Remember the Pastor Trying Out Atheism for a Year? He Just Got Fired by His Christian Employers. Let’s Help Him Out

Last week, I posted about Ryan J. Bell, an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary and a former pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist church. Bell decided to run an experiment where he would live like an atheist for a year while documenting his journey:

I criticized the methodology — I don’t think you can even pretend to be an atheist simply by reading books by atheist authors and attending atheist gatherings when your religious beliefs are still somewhere in the back of your mind — but I still applauded the fact that he was exploring atheism and wanted to learn more about it.

Unfortunately, exploring faith with a critical eye, as Bell was attempting to do, was a little too much for his employers. Just days after he made his announcement, they fired him until he rededicates himself to Jesus:

They simply feel they cannot have me as a part of the faculty while I’m am in this year long process. Both APU and Fuller welcomed a conversation with me at the end of the year to see about my future work with their institutions. The Deans of both schools encouraged me and said they felt my project was bold and even important and necessary.

My process for the next year does not square with official faith statements and creates untenable discomfort among members. Donors, it is feared, will pull back their donations. My inquiry is the beginning of a slippery slope and they simply can’t risk it.

In addition to his teaching jobs, he also lost his job consulting with a local Seventh-day Adventist Church on a non-profit start-up.

All he did was voice the idea of giving atheism a try — even if only superficially — and it was enough for his Christian employers to cut all ties with him.

It’s like when Jesus said, “Follow me. And if you ask any questions, I’ll cut you.”

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.

Jesus, that’s awful.

I’d love to help this guy out and a few of you have already written me asking what you can do to pitch in.

Here’s what we can do. If you’re so inclined, I’ve set up a fundraising page for Bell:

I think it’s important to show that, unlike the Christian organizations, we support someone who’s willing to put his own beliefs under the microscope. Furthermore, we’ll support his experiment even if he doesn’t end up becoming an atheist.

What a disappointing response from the Christian schools and church.

Not unexpected, just disappointing.

One thing’s for sure: Bell just got a dose of reality from his experiment. A lot of atheists remain in the closet precisely because they’re afraid of the ramifications of coming out. They’re afraid of losing their families, friends, or jobs. Bell lost some of those, just for saying he was exploring life without God.

I hope you can find it in your heart to donate to Bell. As always, I’ll provide proof that he received all donations as soon as I can.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • http://atheist-faq.com Jasper

    Ah, I see he got some Christian Love™

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    If one of the readers here could help him find a new job, I think that would be even better. He’s in L.A., if anybody out there is hiring or knows someone who is.

  • Whitney Currie

    If he can get to Phoenix/Mesa AZ area, I might can help, anyone want to pass that along or give me some sort of contact info?

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    His main blog is here http://www.ryanjbell.net/ and he has a contact form under “speaking” there. You could try that.

  • Machintelligence

    You don’t ask no questions when God’s on your side.

  • Speedwell

    Hemant, I don’t wish to give WePay my credit card information. Is there a way to donate via PayPal?

    I do also want to point out that a message I always send to people questioning their faith and seeking reality is that only one way of thinking trusts the seeker to rationally seek and to ask questions, and to commit to the answers. And that way of thinking, as this fellow promptly discovered, is not Christianity.

  • http://twitter.com/verawishes Vera

    At the suggestion of several readers, Ryan’s set up a donate button on his own website. It’s through PayPal.

  • Troglodyke

    I just went there and made a donation. I do hope my fellow atheists will step up and show Ryan (and anyone who is following his experiment) that we are kind and caring. I applaud anyone for exercising their right to critical thinking, even if it does not produce the answer I think it should.

  • Kengi

    “My inquiry is the beginning of a slippery slope and they simply can’t risk it.”

    Fundraising T-shirt?

  • TimWolf

    I’d like to help him out. But I’m an atheist who has been out of work for six months. And because my previous employer paid me as an “independent contractor”, I’m not eligible for unemployment compensation.

  • Art_Vandelay

    As far as I can tell, they just fired this guy because he’s going to read some Sagan. That’s fucked up beyond anything.

  • Daniel Webb

    Perhaps the same demographic that got behind Phil Robertson will help out this guy! Basically the same situation right…

  • nkrishna

    I can afford to pitch in a bit. I know what it’s like to be suddenly out of work, though only for a valid reason unlike this.

  • briancastleberry

    I think this is a sad non-Christ like response from the church. Though just as we cannot judge all Atheists from the actions of one Atheist, let us not judge every church by the actions of this one church.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    A church and a Seminary and a University. So a larger sample size there.

