A Year Without God: A Former Pastor’s Journey Into Atheism

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post

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What difference does God make?

About a year ago a friend and Episcopal priest, told me her atheist friend asked her this question. She found it harder to answer than she expected. He had batted away her first few attempts and she was now running it by me. We didn’t end up discussing it for very long but the question has stayed with me. Recently I decided I would find out, by living for a year without God.

*******

I was more or less raised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. My parents were United Methodists when I was born in 1971 in Parma, Ohio — a suburb on the west side of Cleveland. When I was six years old my parents’ marriage started to come apart and in an effort to save it, we all ended up with my mom’s parents in Southern California. Part of the effort to save their marriage must have been a renewed commitment to their Christian faith, this time in the Seventh-day Adventist dialect of my grandparents.

From that time until early 2013, I lived within the family of the church. My relationship with God and the church has taken many turns — a story for another time — but I always managed to maintain the tension between the relatively unchanging demands of the church, my growing understanding of God, and my own personal experience of the world. I realize now that this tension was always there. These relationships were never easy for me. Whether during my fundamentalist phase, during college, or my growing progressive convictions in recent years, I always had a nagging sense that I didn’t fit. So, naturally, I became a pastor. Since 1991 I have either been a pastor or in school developing my skills to be a better pastor. When I felt that I couldn’t do it anymore I was convinced, by myself and others, that I could make my best contribution from inside rather than outside the church. So I stayed.

As it turns out, the day came when I really didn’t fit within the church anymore. I had been an outspoken critic of the church’s approach to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members — that approach being exclusion or, at best, second class membership (“we won’t kick you out but you can’t participate in leadership”). Through the years, I had also been a critic of the church’s treatment of women, their approach to evangelism and their tunnel-vision approach to church growth. I was deeply committed to my community and its betterment — something that won me the praise of some (and even an Innovative Church of the Year award from the North American Division) and the vitriol of others. I engaged in and sponsored interfaith relationships within my churches and in the community. I struggled alongside our neighbors for justice and peace. All of these things — things I was most proud of in my ministry — earned me rebuke and alienation from church administrators. I tried to maintain that I was a faithful critic — a critic from within — someone committed to the church and its future success but unwilling to go blindly along with things I felt were questionable, or even wrong.

This was on top of my theological concerns. I couldn’t affirm the teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the “remnant church” — God’s chosen people to prepare the world for the last days. If fact, there was a lot about the church’s beliefs concerning the last days (and the more proximate days) that troubled me.

In March, I stood my ground on these issues and was asked to resign. I didn’t want to resign but I finally agreed. My family and my health had suffered over the past several years but my faith had suffered most of all. Since that time I have been a religious nomad. I have struggled to relate to the church and, if I’m honest, God. I haven’t attended church consistently; I struggle to relate to church people, preferring the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. I haven’t prayed much and, without sermons to write on a regular basis, I haven’t studied, or even really read, the Bible.

So, I’m making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will “try on” atheism for a year. 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 trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result).

I will read atheist “sacred texts” — from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new ‘religious atheists’ (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin). 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.

In short, I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist. It’s important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. That’s part of what this year is about.

For this life-long Christian, and a pastor for nearly 20 years, this feels abnormal. Risky, even. It is as uncomfortable as a lifelong atheist trying on Christianity for a year. Many of my colleagues will fear for my eternal security (what if I somehow die during the year?), others will question my mental health, reasoning that the recent trauma in my life has sent me over the edge. Perhaps they are right. There has been some religious trauma in my life in the last year and it has shaken the foundation of my faith, but honestly, it was getting pretty shaky anyway.

My desire is, as always, to pursue the truth and do it in a sometimes serious, sometimes playful, way that might be insightful for others as well. During the year I will be blogging my experience here and working on a book. I invite you to follow along and share your thoughts.

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About Ryan Bell

For 19 years Ryan Bell was a pastor, most recently the senior pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. In March 2013 he resigned his position due to theological and practical differences. As an adjunct professor he has taught subjects ranging from intercultural communication to bioethics.
Currently he is a researcher, writer and speaker on the topic of religion and irreligion in America. In January 2014, Ryan began a yearlong journey exploring the limits of theism and the atheist landscape in the United States and blogs about that experience here at Year Without God.

  • http://www.atheistnomads.com Dustin Williams

    It sounds like you’re taking the religious seeker’s approach to atheism. As far as I know, this is a first. As a former Adventist and one time seminary student turned atheist, I wish you the best and hope you find the atheist community to be a welcoming place.

    • http://jakeandmaggies.wordpress.com jakeandmaggies

      I think that what matters is that you have taken the huge step to take on a trip like this. Everyone who has taken the trip OUT has done it differently. I have been on this trip since HS (academy) and still find myself getting tripped up by indoctrination. Honesty with yourself and others is the only way to approach this journey. I am looking forward to following along with you.

  • http://gravatar.com/annmscott Ascott

    Thank you for being brave!

  • Jeff Harvey

    I tried to reply on the HuffPo article but it wouldn’t let me because I’m not on facebook.

    Anyway, my comment was this: I suggest you contact the Clergy Project at http://www.clergyproject.org. They are an organization consisting of some clergy who are questioning their faith, and also some who are trying to extricate themselves from the clergy. This is a ready-made group of people with advice and feedback for someone who is going through the same thing as you.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ianos.gnatiuc Ianoş Gnatiuc

    So, you are not an atheist but want to pretend being one. What makes you think that you can pretend that you’re not a believer?

    • https://plus.google.com/107460556710680820059 Rob Guimaraes

      Atheism isn’t a freaking band fan club. Accusing her of “pretending” is infantile at best. She is honestly and intellectually approaching issues she is curious about. No mature intellectual would ever look down on that kind of willful introspection.

      • https://plus.google.com/107460556710680820059 Rob Guimaraes

        BTW, apologies for the mistaken choice of gender pronouns.

      • https://www.facebook.com/ianos.gnatiuc Ianoş Gnatiuc

        Atheism is not something that can be learned. It is just the absence of theism – something that doesn’t exist per se.

        So, if someone believes in (any) god, he certainly is not an atheist. And since he says that he is still a believer, that means the word “pretending” is chosen right.

  • http://landonschnabel.wordpress.com landonschnabel

    Readings you might find interesting/useful as you undertake this project:

    “Preachers Who Are Not Believers” – http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP08122150.pdf

    “Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheist” – http://www.amazon.com/Godless-Evangelical-Preacher-Americas-Atheists/dp/1569756775

  • Glenn

    As a practicing Adventist Bible Teacher…. My hope and prayer is that you find at the end of your journey that there is a God and that there is absolute, relevant, and progressive truth. I would like to share some thoughts as you enter your journey; we often want to find a God that makes us comfortable in our skin rather than accepting God for who he is. The word tells us that the disciples were of one accord… we cannot infer from that that they believed all things in all ways exactly the same. We can infer that it means that they had a common and genuine love for Christ. God is who he is “I am who I am” and just as we have to accept each others differences of opinions we must learn to do the same with God. We may not agree with God all the time but we can be sure that He probably knows and understands best. We cannot limit His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, because our humanity is not willing nor is capable to grasp His infinite wisdom. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,” says the Lord. Scripture is our road map to a particular destination within and without, we cannot just change the directions because we don’t like them. I am personally more of a moderate christian, due in part to the fact that I do see absolute truth and I also see where God has allowed for some gray areas where we grow as unique and individual Christians. Places where we learn to accommodate all believers but not all sin. There is this movement that calls for tolerance in all things but we often don’t tolerate God’s differences because it makes us feel uncomfortable. And in some cases this is justifiable based on interpretation but it many cases it is just an unwillingness to accept God for who is ( omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient). Just some thoughts as you start your journey. Good luck with your journey…. The great thing about God is that no matter what the outcome is, He still loves you :) and that is what makes him awesome :)

    • carolynohl

      This comment ought to make you into an atheist before your year begins.

      • glenn

        Sorry I offended anybody. ..I thought this was meant to be an open blog but now I will leave because I realize that only those of agreeable opinion are welcome here. Good luck with your journey, I will be praying for you.

        • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

          Everyone who is respectful of others is welcome here.

      • Guy

        Hey Glenn
        I’m not sure it as simple as saying that you are not welcome here.
        What is probably not welcome is the mindless religious rhetoric, selective bible quotes and circular logic that so often dominate religious discourse.
        If you were to offer some genuine introspection and insight then I’m sure your comments would be welcome.

    • cynthia

      Amen

    • Bea

      I have to come alongside Glenn…I happen to be a believer and going through a time in my life where I, honestly, don’t like what God is doing…don’t like it at all. As a matter of fact, I was just ranting to Him, a couple nights ago, asking Him “WHY!”

      Thank God He can handle my doubt. Thank God I can go to Him in spite of myself. Thank God He still knows my plans and they are good. You see, that’s what faith is all about. It doesn’t always feel good…it doesn’t always even look good, but He is always good. And for that, I will continue to trust, even when my nature screams no.

      I will also be coming alongside Ryan. No judgement, no throwing stones, just a fellow believer cheering you on :)

    • http://physeter42.wordpress.com The_Physeter

      Have you noticed how, on this blog especially, the atheists and questioners all use paragraphs and formatting, while many of the Christians talk in one big, questionably-punctuated block?

      I’m just sayin…

  • carolynohl

    Kudos to you! Everyone should seek the truth, regardless of what that truth turns out to be. I personally don’t see how you can end a year of atheism and still have a religious bone in your body. Seek the truth and it shall set you free. When I was 16, I did just that, as my [Jehovah's Witness] religion had always taught me to do, and I’ve been an atheist ever since. I’m 73 now, and want to help others find their way to overcoming their faith.

  • Ladimer

    Good luck to you. I studied for years before I could come to terms with Atheism being truth. I was very hard on myself and when I found that I couldn’t defend my religious positions I studied all major (and minor) religions to find answers. Only at the end did I even consider Atheism when all other avenues became exhausted. In my opinion you’re at least starting out on the right foot.

  • http://www.modusv.org/ Modus V

    regardless the motivation or eventual destination, it’s the courage to explore, investigate and experiment with “taboo” ideas that warrants recognition…it will be interesting to witness the journey

  • carolynohl

    Remember, part of being an atheist for a year is you have to delete all pro-religious comments on your blog. LOL

  • https://www.facebook.com/julia.ohl.3 Julia Ohl

    I wish you a happy year. I believe you will experience freedom like never before. You might try this book: http://www.amazon.com/Manual-Creating-Atheists-Peter-Boghossian/dp/1939578094

  • https://www.facebook.com/julia.ohl.3 Julia Ohl

    I agree with my big sister about deleting the pro-religious comments!

    • A Betts

      Seriously? Delete pro-religious comments. How intolerant can you be?! Isn’t this supposed to be a full well rounded experience. Exactly how is that to happen if you do that?

      • carolynohl

        No, it’s supposed to be a year of being an atheist, not a year of a well rounded experience. Nevertheless, did you not notice I put LOL after my comment?

        • https://www.facebook.com/julia.ohl.3 Julia Ohl

          Well, he said he was going to only read atheist stuff for a year. That’s why he should ignore the religious stuff. Normally I am in favor of hearing both sides of an issue, but he’s been listening to the religious side his whole life. If he’s truly going to immerse himself in atheism, then he should only read atheist material. He needs to go cold turkey on the religious propaganda.

