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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. Soraya

    I agree with the authors premise. It seems to me that the atheist community could lighten up and embrace someone who is questioning religion and God for reason and logic. Regardless of where this man ends up and by the way, he seems to be embracing more agnostic views in the interviews I have heard, I salute his journey and hope it leads him to whatever makes him a better person.

    January 15, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
  2. jonathanL

    I started being an Atheist over 50 years ago. It takes time to free oneself from the trappings of religious based faith, fear, and hope, and actually replace your reasoning and psyche with reality, and logic based reasoning. Instead of trying to be religious, and feeling confused and stressed by all the contradictions and false assertions and assumptions inherent in all the major religions, I feel clear (less confused), happy, free, more enlightened. Try it for only one year? He's chicken. Be brave and try it for a lifetime. I recommend it but I will never insist. It is your freedom and choice to choose, at least in America (and it should be everywhere).

    January 15, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
  3. richunix

    @Fladabosco

    Atheistism is not a religion, your statement shows you have a very limited understanding of Atheistism. As an Atheist, I do not try to find folly with those who wish to believe, I understand why and I accept it. I have study the “Bible” for the past 10 years and as a historical biblical scholar, I’ve learn so many things both good and bad and yet I’m very happy being called an Atheist. When I attend parties (and yes I do try to avoid Religious conversation), the very First thing they ask me “How can you not say God does not exist?”, look at all these miracle. I just sigh and say “if you say so”. I leave you with one question and you can find your answers in the “Bible” who was EL and Baal” and more important what was Jesus’s real name…

    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 12:07 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      Atheism is a much a religion as Catholicism or Judaism; they all claim to know what is holy and what is not. The very word – atheism – means 'No Gods.' If you believe in one you are not an atheist. If you believe that know that what god is or what is god and what is not then you are not atheistic. I don't care how much you consider yourself a bible scholar if you believe any of its miracles or conversations with god or actions that god took then you are not an atheist.

      We agnostics do not argue whether one book is right or one god is right. We argue that no humans are smart enough or holy enough to know.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
      • King of Darkness

        Not true. Most atheists are agnostic atheists that would be convinced if proof of god were to be found. They don't all think that absolutely no god could ever exist. Some feel that way, but it's very rare. They are the more extreme atheists, rather than the logical science based ones that care about proof of existence before blindly believing something as fact.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm |
        • G to the T

          Well said – everyone should read this and STOP CONFUSING ATHEISM and AGNOSTICISM

          January 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
      • richunix

        Your missing the point, so here is an accepted definition and NO were does it state it is a religion such as Christinaity or Judism:

        Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism

        January 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
  4. Starboy

    I like what Bell is doing. How can one make an informed decision unless one at least makes an effort to walk intellectually in the other guys shoes.

    January 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm |
  5. Crosswinds

    Hebrews 3:12-19.........

    12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15 Remember what it says:

    “Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
    as Israel did when they rebelled.”

    16 And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? 18 And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him? 19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:56 am |
    • Mr_Philosopher

      Did Adam and Eve literally occur? If so, then there is not real way to hold a rational discussion with you. If not, then how do you pick and choose what literally occurred and what is mere symbolism and allegory? Furthermore, if they did not literally live, then how can anything in the Bible, especially Jesus' redemption of sin, be anything more than symbolism and fable?

      January 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • a6packabud

      Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

      I enjoy quoting fanciful works of fiction too.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • Observer

      Crosswinds,

      He got in trouble with Christians because he actually FOLLOWED the Golden Rule when it comes to gays.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • Doris

        Important point. It has already created a great divide across many denominations of Christianity. I believe the issue will push many completely away from Christianity as it continues to ignore scientific data.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      69 Did you see that episode of Seinfeld where George pretends to be a marine biologist and pulls the golf ball out of the whale's blow hole? 70 How about the one where the pretty girl yadda yaddas stealing a watch? 71 Did you know that according to Jesus if you get divorced and remarry then you are committing adultery? Or that ti's inconvenient so Christians don't care, just like they don't care that the 10 Commandments forbids you from drawing a fish, a cloud or a tunnel?

      72 Is there anything more arrogant than claiming to know what god is and what god wants? I know you are only quoting a holy book but in reality you are telling everyone else that YOU know what god is, which book is holy and correct and that everyone who does not believe what you do is going to burn in hellfire for eternity.

