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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. bcs2006

    No. You cant just try it out. It does not work like that. Either you are, or you aren't.

    Now with that considered...how can someone complain about a lack of racial diversity in atheism? Either you are...or you are not. It really does not depend on race, its not like a 1950s country club or something where another race is prohibited from joining.

    January 15, 2014 at 7:54 am |
  2. Reality # 2

    http://www.gofundme.com/62mb6o

    And Ryan B's "fun" has grown to $27,019 as of 7:48 AM on 1/15/2014.

    January 15, 2014 at 7:50 am |
  3. No atheism please

    Wanna know how atheism is a religious cult? Part of their religious faith(or ritual) is to not attend church on Sundays unless they attend atheist churches(which do exist). Atheism becomes more of a religion every passing day and it took thousands of years for atheists to finally see its actually a religion.

    January 15, 2014 at 7:34 am |
    • Science Works

      NO fig leaf required !

      The biggest cover up/scam perpetuated on humanity.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:37 am |
    • Ken

      Yup, and I hear that not collecting stamps is becoming a more and more popular hobby.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:49 am |
      • No atheism please

        That has NOTHING to do with the topic at hand. It's funny, atheists use that excuse when trapped into a corner. Atheism is still a religion. Not collecting stamps has NOTHING to do with this.

        January 15, 2014 at 8:00 am |
        • igaftr

          Stop with your pointless lies.
          Theism is not a religion...it is a belief that gods exist.
          A-theism is also not a religion...it is a belief that no gods exist. Neither is a religion, but by all means, show the illogic and unreasonable arguments that believers use. It shows just how much your arguments have no basis.

          January 15, 2014 at 8:05 am |
    • bcs2006

      If doing any number of highly varied activities on sunday classifies as ritual to you, I think that you may want to go back to the dictionary and look that word up.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:56 am |
  4. Tell me what you saw

    New thought experiment I'd like to try on everyone. Say what it was you saw without trying to classify it.

    ie: I saw a bright light, I felt a sense of peace, I saw the outline of a man, I felt a pressure on my shoulder, ect....

    January 15, 2014 at 6:03 am |
  5. Hanan

    "Because religion has become unpopular and its influence has diminished in society, people think that everyone just knows right and wrong and can choose to act in a moral way, In fact, what knowledge remains of right and wrong and morals is still coming from the foundation laid down by religion, even though we now reject religion itself. Its influence is so great on us that we notice it no more than a fish notice water.

    Ultimately all the battle of life is within the individual." -Shoghi Effendi-

    January 15, 2014 at 2:37 am |
    • dev

      yes your observation about the decline of religions through out the world is a natural process of change or evolution,the panthrotheistic view of this phenomena has already predicted this to happen as early as last century,The latest survey by a U.S. based agency showed that among the theist countries ,the Phillipines ,my country tops the world with 94 percent of the people who believe in God,followed by Chile with 88 percent, next is the U.S, with 84 percent, at the bottom is Eastern Europe with only 15 percent.the analysis here is because of the advances of human knowledge,Particularly scientific knowledge that is making traditional religious dogmas and doctrines increasingly irrelevant.Historically ,this is just a normal process of change,The shift from monotheistic faith to a scientifically oriented panthrotheistic faith is inevitable.

      January 15, 2014 at 4:48 am |
      • One thing though

        Isn't science the opposite of faith, to have science we question and to question we must doubt, correct? Or maybe doubt isn't the absence of faith maybe it's just the result of it.

        January 15, 2014 at 5:54 am |
        • dev

          in pantrotheism,science and religious faith is one,all in the universe is Him and we are only a special part of Him.as a very simple proof of this is the analogy of certain solutions in mathematics.In some equations with many variables ,one of solutions in the theory of variation,is to assign an arbitrary constant or number to unknown variables to unravel and arrive to a solution,This arbitrariness could be the countless religions that humans founded through the ages in order that the true reality will surface,Then why God the all knowing ,not go directly to the solution,In my analysis,its because we have to know and experience the natural learning process and even to let us experience hardships as trials and part of this process.

