim a "higher power" which in itself is presupposed, as if therre is some "higher" energy when higher denotees a position, where no position is evident.

          I prefer to know that there is an energy in the universe that is life, likely a natural energy form akin to electricity.
          I see us as a tiny focal point for some of that energy, but like all energies, a transient form. Like a drop of water, that has been around for a long time...it could have been in MANY animals and other life in it's billions of years existance. Today, it is a part of me, but I just worked out and sweated that drop out, now it has evaporated and is floating around, it forms into a cloud and then rain, and is recycled back into another amnimal, with no memory of having been anywhere before. THAT is the way I see the energy of life...all of the sentience in the universe is transient, and perhaps ALL life and all sentience is just the universe trying to figure itself out, that all life is that sentience, like a single cell in my brain is not intelligent, but all cells combined are rather formidable.

          To think there is a god/creator that cares about us as individuals, makes no sense at all.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
        • Topher

          igaftr

          "But everything can be a "cosmic accident", well within the realm of possibility."

          Not mathematically. And certainly not within any reason. The universe is incredibly fine tuned, so much so that if something, let's say gravity, were off even by a little bit we'd cease to exist. And how do you get order from disorder? How does something come from nothing (this one breaks the laws of thermodynamics)? How do you know there was a painter? The painting itself is proof. How do you know there was an builder? The building itself is proof. Same with the Creation. If you have one, there MUST be a Creator. In fact, I'd argue that if what we have is an accident, you couldn't do science because you should never get the same results.

          "It is very likely that there is no reason nor purpose for the universe."

          Wow. Not much to hope for in your worldview.

          "To think there is a god/creator that cares about us as individuals, makes no sense at all."

          Why not? If there is a god, which we already know thanks to the Creation and our conscience, we can conclude it's bigger than us, smarter than us, can communicate ...

          January 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Why not? If there is a god, which we already know thanks to the Creation and our conscience"

          Creation... maybe. Conscience – not so much. We have a pretty good handle on how empathy, etc. could have developed naturally. Check out "kin selection" as an example of one type of "natural" empathy.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
        • Topher

          G to the T

          You're agnostic?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
        • um

          there is ZERO evidence. none. nil. nada.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
        • G to the T

          "You're agnostic?"

          I'm an agnostic atheist. I don't claim to know either way but I don't feel the evidence is convincing enough to me there that there is. I don't eliminate the possibility, I just don't go there for my default reasoning.

          January 15, 2014 at 8:17 am |
        • igaftr

          topher
          "Not mathematically. And certainly not within any reason. The universe is incredibly fine tuned,"

          I have no idea where you got that from.

          First, I don't know what flawed math you are using, but since the calculations do not amount to zero, the math becomes irrelevant.
          And within reason. It is in reason if it is not zero. Since we do not know all factors, it will always be higher that zero. (what is your calculation for the odds a god exist?)

          The universe is far from fine tuned ( implicating something was tuning it, which there is no evidence for). As a matter of fact, the universe is constantly trying to kill us and will eventually succeed.

          Everything you said is based on YOUR belief in YOUR god, so really is not based on anything.
          Keep to your nagic book, and leave the realities of science to those who fathom them.

          January 15, 2014 at 8:42 am |
      • G to the T

        If you believe there's enough evidence to "know" there is a god, I believe that would put you in the gnostic theist camp.

        January 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
        • Topher

          why a gnostic theist?

          January 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Gnostic" meaning to know (opposite of agnostic), "Theist" because you believe that sufficient evidence has been provided.

          Your "belief" and "knowledge" both point towards the existence of a god. That make sense?

          I'm the opposite – agnostic atheist.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm |
        • Topher

          Yep. I got ya. Though I'd be hesitant in using the term "gnostic" because of the group of the same name that were heretics.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
        • Aesop Rock

          What makes you so sure that your branch isn't the branch of heretics, while the gnostic gospels are the true word of god? I'm just interested in how you know which one is true.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
        • Topher

          I just follow God's Word. They didn't.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm |
        • Topher

          I wasn't really talking about the gnostic gospels, per say. But they are disqualified for many reasons. They weren't written by who they claimed to be written by. They were written far too late. They disagreed with canon. Etc, etc.