      No thank you.

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

        "The sea was angry that day, my friends."

        January 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
        • G to the T

          "It was a dark and stormy night... I had just taken a creative writing class..."

          January 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm |
  6. bostontola

    England has a state religion, Anglican Christianity. Christianity in England is falling like a rock. Most people still believe in some kind of spiritual being, but most are not Christian. This trend is common in Europe and is spreading to the US. Most people still cling to spiritualism, but they are jettisoning traditional religion in the developed world.

    I like this trend because I think a society of deists, spiritualists, and atheists would get along better than traditional religions and sects have. Mr. Bell is a symptom of a healthy societal trend.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:54 am |
    • Crosswinds

      In the Last days.........people will............

      .2 Timothy 3:5
      having a form of godliness but denying its power.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:57 am |
      • Doris

        It depends on what one means by power.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
      • Mr_Philosopher

        Do you realize that "the last of days" observation of society and the impending Armageddon has been a topic of discussion among fundamentalists such as yourself for hundreds of years? Jesus is right around for corner for more than a millenia at this point. If you had a lifespan of hundreds of years you'd eventually realize how utterly foolish and ridiculous your statements are. Learn history of your religion and everything about it and you will come to see that people like you have existed since the dawn; always waiting on the self-imagined deific IOU.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
      • bostontola

        Most people have denied Jesus for 2000 years, the last days prediction is quite tardy.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • Madtown

      Mr. Bell is a symptom of a healthy societal trend
      ---
      Agree completely. Throw off the dogma and rhetoric.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
    • Doris

      Yes – I completely agree, boston.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
  7. sez you

    Theism, the most destructive force on the planet. One meed only read just a little of human history. past and present.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Mr_Philosopher

      Ancient religions are today's mythologies just like today's religions will be the mythology of the future.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • Nicodemus Legend

      You could also say it has been a most inspiring force as well. So much art and music and acts of extreme altruism towards the world and our fellow man has been done for it.

      Yes, yes, yes, you can provide pages and pages of all the horror and misery done for religious beliefs. But like I said you can fill as many pages with positive things too.
      Its like love. Tons of wonderful things have been done in the name of love and tons of awful things. So should we make sure nobody can ever feel love again?

      January 15, 2014 at 11:52 am |
      • Mr_Philosopher

        No one of a rational mind claims that the history of religion has brought beautiful things to the world. However that is the merit of religion. It has inspired countless minds to be filled with awe and unbound emotion at the universe and spirituality, creating great art, music and literature. However that has nothing to do with the philosophical and social implications of unfounded and illogical conclusions derived from faulty and unsupported premises from which all religions spring. Once you give way to the first incorrect premise, all that follows will be stained with its incorrect logic. That is really the only point that is argued in a religious debate. The socio-cultural effects of religion have little to nothing to do with the philosophical flow of its ideas.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:58 am |
        • Nicodemus Legend

          Completely agree. But that wasn't what "sez you" said and what I was responding to. He just said Theism was the most destructive force on the planet which pretty much said it did absolutely nothing beneficial at all for mankind which – as you also said – isn't true.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • Mr_Philosopher

          @Nicodemus Legend

          Then I agree with you completely. Blanket generalities like his should be shunned as they illustrate an examined or lazy thought process.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • Hallie

      Humans also fight over small bits of compressed carbon, tracts of dirt, addictive mind-altering substances and soccer matches. It's not just religious ideology that causes problems – state-imposed atheism was a defining feature of brutal 20th century regimes led by Stalin, T!to, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot among others, which resulted in the suffering and murder of millions. Tens of thousands of Russian Christians alone were executed for their beliefs by atheists intent on purging religion from the Soviet Union.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
      • King of Darkness

        Where those people murdered in the name of no god? I don't think so. Just because a system might not be theistic based, doesn't mean that they were murdered in the name of atheism. People were killed in the name of power, world conquest, and colonization. Whereas with religious conflicts like the crusades they directly invoke gods name and quote bible scriptures to justify chopping men women and children limb from limb because they believe in a different god and don't matter to them.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm |
        • Hallie

          Atheists murdered people for their belief systems.

          The story of Jesus gives absolutely no warrant for violence. Any believer behaving that way is disobeying the one they claim to be following. So they also are not killing in the name of God.