  • briancastleberry

    Then again I’ll repeat my sentiment but applied to the other organizations as well. You cannot use isolated examples to discount an entire group. I do find it interesting the way in which the author, and those in the comment section, vilify these organizations and the beliefs they represent.

    Lines such as “Not unexpected, just disappointing.” are simply pedantic. They do not help the dialogue nor improve our understanding of one another. It only deepens the divide.

  • onamission5

    It is a common enough occurrence for religious families, employers, friends, and communities to shun those who profess a lack belief that behavior to the contrary is a cause for surprise.
    You want to change that, take it up with the people doing it and leave shaming of atheists who have been through this shit alone.

  • briancastleberry

    It may be a common occurrence for some. In my case, this has not been a common occurrence. Is it wrong, yes. Does it then mean we can vilify an entire group of people, no. I am truly sorry if you, or those here in the comments section, have experienced such behavior. It is truly deplorable. Nevertheless, I do not let such misguided actions taint what I know to be true of the scripture and of Christ’s teachings.

    The only way I can change it is by acting in a Christ like manner. I don’t see anywhere in which I have shamed or even tried to shame atheists. The only shaming I see is from the author and those in the comments section against the church and people of faith.

  • onamission5

    Sigh.
    Calling attention to a problem is not the problem, the problem is the problem.

  • briancastleberry

    Indeed, the issue of these organizations shunning this pastor is the problem. But this incident does not then validate any and all forms of vilification. My only point is that while these kind of actions are wrong, let’s not allow it to further deepen the divide between these two groups.

    Judge people by their actions. Do not, however, judge an entire group of people simply because it’s convenient and/or easy. Far too many wars have been fought on the basis of strict generalizations.

  • onamission5

    Translation: “We’re not all like that.”
    Cue every marginalized person’s conversation with a member of their oppressive group, ever. /slight exaggeration

    We know. Thanks for sharing. When was the last time you chided a Christian for deepening a divide by their treatment of atheists? The people who are hurt by displays of religious privilege are not the ones who need your message. You may as well have said to please shut up about the shit we go through because it hurts the feelings of the people who put us through it.

  • briancastleberry

    I do find it disheartening you marginalize the truth. Not all people of faith act in such a way. Just as not all atheists act a certain way.

    A couple of months ago I had to have a conversation with a friend of mine on Facebook. One who had made some comments towards an atheist whom I’m friends with which could have been taken as very hurtful. Whether he meant to or not, they were hurtful. He had gotten caught up in the moment and said some things he shouldn’t have. That’s but one example.

    The point being, I’m trying to have a dialogue with you and people of all faiths about this topic, yet all you do is curse me out and push me away. I realize you have been hurt by people of faith. For that I apologize. I cannot change what has happened. I can only try to speak the truth in love and help others to see that. You want to point to the problem of the divide, maybe it’s not me you should be pointing at.

  • katiehippie

    A bunch of isolated incidents put together makes a pattern.

  • Kengi

    Who has said “all people of faith act in such a way”? I know the straw man in your head said that.

    Pity you can’t read for comprehension. Saying there’s a common pattern of behavior amongst people of faith is not the same as saying all people of are that way.

    We are trying to have a dialog with you, but you just keep beating the straw man you created.

    So here:

    No, not all people of faith behave this way. It is, however, a disturbingly significant pattern amongst American Christians.

  • briancastleberry

    Again, there is no need to talk down to me or insult my intelligence. It merely mucks up the conversation and adds needless posturing.

  • Kengi

    I’ll begin to respect your intelligence when you begin to show more signs of it.

    Besides, I like needless posturing. Which means it’s no longer needless, so I guess what I mean is that I like posturing.

    Still, nice of you to avoid the “discussion” you claim to want. The reality is that you don’t actually want a discussion. You want to posture (probably not needlessly) about your straw man argument.

  • Erin Sykes

    It is refreshing to hear comments like this from a Christian on the board. Most often we see religious people posting hateful and foolish things in response to “our” posts and comments. I am sorry you have received such unkind responses from my fellow atheists. It seems to me that you are trying to have a decent and open conversation. Thank you for maintaining your decency and composure despite the responses you have received.

  • Christopher Griswold

    You can’t have a coversation about a problem if you don’t admit there is a problem.

  • Christopher Griswold

    At what point is it okay to condemn a group for its actions? Surely you could say something general about Stalinists, or Confederates, or (man, it is harder than I thought not to invoke Godwin).