          January 15, 2014 at 6:55 am |
    • Saraswati

      Hanan, nice idea except that other primates can also sense right and wrong and have no religion. The mental states developed first and were tweaked by religion and community ethics.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:42 am |
    • bostontola

      We regard the earth as a spheroid, not flat, without giving it a thought. Just like a fish doesn't notice the water, just like we don't give special recognition to the atmosphere.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:46 am |
    • Ken

      Hanan
      Scientists can tell you that the foundation of chemistry was alchemy, and that astrology was the origin of modern-day astronomy. Borrowing from our ancient knowledge is nothing new, but religion would have us rely on Bronze Age thinking, mired as it was in superst-ition, forever.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:54 am |
  6. Harvard Charter, Whereas, through the good hand of God,

    🙂 $$$$$$$ 🙂 $$$$$$$$$$$ 🙂

    January 15, 2014 at 2:02 am |
    • midwest rail

      Good morning, lol??.

      January 15, 2014 at 3:34 am |
  7. Harvard Chaplain to the rescue of atheists and their angst.

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

    January 15, 2014 at 1:58 am |
    • midwest rail

      Always good to see lol?? hallucinating in public – again.

      January 15, 2014 at 3:34 am |
  8. R.M. Goodswell

    This is what happens when the media gets its hooks into something. I ve watched with some amusement as media talking heads have attempted to twist and divide Atheism into subgroups – Actual Atheists (no gods – at all) are now 'fundamentalists', to be shunned and marginalized (if you kill the subject you cant very well make advertising dollars now can you?) the new 'proper atheist' was once known as agnostic (because THIS you can still base a career off of and get ratings from).

    ...hence this situation....watching atheist groups get conned with the help of the media.....simply amazing to watch

    January 14, 2014 at 11:59 pm |
  9. Piaffe13

    He was not "trying" atheism for a year, but he has doubts and is exploring his beliefs. Also he parted from his church because he was having differences. The media tries to encapsulate a process in one banner that is more sensational than true. Life is a process of exploration that includes doubts ( if you are an intelligent, questioning person) that sometimes leads us in other directions or sometimes brings us round full circle. Better to be honest than try to falsely and dishonestly lead a congregation with outward conviction and inner self doubt.

    January 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm |
  10. Reality # 2

    One year or a trillion years, there is no god !!!

    For those who plead, "There must have been a creator", we say "who made your creator? ".

    January 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm |
    • mzh

      Who made you Reality?

      Do you have abilities to hear, see, think and many more?

      January 15, 2014 at 12:02 am |
      • Rodents for Romney

        He developed by the human embryological process, which evolved over billions of years.
        Since you know nothing about science you are simply too ignorant for the discussion.

        January 15, 2014 at 1:30 am |
        • a better question

          Is there consciousness behind matter behaving the way that it does?

          January 15, 2014 at 5:24 am |
    • dev

      reality is what we know and what we dont know but exist in our universe,everything in the universe therefore is the true reality ,since the universe created itself through the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago,from a singularity point ,then the universe is God who created Himself through the equation E= MC2.since there could be many universes ,we are concerned only at this point of our existence with our universe,How it will end is beyond our comprehension,but it could recycle itself through a big crunch into another black hole ,before it explodes again.In panthrotheistic belief,this happened 13.7 billion years ago,and through His will ,matter evolved into what we are now.The evolution of religions happened since the start of our civilization,it is man made faith that coresponds or conforms to the intelectual capacity of us humans through thousands of years of evolution since 200,000 years ago when our specie first came into reality,That explains why our religions evolved from primitive animism to polytheism to monotheism,then monism and ultimately will be Panthrotheism,the present surge of atheism is just part of the evolutionary process of change through dialectical process,In reality ,we are just a special part of God.but we will be delegated by Him through progressive evolution to manifest His will as recorded and reflected in history.All religion since the start of our civilization is His will ,therefore all the Gods in those faith is Him.The challenges of the future humanity is to unite and focus our consciousness not only for survival objectives but in implementing His will,The hints of history is our increasing intelligence through evolution that points to our inevitable unity for a higher purpose .The true reality is beyond our present comprehension at the present ,but we dont have to worry because as part of Him we are guided by His will as reflected in history,Our conscience is also evolving that in the future paradigm shift in our cosciousness that will be revealed ,will highlight our concern for social responsibility and great concern for the betterment of humanity and nature,altruism will be the highest virtue,The coming of people concerned with protecting and preserving the natural environment is the proof that His Will has enlightened selected humans,The environmentalist,conservationists and many other activists is a proof of this.this are just a few of the objectives of His will in the forthcoming Panthrotheistic Faith.