          January 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
  8. conoclast

    On the surface Mr. Bell's little experiment seems like a contradiction-in-terms: one who is an avowed believer, "trying out non-belief" as if it were a belief system of its own just doesn't compute. What is sidestepped here is what is basic to all religion: the personal NEED to believe in something larger than oneself.

    It's like the addiction gene in that you either have it or you don't; "trying it out" comes across as not much more than a propaganda stunt!

    January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am |
  9. sly

    Oh my, you mean this squishy soft little godster is still in the news? Sounds like a complete pansie who spends all his life dreaming in his mind rather than just live in the real world.

    Who wants to read about losers like this? This isn't news – it's more like teenage girls gossip. "Ooooohh ... you didn't really color your hair that way did you?" "Yes, squeak, isn't it cute"?

    January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am |
  10. Freddo

    Atheism – or any philosophy or religion – isn't something you "try".

    You're either all in, or you're a spectator. And spectators aren't getting the full experience.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:43 am |
  11. Fladabosco

    The author, Burke. makes a common mistake : "Instead of resorting to "God did it," atheists are comfortable saying "I don't know, but I'm going to find out." That's not true; that's what agnostics say.

    Atheists would say 'there is no god and god did not do this.' Atheism is as arrogant as religion. How can you claim to know more about god than other people? How can you claim to know if there is a god and if so, what and why god is doing it? It means you are smarter and holier than real humans and I don't believe it.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:43 am |
    • Mr_Philosopher

      You misunderstand. Atheism doesn't claim a non-existence of something, as that would be illogical, although it may seem that way. More properly, atheism is a default position for someone not convinced in the existence of something (especially something undefined as god). To make it simpler to understand for you, it's like you not believing in Odin, Horus or Ahura Mazda. You don't say "they definitely don't exist" rather you don't hold an active belief in them because you have no proof for their existence. So to you they don't exist, but to make the active claim "they definitely don't" is illogical, so you rather, by default, lack an active belief in them. You're an atheist towards those gods, just like atheists are towards your god. There is no difference.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:49 am |
      • Fladabosco

        You are making the same mistake I referenced above. Atheism is the rejection of god, or gods if you wish. Agnosticism is the admission that you cannot know and that we do not know who is god, what is god, what god says, what god wants; etc. whether it's for one god or for all gods. An atheist would say 'that is not a god' but an agnostic would say 'there is no way to know whether that is a god or not.

        Theists and atheists both claim to know what is not knowable. Agnostics admit they do not know and believe you cannot know.

        To put it another way, if you go into a church and point to a bowl of holy water and ask 'is that holy' the Catholic would say yes, the atheists would say no and the agnostic would say 'no human can tell which things are 'of god' and some things are 'not of god.'

        January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • Mr_Philosopher

          You are half-correct. There is implicit and explicit atheism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implicit_and_explicit_atheism
          Most atheists are implicit yet they lazily speak as if they are explicit. Upon investigation of their thought process you can tell that they are implicitly atheistic. Explicit atheism is intellectually and philosophically dishonest. Also, one can be an atheist and agnostic as they are not mutually exclusive concepts. One has to do with belief the other with certainty: http://reason-being.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/chart.png This is fairly important to know and understand in religious conversation.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • Fladabosco

          Hmm, a lot of explainery going on here. I looked at that chart. It's interesting but made up and assumes that people's beliefs are always mixed.

          A-gnostic: NO gods. Not sort of and not undecided as that chart would indicate. How can believe there are no gods yet believe in a god? You sound like a theist....

          January 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
        • King of Darkness

          Do you reject Zeus? If so, then you are technically an atheist. Atheists do not believe in god. Therefor, agnostics qualify as atheists as they DO NOT believe. They are unsure and might not think it's possible to know, but if you reject a god, you are an atheist, so unless agnostics believe in the bible or that a god exists, they are atheists as well.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm |
        • G to the T

          "A-gnostic: NO gods" – Nooooo... A-gnostic means "No Knowledge". A-theism means "No Gods".

          One is regards to what we KNOW, one is in regards to what we believe. They are separate but not exclusive.

          January 15, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
    • hee hee

      Replace "god" everywhere with "the gnome" in your post, and re-read it.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:51 am |
      • Fladabosco

        OK, so I replaced one mythical creature with special powers and treasure for the afterlife with another.

        So?