      • glenn

        Ok…well thank you for being tolerant of my opinion. ..I can see that I am not welcome here. Sound familiar?

    • https://plus.google.com/107460556710680820059 Rob Guimaraes

      The only things that ought to ever be deleted are obvious, frivolous troll posts. As with theism, if your grasp of atheism cannot withstand the existence of arguments and views being offered from the other side of the coin (or if you imagine pretending they’re not there somehow erases them), then you are more a hindrance to intellectual advancement than an aid.

  • Cat

    I’m a cradle-atheist; my family has been atheist for generations. So I don’t have much to suggest about leaving religion, except that you have my good wishes, however it turns out, as long as we have yours.
    If you still feel the need to go to church, I happen to know that the UUs don’t mind if you’re atheist–though they tend to still be a bit supernaturally oriented for my comfort, their hearts are in the right place and I think you’ll be comfortable with their attitudes about equality for women and gays.
    If you’d like a book about atheism; I found “Atheism for Dummies” to be a good introduction and also non-bashing.
    And you don’t have to delete pro-religious comments just because you’re living like an atheist; plenty of us don’t feel the need to do that.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      I have to agree about “Atheism for Dummies” being a stupendous resource. I’ve read dozens of Atheist/Humanist/Skeptic/Buddhist books and didn’t think A4D would pack much of a punch… but it’s a pretty good choice for someone investigating Atheism and what it entails (and more importantly, doesn’t entail; people really suffer from all the misinformation about what atheism actually is).

  • Tori

    Just as a fellow wanderer myself…also from SDA background and closer to many atheists in their beliefs on these issues then most SDA. I also felt a divide.

    I found the issue was religion. As opposed to spirituality. The church makes rules and classes/divides. Jesus was really into “him who has no sin throw the first stone.” And I believe as everyone has sinned. Had premarital sex, lied, cursed, or egotistical, or rude at one time or another and hurt someone. It’s not really our place to judge or tell others their truths don’t matter.

    Our job is to search for meaning and purpose. Whether through atheism, Christianity, volunteering, donating, or reading books. I did find once I did that (and changed from SDA to general christian church.) I feel more spiritual and closer to God.
    I even had a close encounter in my searches for God, I told
    Him I needed to hear from him,
    And opened my Bible to first thing “I will be with you.” I believe those words stood true for me and will stand true for you!! Good luck on your search, if atheism doesn’t work. I recommend you try a general Christian church, or Bayside Church in Roseville Ca. The main pastor is a former atheist and he’s amazing!!

  • Boo

    Forgoing childish belief in the supernatural is necessary step into adulthood. It’s fun to think there’s a ghost in my basement because it gives me a good scare when I’m ascending a dark staircase but at the end of the day no matter how many creaks I hear behind me there’s no ghost- there never was a ghost and there is no need for a ghost in my basement other than to conjure up some fright in me when I do laundry.

  • http://streetpastor.wordpress.com J. Barrett Lee

    Right on. All the best to you on the journey. It reminds me of Gandhi’s title for his autobiography: “The Story of my Experiments with the Truth”. Searching, questioning, and doubting is an essential part of whatever conclusions we come to in life.
    I’m an active Presbyterian minister who also taught philosophy for 4 years. Like you, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that I can no longer consider myself a ‘theist’ in the ‘classical’ sense. In my case, I’ve found other ways of relating to the language of the Christian tradition that don’t entail checking my critical faculties at the door of the church. Broadly speaking, I suppose I would qualify as a Hickian pluralist or Spinozan/Emersonian panentheist, but I like to play with the term “alt/theist”. But that’s me and my journey. May yours take you to the place where you experience wholeness, community, acceptance-in-honesty, and peace… whatever that might look like for you.
    Thanks for inviting us along for the ride. I’ll be checking in and lending support wherever possible.

  • Gary

    I too tried to change the SDA Church from inside but got discarded for my trouble. If you are still in the LA area, we have found the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles to be a place where an agnostic/atheist can find community. Welcome to the ranks of the discarded Ryan!

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      Hi Gary, I know some people there. I’d love to meet you!

  • http://lookitseugeneabano.wordpress.com lookitseugene

    I look forward to what you’ll blog about this coming year.

  • Barb

    Good luck Ryan, from an SDAer to liberal Christian to vague believer in progressive spirituality to nonbeliever. The atheists have the best arguments in the end. Not always the most emotionally satisfying to some, but still, the best arguments. I finally found them the most emotionally satisfying too, because they fit reality. Similar to your friend, asking why a world without god is indistinguishable from a world with god is a start. The hiddenness of god is an even bigger challenge to theistic claims than the problem of evil – which is huge in and of itself.

    Even after the logical reasons, the final nail in the coffin of my faith was how easily the god, who was supposed to love me, let me go. YMMV. Maybe the Calvinists are right, lol, but I’d much rather it be the atheists.

  • David Austin

    Hi Ryan,

    I congratulate you for making this very difficult decision, and having the courage to stick with it for one year.

    Good luck on your quest. I hope you will find that atheists are not the immoral, untrustworthy people that you maybe have been led to believe. I think you will find that the majority of us are just “normal” people living our lives with honesty & integrity. You may in fact know more atheists than you realise, as it is not something that we declare openly because of the prejudice we face.

    May I suggest you search the Internet for the many resources it provides for information that you may not have considered before.

    Of course, as an atheist, I hope you decide to continue as an atheist after this year, but I respect your ultimate decision as to whether you return to being a theist or not.

    Best wishes from “The Land Down-Under”
    David Austin

  • http://steamcommunity.com/id/Jesus-Fucking-Christ Слава Сатане

    I wish you a fantastic new year and I pour out all my atheist blessings upon you too!

  • http://gravatar.com/oelarnes Joel

    Welcome to the club, even if it’s just for a visit. If you are unconvinced by the evidence either way, I suggest you start with “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Harris and “Why I am not a Christian” by Russell, to see why many of the rest of us who are unconvinced by the evidence find it important to oppose the religious mindset. You can read all the apologetics and counter-apologetics books you want and feel like you’ve hardly learned a thing, mostly because there’s not that much to learn.

    • betsey riedl

      Very good texts to read! Great idea!

  • Captain Amy

    I considered conveying a lot of my own observations about my fellow Atheists. However, I think you need to find that out for yourself. All I will do is follow your blog and be there to interact if you are looking for input.

  • http://www.greenbottomcottage.com Ken

    Ryan, If you’ve not already, you might find time in this special year to read “In the Beauty of the Lilies” by John Updike.

  • William

    It took me until nearly age 40 to finally escape the indoctrination and expectations of others to being Christian. About five months later, I started thinking of myself as an Atheist after reading a short portion of Sam Harris’s “The End of Faith”. I’d struggled with the misogyny of churches, the violence in the Bible, the anti-science nonsense; plus the fact that the Bible was clearly poorly-written by men and not particularly inspirational.
    It’s not easy to shake off all that has been pressed upon you and my parents continue to be bummed out by my disbelief. The feeling of liberation from leaving all of that dogma behind was tremendous and I wish I could share that with everyone. Most of the world continues to feel a need for religion and alienating everyone isn’t helpful, so they will likely have to find it on their own. I’m encouraged that so many young people are seeing it so much earlier than I did.
    I wish you luck sir.

  • kwame

    Just the fact that you are alive mean that God is in your life . Try something else my brother.

  • http://claireshegoes.com Claire

    One of my Facebook friends shared your article. I’m trying to incorporate a bit of a response to it into a blog post of my own. (I don’t know if I’ll post it, but I’ll try.) In my opinion, the problem that you’re having isn’t with God. It’s with man’s perception of God, what you’ve been told and come to believe via the perspective of others, etc.

    I used to be an Adventist. Eventually I became non-denominational. And now…I just have a lot of thinking to do. ;) Although I still believe in God, my relationship with conventional religion these days is difficult for me to describe. In some ways I’ve left it behind.

  • allison stavaridis

    I hope you find what it is you are looking for. I struggle with many of the same issues as a Orthodox Christian. I believe our theology is on target but how it is intrepreted to treat women and LBGT horribly. I find with other denominations I either have to choose between heretical theology or bad politics. I have such difficulty reconciling this. I wonder if there is a place for me.
    You may choose to not pray for the next year, but I am praying for you in your struggle regardless of the final outcome. As someone fortunate enough to be a follower of Jesus Christ I want you to please remember if you change your mind in the next year and decide a month is more than tolerable and you have the answer to the question, God understands. If you become an Atheist, God understands that too. Some of my favorite people and best humans I know are Atheists.
    PS: for me the answer is it imbues everything.

  • http://rickladd.com Rick Ladd

    Whatever the outcome, I applaud your desire to seek for yourself. My inclination is to suggest you read nothing at all about atheism and merely be. Labels tend to be far less useful than most of us believe. Were I to recommend one book, however, it would be “The Wisdom of Insecurity”, by Alan Watts. I look forward to following your journey. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://adventproject.wordpress.com adventproject

    Hey Ryan and everybody here!

    I’m very pleased to see that I can read in these comments where we can find a generous expression of belief systems whether they be atheist or believing.

    I do find a lot more of atheist making posts and comments versus the believing side (At least in this blog).

    I appreciate the tone of the discussion.

    Some things that have stood out to me at the outset of reading the previous comments:
    1) Yes, many churches SDA and other denomination have their various lingos and catch phrases. They each have their way or methods of indoctrination of their people. We by nature tend to be exclusive and bias towards our own religion, faith, or lack there of. I have also read a great many atheist forums blogs and a great many books. All of which also have it’s form of indoctrination. This is done whether by intention or by the nature is discussion. (Once again, my perspective).

    2) I find that one will make a decision to remain a believer in God or remain an atheist or to convert/proselytize to the other side based upon the amount of evidence that they find to convince them of a given side. I don’t however believe that one can ever reject, deny, or conclude that there is enought evidence to say “I’m right and your wrong”. To reject new evidence or to ignore a new point of discussion for the sake of believing “I know all that there is to know about the subject” would be folly, this on either side. Now, some points of discussions we may have already heard and have made a conclusion on these, but, there will always be a new argument that we haven’t heard. We must through sound logic and reasoning hear these out. I have found in my various verbal dialogues that often many people will just say “that argument is flawed.” Or “I’ve heard that before”. Great minds, both atheist and believing must constantly and consistently be seeking new evidences for or against their current stand.

    3) I must say this. I am saddened by many religious types who try to make an argument for their faith based upon articles of faith, aka, the Bible. Although, I am a firm believer in the Bible as being Gods word (I’m a believer) I don’t believe that we should reject knowledge and logic and reason and use the premise of what God says to convince those who don’t believe. I read Romans 12:2 “be convinced by the renewing of your mind.” This tells me that we if have arrived at the point that we believe in God or will continue to believe in God is a matter not of believing out of blind faith, or as a byproduct of indoctrination, but through a rational objective searching. Use your mind to strengthen your faith.

    4) I am a current SDA minister in Texas who loves Jesus and believe that He is God. I uphold the authority of scripture. And in the same breath believe that God has given me a mind to make rational decisions. I choose to believe in God. I choose to keep hearing new arguments against His existence. I choose to share with believers and non as to why I stand where I stand.

    5) I have found both young and old believers and atheist have arrived at a conclusion to this matter out of lethargy, laziness, contempt or indifference on the matter. Primarily on the former of the 4. To truly arrive at a
    Decided conclusion, I believe you must investigate and search and question. Not to roll over and die. People can be so lazy on a matter that many may consider an eternal decision. God, and believing in His existence or not is a serious matter.