  • briancastleberry

    If you truly feel the church and Christians as a whole are akin to Stalin, the Nazis, or other such groups, then there is nothing I can personally do to change your opinion.

    Do I feel such comparisons are unfair, certainly, but you are well within your rights to have such an opinion. The truth is the church is ran by humans. Humans who make mistakes. Humans with flaws. Humans who sometimes do the wrong thing with the right intentions.

    All I can do is daily walk the walk and try to act in a Christ like manner. And if in that I can help to bridge a gap a little bit, then what I’m doing is not in vain.

  • ladyh42

    “Do I feel such comparisons are unfair, certainly, but you are well within your rights to have such an opinion.”

    That’s interesting that you think it’s unfair because it was you who made the comparison. What was asked is when can you generalize a group, and mentioned a few choices (I would have put in WBC as well) but it was you who jumped to the idea that he was comparing them to Christians. If you want to play nice you should at least argue in good faith.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Perhaps you can try to set up another fundraising page, for Christians who want to materially support such honest inquiry.

  • Kengi

    “The only way I can change it is by acting in a Christ like manner.”

    That’s funny, because you seem to be trying to change it by being a whiny complainer on an internet comment section. I must have missed that part of the Bible…

    When another Christian organization hires Bell in a similar role in the coming days (which, of course will happen since your premise is that his previous employers are an anomaly), let’s see how Hemant reacts. If he attacks that organization as he did the organizations which abandoned Bell, you will be proven correct.

  • briancastleberry

    Does this conversation need to devolve into name calling? I’m simply voicing my opinion on the matter and how I feel its characterization of an entire group of people is unfair.

  • onamission5

    You’re simply trying to make atheists who point out patterns out to be the bad guys, in an effort to distract and redirect away from your religion.

  • briancastleberry

    Not at all. I never once stated he was the bad guy. Again, it’s not necessary to put words in my mouth, make grand overstatements, or assumptions.

    I’m simply trying to have a conversation about the topic at hand. I’ve already admitted, and will admit again, that some terrible things have been done under the guise of religion. No one is more aware of that than me. But that does not change the fact that both people of faith and those who do not believe can actually work together to stop these kind of divisions and hate from spreading.

    Fighting amongst ourselves, however, is not the answer. I’d really like to have a conversation with you rather than a brow beating. I’ll gladly wave a white flag if you’ll lay down your arms my friend.

  • Kengi

    And I’m simply pointing out my opinion of your efforts.

    Besides, you keep flogging a straw man. Show me where, in Hemant’s OP, he says that all Christians are responsible for what the organizations did or that these organisations represent all Christians.

    As has been pointed out to you, this is a common tactic of those with privilege. You are doing nothing but trying to obfuscate the actual problem.

    I’ll repeat. You can crow all you like when Hemant complains about the Christian college or seminary who hire Bell in the coming days. Which will happen, right?

  • briancastleberry

    The words, “Not unexpected, just disappointing.” seem to make is fairly clear his opinion.

    Once again, as I have stated numerous times, I do not deny actions like this have happened before, are happening now, and will continue to happen within organizations of faith.

    But this blog post was meant as a brow beating to those of faith. It does not help bridge the divide, but only deepens it. It’s this hypocrisy which I find, shall we say, interesting.

  • Kengi

    Again. You claimed Hemant said all people of faith were like this. Recognizing a common pattern amongst American Christians is not the same as claiming that all people of faith act like this.

    In other words, you are lying to support your point. This, by the way, is another common pattern in American Christianity. It’s called “lying for Jesus”. You seem to think you can say anything you want, even to the point of lying, so long as it somehow promotes your religion.

    So why don’t you stop pushing your straw man and try to actually have an honest discussion.

  • briancastleberry

    It’s a simple reading of the sub text presented in the line I quoted. My personal views of the patterns of American Christians differs from yours. I see both happening. There are some churches who show compassion, grace, and love. There are also other who show malice, hate, and contempt. I choose to promote the former.

    So for the sake of this discussion, let us forget about arguing about what the author said or meant. Instead let’s talk about the issue at hand.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    Except he’s not an isolated example. We’ve seen this before.

  • bearclover

    It’s “not unexpected” isn’t the same as expecting it from every member of that group. If 90% of a certain breed of dog bites me every time I go near it, then it’s not unexpected that that breed will bite me again. You’re on an atheist page so it’s “not unexpected” that many of us have been bitten and mauled by a dog named religion. Most of us were religious and got bit just like this poor guy.

