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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. neoritter

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

    An agnostic is not someone on the fence (though often those on the fence express an opinion similar to agnosticism). An agnostic is someone who recognizes that with all "truths" there is a degree of doubt. Central to this is that the belief or disbelief in deities is unprovable both observationally and logically. An agnostic recognizes their belief is just that, a belief.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:20 am |
    • Doris

      Yes. And mainstream atheism is highly agnostic.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:25 am |
      • spudnik56

        That's absolute nonsense...

        January 15, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • Doris

          Why do you say that?

          January 15, 2014 at 11:32 am |
        • G to the T

          Noooo... I'd argue the most atheists are agnostic atheists. It's just a matter of knowing what the terms actually mean...

          January 15, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      If you were a believer and having a crisis of faith where you were now unsure of your belief, but not quite accepting of disbelief, what 'label' would you use, if not "agnostic"?

      January 15, 2014 at 11:53 am |
      • G to the T

        "Undetermined"

        January 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
  2. Arnold

    Would trying Atheism for a year differ from not going to church or praying for 12 months.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:18 am |
  3. drowlord

    Well, I appreciate his intellectual and spiritual journey.

    But overall, my main thought is that "being an atheist" in practice is almost exactly the same as "being a Christian" (or part of another religion) who doesn't practice their beliefs. There are tons of Christians who don't go to church or pray - probably far more Christians who neglect these things than atheists who don't believe in them.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:17 am |
    • igaftr

      I am an atheist, but I spend more time in churches than any of the christians that I know.
      I work with a local pastor volunteering at a chemical dependancy clinic, so I meet with the pastor a couple times a month at his church.
      I also do work with a friend who does AV work, so we help put on presentations and occasionally film ceremonies, and I take two elderly people to mass every other sunday.
      The pastor sometimes jokes (he knows I am an atheist/agnostic) that I am an honorary christian...I don't have the heart to tell him I take that as an insult

      January 15, 2014 at 11:30 am |
      • bostontola

        Thanks for your volunteer work. My wife and I have had similar experiences. People have told me that I am a Christian but I don't realize it. I just smile.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:40 am |
        • G to the T

          I've gotten that a few times myself – "You can't be an atheist! You're too nice!"

          January 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
  4. Jeff

    I tried christianity for 50 years until took a moment to really question it. After an objective evaluation of all the facts, I became an atheist. It's inherently difficult to due a 180 on a way of life, but it is possible.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:11 am |
  5. AverageJoe76

    I'm an atheist, but I have faith. I have faith in humans. The ones that adhere to common sense. The ones that could not stand by while atrocities are committed. I have faith that we'll eventually leave religion and cling to reality. And even if the very last human destroys my faith in them, I hope to never forget the faith I have in me.

    I'm just a man. Live well, everyone.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:10 am |
  6. BOB

    THE PROBLEM IS RELIGION NOT GOD, GOD EXIST IN EVERY HUMAN BEING THAT IS WHY HE SHE IT GAVE US BRAINS AS FOR RELIGION ***ALL OF THEM** THAT IS THE PROBLEM

    January 15, 2014 at 11:10 am |
    • igaftr

      " GOD EXIST IN EVERY HUMAN BEING "

      OPINION ONLY.....WHY ARE WE YELLING?

      January 15, 2014 at 11:36 am |
      • G to the T

        I DON"T KNOW BUT IT'S HARD TO STOP ONCE YOU START!

        January 15, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
  7. Atheistically Yours

    Losing religion is a lot like "detoxing" from a drug. Its hard to do in the beginning if you have an extensive history of "using" (i.e. being religious!), and given the ADDICTIVE NATURE of theistic belief, a "relapse" is clearly possible, but not required! This yo-yo "trying atheism for a year" is a lot like a smoker who is going to "quit smoking for a year" (and then when the year is up, goes right back to smoking!). While there is infinitely more mental freedom in atheism then theism, going "back" to theistic belief after a year of allegedly not having it, shows that the "experimenter" was not all that serious about being an atheist at all.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:06 am |
    • Matt

      I was just going to ask if anyone found it difficult at first being an atheist and challenging everything but then I read your post and it answered my question. It is a lot like learning how to walk again and in the end it is refreshing and liberating, at least it was for me.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:11 am |
      • Travor

        It is weird, because there are atheists who become religious who describe it the same way.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:13 am |
        • Matt

          In my opinion it would be much easier to believe in a god and afterlife because it offers much more comfort than being an atheist. Believing life ends with death is hard to accept and deal with but it also makes you realize how much more sacred life is and to do the things you most want to do because we only get one shot at it. All this talk about an afterlife makes people think they will go on forever and this life doesn't mean much.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:19 am |
        • Ken

          Except, there is nothing addictive to being an atheist. You're not guilted into giving up your religious friends and family. there is no threat to your person after you die. Religion clings to it's members using fear and other emotional strong-handing. Atheism is the release from that emotional tie to an idea that doesn't make any rational sense.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:19 am |
        • Travor

          Matt
          Thanks for sharing your opinion.