        January 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
        • hee hee

          I was replying to Mr Philosopher. You can tell by the indentations.

          January 15, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
  12. Bobby Uppot

    Don't be stupid. All religions say there is a God. We are beings of free will and we are to use that free will responsibly. God watches over and judges us for our action here on Earth.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • Mr_Philosopher

      1. Not all religions say there is a God, you seem to not know enough about world religions. 2. Those that state a God haves a myriad of definitions for it. 3. The word and concept of God is an undefined one which means anything to anyone. Ergo, there is no "god."

      January 15, 2014 at 11:45 am |
      • Bobby Uppot

        There are 4.7 billion people on the planet who follow God. Would you really want to take that risk of not believing in God?

        January 15, 2014 at 11:58 am |
        • DJ PsiPhi

          That isnt saying much. Especially since those billion dont believe in the same 'god'. They are different and the messages portrayed are different. Different prejudices, different intolerances.

          So there are 4.7 billion under-educated people in the world. And about 2.3 billion educated people in the world (assuming there are 7 billion people in the world). Do you really want to live your life ignorant?

          January 15, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
        • Fladabosco

          Billions of people do not believe in Christianity. Billions of people do not believe in Islam. Billions and billions of people don't believe in Judaism.

          In Judaism BTW there is no punishment for not believing in god and there is no treasure in heaven. According to Judaism you are judged by how you treat other people, not by what magic words you mumble before you die. It's a common Jewish thing to be angry at god.

          Jews aren't special and they behave just as badly as anyone else, especially when they are blinded by their religion, but the religion itself is pretty interesting.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm |
        • Sean

          Fallacy alert!!!

          https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/bandwagon

          January 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm |
        • Mr_Philosopher

          Truth choose the strangest words not the tongue of the common herd. That being said, that adds nothing to the discussion. If a god would punish a good person simply due to their belief of what life and the universe is about than such a god doesn't DESERVE to be worshiped. I have no problem with religion or religious people in the slightest. I do have a problem with those that advocate a monster for a god.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
  13. anony

    The biggest problem with atheism today is this: God is not religion.
    To reject religion doesn't mean there isn't a God; it means you've rejected other peoples' false ideas of what God is.
    Either something is, or it isn't. An individual's belief is irrelevant.
    God is not interested in your theology.
    Either you're serving the planet, or you're not.
    There are many people who claim to be atheists who serve humanity every day.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • Mr_Philosopher

      God is an undefined word that means anything to anyone.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:43 am |
      • DJ PsiPhi

        Without people, 'god' dies. 'god' does not exist on its own, it needs people to carry on the idea. People exist without god, animals exist without god. It takes people to keep 'god' alive.

        January 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Travor

      There are many atheists that serve as good examples of what caring for and providing for our neighbor looks like.
      I'm glad that I belong to a church that teaches us to love and support atheists.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:43 am |
      • JJ

        I had a neighbor who is a Christian and used to marvel as to what a good Christian I was and that I possessed all the qualities he found to be most "Christ-like". He about fell out when he eventually found out I was an atheist.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:48 am |
    • Madtown

      I think you can also turn this around, and say it's a problem for theism. Proponents of each religion, each way of thinking, believe that by just saying the word "God", you are referring to their notion of God. And, that their notion is the only correct and legitimate one.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am |
      • G to the T

        Indeed, even using the big "g" for "God" pretty much means the abrahamic god. Never understood why they don't call him Yahweh, it sure would save a lot of confusion...

        January 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • JJ

      Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in a deity. That's it.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • Unegen

      And none of what you have just blathered in any way proves positive the existence of God. Next.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • Fladabosco

      And here is one of the base problems I have with religion and some of its adherents; being a good person or serving others or being good to the planets has nothing at all to do with religion, it has to do with what kind of person you are. I have heard Christians say that we should pave the whole earth over to speed the apocalypse and I know atheists that spend their spare time helping the poor.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
  14. Me

    Maybe try a different church? It does specify there will be false teachings in the bible. I'm not taking a side because I haven't really researched both sides of the story. The new pope has shed new light and inspiration to the world and is walking the faith not just talking it and leading by example.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:33 am |
  15. George Dixon

    Can you really 'try' atheism for a year?

    If you are a delusional liberal, then you are shallow enough for such pretense.