  • Domush

    Generalizations are how people deal with large amounts of data. Just as how you have generalized about the comments here.

    Would you walk into a KKK rally as a black man and expect to be treated well? I mean, to judge an entire group is unfair, right?

    How do you think your religion became a majority religion, by hosting bake sales? Only if baking is defined as burning people at the stake.

    Face it, you follow a hate filled, intolerant religion with a Messiah who could only be confused as a good guy if you redact 97% of your holy book. But hey, at least Jesus told you how to “properly” treat your slaves. What a great guy.

  • Randy Wanat

    You’re treating his experience as though it occurs in a vacuum. It does not.

  • briancastleberry

    I do not treat it as if it happens in a vacuum. I’m fully aware these kind of wrong actions are perpetrated by those of faith on a daily basis.

    Trust me, as a member of churches my entire life, some of the deepest hurt has come from the misguided actions of those I considered fellow members. But the same could be said of actions perpetrated by all sorts of people all who represent hundreds of organizations.

    However I choose to judge a person by their individual actions, not from my very narrow and short existence. I fully realize how I see the world is but one world view. As such I give everyone a fair opportunity to show who they are by how they act.

  • onamission5

    That’s how it works. Treat every single instance of discrimination as if it’s independent of all the rest, and when the victims get together to share stories or express their hurt and outrage in an effort to change things, chide them for being angry and judgmental.

  • $84687101

    I certainly don’t. Unitarians are mostly good. I’ve heard nothing bad about Quakers. Your liberal mainline protestants can be OK. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some liberal Catholic churches would have treated him better. But for fundamentalists and evangelicals, growing segments within Christianity, this is absolutely to be expected, based on prior knowledge.

    Is it OK if I go ahead and judge Seventh Day Adventist churches based on this, in addition to what I already know of them?

  • briancastleberry

    It’s easy to be the judge. It’s not so easy to be the judged.

  • onamission5

    Yeah. Tell us about it.

  • $84687101

    It’s easy to use bumper sticker slogans, harder to say things that make logical sense. That statement is not true.

  • Domush

    Thank you, oh great sage, for that bit of useless information

  • briancastleberry

    I had truly hoped to have an informed dialogue about this issue. Though it seems like people such as yourself are only interested in trying to come up with wittiest quip or one liner. Sad indeed.

  • baal

    ” people such as yourself are only interested in trying to come up with wittiest quip or one liner.”
    …says the guy who just posted a witty quip or one liner.

  • briancastleberry

    I made a statement about judging. You made a sarcastic personal jab at me. Two very different things good sir.

  • RowanVT

    ” Though it seems like people such as yourself”…. that is not the lead up to a personal jab?

  • $84687101

    You’re mistaken. It wasn’t witty.

  • Sven2547

    The fact that this outcome was really, really predictable speaks volumes.

  • Amor DeCosmos

    The only thing we Atheists all have in common is that we lack belief in gods.

    Most Christians believe in the Abrahamic God, that Jesus is the son of God, that Jesus was a human sacrifice to atone for the sins of Adam, that the Bible is the holy word of God, that those who fear and worship God are destined for an eternal reward after death in Heaven, that those who don’t believe in God and Jesus and the Bible are destined to suffer for eternity in Hell… Even though no Christian sect totally agrees with any other Christian sect, all Christians are united by generally shared beliefs and dogma.

    You can’t judge all atheists from the actions of one atheist because the only thing we share is a lack of belief in gods. The actions of one Christian church, however, is a reflection of the beliefs of all Christian churches. The actions and behaviours of individual Christian church may be different, but the inspiration is the same.

  • briancastleberry

    It’s a convenient position you put yourself in. You can judge others but cannot be judged yourself. Hypocrisy at its’ finest.

  • baal

    It’s not hypocrisy to judge everyone by the same standard. Here, the relevant standard is to ask what is an ethical reason to fire someone. Is someone’s trying out a new view on religion for a year an ethical basis for a firing? There are books out there about atheists who prayed for a year or did similar experiments. Last I heard, no atheist called for their firing or demanded that said atheist experimenters be denied employment.

  • http://atheist-faq.com Jasper

    I’d also throw in that it’s examples like this that we have the Clergy Project.

  • Randy Wanat

    I recommended twice on his HuffPo article page that he contact Jerry DeWitt. Twice, the comment carrying that recommendation was not published. Oddly, a recommendation that he go to the Clergy Project website was published. Weird.

  • Steven Simmons

    Yes, instead of a separate fundraiser I think we should donate to the Clergy Project – https://ffrf.org/get-involved/donate/ – select Clergy Project, and then direct him there.