          Ken
          Atheism just means you don't believe in God. Atheists believe in irrational things, too. And atheists are the victims of fear and other emotional strong-handing, too.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:27 am |
        • Ken

          Travor
          I talk to a few atheists and blog with many others. One thing is common, we like to debate, even with each other. Any atheist who happens to mention that they believe in something weird, like astrology for example, really must expect to be able to back up such a claim amongst fellow atheists. You see, we tend to be skeptical about more than just the existence of gods.

          As for fear, we have the same rational fears that is normal for a human being. Fear of getting into an accident, losing our jobs, etc... but if an atheist still has fear of hell, or a vengeful god then they're not really an atheist, right?

          January 15, 2014 at 11:34 am |
        • Travor

          A few atheists claim I have a fear of hell or a vengeful God. But I don't. When I ask for them to back up their claim, it turns out they have or had a fear of hell or a vengeful God. And it seems they are projecting it on me.
          I know lots of atheists. Not all are skeptical. And some suffer from irrational fear, and have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I have anxiety problems myself.
          I am very skeptical. And I believe in God. I know others like me.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:40 am |
        • Ken

          Travor
          So, you believe in a God without a Hell for nonbelievers. A more benign belief system, but still not one compelling enough to believe in.

          Everyone is skeptical of something. To me, once you accept something as fantastical as a personal God you become more receptive of other supernatural stuff. Lots of Christians I know follow their zodiac, are superst-itious, and watch stuff like Ancient Aliens. Stuff that directly conflicts with their Christian beliefs, which makes me suspect that they didn't know what they were supposed to believe.

          Are you at all skeptical about God? If not, I really don't think you are skeptical at all.

          January 15, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • Ken

      Reminds me of the C.S. Lewis example. The guy had a brief atheistic phase in his youth before returning to his childhood Anglicanism. Yet, to hear apologists tell it, he went from being the leading atheist thinker of all time to the most devout Christian. This despite his smoking, drinking and relationship with at least one unmarried woman.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:13 am |
      • QCity

        My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if i did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. -C.S. Lewis

        January 15, 2014 at 11:23 am |
        • Ken

          Most people can instinctively know that genocide, for example, is wrong, but it takes religious conviction to know that it somehow had to be good when God ordered it in the Bible. Religion is no measure of what's right or wrong.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:28 am |
        • G to the T

          Did a kid ever take your toy on the playground? Then you know what the desire for justice is.

          January 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
  8. Someone Else

    So, I see two possibilities here. Either he's decided already that he doesn't believe in God anymore and he wants an easier way out, or he has just decided to be a really bad Christian. You can't suspend your beliefs. Your beliefs are what they are. They can change, but your core beliefs make up who you are. If he's changed his beliefs, then he's just an atheist now.

    If he still believes in God and "just wants to see" what happens if he chooses to ignore that, then like I said, he's just choosing to be a really bad Christian.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:02 am |
    • tallulah13

      I see him as a man who questions what he was taught to believe, but isn't ready to let it go. Personally, I think that he's more honest than those christians who simply believe because thay're too afraid to question.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:06 am |
    • Madtown

      There are likely more possibilities than 2. Maybe he's looking for publicity to set something up down the road? I also don't think he's even attempting to "suspend his beliefs", just that he's going to live outwardly as if he has none. Inwardly, nothing will probably change. It's all in the practices and the rituals, which he just won't continue for this time period.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:11 am |
    • Observer

      Someone Else,

      He initially got into trouble because he actually FOLLOWED the Golden Rule when it comes to gays. It's no surprise that many Christians were angry.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:13 am |
  9. magicpanties

    So he won't go to church, talk to imaginary beings or take ancient fairy tales as literal truth.

    Ok, that's a start.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:01 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      .. as long as he accepts the reality that he lives and doesn't slide back into the comfort of believing because he's simply comfortable with it. Psychological conditioning is a very difficult thing to break, especially after many years of conditioning. It's like being an alcoholic, there's always the chance of sliding back into what your brain has been trained to feel.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:05 am |
  10. Born atheist

    We all "try" atheism for at least the first year or so of life, we're born that way. Then someone else tells us to follow how they think because someone told them and so on.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:01 am |
  11. Reality # 2

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    "The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:

    One, man intelligent without religion,
    The second, religious without intellect. "

    Al-Ma'arri
    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth."