    6) After all my searching and reading whether to believe or not, I have found 3 key arguments that keep me in favor of continuing to believe in God. I have never written them down. No matter how much I’ve read on His opposition I have not found a satisfying answer to my belief. I have some new books to add to my list based fr this blog. I am thankful.

    My logic and reasoning is what enforces my belief in God. I try to exhibit a character like Jesus. I try to love all, accept all, and to treat all in the same manner. Gay, straight, single married, female or male, divorced and same marriage, old and young.

    I know where my church stands and what the “Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual” says. I support our church whole heartedly and will continue as long as my reasoning is not compromised. I believe that both the SDA church manual and the Bible are key for our church. But, I hold fast to the fact that only the Bible is inspired by God. There are many who may equate these (plus the role of EGW writings) this is a major error and can lead to much hurt and pain when misused.

    I love God with all my heart, strength and MIND!

    If you’d like to converse with me, my email is gperea@txsda.org!

    Thank you my believing and non-believing friends!

    Let’s strive to better our conversations with love, compassion and intelligence!

  • Rick

    If you are serious about studying Atheism, Peter Boghossian’s “A Manual For Creating Atheists” is available on Kindle & Audible which I personally believe is the definitive guide to Atheism. If you are looking to revisit the Bible in a fun creative way, you can get the “Brick Bible” (the Bible illustrated with Legos). Bart D. Ehrman is a world renowned Bible scholar who brings an unadulterated analysis of the text. David Fitzgerald’s work also brings a harsher but simplified critique of the New Testament. And if you’re looking for a spiritual book to help you through this year, “The Good Book” by A.C. Grayling is a brilliant combination of wisdom through the ages. Look forward to reading about your thoughts & experiences as you embark on your journey of unbelief.

  • Saoirse Munteor MacTire

    Ryan, I think you will have an interesting — in the Chinese way — journey and I am curious to see how you deal with it. I went from being a Roman Catholic (damned near became a nun) for 25 years, to an evangelical Christian for the next 23 years. At the age of 48, with my marriage dissolving and a rage at a God who didn’t care about that, I took a year to give up on Christianity in its entirely and explore something entirely different — witchcraft. I spent a year learning about it and other religions that exist outside of the monotheistic religions, studied it in college and had my initiation in 2002. I teach a small group, and still research and philosophize about paganism, and I lean toward a more atheistic paganism.

  • http://www.youtube.com/djarm67 djarm67

    Sounds like it will be an interesting voyage for you. My own journey (only a few years ago) was from a leader in a fundamentalist pentecostal church, to an activist atheist.

    Question everything.

    DJ

  • https://www.facebook.com/peter.veitch Peter Veitch

    I was an SDA for many years , then a generic xian for many more after that. My forst year as an atheist was very very tough, depressing, sad, lonely. I hope you don’t get that . ( I am four years out now, and the Joy of escape from religion is really only now just starti g to kick in. Cheers dude.

  • Astra

    I don’t really think one can “try on” atheism and really understand it. There is a fundamental shift in outlook that I experienced that caused me to recognize that I was no longer a believer. Reading atheistic texts and eschewing prayer is not the same.

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      Astra, where would you suggest I start, then?

      • Astra

        Well, I don’t know. What is your goal? To find God? To explore your doubts?

        I didn’t go searching for atheism. I just found myself realizing that a) any experience of a God that might be out there is so filtered through human perception as to be useless for achieving understanding, and b) there is simply no reliable evidence in favor of the existence of a supreme being, and even less evidence of one that interferes in human history.

        I am a scientist. Although there are religious people and believers in my field, I think science has perhaps the largest percentage of atheists of any field. Viewing the world from the perspective of the scientific method leaves little room for an active deity, IMO. An attempt to understand a scientific worldview and how one evaluates reliable data from spurious ones within that paradigm would be instructive.

        However, I find many of the lead writers at the intersection of science and atheism to be more obnoxious than convincing (Dawkins in particular). I did like many of the essays Frederick Crews wrote on evolution. They are collected in Follies of the Wise. Francis Bacon’s The New Organon is somewhat slow going but he was the first to identify the human tendencies toward preferring deductive over inductive reasoning and to looking for patterns by ignoring evidence that doesn’t fit one’s pre-existing theories. Alan Charles Kors has a great series at The Teaching Company on the Birth of the Modern Mind that includes Bacon, Hume, the deists, etc. I highly recommend it.

      • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

        That’s pretty much how I feel, though I’m not a scientist. Also, I find pretty universal agreement among Christians and atheists that Dawkins is obnoxious. I’ve read pretty widely already, but I’m just at the end of my system, so I’m pressing on. Best!

  • https://www.facebook.com/gordon.hide Gordon Hide

    I don’t really think you can “try on” atheism for a year. Although acting like an atheist may be a reasonable way to start an investigation. For a lot of us atheists belief is not a matter of volition. Either the evidence for something is convincing or it’s not. I find that, given enough convincing evidence, I am unable to resist belief and with a lack of evidence I am unable to believe. I could go through the mechanics of being a believer for a year but I don’t think it would affect my deliberations. I suggest to you that how you feel about a truth claim is important to you whereas to me my personal preference is not relevant to an assessment of reality.

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      Here this is again. I’ve got to figure out why people keep saying I can’t “try on” atheism. If all the other answers, systems, structures of thought and boundaries of intellectual inquiry come to a dead end, what should a person do? Try a different approach. We’ll see, maybe you’re right and I’m hopelessly trapped in theism.

      • Astra

        I can’t speak for Gordon but what I was trying to get at is that when I was a believer, it seemed self-evident to me that a loving God exists and is active in human affairs. I slowly came to realize that I didn’t believe that anymore. It was not an easy transition–religion was important to me. Now, belief in that God seems as nonsensical as before it was obvious. I guess it’s that transition that strikes me as hard to comprehend unless it happens to you. Are you trapped in theism? Only you can say. It is true that some books caused the light bulb to go off for me. Karen Armstrong’s History of God was the first book that made me realize how closely tied monotheistic belief is to the culture of a time and place. Obvious in retrospect but not to one who grows up in a religious tradition and takes it for granted.

        • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

          The whole point of the article was to say that I have been slowing coming to this realization, or at least a suspicion. Thanks for being a part of this conversation.

      • Barb

        “Hopelessly trapped in theism.” That’s an interesting phrase right there!

        My experience to unbelief was similar to those above. I never tried it on. It just happened as I questioned and questioned and read and thought and discussed. I refused to acknowledge that it happened for a couple of years, because I still very much wanted to believe. But I didn’t anymore.

        I think it is very hard to pretend to be something you aren’t. If you are still sort of, kind of, a believer, then you are not going to know what it is like to be a nonbeliever. You can’t just “try it on”. But you can take this year to question and question and read and think and discuss unbelief. It can be an intellectual exercise, but it can also be a psychological one as you explore the emotional ramifications of unbelief.

        For me, I used this picture to describe my psychological experience. My faith was like a shrub I was clutching onto as I dangled over this frightening abyss of unbelief. I watched the roots pop out, one by one, but I clung even tighter. Finally, the last one popped, and, instead of falling horribly, I easily landed on my feet, dusted my hands off, and walked away. It was so much easier than I thought it was going to be. Then again, I never made a living based on belief, and I didn’t live out my struggles in public. I feel for you.

      • http://gravatar.com/smurfbane Maverick

        I think Astra’s comment points to something that bothers me about the phrasing of the premise of your upcoming journey; If you had said, “I’m going to try being vegan for a year” or “I’m going to life in an Amish community for a year”, no one would really thought that was odd. There’s a set of rules, a structure, (in my later example) an organized community to go join.

        Atheism doesn’t have those things. “There are no deities” is the whole of it. Either you sincerely believe that at your core, or you don’t; ergo you *are* an atheist or your are not. Think about it like if someone said to you “I’m going to try being pregnant for a while.”

        That being said, for the love of all things good in the universe, don’t construe these sorts of comments as criticism, and don’t be dissuaded from the task you’ve set for yourself. Consider them insights into seeing things they way atheists do. If there is one further that all atheists agree on it is this: “It *matters* whether something is true or not”. That is what made most, if not all, of us atheists in the first place; searching for what is true.

        Here’s what I would suggest.

        1) Don’t amend what you’re calling your search; this the history of your journey. Maybe in a few months time you’ll post something to the effect of “Now I understand those original comments”.

        2) Don’t forego reading religious texts, read them all; but read them objectively as if you’ve never seen them before. Doing that with the Bible might be really hard for you; try looking at the Skeptic’s Annotate Bible.

        3) Watch debates on youtube, what the video’s posted by people like Aron Ra, Matt Dillahunty, Thunderf00t, DarkMatter2525, Mr. Deity. Watch the responses and criticisms to those videos.

        4) Read the stories of people who have walked a similar path as you. You might see what feels like your future self writing back to you.

        5) Pay *very* close attention to the social behaviors of people around you, and society at large.

        6) Don’t be afraid to question anything or anyone. Be relentless and unapologetic in the pursuit of truth.

        7) Have fun.

      • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

        Do some research on Skepticism, and try that on (apply it). Atheism is simply a lack of belief, and the best way to really “try it” would be to investigate the arguments and counter-arguments, and the evidence (or lack thereof), with a skeptical mindset. It’s really the basis for all of our sciences and the scientific method, but more than that it is honest inquiry using our own observations and reasoning instead of relying on faith or the opinions of other people.

        • Quizzical

          What he ^^ said. It’s not that there’s any reason you can’t try on atheism, Ryan, except that atheists don’t believe in any gods. Can you do that? Can you decide not to believe in a god? If you believe in a god right now, can you just stop it tomorrow by choice? Generally, if the mind is convinced of a thing, it believes it. If a mind is not convinced of a thing, it doesn’t believe it. This is where you leave me confused: How can you not believe in any god by choice?

          But yes, you can use your skeptical mind to do research, trying not to be swayed by biases from your belief in a deity. That sounded to me sort of, your plan, no? Unless you think atheism is just an outward expression, like not going to church or praying? Because that’s not quite it; we really don’t believe in any gods. :)

          I know you can do this your own way. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone for approval. I’d like to see you do as you planned and share your experiences. If nothing else, you’d get lots of perspectives from your adoring fans (the likes of us), LOL. Do like Nike says. :)

  • https://www.facebook.com/marthie.leffin Martha Leffin

    If nothing else, it is much appreciated that you might be more understanding of an atheist worldview. I find it a beautiful and liberating place. I hope you find a view and community that makes you feel connected and fulfilled.

    Something to consider: Just like there are decent, liberal, flexible religious people, there are also the very conservative, fierce, and fundamental religious people. Applying that to something like “atheism” is important too. Some atheists are very strong and determined. Very militant anti-theists. Mostly, militant anti-theists express strong and dramatic opinions. Nothing really wrong with it, but it can be a more offensive dialogue. There are also atheists of other tones as well. Atheists that support choice to think how you will, that support the idea that anyone can have a personal religion if they choose, and are typically opposed to things like “organized religion” because of the corruption. The problem is the imposition, not the “faith” itself.

    The biggest part of my deconversion had more to do with asking “why do they think that?” and discovering answers that way – instead of following an ideal. “Coming from monkeys? thats crazy! why do they think that?” >> Now, after discovering my own answers, I realize I relate to “Secular Humanism” more than other perspectives.

