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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
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(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. vancouverron

    I've often wondered what it would be like to be illiterate. So for the next year, I'm going to pretend I can't read.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
    • Akira

      Lol...good luck with that, and don't forget to check back with us to let us know how that turned out...

      January 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm |
      • vancouverron

        Huh?

        January 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
        • Akira

          Well played.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm |
  2. trollol

    You can pretend to be an atheist for a year and see how people react but if you want the real experience, you will have to mentally question everything about religion even if it means blasphemy. That was the biggest hurdle I faced when I was struggling to rectify myself. Don't let the fear of "sin" control your way of thinking or what you do. We don't need to be fearful of "hell" to be good people.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
    • Topher

      But ARE you a good person?

      January 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
      • Just can't see it

        Well, believing in god certainly never made anyone a good person. Look at George W. Bush!

        January 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
        • Topher

          Bush aside, I agree.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm |
      • Russell

        @Topher
        You're not. Liars are not good people.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
        • Topher

          I agree completely. I am a liar AND I'm not a good person.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:40 pm |
      • trollol

        Whether or not I am a good person is irrelevant. The truth is still true even if it comes from a bad person.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
        • JJ

          Toche`

          January 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
        • Just can't see it

          This is true.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
        • Just can't see it

          Absolutely true.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:49 pm |
        • Topher

          Jesus said "I am the truth." So I agree.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
        • CommonSensed

          @Topher – And Gandalf said, "even the wisest cannot see all ends" and I agree with him.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
        • Science Works

          Topher

          Prof. Higgs said there is no god I agree.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
        • Topher

          False dychotomy

          January 14, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
      • Topher

        The insinuation ... "We don't need to be fearful of "hell" to be good people" ... is that only Christian can claim to be good people. It's just the opposite. Christians claim to be bad people. And because we are bad people, we should be afraid of Hell.

        Have you ever told a lie?

        January 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
        • Randy

          Just demonstrate that your god exists, and demonstrate that none of the other gazillion gods throughout human history don't. Prove your preferred holy book is true and no others are. Muslims claim that Allah exists and their book is perfect and unchanged, and all prophecies therein have been shown to be correct. How can you beat that? Prove your story true and prove theirs false.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
  3. Patrick

    Atheism is not something to try on. It's not a pair of pants, a choice of food or some other fad. I am an atheist. I do not believe in God or religion. If you believe in these things "trying out atheism" is ridiculous. If you look at religion, facts and beliefs, and do not think that they are correct, only then are you truly an atheist. If you believe there is a God, then you are not. No one has denied me a job because of it, fired me due to it or offered me more money because of it. I live my life morally because it is the right thing to do, not because of a higher order and in some cases I live it on a higher moral plane than many Christians, Jews or people of other religious denominations. Ridiculous premise for a ridiculous attempt at media attention.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      And donations. Don't forget the donations.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
  4. Susan

    Me thinks you protest too much! Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. I am sure that many professed atheists have been subject to much prejudice because of the way they believe. That is a shame, and when that prejudice comes from so-called Christians, it's a double shame. As a Christian, I know the God of Love. I believe in his Son, who took away the sin of the world. So, you don't? That is okay. And if Ryan Bell is "experimenting" with atheism, I think his questions have been around a long time. That's okay. Maybe he doesn't believe in God, but God believes in him. And in all of you that are so angry with Him. He is Love.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Just can't see it

    I was raised Catholic, Christians in my immediate family - but I just can't see it. Can't believe in god. Just too silly. It's just so obvious that religion, Jesus, god and all that is an invention of humans to make them feel better about the hard truth of mortality. Sorry - there just ain't no god and we've got to deal with that.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
  6. bostontola

    People vary on so many characteristics and on many levels. Some people gravitate to the simplest explanation, others gravitate to complexity.

    God is a perfect solution if you are looking for a 1 stop shop for answers. Christianity tells you how we got here, why we are here, how to live, etc.

    That 1 stop shop didn't work for me at all. I found answers in science, art, literature, history, relationships with other people, etc. I achieved a fulfillment much greater than I ever had before. I appreciate our world and value it much more highly than before. My answers take more work to discover in this way, it would have been much easier to simply open the bible, but the reward has been much greater.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
    • CommonSensed

      It's far too easy to live as a sheep. People like easy.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
    • bcs2006

      The thing I always found interesting is that on the surface, yes, Goddidit is a simpler explanation

      but even science in all its complexity is still WAY simpler than an almighty unseen intelligent being controlling everything when you really look at it. ALL of our scientific theories are simpler than that conclusion.