          January 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
        • Madtown

          I just follow God's Word.
          ---
          MUCH more accurately described as: I followed "Man's word – containing a subset of the notions man has generated about what he believes God is possibly like".

          January 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
        • Topher

          Nope.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • Joey

          Neither were the actual gospels Topher, so can we go ahead and throw those out also?

          January 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
        • Topher

          Joey

          "Neither were the actual gospels," what?

          January 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
        • G to the T

          "They weren't written by who they claimed to be written by."

          I believe what they are saying Topher is that we have no proof that the "real" gospels were written by who they are attributed to. Indeed, even beyond the gospels, most scholars believe only about 1/2 of the works attributed to Paul were actaully by Paul and none of the book supposedly by Peter.

          As such you can't point towards the authority of the books you reference because they had the same claim to authority. You don't believe they were right because history is often quite literally written by the victors.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
        • Joey

          They weren't written by Matthew, Mark Luke or in John's case the John that knew Jesus. So they were not written by the people who the bible claims wrote them. IN fact none of the authors of the gospels ever met Jesus.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm |
        • Topher

          G to the T

          "I believe what they are saying Topher is that we have no proof that the "real" gospels were written by who they are attributed to."

          They can claim it, but it would be a false claim. The fact is, we do know who wrote most of the books. For instance, we know John wrote Revelation because Polycarp, one of the early church fathers who sat at the feet of John, testified to it. In fact, we have a lot of writings from the early church that would confirm these things.

          "Indeed, even beyond the gospels, most scholars believe only about 1/2 of the works attributed to Paul were actaully by Paul and none of the book supposedly by Peter."

          I'd agree we're not sure who wrote Hebrews ...

          "As such you can't point towards the authority of the books you reference because they had the same claim to authority. You don't believe they were right because history is often quite literally written by the victors."

          I can point to their authority. See above. The books in the NT were written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. Automatic baloney detector.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
        • Topher

          Joey

          And how do you know that? There's no reason to believe so and if you read above, there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. There's no book in all of antiquity that has been vetted more than the Bible. It can be trusted.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • Fan2C

          Topher,

          "Automatic baloney detector"?

          A lot of people LOVE baloney. Some of Joseph Smith's 'eyewitnesses' even recanted their 'testimonies' and still there are over 14 million Mormons today, after only about 150 years.

          Most of the people, by a far majority, who were living in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel at the time did not buy into those stories.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
        • Madtown

          They can claim it, but it would be a false claim
          --
          Says you. Others claim the opposite.

          January 14, 2014 at 3:56 pm |
        • Topher

          Madtown

          "Says you. Others claim the opposite."

          Then they reject reason. Even secular historians agree Jesus existed, even if they reject His Godhood. Because it meets all historical criteria. We often conclude we know something about Julius Caesar, but we've got more texts and texts closer to the event when it comes to Him than for Caesar.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
        • Johnny

          Yes, and non of the early church fathers would have told a lie to keep the story going.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm |
        • G to the T

          "The books in the NT were written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses" Unfounded assertion.

          Luke and Acts were written by the same person and that person probably was Luke, but he based his book off an early source (Mark) as did the author of Matthew. Indeed, how many of the 4 even state WHO they were written by? It's all after the fact assumption. Did you know the revelation of John almost didn't make into the bible and the revelation of Peter almost did?

          I understand it may be part of the basis of your faith, and I'm not saying any of this to be contrary or put you out. But what I'm telling you isn't controversal, this is pretty basic textual criticism here.

          Take Peter – is it really likely that an illiterate fisherman learned how to read/write Greek, took Greek rhetorical classes, mastered the Septuagint and then wrote the books of Peter? I'm sorry, I just don't have that much faith...

          And don't even get me STARTED on the OT! Phew! That one is a mess!

          January 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • Topher

          And what lie are you willing to be tortured and die for?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
        • No Evidence

          ......"even if they reject His Godhood."

          And why do you think that is???........ perhaps lack of evidence?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
        • Topher

          G to the T

          "Unfounded assertion."