    Good luck! and have fun:)

  • Kay

    Good luck with your journey, I hope you find what you’re looking for. :)

    As a non believer it’s awesome when someone wants to explore life without God. Whatever you decide, it’s nice to see you seeking answers and actually using that brain of yours instead of following along like the rest of the sheep.

  • http://geilt.wordpress.com geilt

    Understand you can’t go back once you’ve studied all this. I was a doubtful seeker myself. I took the spiritual and religious academic path. I studied to much and learned too much about the beautiful multitude of culture and religion around the world.

    It had changed me greatly and has given me no less appreciation of people and the world, in fact, it has heightened it.

    But there is still a spot in me that wishes something may be true, but I know that is just my childish side hoping.

    Its liberating being an atheist but the realization of responsibility for all of ones life can be a great burden, especially if there are regrets or religious fervor in your past.

  • aksak

    From my point of view on the other side of the planet, I find the discussion above a bit strange. From your post and the answers of others, it sounds like atheism is just another kind of organised religion. Hmm. How about just being yourself and not caring about fitting into somebody else’s system?

    That’s what I did. I realized I am who I am and what or how I believe is nobody else’s business. I no longer feel the need to fit into some kind of “system”, to fulfil someone else’s criteria. Am much happier now, and in particular, feel much happier about my faith (or whatever it is).

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      Atheism is neither organized nor a religion. It is, simply, the lack of belief in gods. It’s kinda like not believing in Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, except religion isn’t given a special pass that says “because we can’t disprove this, we’re going to believe it”. That’s not how we deal with Bigfoot, or anything else for that matter, much less should it be the way we deal with the “most important” things.

  • TJP

    I understand what you are trying to do. But as a former Southern Baptist and Catholic (I tried really hard to believe), I found being an Atheist much easier than being religious. I have found that once I left the church, that I wanted more just to be nice to people and help them. There no longer had to be a reason for Altruism, I just do it and live it.

    I wish you luck on your journey.

  • http://lukeaustindaugherty.wordpress.com Luke Austin Daugherty

    I wish you well on your year’s journey. It is a very interesting enterprise, as it is the opposite of A.J. Jacob’s, “A Year of Living Biblically,” which I enjoyed very much. (an agnostic living a year as a theist) As a former minister of 17 years and now atheist of 1 1/2 years, I bid you to enjoy the ideological freedom, if only for a year. AND…thanks for sharing your journey! :)

  • Skeptikitty

    I hope that this year is wonderful for you; whether you decide you are atheist, agnostic or if it renews your faith. Taking a break will be great, and a time for discovering YOU. There are a lot of pastors who have had this same struggle (“Godless” by Dan Barker is a great book). I was raised in a Catholic home, but always questioned religion and even the notion of ‘god’; and have identified as atheist for my entire adult life. It’s hard to be an atheist, there are lots of judgements cast upon you, but it is also incredibly freeing (for me at least). Best of luck over the coming year. I look forward to following your journey.

  • https://www.facebook.com/herbert.arce.1 Herbert Arce

    Good luck on your new search. Your view of ‘God’ may wind up being far different from what you were taught, as it has for me.

  • https://www.facebook.com/alexandercheney Alexander Cheney

    I look forward to following your blog. I myself am an atheist and have been so (though not publicly) as long as I can remember. There was always something inside me that made me doubt.

  • Norman

    Ryan – I think its a noble, brave and intelligent task you’re undertaking to discover your life’s direction. Just keep in mind that the vast majority of atheists do not study atheist philosophy, do not attend atheist gatherings and do not seek out to form friendships and associates consisting of other atheists. We just live our lives according to our individual beliefs and accept and love all others regardless of theirs. Wish you the best.

    • https://www.facebook.com/colin.campbell.758399 Colin Campbell

      What is atheist philosophy?

  • https://plus.google.com/107460556710680820059 Rob Guimaraes

    In addition to the names you’ve offered up, I’d heartily recommend delving into talks and works by Massimo Pigliucci (he has an online blog called “Rationally Speaking” and has written a number of books, particularly Answers for Aristotle).

    Best of luck.

  • http://gravatar.com/afrigerm afrigerm

    Wishing you a wonderful, exciting. expanding and ultimately liberating year. I was raised in (German) Protestant Christianity, not the mainstream but somewhat fundamental. Nice,though. 80% of the congregation were family members. I was taught that ‘The truth will set me free.’ and I am forever greatful that no one hid or bent this scripture from me when I was young.

    Since then, I have looked into many faiths, traveled the world, live in a completely different culture than the one I was raised in and say just this: Whatever brought about freedom for myself and others I have kept as true, whatever brought about limitation and rules and duties for myself and others, I have discarded. Freedom just means to be yourself and not having to defend or being criticized for your life, your opinion and the way you are. Love – of oneself and others – is the way in and the way out. You can move from Adventists to Baptists to Buddhists to Atheists and keep, give and receive love, acceptance, tolerance and enjoy freedom. STAYING with one of them you cannot.

  • betsey riedl

    Some of your comments sound like you’re ‘trying on’ atheism. Maybe it’s how I’m reading them. (Emails, blogs, texts, comments on blogs, etc. are one-dimensional and many times can be misunderstood). So if I’m not understanding exactly what you meant, sorry.

    To me, atheism isn’t something you ‘try on’ for a year. For me, you either are or you aren’t. You will probably miss the companionship and cameraderie (sp?) of belonging to a group. I think this is important to note because I know a lot of people who are doubting their faith, but are scared to leave because they don’t know what to do with that time. So you may feel that loss deeply, especially because you were a pastor.

    For me, leaving the catholic faith was a long time coming. I started questioning it when I was 15. My husband and I met at church. Our kids were baptized and went to catholic school. But so many things happened to us that made us question why we believed, but when we asked our questions, we were told to just have faith.

    After we left, we felt a little adrift, but a year or so later, found ourselves again.

    I have read a few books on atheism. My favorite is Why Are You Atheists So Angry? I liked it because the author asked a lot of the questions I had. I don’t think reading a lot is necessary. I think reading and thinking about what you’ve read, internalizing the new ideas a bit at a time is better, but this is the method that worked for me.

    Anyway, I wish you luck this coming year, and look forward to reading about your findings.

  • Tim

    Well,I wish you all the best and hope everything works out well.All I can say is,read lots of Christopher Hitchins and Youtube him too.He will bainwash you back to normal,Haha.

  • Audrey

    I admire your journey and look forward to your discoveries.

  • http://gravatar.com/llw0003 Lori

    If you are interested in studying “atheism,” I suggest you read up on secular humanism and post-humanism. I used to consider myself a secular humanist, but feel I’ve evolved to a post-humanist, a philosophy that doesn’t put a god or humans at the center of the world.

  • https://www.facebook.com/JasonJSimonds Jason Simonds

    Please consider check out the following series of documentaries. They are a well presented look at religion from some of the brightest minds on the planet.

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

    I believe they are available on Netflix……

    Good luck with your travels in the next year…

  • Bridget

    As others found God, I found atheism. It just struck me one day that there was no God and I knew it was true. I was raised in a devout Catholic family and my sister had a very serious car accident where she was in a coma for weeks and sustained a traumatic brain injury. I had been wavering about my beliefs before then after taking some History classes in college and understanding how the Church today came to be, but after my sister’s accident I realized that things in this world are just totally random, there is no “meaning to life” and we are all just trying to do our best to get by.

    I was scared at first that this belief would turn me into a cold and unloving person. I’ve found the opposite to be true. I now treasure each day even more because I know that we never know when it will be our last. I love my family and friends fiercely because I know my time with them is limited and there will be no reunion in heaven. I love life and try to enjoy every moment that I have.

    For me, going back to believing in God would be like believing in Santa Claus again. As nice as it would be to truly believe, I just can’t convince myself it is true.

  • Tina

    Ryan,

    I agree with Norman. Atheists often object as strongly to herd mentality as we do to the suspense of critical thinking religion demands. Avoid ideological bureaucracy, be kind, be grateful and find the spiritual in little things. Most importantly, have a good year!

  • https://www.facebook.com/maryann.watkins.148 MW

    Ryan, I applaud your search for the truth. Of course, the result will be YOUR truth; it may not be mine or that of anyone else here. And, in my mind, that’s okay. My search started while I was in high school (a long time ago) … it’s not over yet. Maybe your journey will help me, too.

    If we have to assign labels, I guess I’m an agnostic. But one thing for sure: organized religion leaves me cold and the current climate in this country put me in this place. I am appalled at the hatred spewed in the name of God, and the willingness to ignore or even discriminate against fellow human beings because of their race, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs. I am appalled when watching so-called believers pick and choose which Bible verses to quote and follow (those that clearly fit their own personal agenda), while conveniently ignoring other “words of God.”

    All of the above brings me to where I am today and that’s knowing that spirituality is quite different from religion. Perhaps I’ll never find my own truth – or maybe I already have and just haven’t acknowledged it.

    I wish you the best, Ryan, and plan on reading and searching right along with you.

    Maryann

  • http://gravatar.com/indigo2crystal indigo2crystal

    Ryan, I find this all very exciting. I look forward to reading your blog through the year. I don’t think our opinions or thoughts really matter here…just yours. I support your experiment.

  • http://FaceBook Mary Cott

    My message through the Spirit to you….Leave Religion, but do not leave God. Religion is the downfall of man…..walking with God is not. I have had a similar struggle the past couple of years, and because I have a teenage daughter, I want her to have that “church” foundation. I now realize that that is not all it is. It is the individual relationship that we have with God, and that we walk in the Spirit on a daily basis. If the Spirit is in us, how can we desire the opposite? Your human pride (hence the devil) is luring you to believe that this experiment is worthy of your existence ; trust me, it is not.. It is like a person who believes telling the truth (or at least what they perceive to be the truth) no matter how it hurts and if they are asked for their opinion or not, is validated because they are being completely honest. They lack compassion, and integrity, and in my opinion, Christ like living.

    Life for me is not easy, I just lost my mother and best friend this year, my husband is not in good health physically or spiritually , and I could go on and on. The worse things get, I know with all my heart that I have God,and that is good enough. I will pray that this journey is not worth, just words for a blog, and that you turn around and take the road less traveled, for that will make all the difference. Love in Christ…..

    • https://www.facebook.com/GoRicardo Ricky- Ricardo

      Completely agree!

  • Martin Grover

    I’m very interested in how your year goes and will try to follow.

    However…Your approach may be a bit backwards. Instead of “Trying on atheism” maybe you should try on Rational Empiricism. Atheism isn’t really a thing, it’s a result. It’s a side effect of approaching life in a rational, empirical manner. Doing it in the way you are is kind of like wading into the shallow end of a pool, them blogging on one’s experiences in swimming laps.

    The recent notion of atheism being an ideology of it’s own is flawed and the fault of both non-believers and believers alike. People need something with which to identify. “I am THIS and these are people like me”, and “That is them. Look at those people who disagree with me.”. It’s part of the tribalism that lurks like a swollen appendix in the belly of our species, and frequently bursts.

    Less Hitchens and Dawkins (I do adore those men!) more Degrasse-Tyson and Nye.

    Be well and have an enlightening year!