  • Eatabagov Dix

    Christianity is beautiful.

  • http://about.me/andrewrwilson Andrew Wilson

    It should also be made abundantly clear, I hope, that the help comes with no strings attached. There is no expectation that he becomes an atheist.

  • Sideshow_Billybob

    I guess he can use this lesson as part of his “atheist experience”

  • Drakk

    My inquiry is the beginning of a slippery slope and they simply can’t risk it.

    Oh, I find the honesty refreshing.

    EDIT: I wonder if this will tend to be a representative sample of this man’s treatment by christians over the course of the year.

  • Brenda Lunger

    It would have been ridiculous for him to try to separate himself from xianity while remaining immersed in the Azusa community anyway. As they say in religious circles, you must “count the cost” before deciding to follow reason, especially if you’ve been benefiting as a professional christian.

  • George_Tichy

    Exactly!
    How could ANY religious institution (school, church) use a person that is living as an atheist? To do what? To teach what? What would be the curriculum of his classes?
    Want to be an atheist for a year? Get a job that has nothing to do with religious matters or God. It would be insane to expect remaining a Theology teacher while denying any religious experience to self.

  • WallofSleep

    *spoiler alert*

    Atheist teachers have been working at religious schools for centuries. I know, right? Mind = Blown.

  • John

    Exactly right

  • briancastleberry

    Yet again, the double standard amazes me.

  • theassailedteacher

    You know, teaching theology does not mean one must believe in a religion. Theology is comparative religion where you are fairly well versed on all types of belief systems from different periods from around the world. Besides, he is still keeping his faith. He is just “living like an athiest”, whatever that means. I guess part of that is suffering bigotry from myopic fools.

  • onamission5

    Oh but I am sure he’s not being punished for stepping outside the lines in his questioning of religious privilege. His project is “bold and important and necessary.” Also bold and important and necessary: making sure he knows his place by the time he’s done, by providing incentive for him to give up on this undertaking, for fear he lose his house.

  • Sven2547

    So Mr. Bell decided to exercise some critical thinking for a year. He’s not converting, he’s not committing apostasy or heresy or blasphemy. And for all that, he’s getting canned. Orwell is turning in his grave.

    I think this all really underscores the importance of his project. He’s getting the real “atheist experience” week 1: blind hate from Christians!

  • http://twitter.com/verawishes Vera

    Thanks so much for stepping forward, Hemant.

  • http://debaptized.com RevWubby

    And it’s the secular institutions that are intolerantly forcing out Christians.

    Is there a unit of measure for faith in humanity, because I’d like to be able to express the amount lost for specific stories.

  • $84687101

    It’s amazing how deep their fear is at the very notion that some student might be exposed to different ideas, like critical thinking.

  • diogeneslamp0

    They treated him like an atheist: they censored, suppressed and fired him.

  • smrnda

    You would *think* that a Christian institution of learning would be interested in this experiment, the way they’d probably be all over an atheist deciding to ‘sample’ Christianity even in the most superficial way, but I guess the appreciation for intellectual curiosity only goes one way. An institution of (supposedly) learning this type of thing should be appreciated, except that, in the end, religious schools aren’t institutions of learning, they’re propaganda mills.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    They also have no sense of humor.

  • MNb

    “untenable discomfort among members”
    Yeah, we must spare the sensitive toes of believers. They might begin to wonder about difficult questions regarding their faith too and they can’t have that.

  • Joe Trusnik

    That’s what happens when you consider, even superficially, about being a member of the least-trusted group in America. I don’t live in the closet, but there’s some people whom I simply do not tell about my lack of religion, and that includes my boss and co-workers.

  • Tom Lawson

    A Christian university near me terminated a contract with a guy who merely stopped believing in hell. Still loves Christ, but that wasn’t enough for them. “Slippery slope.”

  • http://atheist-faq.com Jasper

    I didn’t realize “slippery slope” was a euphemism for “becoming rational”

  • WallofSleep

    Unfortunately the promise of eternal life simply is not enough to get most people to bend their knees, so the threat of eternal damnation had to be added. When people believe in the first part but not the second, it’s much harder to bring them to heel.

    “Kneel before Me God, and render unto Me Him a tenth of all your holdings”.

    “Heh. You’re puttin’ me on, right? God can’t possibly need any of this crap.”

    “Submit to My His will or suffer the pain of death.”

    “Fuck you, I’ve been promised eternal life.”