      January 15, 2014 at 6:36 am |
      • Reality # 2

        And now for the nitty-gritty:

        o Think infinity and recycling with the Big Bang expansion followed by the shrinking reversal called the Gib Gnab and recycling back to the Big Bang repeating the process on and on forever. Human life and Earth are simply a minute part of this cha-otic, sto-cha-stic, expanding, shrinking process disappearing in five billion years with the burn out of the Sun and maybe returning in another five billion years with different life forms but still subject to the va-ga-ries of its local star.

        What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, biology, biochemistry, archeology, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

        1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

        2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

        3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

        4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

        5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

        6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

        7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode cataclysmically at any time ending life on Earth.

        8. Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan.

        Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

         http://www.universetoday.com/18847/life-of-the-sun/

        solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/profile.cfm?Object=Asteroids‎

        http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/30/us/wus-supervolcanoes-yellowstone

        Search for Paul, book by Professor JD Crossan

        Rabbi Paul, book by Professor Bruce Chilton

        https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

        http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/study-finds-star-formation-declining-throughout-the-universe/

        http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Nuclear/

        January 15, 2014 at 7:19 am |
  11. robertholt

    Try atheism for a year? I see absolutely no reason to embark on such a ridiculous project. I'd rather have Jesus.

    "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." John 14:1.

    "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6.

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have

    eternal life." John 3:16.

    January 14, 2014 at 10:44 pm |
    • Geoff

      How nice for you. Don't you think it's better, however, to have a minister who is having doubts take a break from pastoral duties rather than preach what isn't in his heart? If not,why?

      Oh, BTW, I'm willing to bet he already knows those verses, and the Bible, already.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Once again, John's gospel is historically nil. Added details available upon request.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:56 pm |
    • mzh

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      January 15, 2014 at 12:08 am |
      • Reality # 2

        Islam's version of "kingdom attainment":

        As the koranic/ insane/ mosque driven acts of terror and horror continue:

        The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

        ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

        and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

        and more recently

        1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

        1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

        2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

        3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. Iraqi civilians killed as of 05/10/2013/, 113,249-123,978 mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

        4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

        5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

        6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

        7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

        8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

        9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

        10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

        11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

        12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

        13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

        14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

        15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

        16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

        17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

        18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

        19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

        20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

        21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

        22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

        23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

        o 24) Mon Jun 4, 2012 10:18am EDT
        o
        BAGHDAD (Reuters) – A suicide bomber detonated an explosive-packed car outside a Shi'ite Muslim office in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 26 people and wounding more than 190 in an attack bearing the hallmarks of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate.
        The bombing on a Shi'ite religious office comes at a sensitive time, with the country's fractious Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs locked in a crisis that threatens to unravel their power-sharing deal and spill into sectarian tensions."

        25) BURGAS, Bulgaria | Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:27am EDT

        (Reuters) – A suicide bomber carried out an attack that killed seven people in a bus transporting Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the interior minister said on Thursday, and Israel said Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants were to blame.

        26 ) September 12, 2012
        U.S. AMBASSADOR KILLED
        Envoy to Libya dies in rocket blast

        27) Boston Marathon horror – April 2013, four dead, hundreds injured and maimed for life.

        January 15, 2014 at 7:25 am |
    • Rodents for Romney

      You don't "get to have" what feels good. I'd rather have Santy Claus, but I had to grow up.
      Utilitarianism is a slippery slope. Thanks for exposing your intellectual dishonesty.

      January 15, 2014 at 1:32 am |
    • Rodents for Romney

      "I am the light of the world", "the way the truth and the life".
      Straight from Egyptian mythology.
      Announced by an angel, born of impregnated human virgin by the holy spirit (Kneph), who ? Amenhotep III

      January 15, 2014 at 1:54 am |
    • sam stone

      wow, a cut and paste!

      i cannot speak for everyone, but i sure am convinced, yesssirrreeebob

      January 15, 2014 at 5:16 am |
    • Alfred

      ""For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16."

      Those who are fond of quoting this verse also want to describe their god as one god made up of three equal parts. So perhaps you would care to explain the following:

      How can one of the thirds be the "son" of one of the other thirds?
      How do you know there aren't more "children" involved, say, a daughter or two, so they aren't really thirds, they are fourths or fifths?
      How is it that one of the thirds is subservient to another, and must do its bidding when "sent" to become human and get tortured to death?
      Why is the last third subservient to both of the other thirds, and must go where they send it?
      How exactly did the superior third "give" his "son", since all of the thirds still exist?

