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Seventh-day Adventist pastor plans to flirt with atheism for 12 months

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posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:02 PM
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California pastor Ryan Bell has a novel New Year’s resolution. For one year, he proclaimed, he will “live without God.”

Ryan Bell photo courtesy of Ryan Bell
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California pastor Ryan Bell has a novel New Year’s resolution. For one year, he proclaimed, he will “live without God.” Photo courtesy of Ryan Bell
This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

It’s an odd resolution for an ordained minister, former church pastor, teacher at two highly regarded Christian universities and church consultant. Yet for the next 12 months, Bell, 42, plans to refrain from praying, reading the Bible and thinking about God at all.

Instead, he will read atheist authors, attend atheist gatherings and seek out conversation and companionship with unbelievers. He wants to “do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist.”

Still, his resolution is only an experiment — he is not, he said, an atheist. “At least not yet,” he wrote in an essay for The Huffington Post, where, on New Year’s Eve, he announced his plan and a new blog to document it.

“I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.”

But so far, it has also been about loss. Since announcing his plans, Bell has been asked to resign from both of his teaching positions and lost a consulting job. In the months before his decision to, as he put it, “try on” atheism, his health and his family relationships suffered too.

But even this early in his experiment, Bell feels he has gained something. Among the 20,000-plus people who have visited his new blog are many who have written to say that they, too, dance with doubt, but feel they cannot do so publicly because of the cost.

“In a way, it is like being gay and not being able to come out to your family,” Bell said in a conversation from his home in the Los Angeles area. “There have just been so many people who said they have wanted to ask questions too and didn’t feel that they could. So they are living vicariously through my spiritual journey.”

“Which,” he added, “in a way, is a lot like being a pastor.”

Indeed, Bell’s path has been marked by controversy before. Born to Methodist parents who converted to Seventh-day Adventism, he eventually led Hollywood Adventist Church, a Los Angeles congregation known as a liberal outpost in a mostly conservative denomination.

Over the years, Bell’s once-fundamentalist views became more progressive, he said. He advocated for women’s ordination and the full recognition and inclusion of gays and lesbians, both prohibited by current church doctrine. He also took issue with the church’s literal interpretation of a six-day period of creation and its end-times teachings.

Last March, after eight years at Hollywood Adventist, he was asked by denominational leaders to resign. And that, he said, in part led him to his yearlong experiment with atheism.

“Not being a pastor for nine months has given me the freedom to not have to believe in something for other people’s sake,” he said. READ MORE at RNS



When I first started reading this I thought it was simply a stunt. The more I read the more this intrigued me and my opinion is this guy is honestly exploring the possibility that he is an atheist. It sounds really weird to me because for me I couldn't force myself to believe the idea of God it just did not make sense. For him though his situation was much different from mine as he grew up involved with the church and faith was expected.

I have read articles on and from the Clergy Project and it even written a thread on it. One of the big differences is the people who have joined the Clergy Project lost their faith and are having a hard time breaking away from the church and telling their friends and family. Their lives are so intertwined with the church that coming out as an atheist becomes very difficult. This guy on the other hand is having doubts and being very open about where that leads him.

From reading his blog it is easy to see that him being open about his doubts has been very costly to his livelihood. Christians are often complaining about how they are persecuted however if you read his blog you will see how persecuted atheism is (or even being a doubter is). A Christian complaining to an atheist about persecution is like preaching to the choir (pun intended).

Even the atheist community hasn't been so welcome to his approach the thought did cross my mind that this could be some kind of stunt and at the end of the year he will come out and say how crazy atheism is or something to that effect however I am going to give him the benefit of doubt and take him at his word about his true intentions. Of course this all could be a for a book deal down the road or myriad of other things like that after all this is a conspiracy site so of course I'm a bit weary but since this doesn't affect me or anyone else other than him then I will just watch and see what happens because this is as I said interesting.

I am including the links to the thread I wrote on the clergy project and of course the links to the quotes from both the article and his blog. Regardless of what conclusion he comes to I certainly sympathize with him right now and hope his situation improves. I am sure he will be really tempted to drop this quest so he can return to financial security seeing as how his employers felt they could no longer employ a person with doubts about God which is sad because he is honest about it. It certainly makes you feel a bit more empathy towards those in the clergy project because as you can see in the other thread there were many people lambasting them for hiding the fact that they lost their faith.

I can tell you this much I am really glad that my family was not religious and I wasn't brought up in a religious environment because I am seeing the repercussions of those who have who dare to think for themselves.


From Ryan Bell's Blog his 4th day into his "journey".


Those who “come out” as atheist face serious consequences in our society. They are among the marginalized groups that get the least attention. I know this now from personal experience. Many people who have commented here or sent me private messages have told me heartbreaking stories of the suffering and estragement they have endured. Others have said they are still closeted because their family, friends and employers could not bear the news.

So I find myself, on Day 4, without any employment. My savings will run out in about two weeks and I’m scrambling to find immediate work doing, well…anything—manual labor, waiting tables, other teaching and consulting, or whatever I can find.

I understand so much better now why dozens of people spoke to me and about me as though I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Some aspects of my life did receive a terminal diagnose because of this journey. My hope is that I will find work to support myself and my family as I continue down this road, and my heart goes out to those who have suffered similar consequences as a result of following their conscience.

Related thread: Clergy who’ve lost their faith due to patriarchy i.e. The Clergy Project




posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:09 PM
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I celebrate anyone who finds the strength to think for themselves.

To not allow themselves to be confined to a pattern.