    “Oh? Have you not heard of our new product, ‘Hell’? We stole it from the Greeks, renamed it, re-purposed it, and we think it’s gonna sell like crazy.”

  • Nelson

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he completely denounces christianity after seeing how repulsive christians really are.

  • WallofSleep

    I’ll wager he didn’t imagine the shit would hit the fan this fast. If there was a slim chance that this experiment would end with him being an atheist, I think his recent ex-employers just increased that by a couple of percentage points.

  • Domush

    If he stopped believing in a supernatural sky daddy because he was mistreated, he would be no more rational in his position than his believing in one because it feels good.

    We rational people don’t need any more irrational people calling themselves atheists for utterly fallacious reasons. People like that feed the stereotype of “atheist because you hate god”

  • WallofSleep

    “We rational people don’t need any more irrational people calling themselves atheists for utterly fallacious reasons.”

    And who is doing that?

  • RowanVT

    My path to atheism began by reading the bible, and deciding God was evil and that I couldn’t follow him. 16 years later, after being wiccan, a generic pagan, and finally an agnostic, here I am. An atheist because I have found no evidence for the existence of any type of deity.

    Do you want to kick me out of atheism because my journey didn’t start like how *you* wanted it to?

    How very… uhm… Christian of you, actually.

  • David

    I just wrote a letter to the Foundation Beyond Belief about how if they or any other charity origination they work with has a position they should reach out to him. The donation will be nice but that will be gone soon. This would also help show him what the secular community is really about.

  • http://musingsofmadjarov.wordpress.com/ Alex Madjarov

    Well, you can hardly blame the church for firing him. If a plumber decided to spend a year being a non-plumber, his boss would be more than justified in relieving him of his duties.

  • $84687101

    That is a false analogy. His job is teaching. He can still teach. He can still teach exactly the same things in exactly the same way. He was not a pastor. It’s not at all like a plumber spending a year being a non-plumber.

  • George_Tichy

    What would he teach in his classes at a Religion School if he decided to not touch anything that is related to religion?

  • Sven2547

    he decided to not touch anything that is related to religion

    Where did Bell say that, exactly? Here’s what he said he would do:

    For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances…

    I will read atheist “sacred texts”… I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism … to the new ‘religious atheists’… I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible — scholars, writers and ordinary unbelievers — to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them. I will visit atheist gatherings and try it on.

    None of this precludes him teaching the subject material he already knows and teaches.

  • WallofSleep

    Probably the same kinds of things non-catholics teach when working at a catholic school.

  • $84687101

    Show me where he said he would “not touch anything that is related to religion”.

  • WallofSleep

    Not gonna happen. There’s a script and a narrative to follow, facts be damned.

  • Svelaz

    He can teach at a regular school. If his field is Religion he is well prepared to teach it. He will only have to adjust to not starting class with a prayer. I think he has lots of options and the sudden shock of losing his job will wear off eventually. But as he stated, he only had about two weeks worth of money to sustain himself. Not exactly enough time to get another job lined up. But given his field I’m sure any secular university would be a good bet even if he gets the position of professor’s assistant.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Yeah, um, I’m interested in helping people, no strings attached. But there are a lot of people out there who need help. Including ex-clergy who are actually atheists and as such have much worse job prospects than Bell. http://www.clergyproject.org/

  • George_Tichy

    Hmmmm…. I wonder what would he be teaching in his classes during this one year? Would the students be happy paying for theology classes and getting nothing about theology?
    Well,…. this would make sense, isn’t it?
    As much sense as if VONS declared that they will, for one year, sell only agriculture tools. Would anyone go there if they were looking for lettuce and beans???

    He has to be consistent, and everyone should allow him to be consistent. He said that for one year he would not deal with religious issues. Basically, at that time he resigned all his positions in any religious capacity – including his jobs.

    So, let’s the man take responsibility for his decisions and fulfil his curiosity!

  • katiehippie

    He still knows the subject matter, why would he change all his lesson plans suddenly? He hasn’t said he doesn’t believe in it either.

  • George_Tichy

    An atheist teaching theology is an oxymoron.

  • Sven2547

    Not really. Lots of atheists know lots about theology. For many, it’s the reason we left religion.

  • WallofSleep
  • YaronD

    Good to know that nobody is ever qualified to teach comparative theology, since nobody will ever genuinely believe multiple different religions at the same time.

    I guess this is like nobody is qualified to teach non-recent history since nobody actually lives there while teaching.

    And obviously anyone teaching anything relating to criminology has to be a working criminal or there’s really nothing they can teach about the subject.