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/resalat-al-ghufran#ixzz1lI6DuZmZ and http://www.humanistictexts.org/al_ma'arri.htm

    January 15, 2014 at 10:55 am |
  12. Hilikus

    "Trying atheism is not only possible, it’s a very common step out of religious belief."

    While I'm fine with this guy trying a secular lifestyle...he is not trying atheism. Atheism means one thing, and one thing only, and that is not believing in any god. True belief is not a choice. You can't force yourself to believe anything you truly don't, or not believe anything you truly do.

    Saying this is trying out atheism is just a stereotypical view on how people see atheists from the outside.

    January 15, 2014 at 10:53 am |
  13. Keyros

    @richunix

    I love that quote, I've used it before against theists and they get very offended lol.
    For me it was the questions and lack of answers, a general "wanna-know" feeling. The people didn't push me away nor did the lack of gods grace in a willing followers despair. The people and hypocriacy was noticed much later, I have a saying of my own "All christians can't wait to DIE as a christian, but very few are willing to LIVE as a christian!" Faith by fear always works.

    January 15, 2014 at 10:51 am |
  14. mvrunner

    I'm not sure Mr. Bell was really "trying atheism", but I applaud him for applying healthy skepticism to his learned belief system. As some of the comments have said, it isn't necessary to go cold turkey. Stop praying for a while. Did your life change? Then stop going to church. Did your life change? When done in stages, I think a lot of people would discover that their religion is unnecessary, or worse.

    January 15, 2014 at 10:49 am |
  15. Scott

    You can't try athiesm any more than you can try faith.

    What you can do is life as an athiest, which is what he attempted. In doing so I believe he learned a very important lesson about the intolerance that exists in some subset of religious persons.

    January 15, 2014 at 10:45 am |
    • Landry

      I don't understand why this is even an issue. I see no problem in trying on atheism or faith. In my opinion, these are suits that we wear to reflect our inner being.

      I tried Christianity for years and it didn't quite fit. The shoulders weren't right and the pants rode up uncomfortably. I gave it up for Lent and realized that I didn't miss it so I never went back.

      Examples of other ill-fitting suits I've tried include the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties. They all have their good and bad points but none is right for me. I see no difference between trying on a political philosophy and a religious one.

      That's how it works for me anyway. Others' may have a different experience.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:59 am |
  16. Keyros

    If his aim was to "understand" aetheism and our practice of not inserting a illegetimate farher as the "creator of all life", then I would commend him stepping out of the bubble to learn. Aetheist's come to be when hey ask questions and seek evidence and fact. Ask a former die-hard christian that converted to a non-believer, it was a transition not a test!
    We are mis-understood and mis-represented by religion and media alike! We are associated with Satanism, when in fact WE DONT BELIEVE IN THE FALLEN ANGEL EITHER. Now this pastor is supporting a mis-conception that God has left us and wrecked our lives. Another article has said he lost his job and only earned $19,000 as if god had forsaken him.
    Now as for him claiming to be an aetheist, he gave up his piece of the kingdom of heaven! By the bible (and I mean new testament, you know the one that erased the old one and corrected some bloopers) to identify as an "aetheist", you deny the existince of the holy spirit. Denying the holy spirit is the only unforgivable sin and is described as such twice in the holy book. To deny is to burn, so I hope he likes our point of view!

    January 15, 2014 at 10:41 am |
    • richunix

      @Keyros,

      For me is was “Suffering” that changed my views some 30 years ago:

      Is God willing to prevent evil, but is not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.

      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.

      Is he both able and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?

      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why is he called GOD?

      -Epicurus 33 CE

      January 15, 2014 at 10:44 am |
      • enkisea

        You are talking about the mystery of iniquity. It pertains only to YHVH. There are many definitions of god. What if reincarnation exists and our definitions of good and evil are merely desirable and undesirable, only present to give us wisdom through experiences. What if we are being programmed through experience? We are an evolutionary snapshot in a progression of images. Some of the older images are primates that are unable to understand language, some of the ones in the future will understand more than us. Perhaps at some point we should reserve to know that there are things that we just are physiologically unable to understand and therefore should take an agnostic point of view. This is the honest perspective.

        January 15, 2014 at 10:58 am |
        • Sungrazer

          It pertains to any god that is described as both omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:10 am |
    • Reality # 2

      The $19,000 is a fund for him set up at http://www.gofundme.com/62mb6o.