  • S. Paul

    Ryan, the path you have set for yourself is not an easy one. I imagine that before this year is up, you will experience a side of Christianity which is normally reserved for the unbelievers. It seems a number of the people reading and commenting so far have walked in similar shoes, myself included, and will be following your progress.

    You’ve already struck your bargain, and seem to be genuinely open to truth. I hope that you find the answers that you seek, and make your peace with them.

    Post tenebras spero lucem.

  • Jim

    I am an atheist, and have been since birth. That said, as part of your exploration, I suggest that you invest some time reading about Unitarianism, or visiting a Unitarian church. While each congregation is different, they generally take a very liberal interpretation of Christian teachings, but also draw upon other religions and non-religious sources as well. Nonbelievers are generally welcomed, and often make up a large percentage of church members – so this would not necessarily be a diversion from your intended journey. Leaving a religion can often be very socially isolating, and this might help make it more comfortable.

    I wish you good luck.

    • rebecca

      Exactly! I too am an atheist and a Unitarian Universalist — and have been for nearly 30 years. One can be spiritual as an atheist, an experience that is much fostered in UU congregations. You can find info on Unitarian Universalism at http://www.uua.org.

      And for starters, here is a copy of our “Seven Principles”:

      Our Principles

      Unitarian Universalists hold the Principles as strong values and moral teachings. As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”

      We honor
      1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
      2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
      3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
      4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
      5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
      6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
      7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

      _________
      Here’s to your journey! Looking forward to following your experiences!

      Rebecca

      • http://michaeljarmer.wordpress.com michaeljarmer

        There’s a religious practice I could get behind. Do Unitarians even refer to themselves as “religious”? Ralph Waldo Emerson was Unitarian, yes?

        • Rebecca

          Michael, hey… Yes, Ralph Waldo Emerson was indeed a very prominent Unitarian.

          Do Unitarians refer to themselves as “religious”? Well, we probably would have a long discussion about it. Personally, I would never use the word ‘religious’ as it’s too associated with Christianity and all the dogma thereof. Most would say ‘no,’ I’d suspect. Unitarian Universalists might call themselves ‘spiritual but not religious,” and then there is a big discussion there too. We have humanists, earth centered folk, UU Christians, muslims, people of jewish background, agnostics, atheists and many many who have exited Christianity for all the reasons Ryan described. We have 5th generation UUs… But more basically, a given UU may describe themselves as ‘religious,’ but not UUs in general. We are all very individualistic as we come together in a communal search for meaning.

          • http://michaeljarmer.wordpress.com michaeljarmer

            Thanks for that, Rebecca.

    • buruma

      We were all born atheists Jim!

  • Annie

    I applaud you. Not for conclusions that you’ve drawn or questions you have asked, but for not being afraid to put yourself out there as incongruent with the belief system you grew up being told was absolute truth. It is hard as a person who was baptized, raised, and confirmed as a member of a church – a community, to feel much besides shame for the beliefs they come to hold if they differ from their fellows. It would be easy to hide in shame of how you feel about inclusion, sin, and a god in general. I grew up Methodist, and somewhere during my teens realized I was not being honest with my true beliefs and feelings. If you’re interested in talking openly without judgement, condemnation, or even attempted persuasion, feel free to email me.

  • Pam

    I hope you do discover the difference between religion and spirituality, for they are not the same thing.

    Even when I was young and done with my parents’ religion, I never considered myself an atheist. The universe is just too big and I know too little to declare for certainty that no gods exist. So, the best label I could come up with was agnostic.

    It was through my personal psychic predictions that I started seeing there just might be something out there that is a greater force than I had been willing to admit to under the dogma of my parents’ religion. Speaking of Dogma, I highly recommend you watch that movie. My recollection is a quote something like, “It is better to have ideas than beliefs because no one has ever started a war over ideas.”

    Our neighbor is an atheist. I learned that when he mentioned he hosts atheist movie night each week. They get together and talk about religious movies. He pointed out that, as in most things, atheism is a spectrum. Some of his commrades are staunch nihilists. His personal take on atheism is that there may be a “Force” in the universe, but it’s not “God” as defined by any religion. And speaking of “Force” as a 15 year old seeing Star Wars for the first time I discovered my early spiritual awakenings within the Jedi’s Force (too bad it was used for war.)

    And follow God on facebook. He will show you a funny, compassionate take on atheism. Here’s a meme he posted today. I hope it comes through. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=593700260717681&set=a.157796790974699.40772.157750900979288&type=1&theater

    • Mortlach

      Now there is an awesome pointer in the right direction. Kinda wished I’d thought of that myself. Well done! :-)

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “The universe is just too big and I know too little to declare for certainty that no gods exist.” Only the strongest of atheists actually make that claim. Most atheists are “agnostic atheists”, lacking a belief in gods and thinking it unlikely that they exist, but being open to contrary evidence. It is, generally speaking, how religion intrudes itself upon people’s lives and causes suffering that most atheists would claim with a confident degree of certainty.

  • http://twitter.com/TheSkepdick Jesse Ohlsson (@TheSkepdick)

    I’ll believe this when I see the author take the Blasphemy Challenge (http://www.blasphemychallenge.com). Anything less, and he’s just a mole. Let’s see some commitment.

  • Steve

    Ryan, I think this is a fascinating endeavor and I will be following you with curiosity and interest. I look forward to your sharing of thoughts, and I think I will learn something.

    If you haven’t read Aristotle (though you probably have), he’s worth putting on your list. My understanding is that Aquinas was thrown for a loop by Aristotle’s ability to construct a moral system as robust as the one he was trying to explain, but which did not need a deity.

    As goofy as this sounds, you might also consider watching the new incarnation of Doctor Who. What do you do in a universe where every next planet may have entirely new gods, and a person with nearly the power of a God has to deal with the morality of using his powers?

    I’ve changed faiths in my life time, less because of problems with God, more because of problems with some of his followers. At times the question is less “is there a God or not?” and more “does God really look exactly like what that person thinks He does?” If that is ever a useful frame for your analysis, then please feel free to borrow it. There are Christians who faith awes me, and Christians whose Christianity drives me nuts. That’s true of probably all faiths, and probably atheists as well. I look forward to seeing through your eyes and thanks for sharing the experience with us.

  • http://evangelicalleft.wordpress.com evangelicalleft

    “But you can take this year to question and question and read and think and discuss unbelief. It can be an intellectual exercise, but it can also be a psychological one as you explore the emotional ramifications of unbelief.”

    I love this quote by commenter Barb.

    I am on a different path than you but I look forward to what you discover this year about yourself and about your beliefs.

  • Michele Gamble

    Atheists have gathering? That’s news to me. I’d be happy to join in your conversation about living as an atheist, feel free to contact me. I will start off however with a comment on the title, a year without God. I might have gone with something like: a year of accountability. In my view, once you remove ‘God’ from your life, you must face the fact that you, and you alone are responsible for your actions. You can no longer justify anything you do, say, or believe by claiming to follow God. You must face being a good or bad person on your own actions.

    I have never been a militant atheist, meaning if you choose to be faithful, I’m fine with that and will respect you beliefs and never try to convince you otherwise. I will of course drift away if you head, In my opinion, too far afield. But I would do that even if I was not an atheist.

    I come from a Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian background and have friends who practice both western and eastern faiths.

    I think you are headed for an interesting year, with both ups and downs. If I can offer up anything of value it may be that not everyone can live as an atheist. Western faith does not encourage individuality, questions, or accountability. As a culture, Americans tend to ‘belong.’ To think and be responsible for one’s self and actions is a heavy responsibility that not many are willing to take on. Being part of a group is so much easier. No, I don’t consider being an Atheist as being part of a group. As I mentioned at the start, I don’t go to ‘Atheist’ gatherings.

  • Kristy

    I hate having to put labels on who we are and what we believe in. I would call myself a humanist, the belief in people. I still have hope for the human race, somehow. But not many people know what a humanist is, so more times than not I refer to myself as an atheist. I live in the south, or the “Bible Belt”, and I’m just now becoming comfortable in my own “atheist” skin. As you will find, “atheist”, is a dirty word where I come from and being without God is practically unheard of. It’s almost like wearing a scarlet letter across your chest. So with that said good luck on your journey, it’s a tough one. Looking forward to following your new take on life. ;)

  • http://dramageek1.wordpress.com jovialities

    Ryan, if you are who I think you are, I gained a great deal of respect for your work several years ago when I saw a video you made titled “Sunday,” in which you talked honestly to young believers about going to church and, if I remember correctly, told them that if their Sunday church attendance wasn’t working for them, then they should simply stop attending. If you are not that Ryan Bell, then I apologize for that accolade.

    A word of caution on some of your reading choices on your list. While Dawkins and Hitchens are extremely intelligent and enlightened, they are just as fanatical and evangelical in their atheism as Billy Graham is in his Christianity. I found them to be arrogant and condescending, qualities that I do not find helpful in this discussion between believers and non-believers. You will have to educate yourself on basic biology, chemistry, and physics to understand the tenets of atheism fully. A mature atheism does not follow from simple disbelief; it must be backed up with facts and evidence; just as a mature Christianity does not simply follow from simple belief, but must be backed up by evidence as well. If you are not familiar with Stephen Toulmin and his model for reasoning and logical arguments, become familiar with him. You can find his information in any basic college rhetoric textbook for Composition I or II. Become familiar with all the forms that logical fallacies take and be able to apply them to arguments for and against both belief and non-belief. I highly recommend that you read “Generation Atheist” by Dan Riley as part of your education. I’m about halfway through it myself right now. It paints a much better picture of atheism and atheists than Dawkins and Hitchens.

    I will be following your blog via email. I wish you the best of luck in your journey and quest.

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      I don’t believe that was me.

    • http://michaeljarmer.wordpress.com michaeljarmer

      I disagree with jovialities about the fanaticism of the Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris trio. I’d say they are all three very passionate writers. And all three believe themselves to be correct. And it’s hardly true that their writings/opinions are not “backed up with facts and evidence.” That’s a ridiculous thing to imply. Any thinker or writer who is convinced of a truth, I’d say, has every right to shout. It turns some people off. Oh well.

      • http://dramageek1.wordpress.com jovialities

        Ryan, you are correct; that was Rob Bell, and I realized it not two minutes after I left my computer to do other things.

        Michael, I never said that Dawkins and Hitchens were not backing up what they said with facts and evidence. They argue with highly factual and evidence-based research. That’s not where I fault them. I fault them on their arrogant and condescending manner of writing about their passion. That attitude of condescension and manner of saying that anyone who believes in a god or gods is nothing more than the village idiot does not help the argument move forward. They use a very sophisticated form of ad hominem fallacy in their writing, which attacks both the argument and the person making the argument. This is neither healthy nor mature. There are immature and mature atheists just as there are immature and mature believers. Immature atheists and immature believers are as far apart on the spectrum as anyone can be. However, mature atheists and mature believers can, and do, come very close to each other. That is where progress will be made, not by shouting our beliefs from the rooftops, but through passionate, and compassionate, dialogue at the point of maturity.

        Ryan, three more reading recommendations: 1. Stephen Prothero’s “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t,” while neither an atheist nor a Christian apologist, Prothero forwards the claim that America’s extreme religiosity, fanaticism, and belief are based on a lack of Biblical literacy; he notes that the most Biblically literate countries have the highest percentage of non-believers while also being some of the most equitable and fair societies in the world. 2. Stephen Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” Pinker is a very mature atheist who forwards the claim that the humanist values of the enlightenment hastened the decline of violence more than any religious movement before or since. 3. Oliver Thomas’ “10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You, but Can’t Because He Needs the Job,” Thomas is a Christian apologist who lays waste to some of the time-honored central conservative beliefs of the church.