      January 15, 2014 at 9:47 am |
  7. Justin Hamaker

    A person can certainly live without practicing their faith for a year. Not actively praying, not going to church, not reading the Bible, and so forth. But being atheist is about not believing in a god. You may be able to present yourself publicly as an atheist, but you can not pretend in your own mind. If you are a believer, it would be virtually impossible to silence the internal dialog about whether you are doing the right thing; or asking your god for guidance if you find yourself in some sort of crisis.

    I appreciate what he's trying to do. And I hope what he goes through will bring light to the social struggles and isolation that can come from being a non-believer. I hope it will show how some religious people can be very judgmental when they think/know someone does not share their beliefs. But being atheist is not something not something you can simply try on.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
  8. pa jesseson

    give me a challenge like this I can't succeed at, geezus.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
  9. Jerry

    There are answers to be found on the questions that many of us seek. But to say 'there is no God' is a step in the wrong direction. That is just giving up. Few do it, because they can see it for the cop out that it is. I kept seeking, and the Lord revealed Himself to me through Yeshua/Jesus. As a Messianic I am so glad I kept seeking and received Jesus, the Son of God, as my Savior. Don't give up! May you come to know His peace.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
    • JWT

      Some never try to seek out your version of a god for there is no reason to.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mopery

      Prove that there is a god.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
      • Phil

        Mope, you need to seek Him out. Step up to the plate and search for Him. He is there to be found.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
        • Mopery

          So you have no proof then?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
        • Russell

          Why do people keep asking for proof?
          They KNOW there isn't any. Get over it already!

          January 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
        • Phil

          Right guys. Other than the heavens and the earth. The Son and the Moon, the sea and the land. Our next breath. Your right, theres no proof that God made us and sustains us. None at all. lol

          January 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
        • Mopery

          Russell, you're absolutely right about there being no proof, and to believe without proof would only make you gullible.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
        • Mopery

          Phil, the Sun, Moon, and stars all exist, unlike god.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
        • Randy

          Right. Have you found Vishnu yet?

          January 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm |
    • Phil

      Jerry, amen. I identify with your comment. I too was searching and searching and finally found peace and rest in Jesus. PTL

      January 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
      • Russell

        You found peace in the idea that he was looking out for you.
        The same way that people feel good when they walk out of a good movie
        Only you think that the story is real and that it will never end.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
        • Phil

          Russell, looking out for me yes! But sooooo much more than that. I found peace for my soul. The search was over! There is no replacement for the peace that God gives us when He has forgiven our sins. When I asked Him to forgive my sins beause of the sacrifice of Christ, He did! PTL

          January 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm |
        • JJ

          You are a victim of the classic scam called giving you the poison and them selling you the cure. You are delusional. Just don't try to spread the illness onto others.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm |
    • Fred

      So, you would rather see people wasting their lives trying to find reason to believe in God rather than come to terms with his being mythical and gaining responsibility for their lives themselves?

      January 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
      • Phil

        Fred, they are not "coming to terms" they are giving up.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
        • Russell

          What do you say to the people who found Allah instead of jesus?
          They have the same feelings and knowledge as you do.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
        • Phil

          Russel, this happens for sure. And when I speak with them I tell them that unless they receive Jesus, the Son of God, they will die in their sins. It is not enough to believe in God the Father only. The Father sent His Son to die on the cross as an atonement for our sins. Jesus Himself said: "If you do not receive the Son, then you do NOT receive the Father who sent Him!

          January 14, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
        • CommonSensed

          @ Phil – so your god is the one true god despite that their book says theirs is the one true god. Who's book is right? And who are you to tell them they are wrong? Does your book say, "listen to Phil – he knows what's what."?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm |
        • JJ

          So, all Jews, atheists, and Muslims are wrong and you are right? All these groups will roast for eternity in hell because they don't believe in your particular god?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
        • Randy

          Have you given up on trying to find Vishnu?

          January 14, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
        • G to the T

          I haven't "given up", I continue to study and search for answers. The reason I lack a belief isn't because I've come to some kind of a certainty, it's the opposite. I don't have certainty so I continue to try and gather data.

          By your logic theists have "given up" because they accept the proposition that god exists. Is that the case in your experience?

          January 15, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
    • Conner

      Just curious... How exactly did your god show himself to you? How did you arrive at the conclusion that whatever it was that "showed" itself to you was god and not something that can be explained by an educated mind?

      January 14, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
    • Just can't see it

      Meh... the whole "seek him out" thing is bogus. Kind of a self-fullfilling prophesy. You want Jesus so bad... so bad... that he appears and makes you feel so good. Hey, man up already. Deal with your problems on your own. No magic, no all powerful dude in the sky who will make all your boo-boos go away. Fend for yourself. Be strong!. Jeez, weakness all over the place in the USA.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
    • Sungrazer

      "Few do it, because they can see it for the cop out that it is."