To actually live.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:27 PM
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Excellent thread, thought I'd give it a bump for communal consumption...




posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:41 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


I would say he's more at the agnostic stage and has yet to reach the atheist stage yet. 12 months and he may just find himself being a fully blown atheist.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:44 PM
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reply to post by zeroBelief
 


Thanks for the bump however it has been my experience that people will find new threads once they get bored with the ones they are already engaged in. Also sometimes when there is a lot of information to look over many people may shy away. Give it time.

Threads are funny things it is usually the ones I think will go nowhere that become a hit and vice versa.No worries though I generally reference them when debating related topics.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:48 PM
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reply to post by Zcustosmorum
 

It is possible but my take is a little different. He seems to be questioning the dogma more than anything which is making him question a deity existence. I think it is likely he will still believe in a deity but lose the religion effectively becoming like our forefathers in other words a Deist.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 08:49 PM
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Grimpachi
reply to post by zeroBelief
 


Thanks for the bump however it has been my experience that people will find new threads once they get bored with the ones they are already engaged in. Also sometimes when there is a lot of information to look over many people may shy away. Give it time.

Threads are funny things it is usually the ones I think will go nowhere that become a hit and vice versa.No worries though I generally reference them when debating related topics.


Maybe I just wanted people to see mah pretty face ?




posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 09:15 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 





“I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.”





“Not being a pastor for nine months has given me the freedom to not have to believe in something for other people’s sake,”


The above quotes really say it all. First off he is not sure if he is a Christian or not. Well I can answer that one, he definitely is not. There are no doubts if a person is a real Christian or not as it is a choice you make and he never made that choice.

He further goes on to say "...freedom to not have to believe in something for other people’s sake,”, this once again tells him he does not believe. He is not one of the sheep in Jesus flock, he is a wolf in sheep's clothing aka one of the goats, tares, snakes etc.

Resignation is of course his only option as he was a false pastor. Organized religion is rife with these individuals, many are in it for the money and it's an easy job with good benefits.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 09:37 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


Had to be a Californian.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 09:57 PM
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reply to post by pstrron
 


So you are saying there is no such thing as an EX-Christian and Christians don't have doubts..hmmm...me thinks you are on a high horse and that you do not know your own bible.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 10:01 PM
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reply to post by pstrron
 


Do you think that true Christians can never lose faith?

Perhaps you don't think that Mother Theresa was ever a real Christian, because she had experienced a loss her faith.


"Where is my faith?" she wrote. "Even deep down… there is nothing but emptiness and darkness... If there be God — please forgive me."

Eight years later, she was still looking to reclaim her lost faith.

"Such deep longing for God… Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal," she said.

As her fame increased, her faith refused to return. Her smile, she said, was a mask.

"What do I labor for?" she asked in one letter. "If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true."
www.cbsnews.com...


Even Jesus lost his faith, when he reportedly cried out "My God, why have you forsaken me?"


edit on 5-1-2014 by windword because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 10:38 PM
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reply to post by Grimpachi
 


Sorry, no high horse, just a statement of facts. Ex-Christians, if they truly are "Ex" then that is the way they will remain as there is no way back. After accepting the gift of salvation and to then turn around reject it and return to the former ways, he will have given up Christ.


of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" Hebrews 10:29 KJV




4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

5 and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6 if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Hebrews 6:4-6


The statement stands, he is not a Christian.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 10:46 PM
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reply to post by pstrron
 

It is good to know you are the authority on the subject.

WOW who knew Mother Theresa wasn't a Christian I guess all those good deeds are now attributed to us heathens. That works for me.

I love how the pious cherry pick the bible to suit themselves.



posted on Jan, 5 2014 @ 11:09 PM
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reply to post by windword
 


Everyone goes through times when their faith is tried to the point of breaking. Ones faith diminishes to just about zero but never truly zero. If you lose all faith and turn away from Christ, you will reject the gift. Christ on the other hand had never been without a direct connection with the Father and when the sins of the world were placed upon him, the Father had to back away, thus he cried "why have you forsaken me". It was not due to loss of faith but the breaking of the connection. The only thing that kept Jesus on the cross was faith. His two great tests in faith were in the garden just before and on the cross and at no point did he lose it.

Look at the disciples before the resurrection and after. Before all they had was head faith and that got dashed at the cross. After the resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit it became heart faith which could not be broken even to the point of being put to death for it.

All true believers in Christ will be tried in the furnace the same as gold and silver are tried and refined. Your faith during these times is tested to the maximum and not one point less.



posted on Jan, 6 2014 @ 12:21 AM
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Good on him, it's a shame doing something so open-minded has ruined his job and family relationship. I doubt he's going to be converted but I applaud him for doing something different and new.



posted on Jan, 6 2014 @ 09:27 AM
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reply to post by pstrron
 


So, you're saying that when Jesus, supposedly, cried out "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?" He did really mean it? He didn't really feel forsaken and lose faith? I disagree, as the story goes.



Look at the disciples before the resurrection and after. Before all they had was head faith and that got dashed at the cross. After the resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit it became heart faith which could not be broken even to the point of being put to death for it.


The disciples didn't maintain even the smallest kernel of faith. Even when Jesus appeared to them after he, supposedly, rose from the dead, they still didn't believe, and, at first, they thought he was just another ghost. The only reason that their faith was "restored" was because, supposedly, a miracle happened before their eyes. Anyone can have faith if they are witness to "true" miracles.

No, even the disciples didn't have the faith that is required of Christians today. The disciples had concrete proof, supposedly. Today's Christians don't have squat.



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