        • http://michaeljarmer.wordpress.com michaeljarmer

          Jovialities, I hear you. And I agree. Somewhat. It’s a balancing act sometimes, isn’t it? You don’t want to alienate or anger the very people who really need convincing–otherwise you’re just “preaching to the choir,” right? I guess there just seems to be a time and a place when stupid behavior or belief systems need to be called out. Is that arrogance? Maybe. I guess I don’t see these guys as arrogant because I’m already a part of their choir. Thanks for responding.

          • http://gravatar.com/jovialities jovialities

            No problem. I just wanted to clarify what I meant.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “You will have to educate yourself on basic biology, chemistry, and physics to understand the tenets of atheism fully.” There are no tenets of Atheism; it’s simply a lack of belief in gods, nothing more. Anything else would be counted as positive beliefs held by individuals, which vary widely (though many atheists have a naturalistic worldview). More appropriate would be to say educating yourself on basic biology, chemistry and physics would help you understand Science and Dawkins’ personal beliefs better.

  • Ana Sofía Ferrara

    Dear Ryan,

    I find your story very similar to mine (English is not my first language so, sorry for any mistakes)… I am now 26 and I like you all the time since I was young felt I did not fit, or I felt different from everyone. I felt things with more intensity, I worried more, I felt more passionate about topics, I took things more seriously, I questioned everything, I cared. That made it hard for me because I could not share these things nor walk the road with like minded peers. But I think it was also a bit hard for others to hang around me who just wanted to hover through childhood, teenage and young adult experiences.

    Religion was no exception for me. From the time I was a kid, I loved my faith, the rituals, the songs, the sermons, the youth groups, the missions… I was a believing and practicing catholic. I was drawn a lot, now that I think about it, to spirituality. By 15, I wanted to be a nun. The year I spent getting ready to go to a high school where girls prepared to be nuns, I decided this particular religious group was not for me. And that was it from my nun path, because in high school I did find friends and a boyfriend who were as drawn to spirituality as I was and I felt I had a community with people like me. Still my faith was never blind. I did have lots of long conversations and research with priests, spiritual guidance and people who were willing to question, as you state in your article, everything questionable or even wrong. Still I understood that religion was not perfect, but the message and God were.

    Then everything changed again when I went to my exchange semester in Australia, which turned into a three year experience (I dropped out of my home uni and graduated overseas). My housemates where Hindus and atheists; then they were non-practicing Catholics; then I became really good friends with Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists and agnostics. We world was a mix of colors and flavors and I never felt so thrived, clear, truthful and… happy.

    This was a process of letting people question me, question myself, get really engaged in their world, activities, even religious activities with all of my friends. It was really magical. I felt in my heart they were not wrong, they needed not to be saved, they were amazing just as they were, religious or not. So I dropped the thought that there was only one truth. I let go all of the dogma and all of the rules. The real religion then was kindness, love, caring for others and for myself. Thinking there was one truth was disrespectful enough for the beautiful people with different beliefs surrounding me. So I became part of the whole world. Believing in everything and nothing. It was a new, peaceful horizon of connectedness. I still liked to attend any religious ritual (or atheist conversation) I could. Still spiritual. Still rich and for me e fiery need.

    Slowly life put the pieces together for a further discovery. This is the summary: I took a summer course in Philosophy of the Religions of the World. I studied the pitfalls of the seven “official” religions. I was taken by Buddhism and did my final paper on a Buddhist concept. Coming back to Mexico as a graduate, and having practiced yoga for six years I became a Yoga Instructor, which put me to study a lot of philosophy and among this kind of crowd. I accidentally found The Dharma Talks in the iPhone podcasts, I accidentally was invited to an astrology course, I accidentally met a childhood friend who invited me to A Course in Miracles, I have been told by people here and there I am an old soul. I am on a new spiritual journey. My life is about spirituality you see… This is endless… May I add… Buddhism is considered a religion, but Buddhists say it is no religion. It is a way to view life. You do not really have to believe this or that… You can believe anything you want and practice Buddhism, because it is that: practice. Not belief. I have found my place =).

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      Buddhism is many things to many people. In some countries it’s just as much a religion as Christianity is in America. To me, it’s more about gaining clarity about the true nature of all phenomena; the impermanence, the selflessness, the interconnectedness and the frustration/disappointment/suffering that is the result of not seeing how things truly are. It’s a tool, really. But that’s just me. =)

  • Jen B

    I have been an atheist since childhood when the answers I was getting to basic questions I was asking about god and the religion of my parents just didn’t make sense. I said as much to my mother who told me it didn’t make sense to her, either, but she just felt god. So, I looked for that inner feeling and realized I just didn’t feel it either.

    As I grew up, I learned about many faiths and I really respect each of their overall goals. But I realized that they were, often, my overall goals, and I believed in these goals as much as I needed to without someone reinforcing them for me. I realized that I had my own, strong moral compass and that I didn’t need the reward of an afterlife or the fear of punishment or rebirth to keep me acting in a humane way. I began to think of people who needed faith as morally week, that those who needed a deity as child-like, and those who were fundamentalist as non-critical thinkers.

    Now in my 40s rather than in my self-righteous youth, I am not so harsh about others who believe and follow, but I still don’t believe and I still don’t follow. I did find it interesting that you are looking for the sacred texts, if you will, of atheism. I think, for me, the sacred texts of the world’s major religions helped me to view each one objectively, rather than spiritually. I do think the Skeptics Annotated Bible might be useful for you so that you can read it objectively rather than the subjective way you have been taught. I also read the French existentialists. They made a lot of sense to me.

    I wish you well on your journey. When you hit rough spots, listen to your own, inner voice that you previously thought was god’s voice. Lean on people rather than faith. If you find this fulfilling, you are an atheist; if you find it shallow, maybe you need a Humanist or Unitarian Universalist community. Either way, I think you will know yourself better one year from now and I look forward to watching you come to that realization.

  • Lee Reed

    In your journey I hope you will come to grips with a conception of the biblical God in relation to the Universe as astronomers now see it. When the Bible was being assembled, the writers didn’t understand what the moon and sun were, much less anything about the rest of the Universe. Unfortunately, most contemporary followers of the biblical God still don’t appreciate the implications of contemporary astronomy for their view of God. In fact a study showed that seven in ten Harvard graduates didn’t understand why Australians have to celebrate Christmas during their hot time of the year! (Our planet is tilted on its axis toward its star.)

    I used to teach a sky watch at our state botanical garden and I would give the following example illustrating some of the distances in the Universe. First pointing out the tiny smudge of light in the sky is the great galaxy in the constellation of Andromeda, I would observe, ” When the pyramids of Egypt were being built, the photons of light you are seeing this instant had already traveled 99.8 percent of the distance from the Great Galaxy to your eyes. In other words, traveling at 186,000 miles per second every second for 4,000 years [2000 years before Jesus was born], the light you are seeing traveled 2/10 of 1 percent of the distance between here and there.”

    The Great Galaxy is the closest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy and astronomers have seen evidence that there are literally hundreds of billions of galaxies. What is the implication for a blibical view of God, assembled by writers who did not understand what the moon was?

  • https://www.facebook.com/robert.mchenry.98 Robert McHenry

    Hi…

    What is interesting… is that… the journey you are talking about is a journey that most “atheists” have taken… because most of us were raised in a monotheistic religion and believed.

    My journey began when I noticed that the church I was raised in did not follow the words that it preached. It seemed to be trapped in in a power position. Thanks to my mother, I never got caught in the “we are better then them” position. I was taught that all religions were just different paths to god. Made my leaving my church easier.

    I had disengage by the time I was 15. By the questioning began by age 12. When I was introduced to a more accurate picture of both history and science. History that described the atrocities of our current religious systems… and science that explained the world in a more accurate manner.

    I also noticed that religions seemed to have 3 functions.

    1. to describe the natural world.

    2. to maintain social order

    3. a spiritual component.

    Western churches appeared to me (by 14-15), to be focused only on number 2. They had lost the battle on describing the natural world and in all honesty never seemed to be at all interesting in the spiritual aspect of life (except maybe in monasteries or snake handling). Prayer and meditation was encouraged by rarely taught.

    From 16-25 was an exploration of the other philosophies and belief systems that exist. Because I love science and history… my exploration took on this “color”… some of the topics/areas I explored included…

    1. Mythology.

    2. Middle Eastern and Eastern Religions… hinduism, buddhism, sufism, etc. (can’t spell the rest.)

    3. Feminism.

    4. Humanism – Viktor Frankl, age of enlightenment, etc.

    5. Physics – subatomic particles and all that.

    6. Evolution

    7. Some native and aboriginal religions (but not much)

    8. Psychology

    9. Ancient History – focus on the origins and development of civilization both new and old world.

    10. How christianity was developed including how the bible came to be and more importantly how christianity was imposed on the people of Europe (mainly by terror).

    I also read a lot of philosophies including Descartes “I think there for I am” which brought up the whole idea of the nature of reality and of how to “know” reality when reality is endless filtered through the senses.

    I became an atheist at some point between 16 and 25. But there is no really date on it.

    At some other point, between 25 and 35, I shifted into a agnostic. One reason was because I found that atheists seemed to be endlessly reacting to the “bible” which to me was a silly position… But mainly because after everything, I can not explain or understand the very “miracle” of being.

    The more I delved into cosmology and the development of the universe… the more I was amazed by the number of “flukes” that had to occur to create not only a planet that could sustain life… but a planet that could produce “self reflective or consciousness”.

    A. The goldie locks range both in the galaxy and in the solar system.

    and

    B. How the moon was created and how it stabilizes the earth’s tilt, causes tidal variations and might effect plate tectonics… also how during the collision between earth and thea, thea deposited it’s iron core into the earths… giving us a 1/3rd larger iron core. Our larger iron core helped increase the likelihood of both life and intelligent life for two reason….

    1. the larger magnetic field increases the strength of protection against solar winds.

    2. Increase the heat in the inner core which generate plate tectonics without which heavier elements would be trapped in the core and two plate tectonic is one of the primary engines of evolution and diversity on the planet. If one looks at where humans first developed in the rift valley in africa… one has to note that it is a very unstable tectonic area. This put stress on humanoids to continue to evolve.

    C. All of the various mass extinctions etc that have occurred on the planet.

    (for me the moon is the biggest.. but I am also amazed re: the weakness of gravity, and the fine tuning of some of the cosmic constants… which as a lay person I don’t really understand… and string or M theory are pretty amazing too.)

    As I began to understand the vastness of everything… it was both humbling and enlightening. From this position, I understood both a theist position and its counter point of atheism were too… dogmatic. (and again since most of the debate seems to be centered around the bible… the relevance of the believer/non-believer debate that is occurring today seems to be me to be sophomoric).

    That being alive, life, the world and everything is a miracle… I have no doubt. What the word “miracle” means… I have an every flowing idea of this… But I also know that this miracle is not found nor contained in a book codified a couple of thousand years ago. A book ordered to be created by an emperor and by the state religion of the Roman Empire… which is what Christianity became when it was adopted by Constantine. It because just a means for the state to control the population… and has been serving that function ever since.