      Just wonderin'.

      January 15, 2014 at 7:39 am |
      • Tony

        May I add a related question?

        If this one god is made up of three distinct parts with distinct responsibilities, how is that any different than if they were three separate gods?

        January 15, 2014 at 9:03 am |
    • Ken

      And, you'll never be able to escape the constant cycle of rebirth if you stop trying to attain nirvana too, but I doubt that you're worried about that. All religions have dire consequences for apostates, with Christianity probably being the worse case. You have to ask yourself why they would need to threaten people thinking of leaving if their program is so great.

      January 15, 2014 at 8:02 am |
    • bcs2006

      For god so loved the world, that he rented some flesh, came down here and performed some magic tricks, said some stuff, demanded unwavering adoration by what basically amounts to a bunch of ants, then killed himself (in contravention of his own laws) knowing he goes straight back to heaven which really isnt much of a sacrifice.

      Amen. Praise Jesus

      January 15, 2014 at 8:04 am |
  12. Dandintac

    As I understand it, this guy is only going to LIVE as if there were no god, such as not pray, go to church, etc.

    I don't agree with those who say you just "choose" whether to believe of not. The way some people talk, you would think it's equivalent to picking out a brand of potato chips to eat at the local grocery store. I think it's a lot more complicated than that. I don't ever remember "deciding" when to become a Christian when I was indoctrinated as a kid. I don't remember ever deciding not to believe. My awareness of the evidence and lack thereof was mounting slowly over time.

    People either believe a given proposition because they are persuaded in some way, or because they were indoctrinated as children, when their brains were like wet clay.

    January 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm |
  13. Mopery

    Atheists do not believe in god(s).

    Christians believe that they will live forever if they willingly give their soul to a cosmic zombie, who is his own father, but only after they drink his blood and eat his flesh so he can remove the evil that he put into their body before they were born, all because a woman, who was created from the rib of a guy who was originally created from dirt, took advice from a talking snake and ate a magical fruit a long time ago, in a garden far, far away..

    Seems legit.

    January 14, 2014 at 9:59 pm |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I suppose it's not reasonable to expect that everyone infected by religion can snap out of it on his own. Religion has co-evolved with us and is quite able to hang on in the face of all reason. Still, some people do get clear of it. Perhaps there are things like immune surveillance mechanisms that work on thoughts and ideas.

    January 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm |
    • AE

      How do you imagine I've been "infected" by religion? How does one snap out of it? And what does one do when one snaps out of it? Post on belief blogs?

      January 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm |
      • doobzz

        Well, you're posting here now, so what would be different?

        January 14, 2014 at 10:40 pm |
        • AE

          I probably wouldn't have that much interest in talking about atheism or religion if I didn't believe in God.

          January 14, 2014 at 10:45 pm |
        • doobzz

          You would if people were trying to encode their religious beliefs into civil law.

          January 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm |
        • Rodents for Romney

          And keep trying to force the idiocy of Creationism and ID down the throats of school children.

          January 15, 2014 at 1:34 am |
        • AE

          Rodents for Romney

          What????????????????????

          January 15, 2014 at 10:33 am |
        • Brother Maynard

          ... and just a general desire to advance your intellect, by challenging / debating / validating or disproving ones hypotheses

          January 15, 2014 at 10:36 am |
  15. mzh

    32:1 – Alif, Lam, Meem.

    32:2 – [This is] the revelation of the Book about which there is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds.

    32:3 – Or do they say, "He invented it"? Rather, it is the truth from your Lord, [O Muhammad], that you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you [so] perhaps they will be guided.

    32:4 – It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then He established Himself above the Throne. You have not besides Him any protector or any intercessor; so will you not be reminded?

    32:5 – He arranges [each] matter from the heaven to the earth; then it will ascend to Him in a Day, the extent of which is a thousand years of those which you count.

    32:6 – That is the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, the Exalted in Might, the Merciful,

    32:7 – Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay.

    32:8 – Then He made his posterity out of the extract of a liquid disdained.

    32:9 – Then He proportioned him and breathed into him from His [created] soul and made for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful.

    32:10 – And they say, "When we are lost within the earth, will we indeed be [recreated] in a new creation?" Rather, they are, in [the matter of] the meeting with their Lord, disbelievers.