          I don't see how it's unfounded at all.

          "Luke and Acts were written by the same person and that person probably was Luke, but he based his book off an early source (Mark) as did the author of Matthew."

          Not true of Matthew. But as far as Luke, it was also due to sitting at the feet of Peter and Paul.

          "Indeed, how many of the 4 even state WHO they were written by? It's all after the fact assumption. Did you know the revelation of John almost didn't make into the bible and the revelation of Peter almost did?"

          But it didn't. The right one is there. So I don't see your point.

          "I understand it may be part of the basis of your faith, and I'm not saying any of this to be contrary or put you out. But what I'm telling you isn't controversal, this is pretty basic textual criticism here."

          I'm not put out by it at all. This is all stuff I used to say before I was a Christian. I understand where it comes from.

          "Take Peter – is it really likely that an illiterate fisherman learned how to read/write Greek, took Greek rhetorical classes, mastered the Septuagint and then wrote the books of Peter? I'm sorry, I just don't have that much faith..."

          How do you know he was illiterate? It's a fallacy often used here that no one had any education or even had the basic ability to read and write. This is clearly not true. For instance, since we have books by Peter, we can see he did. But you also have to understand the Jewish culture at the time. If you had any religious education at all, you had to memorize the OT.

          "And don't even get me STARTED on the OT! Phew! That one is a mess!"

          😉

          January 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
        • Topher

          No Evidence

          "And why do you think that is???........ perhaps lack of evidence?"

          No. I'd say they knew it, they just rejected it because they love their sins more than they love God. — also known as suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. The Bible even tells us that every one of us knows He exists and thus will be without excuse on Judgment Day.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
        • Randy

          Did Moses sail with all those animals on a lake of fire for 44 years so you could say stupid and demonstrably false things?

          January 14, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Topher

          G to the T

          Also, about Peter knowing Greek ... they'd been controlled by the Romans for a long time. It was the predominant culture. I'm sure just about everyone at least spoke it.

          January 14, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
        • G to the T

          @ Topher – the literacy rate back then was extremely low (less than 15% of population at it's highest) and even then, "literate" usually just meant that they could sign their name. Also, the ability to read and the ability to write were not taught together as they are today. He was from a small backwater town in the provence of Galilee and a fisherman. Archeological digs have found to trace of a synagouge there until much later. Also, unlike today, all jews were NOT expected to be able read the Torah (which would have been in Hebrew, not Greek by the way) and they certainly couldn't afford to take the time/money away from their work. Greek – I'll admit that he may have been able to speak some greek, but that's VERY different from being able to read Greek which is very different from being able to write in Greek which is also VERY different from being able to use Greek rhetroical devices in his writings.

          Your "evidence" that he must have been literate because he wrote the book of Peter is a faith based one (and circular logic to boot). All the evidence about that time and place point to him being just like everyone else he knew – illiterate and poor.

          January 15, 2014 at 8:29 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      In the original article the pastor in question defined himself as "agnostic".

      January 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • Madtown

      if you don't know, you're agnostic
      ---
      Too simplistic. No one "knows" the answers to these questions FOR CERTAIN. You certainly don't know, though you think you do. I don't know, and have no problem admitting it. I think everyone is truly agnostic, but people label themselves differently.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  18. Tony

    "Meditation, daily prayers and devotions . . . these are how people become Christian, Muslim, a believer of any kind."

    I disagree. The way most people become whatever religion they are is by being born in a location where that religion is dominant. Even if they don't start off religious and become religious later in life, the religion they "find" is usually the one of those around them.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The daily devotions are intended to chase away the doubt that is inevitable with the 'inherited religion' that you allude to.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
    • um

      aka parents or grandparents poisoning the minds of children with faerie tales

      January 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
  19. Ungodly Discipline

    It is possible to try to 'try' atheism for a year.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm |
  20. Happy Atheist

    Anyone can try atheism. It is just a matter of believing your doubts about deities which everyone has. Trust your doubts, they will get you further than any trust in faith has.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
    • RB

      Doubt can be a great faith builder.

      January 14, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.