    The democrats are too busy with such inane trivia to notice a collapsing economy... on their way to 'hell'.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • Observer

      George Dixon,

      The last Republican president left a stock market that was PLUMMETING. It's almost doubled since he left.

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

      Another bozo who makes everything into a political statement. Grow up.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:43 am |
  16. Chris

    It is funny that CNN chose to ask secular individuals, atheists and psychologists. Where are the answers from Christian leaders?

    If one is a Christian it is not something you can turn on and off.

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

      I my case, it is true that I can't just turn off belief in God. I was an atheist for many years, but still had thought of "God save me" during traumatic moments. This was burned into me at an early age by a very fundamentalist church. My early years as an athiest were driven by hat of that church and its dogma.
      I still believe that the "god" of that church does not live up to my standards of good behavior.
      However, I have since decided that whether a god exists or not is not relavent to life here and now. What we do ourselves is, IMO, the important thing. I do not think it is morally superior to behave in a certain way if its because I am afraid of "eternal damnation." I now believe that it is best that I live my l;ife as a "good" person who respects others. The "after-life", if it exists, will sort itself out.

      January 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  17. spudnik56

    This story is ridiculous. And, religion is for weak minded fools.

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

      Are you a poe or are you a positive type atheist (you claim there is no God for certain).?

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

        @Doris, your opening yourself to fallacies like "irrelevant conclusion" or better yet "argumentum ad ignorantium" "appeal to ignorance;" whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa..

        -

        January 15, 2014 at 11:44 am |
      • richunix

        State why you believe this diety (god) to be true.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:45 am |
      • Doris

        "whatever has not been proved false must be true"

        That's just silly, so I don't worry about that kind of argument.

        "State why you believe this diety [deity] (god) to be true."

        I don't believe in deities.

        Here are some of spudnik56's recent posts/replies:

        "This story is ridiculous. And, religion is for weak minded fools.
        This comment coming from a limited thinking conservative...
        stupid question..you must be religious...
        That's absolute nonsense..."

        I need more substance from that garbage to determine if it's a poe or something else. It doesn't lead me to think it's a mainstream atheist.

        And spudnik56 still hasn't answered my question as to why it doesn't think mainstream atheism is highly agnostic.

        January 15, 2014 at 11:56 am |
  18. George Dixon

    Can you really 'try' atheism for a year?

    If you are a delusional liberal, then you are shallow enough for such pretense.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:30 am |
    • spudnik56

      This comment coming from a limited thinking conservative...

      January 15, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • Observer

      George Dixon,

      If you are a delusional conservative, you preach the Golden Rule and don't practice it.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • Jeff

      Yep. And God spoke to Bush and told him to get into two unfunded wars. How did that work out for the economy?

      You are the type that would blame a wart on liberals. You're a partisan hack at it's finest.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:47 am |
  19. Big God

    If atheism is so fulfilling, why do so many atheists spend their days trolling the CNN Belief Blog ???

    January 15, 2014 at 11:22 am |
    • igaftr

      Not trolling, more intrigued by unfounded belief from an abnormal psychology angle. I find it fascinating what people will believe and the mental gymnastics that they perform to reinforce the unfounded beliefs.

      Consider it a psychological study.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:25 am |
      • Science Works

        link from above article fits even talks about ID .

        Penny Edgell, sociology professor, University of Minnesota

        January 15, 2014 at 11:35 am |
    • JJ

      Trying to keep my finger on the pulse as to what you nutters are up to and what laws and liberties you all plan to stomp on next.

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

      They are often trying to get equal rights for all and see that "freedom of religion" means freedom to chose NO religion.

      Unlike many Christians, maybe it's because they are trying to follow the concept of the Golden Rule.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:29 am |
    • spudnik56

      stupid question..you must be religious...

      January 15, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • richunix

      You can reverse the same question and ask yourself why are there so many christians trolling the same blog? Being a troll can go both ways?

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

      Who else will point out to believers such obvious things as: you require statistics to deduce anything, not just a casual observation?

      January 15, 2014 at 11:47 am |
  20. Jeff

    "trying" atheism for a year means doing nothing, which doesn't require much effort. Much in the same way one would "try" NOT to run a marathon every day for a year. However, if during that year you read some books on atheism, then it would be productive.

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

      Thanks for the answer, J-Dawg.

      January 15, 2014 at 11:27 am |
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About this blog

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