    32:11 – Say, "The angel of death will take you who has been entrusted with you. Then to your Lord you will be returned."

    Peace and blessings be upon all of you...

    January 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm |
    • Eyeroll

      🙄

      January 14, 2014 at 9:26 pm |
    • Mopery

      Allah verga...

      January 14, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      Peace and blessings? Give us a break !!! The following vitiates all of the above koranic passages:

      http://www.muslimaccess.com/quraan/arabic/005.asp et al
      o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)
      o
      "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

      "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

      "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

      "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:29-)

      "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

      "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

      "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

      "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

      "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)

      "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

      "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

      "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

      January 14, 2014 at 11:44 pm |
    • Rodents for Romney

      Thanks for he crap from the Arabic moon-god, (named Al-Ilah).

      January 15, 2014 at 1:36 am |
  16. Ah

    jesus was just another rebellious jew who was arrested and convicted as others. \

    They would have never removed him from the cross, Pilate wouldn't allow ANY jew crucified to be removed.

    No resurrection, only fiction.

    January 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
    • mzh

      And because of their saying (in boast), "We killed Messiah 'Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah," – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of 'Iesa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. 'Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary) ] – 4:157

      January 14, 2014 at 9:43 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        At any rate, he's rather dead by now.

        January 14, 2014 at 9:44 pm |
      • mike

        The insulting and false Islamic view of Jesus of Nazareth. He did not use a body double. He went on the cross like a man and took the punishment on our behalf.

        January 14, 2014 at 10:45 pm |
        • tallulah13

          It's offensive that an adult thinks that it's okay that an innocent man was tortured to death so that they don't have to be responsible for their own actions. Christians should learn to take their punishment "like a man".

          January 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
        • Reality # 2

          Only for the new members:

          "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

          Professor JD Crossan from his book, Who is Jesus)

          January 14, 2014 at 11:47 pm |
        • sam stone

          on our behalf?

          i was nineteen some odd hundred years from being born

          likely, so were you

          he died because he angered those in power

          the resurrection myth came later

          if you feel you deserve "hell", why don't you show some courage and stand up "like a man" and take your punishment?

          January 15, 2014 at 5:28 am |
      • Rodents for Romney

        Yeah. Religions are full of fairy tales. Like the one that Muhammad actually existed.
        Robert Spencer proved he was a figment.

        January 15, 2014 at 1:38 am |
  17. Name*ruu721

    Makes no sense..you cannot just give up your faith blindly, if you can,you never had it

    January 14, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
    • Ken

      Whatever you can accept blindly you can easily give up. Faith is a house built upon sand.

      January 14, 2014 at 9:12 pm |
      • Mopery

        More like quicksand.

        January 14, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Andrew

    As an atheist what would be the opposite experiment? Doing everything word for word from the bible, I would end up in jail or killed. Just going to church would just be hearing the bible read more often, but isnt necessarily being a christian (or going to a mosque, or any other place of worship fod that religion). I havent read too much into this person's project, but from what I read he is just living without god for a year, which is diffefent from being an atheist for a year.

    January 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
    • blkwmnanimator

      How is it different? (genuine question)

      January 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
  19. Span.k Your Imam

    mzh, do not be spewing thusly voluminously without prior vigorous spanking of backside of yourself and closely adjacent imam.

    It is written, no more shall prodigious humping of imams and goats be accomplished without sanctified vestal goats present. We have ready goats present nearby in Tehran to satisfy said requirements. Prepare yourself for red posteriority and take the appropriate stance. If Allah is willing your soreness will eventually subside and you may get back to riding your camel and your usual monkey spanking so profusely.

    Here it is written and must be so.
    Here it is written and must be so.
    Here it is written and must be so.
    Said thricely. Pay attention even in your red blushness of present moment.

    January 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm |
  20. Observer

    Bell CHOSE not to select negative verses from the Bible about gays but CHOSE the MORE IMPORTANT Golden Rule from the Bible.

    No wonder that so many Christians are upset with him.

    January 14, 2014 at 8:00 pm |
    • Billy

      It's a good thing he wasn't a member of that Christian sect that follows Santa Muerte when he decided on this experiment. Otherwise, I'm sure he would have been first choice for the next person to sacrifice to the saint.

      January 14, 2014 at 8:05 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.