    Seriously?
    There is a lot in theology that doesn’t require active belief in the subject matter. The text is the same, common interpretations are the same, the main doctrinal point of whatever stream or religion you’re teaching don’t change just because you change your beliefs. Anything that isn’t simply “I believe in X and so should you”, and to be frank that isn’t what theology lessons would be about, is fine. The knowledge doesn’t change just because your belief does.

    Instead of “I believe that X God wants Y”, you teach “According to X, the X God wants Y”. And, well, that’s pretty much how you can teach it even when you do believe, since you’re most likely to say “God wants Y” anyway, when everyone understand the context of the lesson is X religion.

  • Lee Grandmaison

    Generally speaking, atheists are far more knowledgeable about theology than most.

    Practicing Jews and agnostics also score very high on the theological knowledge scale.

    Christians? Not so much. Same with Muslims. ( The knowledge changes from denomination to denomination and region to region, but it is always lower. )

  • Kengi

    He didn’t say he wouldn’t deal with religious issues. He’s exploring atheism for a year, not actually becoming an atheist.

    Besides, are you seriously saying that his knowledge of the subject matter, which Bell gained over years of study, will magically disappear from his head when he starts reading about atheism?

    He never said he would stop talking about, or thinking about, theology.

  • George_Tichy

    It seems that he is the only one not whining about his self-inflicted fate!

  • Kengi

    Yeah, I suppose you are as well, but I don’t see why you are so proud of that fact.

  • George_Tichy

    Proud of what?
    I am only saying that since he decided to go on an atheist experiment, he most probably was not expecting to keep his jobs as a theology professor.
    The package is clearly delineated: atheists usually don’t teach religion, they denounce it. This is what he would have to do if the is trying to be a “good, legit atheist.”

    I wonder how many religion students would pay for a class where religion is denounced as false. Would anyone go to a church where a pastor preaches that God does not exist and that religion is foolishness?

    Some common sense could help this dialogue.

  • $84687101

    I think the problem here is that you don’t know what it means to be an atheist. It means you don’t believe in gods. It does not mean that you can’t read the bible, or even be an expert in it. It doesn’t mean you can’t be an expert in theology or even teach it. Nor does it mean that you have to denounce religion. Many atheists simply don’t believe, without feeling any need to denounce religion.

  • George_Tichy

    If you needed surgery, would you choose a surgeon that has the following sign in his office: “I don’t believe in surgery.” ??

  • cyb pauli

    He’s not a theology professor. He teaches intercultural communications.

  • Lee Grandmaison

    False comparative.

    Really? You make this far, far too easy.

  • Lee Grandmaison

    This comment is full of derp. And not just any grade of derp.

    Herp-a-derp.

    That is all.

  • Kengi

    Proud of what? Apparently proud of your whining about your self-inflicted fate.

    You do nothing but lie about what Bell has said and is actually doing. Your argument is only “common sense” (as if that were a trait to be proud of!) when presented against the straw man you are lying about.

  • baal

    Self-inflicted? Only if you discount the actual actions of the actually christian administration who fired him. That doesn’t happen by an employee’s action alone.

  • George_Tichy

    Does being an atheist include to live with no job, at others’ expenses?
    Hey, I volunteer to be an atheist for the rest of my life!
    Anyone out there starting a fund for me???

  • onamission5

    The fact that you are reveling in the poor treatment of another person for even thinking about atheism says a lot more about you than it does about atheists, and what it says? Not good.

  • Kengi

    It mainly involves critical thinking. Which is why we wouldn’t start a fund for anyone incapable of critical thinking.

  • Marie

    Wow. That would mean setting a different type of goal, don’t you think.

    1. This was definitely not what the pastor had in mind when he started his project. Remember, he was in effect kicked out.

    2. A lot of atheists and other people who hold different beliefs hold down jobs, are responsible, take care of their own families. How responsible you are oftentimes has nothing to do with your religious or non-religious beliefs.

    3. If you even have to ask this type of question, you are only displaying how badly misinformed you are about people outside your faith. Last I checked, it wasn’t the atheists collecting funds from people and having all these scandals of corruption.

    I do know that there have been lots of news on certain “religious” organizations who do fund-raising on a regular basis – with the leaders living off the contributions. Maybe you should ask THEM (but it looks like you might know a few of them already) if you’re interested in starting a project of living at other people’s expense through raising funds.