      First, the segment of the population who identify as nonreligious is growing. More and more do it every day. Second, it is faith – the belief in something for which there is no evidence – that is the ultimate cop out. Dan Barker:

      “Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits. It is intellectual bankruptcy.”

      January 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm |
      • Phil

        Sounds like words of a quiter grazer. Nothing more.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
        • Just can't see it

          A what?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:38 pm |
        • CommonSensed

          @ Phil – your words sound like those of a grass grazer. Don't question anything – just enjoy the herd mentality.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:43 pm |
    • Randy

      Prove it is the wrong direction.

      January 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm |
    • bcs2006

      For the vast majority of people the search ends as soon as they accept jesus. For the atheist, the search never ends.

      We like the search.

      January 15, 2014 at 9:52 am |
      • G to the T

        Well said. +1 here...

        January 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Mopery

    I wonder what will happen when this same preacher tries to be gay for a year...

    January 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jeff

      Why would he do that? Being gay isn't a choice.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
      • Mopery

        Yeah, it seems that all of these PR stunts are fallacious.

        January 14, 2014 at 6:22 pm |
    • Fred

      Gays are born that way and all people are born atheist, but Christianity is learned.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
  11. serfie

    I wish liberals would pretend that they weren't liberals for the day and stop being dependent on the welfare state, get jobs, and be responsible members of society without expecting a government check or a government bureaucrat telling them what to think.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
    • Observer

      serfie,

      I wish conservative Christians would actually START following Jesus' words and START following the Golden Rule.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
      • serfie

        Observer-

        What makes you looks ridiculous is that as a an atheist, why would you expect any conservative to follow the tenets of the invisible man?

        By the way, Jesus never preached morality about being lazy, going on welfare, and expecting a federal government bureaucrat to do your thinking for you, which is for some reason your liberal interpretation of morality.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
        • Observer

          serfie

          "What makes you looks ridiculous is that as a an atheist"

          What makes YOU look ridiculous is that I am an agnostic, not an atheist. Ooops.

          The Bible says that Sodom was destroyed because of GREED. Have you ever read a Bible?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
        • Randy

          Do you believe in the existence of at least one god? If the answer isn't "yes," you're an atheist. Atheists don't believe in gods. Claiming to know gods don't exist is not required to be atheist; simply not believing is the sole requirement.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
        • Belinda

          Most atheists and agnostics believe in the historical Jesus and even revere many of his teachings. I think we can find some common ground.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        What is wrong with Jesus' words? They are good words to live by whether you believe he is God or not.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
        • G to the T

          Agreed – It seems to me more should be following Jesus than Paul. Sadly, many more focus on Paul's teaching than anything Jesus is supposed to have said.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
    • Mopery

      The rich seem to have forgotten the past...

      January 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
      • serfie

        Mopery-

        The rich are none of your business.

        Stop worrying about other people's money and worry about your own.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
        • Mopery

          There comes a point when no amount of money will be able to protect them from the masses they have harmed, when their thievery and misdeeds will be repaid in full. Corporate greed has crippled this nation, soon enough they will go too far and the silent majority will rise against them with a vengeance. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
    • Jeff

      I wish assholes would stop inserting politics into Every. Freaking. Topic.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      So in your world view, everyone on welfare is a 'liberal'?

      I think you will find this is highly inaccurate.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:18 pm |
      • serfie

        The only defenders of the welfare state are liberal Democrats and demand that the state continue to support Americans from cradle to grave.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
        • Mopery

          Karl Rove is that you?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
    • James K

      I'd be surprised if the majority of welfare recipients didm't describe themselves as conservative Christians. Isn't the official propaganda that liberals are part of some rich "elite"? Faux News must be dropping the ball.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
    • Conner

      I am tired of the stereotype that liberals are the welfare hounds... You know, red states and all your Republican buddies take more from social programs than any blue state... This is a fact... Keep deluding yourself.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
      • Jeff

        I think his choice of username is telling, myself.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:26 pm |
      • serfie

        Conner-

        You liberals are the welfare leeches.

        The Democratic Party is the party of the welfare state.

        You liberals are the only people who demand more welfare, more food stamps, more section 8, free healthcare, not the Red States, but the Blue state legilslatures.

        If you Blue State liberals hated welfare so much, you would cut the Red States off, but you know as well as I do that the Blue States are filled with welfare state leeches and that is why most of your states are failing and bankrupt.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
        • Mopery

          It must be comforting living in your little FoxNews echo chamber.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm |
    • Just can't see it

      Uh oh, someone's sittin" on a burr. You like to take out your misery on other people much?