      Said "fun" fund has grown to $27,019 as of 7:48 AM on 1/15/2014.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:45 am |
      • Travor

        "I am shocked and overwhelmed a the outpouring of support that I have received after Hemant Mehta (aka Friendly Atheist) asked people to support me financially. I am grateful. But just as I am leaving behind the fear and sometimes hate-inspired religion of my past, I am deeply uncomfortable about raising support by casting my friends in the Christian community in a negative light–especially one which is not true." – his blog

        January 15, 2014 at 10:50 am |
        • Keyros

          I have christian friends and that sometimes makes for great debate! I respect all the moral teachings ofnthe bible and what it represents in symbolism (which was the most popular form of writing at the time) but my friends non the less respect my view and probably pray daily for me to see the light! I respect what faith has done in their life. I also try not to discuss it too much amongst friends because they truly hurt for me as they believe I will burn in hell and I truly hurt that they feel that much fear over a point of view. Again faith by fear!

          January 15, 2014 at 10:59 am |
        • Travor

          Do your friends claim that you will burn in hell for eternity? Or do they believe what the Bible says?

          January 15, 2014 at 11:04 am |
      • richunix

        Thanks Reality, as a New Testament (secular) scholar and atheists, somehow I failed to join a that club. Like you I choose to enlighten or educate and hopefully not to offend. Glad to see your back on.

        January 15, 2014 at 10:54 am |
    • Travor

      You say "we" a lot in reference to atheism. It sounds like you are talking about a religious group you belong to.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:58 am |
      • Keyros

        You can call it that if you wish, I think "we" look at it as a sort of club, you know like those group of kids who told you Santa wasn't real in grade school! "We" were sometime malicious but you deserved to know that daddy bought those toys with beer money!
        Another mis-conception is we take offense when someone says because "we" identify together, its religion, if you say so. "We" just prefer the term fact-ion!

        January 15, 2014 at 11:04 am |
        • Travor

          Not all atheists come to be when they ask questions and seek evidence and fact. Sure, you did. But some came to be for different reasons. Some atheists seized to be atheists when they asked questions and sought after evidence and facts.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:08 am |
  17. marypatric

    hey, everyone. have you been to athiest memebase? its funny AND educational.

    January 15, 2014 at 10:38 am |
    • richunix

      A what? "athiest memebase" ?

      January 15, 2014 at 10:41 am |
      • Reality # 2

        See http://www.atheistmemebase.com/ .

        January 15, 2014 at 10:48 am |
  18. Tevii

    No atheism cannot be "tried" for a year.
    Atheism isnt about NOT practicing the primitive rituals of religion. It's a mindset. It is understanding history, biology and other things. Its drawing conclusions on facts while searching for new evidence. You cant fake logic for a year. Either you take the time to understand what makes an atheist an atheist or you dont. But if you do, then the moment you understand then chances are pretty good you ARE an atheist.
    You cant fake not believing either. If you're mad at god because you lost someone and denounce that god, that doesn't make you atheist. That makes you angry at something you obviously still believe in. "trying" atheism for a year is NOT possible. A growing understanding that religion is a simplistic answer to life's complex answers and understanding how religions began in the first place is how one begins to be an atheist

    January 15, 2014 at 10:34 am |
    • richunix

      Here Here.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:39 am |
    • Nicodemus Legend

      Well, can I sample it like a buffet? Ya know, maybe try a piece of atheism to see what it tastes like. Then move over to the Buddhist and snack on it a bit?

      January 15, 2014 at 10:43 am |
    • JJ

      He doesn't know what atheism is or he's intentionally being dishonest and redefining the term to further his own agenda. You'll find that most Christians posting here are the same.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  19. culuriel

    He may as well. It's what I did the year before I officially abandoned believing.

    January 15, 2014 at 10:32 am |
  20. richunix

    This is one aspect of being “human” I truly enjoy. Looking for answer to question, making a decision to change and yet finding yourself coming back to what we wanted in the first place. I have been an atheist most of my adult life and very happy with my final outcome. But I’m also glad to know (and respect) those who feel they need something to make them feel better about themselves, understand life .

    Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    January 15, 2014 at 10:30 am |
    • Travor

      “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

      Atheism is the belief in no Gods. Sure, you believe in one fewer Gods than me. 1 fewer than 1 is 0.

      1 ≠ 0

      January 15, 2014 at 10:46 am |
      • Sungrazer

        Sorry, I missed your point. Can you elaborate?

        January 15, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • Travor

          Just because Stephen F Roberts believes in one fewer God than me doesn't make me an atheist.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
        • Sungrazer

          It does. If there is a god or gods that you have no belief in, then you are an atheist with respect to that god or gods. Granted, common usage implies that an atheist has no belief in ANY god, and this generally works okay in the normal course of conversation, but it's really more layered than that. For example, one can be a strong/positive atheist with respect to one god ("That god doesn't exist") and a weak/negative atheist with respect to a different god ("I have no belief in that god").

          January 15, 2014 at 1:20 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.