    No… the miracle of life is being describe right now by scientists, mathematicians, cosmologists, physicists, musicians, artists, feminists, social workers, activists, poets, doctors, mothers, fathers, thinkers, feelers and your friends. This is where the answers to the big question lay… in the hearts and minds of all of us.

    Lastly good luck on your journey… but you will find that there is no “one way” to be an atheist… as I suspect there is not one way to be a believer…. though I do believe the path of exploration is more fulfilling than the path of conformity.

    (BTW… for the last 20+ years, I have worked with the homeless, poor and those unwanted by society. The idea that “atheists” are devoid of moral or ethical values is a projected fear that many believers have… I find that humanism, empathy and compassion have been better guides than the biblical ranting of some egomaniacal preacher.

    • rebecca

      Robert, What a WONDERFUL description. Thank you!

      I completely agree that the moniker “atheist” is all too often an endless reaction to the bible or to Christianity. For me, it’s a shorthand. Living in a Christian society, “atheist” approximately and quickly evokes the arena of my beliefs.

      But in a longer conversation, I can modify it — Indeed, the whole notion of defining oneself as against a non-existent being is well… just silly. I’m not “A-flat-earth” or “a” whatever that elemental essence was people used to believe in in the Middle Ages. Why should I situate myself as opposed to something that doesn’t exist?

      Instead, in a longer conversation, I prefer to evoke the mystery, the INCREDIBLE mystery of the cosmos. It is just unfathomable for reasons you described. Indeed, I believe we humans are ultimately not able to comprehend the nature of existence (even though Science tells us deep truths). And so, I prefer to just honor the mystery, and the stunning unknowability of it all.

      No, that is not ‘agnosticism.’ It’s me not trying to postulate answers for unanswerable phenomena.

      Question: have you ever read Rumi (as translated by Coleman Barks)? He and other Sufi mystics offer a very rich evocation of wonder

  • http://danforsman.wordpress.com danforsman

    I will be following your year with much interest. I deconverted in my teens about 50 years ago. Like many atheists I was thrilled to discover an active atheist site on the internet a few years ago at http://new.exchristian.net . Many questioning, doubtful, and lost Christians lurk on this site and every few days someone new tells their story or relates problems or concerns regarding loosing their faith. I have recently started regularly commenting on the typically very compelling posts by those who are struggling with deconversion. As a nearly lifelong atheist who has spent his working life, married, and raised a family as an atheist I would highly recommend that you frequently check in with the exchristian website if you want to find out what everyday atheists are thinking and talking about as well as what causes sincere believers to give up their faith. I’m sure you’ll be mesmerized by the things you read the way myself and so many others are every day. Hope to see you there.

    Dan

  • Linda

    Making atheism into a religion is my view of the outspoken writing of folks I would label anti-theists. While they will have interesting things to say, often it comes across to this atheist as mean in spirit as the “you will go to hell” views of extreme theism.

    Like Jim in the comment above I have always been an atheist. I’m also a Unitarian Universalist. I read about and explore the sense of connection to the larger world, our “interconnected web of all existence of which we are a part” as it plays out for me. I honor those who have different journeys and different experiences — please be sure to read the works of those atheists who do not feel a need to turn theists into “the other”. Best of luck on your journey, and if you ever feel the need to speak to folks who find religion important, but doing necessarily feel it needs to be theistic, I echo Jim’s suggestion you visit a UU church.

  • Kelly

    I don’t follow blogs, but I’m so interested in what you discover about yourself and what conclusion you come to at the end of the year. After referring to myself as an “agnostic” for many, many years, I finally “came out” as an atheist 4 years ago. It’s been an interesting time, especially concerning people dear to me who are believers and who now must rethink their notions of the nature of atheists. After all, I’m still the same person I’ve always been — caring, loving, law-abiding, moral, ethical, flawed — but I’m all those things without belief in, or the worship of, some supernatural entity.. I find it interesting how many people have a hard time reconciling that with their own ideology. It’s also interesting (not to mention frustrating) how often I have to gently explain to people how I don’t “hate” God (how can I hate something I don’t believe exists), I don’t worship Satan (again, I don’t believe in gods or demons or any other supernatural entities), how I can be “good” without God (I’m not a good person because doing so will give me rewards in some other life — I do so because it gives me rewards in THIS life), and WHY I’m not a believer (because I have never seen any evidence that there was some supernatural force that created us and the world and continues to control the workings of it all; whereas I have seen evidence of the evolution of our planet and it’s inhabitants and delight in the inherent wonder of it all. I can’t explain how it all came into being, but that doesn’t mean I assume that some supernatural force must have made it all so). I will be interested to see where you are in your beliefs at the end of the year!

  • Richard

    Hey, I read your article on HuffPo. I really appreciate your open-mindedness. I myself was a fundamentalist Christian for many years before becoming atheist. I know how scary it may seem. I still don’t like the term “atheist,” as it is polarizing, and has a certain stigma to it.

    I have read the works on your list, from Dostoevsky to Hitchens. Those are good places to start, but you need to finish with yourself, and how you feel. Of course you already know that.

    I do need to point out, atheism is not a religion. So where you find groups of atheists, they will most likely be militant, and VERY aggressive. Most non-religious people (like myself) just want to live a good, kind life. It may do you more good philosophically to seek out individuals rather than groups, for this reason.

    I don’t see religion versus atheism. It is not a war, it is a personal question. Hopefully you get your questions answered.

  • Shawn Steketee

    I have been an avowed atheist for over 25 years, although I think I have really an atheist my entire life. Might I suggest Ronald Aronson’s “Living Without God”, I found it to be an excellent book. Also, a few years ago I found a great community home in the Unitarian Universalist Church. They do a great job of supporting the personal search for spiritual understanding and shared justice initiatives.

  • http://gravatar.com/milajones milajones

    Research ‘Possibilianism’… I heard the term a few years ago, and I was happy to finally give it a name. Things don’t have to be so black or white. From reading your story, I think this is where you may be at. Thank-you for sharing :)

  • Amanda

    I am looking forward to watching how this year pans out for you. It looks as though it will be a year full of learning and discovery, no matter how it ends.

    It’s disappointing to see the criticism you are receiving from many different sides. Personally, some of the comments about how God is definitively a part of your life or will be patiently awaiting your return seem a little condescending to me. It feels to me as though some people are not respecting your ability to explore yourself, or are treating you similarly to a child who is transgressing and will later learn from their mistakes. Does it feel that way to you? On the other hand, is it comforting to have a reminder that the faith will still be available to you at the end of the year? Or is it somewhere in between?

    The opposite end of the criticism also concerns me, when you are told that atheism is not something to simply be “tried on” or that you cannot truly understand an atheist’s experience. How can we be expected to know things about ourselves if we do not explore several different options? And what makes a person atheist anyways? Is it a belief system or a way of living? How do we define ourselves, by our beliefs or by our actions? Are they the same thing or are they different?

    I wonder what it is you will discover about yourself on this journey. If I had to make a prediction, it would be that not as much will change as is perhaps expected. That’s not to say that you won’t learn things – quite the opposite. But I think you might find that many things will also stay the same. One of the things that has always interested me about religious debates is where the influence of faith draws a line. What actions or parts of your life do you feel are driven by faith? What actions or parts do you feel are simply a piece of who you are as a human being? Perhaps some actions or parts of your life are a combination of both. I encourage you to think critically about that. I worry that in the effort to avoid parts of your life that are driven by faith, some of those overlapped areas may also become avoided. It may influence your feelings and responses to this journey, both during the experience and at the end of the year.

  • http://twitter.com/marathonjonn Jon Marathon (@marathonjonn)

    Ryan, you need to get involved in the Clergy Project (clergyproject.org), started by Daniel Dennett and researcher Linda LaScola, and read “Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind,” also by Dennett & LaScola. Looking forward to following your progress this year.

  • Brazenlucidity

    Admirable. A tough decision, but one I think you find rewarding. As a former SDA and now active member of the atheist community, I have some idea of what you are going through. It was difficult for me to “come out” to my family and many of my friends. I’m happier now though. Well wishes. I look forward to viewing your journey, no matter where it takes you.

  • https://www.facebook.com/GoRicardo Ricky- Ricardo

    I also grew up in the 7th Day Adventist Church, and grew to hate the church and at one time I hated God, religion sometimes paints a different picture of God, of someone selfish, someone that needs to be praised at all times, but as I got older and grew a deeper connection with God I realized that everything was a lie. Deep in my heart I know God exist and that God loves me. I have taken the road you about to take and all I can tell you is that a life without God is a lonely life, at least it was for me. I still don’t attend church regularly and when I do I never get involved with any activities. I work as youth counselor, and I feel that God gives me the strength and love needed to be a caring person. I learn to accept and not judge, we all have our struggles, we aren’t perfect. The main issue is not God, the issue is that nobody understand or accept that the devil exist and that devil is always trying to destroy our lives. I have worked with all type of people, and it breaks my heart to see how people are suffering, and I wonder if there is a God, How does God allow these horrible things to happen? and I remember that it was the love of God that helped me thru my difficult times, I tried to kill myself several times but fail but not for the lack of trying, God loves me, and the devil hates me. The devil has done things and keeps on trying to destroy me, but I have found God in me, in my heart, he lives in me and therefore I have peace and no more fears, I walk into dangerous neighborhoods, I deal with criminals, I go to prisons, and I talk to the kind of people that society consider not worthy and I have no fears, I walk with my head high and with the love of God in my heart, sometimes I spend all my money helping people in need and some how I manage to always eat, have a place to sleep and at the end of the day I feel good about myself of who I am and how I’m becoming a servant of God, nobody sees the good things I do for people and nobody knows about me, and probably not many are going to read this respond but I know and God knows that his love is being spread by people like me and you, the fact that you are an educated person, and are able to create a blog page to talk about God and his existent to me is miracle because this post could help people, you aren’t the only one having doubt but you set a platform where someone like me can share the peace I have found in doing what is in my heart which is to care and love my neighbor. Peace and Love!

    Ricardo

  • Micah

    I’m not an atheist. I’m not a follower of any religion for that matter. I can’t see that we came from monkeys (although I’m sure evolution of almost all species is present in some manner) and I find religion to be condescending, especially toward women. I don’t like being treated like a second class citizen. I am worth a great deal as a person, a human. As science tells us energy can neither be created nor destroyed, seeing as we are mostly made up of energy I don’t see how we can just simply cease to exist when our bodies die. So I don’t know where we go or what happens, all I can tell you is that others are free to believe in whatever that suits them as long as it doesn’t hurt others or force it upon me. I am good to others as long as they are good to me, and if the time comes when they are no longer good I let them go. I am ok not knowing what is beyond this life. I love life, I feel like I have a lot to give and focus on giving. It makes me happy. It makes others happy. I’m no longer looking for answers, I’m looking for people with good hearts.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “seeing as we are mostly made up of energy I don’t see how we can just simply cease to exist when our bodies die” — When you fully comprehend where you came from, the mystery disappears, and in many cases also the existential angst.