      January 14, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
    • Randy

      Or for you to try for a day not using all the things the government does for you. No public roads. No food quality control. No safety regulations for the products you buy and use, including your home...see how safe, healthy, and convenient a life you lead.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
      • Mopery

        West Virginia here I come...

        January 14, 2014 at 6:56 pm |
  12. mike

    The premise is ridiculous…as if belief or non-belief were a function of the will. Atheism, like faith, is experienced for a moment

    January 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
    • DecoMama

      Mike, I totally agree – it is just ridiculous.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
  13. Hahahaha

    "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."

    The absence of a religious practice is not a practice in and of itself (by definition!), and it is utterly asinine for this guy to even suggest otherwise. What a loon.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
    • Russell

      I don't think it would have gone over as well if he had said he was going to try to be a muslim for a year. They could have rejected him, or required him to do .... stuff.

      January 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
  14. Ryan T

    This is ridiculous. He will use this ploy to go back to the masses to talk about how lost we are, or how we lack morals that the religious have, etc. It's all an effort to strengthen the death grip the churches have on the minds and wallets of the masses.
    A 5 year old can't understand calculus. A pastor can't understand atheism. Atheism is enlightenment achieved by the ability to truly cast off the shroud of fear and fables spread by the religiously brainwashed. A pastor who believes wholeheartedly in his faith can't rid himself of his beliefs for a period.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
    • James K

      That may be cynical, but I am no longer surprised when I hear a pastor and/or Christian author claim that they use to be an atheist. They also typically claim to have been terrible sinners before seeing the "light" (and having a message to sell). Must give them street cred with the flocks, I suppose?

      January 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
      • Mopery

        I used to be all messed up on drugs, now I'm all messed up on the Lord!

        January 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  15. JJ

    He sounds like an alcoholic trying to go a year without drinking.

    January 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
  16. SeaTurtle

    I question the authenticity of a clergy claiming he's "trying" atheism. I'm not sure if it's possible for a believer to genuinely give non-belief a chance, especially if he is only doing it as a stunt so he can come back in a year and say how miserable and directionless he supposedly was. Because true atheists are neither of those things.

    But sleeping in on Sundays might just "convert" him.

    January 14, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
    • JJ

      It's because he doesn't know what atheism is or he's intentionally being dishonest and redefining the term for his own agenda.

      January 14, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
      • Mopery

        In this age of Newspeak, people think that Atheism is a religion, that BP "made a commitment" to the Gulf rather than polluted the region, that enslavement to credit companies is "freedom", that the rich are actually "job creators", etc.

        January 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • serfie

          When have you created a job, liberal, or the precious government that you worship as your God?

          I think it is hilarious that you liberals despise God, but live and breathe the welfare state as your God and blame the invisible corporation for all your failures in life.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
        • Randy

          Stop being a moron.

          January 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
        • James K

          I'd be surprised if money from the majority of welfare checks didn't wind up in the pockets of Conservative Christian pastors.

          January 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
  17. Russell

    I was raised christian. I had questions no one could answer. I found flaws in the bible, and in the actions of the god I was told created everything. I quit being christian when the biblical stories seemd like myth more than reality. That was not an entrance into a new religion, it was a departure from one.
    There is more to a religion than a common belief.

    January 14, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
    • SeaTurtle

      Similar to my story, Russell. I started asking questions because I assumed they had answers. I was genuinely shocked when those answers didn't exist. I was amazed, and to be honest, frightened. So I started looking for the answers for myself. And every answer I found led me not back to God but away from belief.

      I am now convinced that religion exists because people WANT it to be true, want to feel like there's some celestial Daddy who's in charge of everything and watching over us. But they don't look too closely because they're afraid if they do, that Daddy they can't see, they can't see because He's really not there.

      On the other hand, when you stop believing in that Sky Daddy, you are empowered to take control of your life, rather than beg a phantom to change it for you. It's liberating, life-affirming. And when you're not counting on a next life, you're more likely to live THIS one.

      January 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
      • Russell

        I agree.
        It feels good to think an all seeing god will hand out justice to everyone in the end.
        Many poeple I know can put their minds at ease 'knowing' god will look out for them.
        Why question and risk losing the security blanket?

        January 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
        • Mopery

          To grow up, maybe?

          January 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
  18. Anbesaw

    Oh what an ideal way to rob the many by slick few came up with the trick named "Religion".
    As Karl Marx said it religion is an "Opium" for a society.

    January 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
  19. Michael,Chapel Hill

    It is like dog walking on hind legs. Anyway, all those all knowing media are after him. May be..he should try for Democratic ticket to run for president.

    January 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
  20. um

    uh. u dont TRY to not believe in faerie tales. either u do or u dont there is no try.
    to try means u do believe in faerie tales but are quelling the impulse to read the next page

    January 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
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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.