  • Franklin Bacon

    Scary, since sheltered people have not learned how to deal with real-life situations. That is the lot of those who attempt to escape from religious indoctrination. Examples might include how to survive their first hangover or even whether to wear shorts on a hot summer day…feeling vulnerable in the world.

  • Svelaz

    Every time a “learning” institution such as the one that fired him lets someone go on such a trivial event. They only harm themselves more. The shrinking of the masses who believe increases exponentially now that information is nearly instantaneous and the results magnify fast. The smaller the flock gets the more stringent the rules become in order to stave off any more losses but ironically that just makes things worse. I’m sure that this guy will be examining his choice and hopefully see what others have been saying for so long regarding religion. He may not lose his faith completely but it is certain that his doubt is set in stone.

  • Linda

    When you feel an absolute truth there is no need to worry. They cannot support him professionally or monetarily because somewhere in the deep recesses of their minds they have doubt and fear. If they didn’t, they would fully support this because they would know the outcome. It’s sad that their lack of faith is actually pushing him further away.

  • Kenton Forshee

    So he’s been fired for trying atheism…I bet he didn’t realize just how much like being an atheist he was going to get. Athiests get fired for being atheist too.

  • SheriGNP

    I’m confused about what “living like an Atheist” means. So he doesn’t go to church or preach about God to others for a year – the rest would pretty much be the same. The article didn’t say what he taught but if they weren’t specifically religious study courses, his work wouldn’t change. I’m concerned that he doesn’t realize that Atheism comes from within just like Theism. I don’t outwardly “live” any different that anyone else, so I’m not sure what he planned on doing. I, too, applaud his desire to open his mind and learn more about Atheism, but I find this “living like an Atheist” approach insulting.

  • Christopher Griswold

    From his blog: “I was an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University (APU) teaching Intercultural Communication to undergrads, and Fuller Theological Seminary, coaching doctoral candidates in the writing of their dissertation proposals.”

  • Dan Weeks

    No. Because real atheists will face those ramifications without any outside help. If he wants to learn the consequences of apostasy, I say let him.

  • http://secularvoices.org Kevin Davis (SecularVoices)

    Done!

  • Aaron Martina

    As someone that is just hearing about this pastor for the first time the wording in the title made it seem like Mr. Bell was completing his “year trying out atheism” and then got fired. It wasn’t until I followed some of the links that I determined that it was only 4 days in. Regardless I wish him luck!

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    Next, he’ll get divorce (if he’s married), and his family will disown him. Now he knows!

  • David

    He should probably send his former employers a note of thanks. They gave him the only answers he should require and saved him a year of searching.

  • kolgado69

    I’d help him out myself if I weren’t unemployed. Anyways, as far as living as an Atheist…well, I think it’s more what we don’t do compared to believers. We Don’t go to church, we don’t pray, we don’t wear any symbols and we don’t try to preach (for the most part) our beliefs on others. Other than that, we live the same way everyone else does.

  • Gexxr

    Guess they don’t think their “truth” will win. I think it says a lot that they firmly believe that people cannot explore other options and still return to the fold. It is a surprising lack of faith in their own world view.

  • Troglodyke

    Done! I want Pastor (former pastor?) Ryan to know that people care about him and support his efforts. Atheists come in all stripes, only united by a lack of belief in gods. I wish for Mr. Ryan to have peace for the choice that he has made, and while I wish as an atheist for his experiment to end in renouncing belief entirely, I simply desire, as a fellow human, for him to enjoy the process of discovery, think critically and openly, and be able to support his family. He and his family will be in my thoughts.

  • A3Kr0n

    He’s a part of the group (god believers) that stopped same sex marriage in Utah. I don’t give money to the enemy.

  • Sven2547

    Do we know his personal stance on that, and whether his (former) employers supported that ban? Because if not, I don’t think that’s a fair assumption.

  • get real

    He better start praying to that make believe god of his ASAP my friend! lol

    Zeus, Thor, Easter Bunny, Santa Clause and the mighty jesus!!! Yay!!!!

  • Steven

    Bell needs to find a real fucking job. Stop all your religious bullshit people and let him return 5 cent cans and walk miles to get food at the Krishna temple. You religious fanatics need to learn to work instead of molesting little kids

  • Terri

    I’m puzzled as to why a church would employ an atheist and why anyone on either side of the fence would expect them to. That doesn’t make any sense. And why he would want to be employed doing work he does not agree with. Very confusing.

  • Sven2547

    He was working for a university. Also, he’s not an atheist.

  • Jared

    Who knew you could get so much blow back for just trying to go a year without believing in the an invisible friend.