  • Kelly

    I was always doubtful of my faith and about a year and a half ago I really started questioning everything. That lead me to on a journey to discover if there was a god or not. I read everything I could about god, Jesus, and science. I came out of it an Atheist. It was a long process and it was very scary at times. Obviously I was worried about being wrong and burning in hell. Once I gave myself permission to really question everything and look at things without fear it changed me. Life is scary without religion. It was a comfort at times but I didn’t want to take comfort in something that wasn’t real. I wanted truth. The biggest issue I’ve had since settling in on Atheism and being honest about it with people is the loss of friends and family. A lot of people have turned their back on me and will no longer have a relationship with me. They’ve decided I’m evil and dangerous. I’m the same old loving, caring, and giving me. I just do those things because I believe they are the right things to do. Not because I feel I have too to receive an award or avoid punishment. Losing friends and being judged falsely is very hard and hurtful. On the flip side I really did learn who loved me simply because I’m fabulous. :)

  • Curt Welch

    Religion is a warm blanket of comfort and protection. Atheism is the cold light of the new day we face when we take the blanket off. Some need the blanket. Some prefer to face the cold wind without it. You don’t need to wear the blanket, in order to be a good blanket for others. If you understand that we all need protection, and that we can all help each other, you understand all that is important in life.

  • Micah

    I hope you find what you need.

  • https://plus.google.com/110008319422581707922 Todd De Ryck

    I would encourage reading anything written by Guy P. Harrison, a short article that really gets to the point. “Confronting the World’s Greatest Unrecognized Crisis” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/about-thinking/201311/confronting-the-world-s-great-unrecognized-crisis

  • Dennis N

    I walked away from religion when I was 20. I am 61, now. When I was thirty-three, I was back packing my way through a small town in Germany. I had just washed my laundry with fabric softener instead of detergent because I read the package wrong and my clothes weren’t smelling too good. I had my camera, lenses, and film stolen on the train and was feeling a bit down so I sat on the sidewalk to lick my wounds. A preacher came up to me and asked me if I was all right. I said yes and briefly explained my situation. Then he asked me… “Do you believe in God?” and for some inexplicable reason, I blurted out, “No, but God believes in me.”

    He looked startled and stared deep into my eyes. Then as if taken a little further aback, he asked me to follow him and took me into his church to the laundry room and let me do my laundry there. When I was done and my laundry folded and packed away, he returned and escorted me out. As I was leaving he said, “I envy you, I have been teaching the ways of God for over twenty years and I still cannot say what you said with such conviction.”

    Since then, while still an athiest, I have come to think .. Isn’t it better to live so that God can believe in you?

  • Mortlach

    Because I simply can’t resist: “Welcome to the Dark Side, have a cookie.” :-)

    Some others have said it before me, but it’s worth repeating. Atheism isn’t just a religion without God. It might be that the lack of ‘organization’ will be the most difficult to wrap your head around. I guess I’m not far off from the truth when I say most atheists have never even heard of any of the writers you list. There is no central authority, there are no gatherings, there is no dogma, there is no teaching and yet it is wonderful all the same.

    I am going to follow your blog with a keen interest. I hope you have many wonderful discoveries about yourself, God and others.

  • Nye

    I am heartened by all the supportive and kind comments left here. I, too, wish you the best in your journey and hope you find the framework that fits you best. Several here have mentioned the Unitarian Universalists, who create communities to support one another in their individual search for meaning. I strongly recommend you try a UU church or fellowship along somewhere along your journey and exploration. It can really fill the holes left by parting with a church tradition, while still giving you full space to explore your own path.

  • http://joshisevil.wordpress.com joshualandry

    I wish you the best of luck with your quest for self. I’ve yet to really find myself. I know there is something more then myself out there but I also know Christianity is a tool used to control the minds of lost people. It is one of the few things that truly fills me with hate. Ever time I hear about Christians be “persecuted” in America I hope that one day soon they know the same pain non-Christians feel every time we are forced to live under their misguided nonsensical Christian morals made law. Even if you don’t give up on your faith I hope you take some of that pain and bring it into your church and teach some of the, my god is the only god you sinner crowd that most of the time they are the problem not the answer.

  • http://twitter.com/viulasea Viula Torgerson (@viulasea)

    I am very interested in following your journey, but if you are a person of Faith, you cannot “live as an Athiest.” My secular nature is at the core of who I am, and just as I couldn’t be truly religious/faithful just by reading the Bible and quoting God, you cannot be a true non-believer just by pretending not to believe. While you may come out the other side of this with less faith, or even no faith, you are not truly secular just by pretending to be. Just had to get that off my chest… But I do look forward to seeing where you end up. You have gotten some great advice regarding communities of faith that are more in line with your admirable, personal beliefs. If you don’t, though, the secular humanist community is always happy to welcome another non-believer.

  • https://www.facebook.com/robinthomas63 Robin Thomas

    All my life I have believed– my family wasnt really religious and I didnt really go to church much, just now and again but I believed. I just do. I had doubts and concerns and questions- I always have and I believe I always will but if asked is there a God I would firmly attest to the fact that I do believe that God exists and is right here with me every step. I feel him here with me. What difference does it make if there is a god or not? For many of us , its the difference between having the strength to get through the really bad stuff in life and not getting through it. Without faith in anything , how do you muster up the personal strength and courage and love you need to navigate the troubled waters of this life? To me, God teaches me all these things and helps me to find a sturdy path through the strife.
    The true living God will not punish you for for going out and trying to live without him for a year. I believe that even if we do not believes in Him, he believes is us. I realize that there are many many people in the world who have, with a clear mind chosen to believe that there is no God. It is not for me to judge their journey–I hope you have an enlightened journey of your own and find some of the answers you are looking for. I will be here listening and thinking about what you discover and through Gods love and grace, wishing you all the best and encouraging your journey.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      No one chooses not to believe in God; no one chooses to believe either, for that matter. Beliefs form of their own accord due to our experiences… it’s one of the reasons that Pascal’s Wager fails (but not the only one; the thousands of other gods also change the entire dynamic).

  • http://wcb@wcb1.com Bill Bruce

    We are the only species that looks at ourselves and thinks “Why?”. We are the only species that is aware of our own mortality. We know that we can and will “Die” at some time in the future. We have three reactions to the the death event. They are fear, when it happens to us or someone we care about, and elation, when it happens to something we want to eat, or to someone we consider to be an enemy, and sorrow, when it happens to anything or anyone that we think didn’t deserve it.
    These emotions govern all our behavior when interacting with the world around us which is why we establish rules and regulations about what is right and wrong. That principal is why we need “God”, the creator of everything.

    God is like an “Avatar”, a representation of the creator of everything. God gives us something life does not . . . immortality. Eternal life.
    Now that we have eternal life that continues after death, we no longer need to fear death, unless we disobey the rules and regulations. Now we need to fear death again because we will be punished for eternity if we don’t follow the rules.

    Alright, we now have God, eternity, and the fear of eternal damnation. We can also assume eternal bliss as long as we follow the rules. We call these eventualities “Heaven” and “Hell”. We live on a planet that has minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and so on. This is our earthly perspective of “time”. We are inclined to think of “eternity” in relation to this perspective of time. In reality, this eternity happens in a scant minute or so during the “moment” of death. That’s right. During that brief moment when we cross the threshold between life and death, we will experience the eternity that “God” gives us. Don’t think this relieves you from the possibility of eternal damnation because eternity is still “forever”, never ending for you when you die.

    People will learn the truth when they die, whether they choose to “believe” in “God” or not. People who live in remote villages where they’ve never heard of God will also learn the truth in death, although since they have no conceptual knowledge of God, they will most likely experience something quite different from the heaven or hell that we might imagine.

    At this stage one might think that living is all about preparing for death. This is not entirely accurate. There’s a little thing called “Guilt”. when we do bad things we accumulate guilt which is stored up in our minds. Some find the least bit of guilt unbearable and quickly attempt to make amends seeking “forgiveness”. others do not. It has been said that we are all sinners and it’s difficult to imagine that anyone can go through an entire life without ever committing some kind of “sin”.
    For most of us, receiving forgiveness is a comforting experience. Some of us never receive this forgiveness and that is our burden to bear. Either way, it is possible to fill your life with “Spiritual Treasure” by doing good and kind things for others. This enables one to experience joy and contentment for all the days of their life which surely must be sufficient to offset, at least to some degree, any unforgiven sins. This “principle” applies to anyone, whether you believe in God or not.

    Life it seems really is about living and the rewards in death are “icing on the cake.

  • Sarah B

    “My desire is, as always, to pursue the truth and do it in a sometimes serious, sometimes playful, way that might be insightful for others as well.”

    Awesome, I will definitely follow your blog! I hope that you have a wonderful experience this year. As a lifelong atheist, I can’t say I know how you will be feeling, but I would guess that, much like trying to break any other habit, stopping all of your religious studies will leave you feeling like you need to fill that time with something similar (reading “sacred” atheist texts, etc), but I would advise finding a new hobby or two and taking that time to enjoy life. If you want to study, I would suggest what other have, reading about or taking courses in biology and anthropology to expand your perspective and knowledge of the world and life processes. Life can be just as beautiful and meaningful without attributing things to a god; the universe is a pretty cool and crazy place!

    • buruma

      I couldn’t agree more!

    • Mike

      “People will learn the truth when they die, whether they choose to “believe” in “God” or not.”

      As an atheist I disagree with this ancient notion. The idea of an afterlife was thought up way before Christianity by ancient cultures. It was incorporated into Christianity because it’s what people believed then. It had as much basis on reality as any other supernatural ideas of the time. God exists in the gaps in our understanding. Through scientific inquiry, most of the ancient supernatural concepts have been simply dis-proven. The idea of an afterlife has persisted because even though there is no evidence for a mind existing without a brain, the afterlife cannot be actively dis-proven.

      My attempts at a disproofs of a “soul”: We have neuronal identities that develop as we mature and grow. The mind is an illusion of the brain. A baby’s identity is very different from when it becomes an adult- does the soul grow up? Brain damage will definitely change everything about you; “when part of your brain dies you lose the ability to see faces, when your entire brain dies you teleport to another dimension and see grandma”. Animals have brains and an emergence of a mind with increased brain size, so do you believe in dog souls? Can you imagine nonexistence?-yes before you were born. All mentions of heaven and god in the bible clearly depict skyworship…ect

      Even if we accept your “logic” and humans meet “god” when they die. Which god? which religion? are you scared of Muslim hell? If doing good is all it takes, why religion? if worshiping the right god is all it takes then… that would be stupid.

      • http://wcb@wcb1.com Bill Bruce

        Activity in your brain has a sort of momentum. It does not switch off instantly when death occurs. your eternity, and the truth that resides there will be revealed.

        Individuals who have near death experiences do not actually die, but they do experience the physical trauma that would have killed them had they not been revived.

        If you want a good understanding of what happens during the moment preceding death, read up on NDEs.

  • http://thisissabbatical.wordpress.com thisissabbatical

    I’m here because I saw that you’re a (questioning? former?) SDA due to issues with the remnant church philosophy, as am I. I basically live as if there’s no God, but I still believe in God; I can’t see myself as atheist. I’ll be checking this blog often to watch your journey.

  • Amy

    Good luck on your journey this year; I will be following. I consider myself a “religious independent”: I don’t consider myself a member of any established religion, but consider myself to be spiritual and believe in a higher power. The greatest structure to my beliefs really came from attending Alateen as a youth. But I have doubts about all religious systems I’ve studied; I’ve therefore adopted the “Take What you Like and Leave the Rest” slogan from AA for my religious beliefs as well. Your post yesterday, the quote from Julia Sweeney in particular, speaks to my beliefs perfectly. If God were so in need of attention and adoration that this is the only reason we were all created, do I really want to spend eternity with such a being? It doesn’t make sense to me. I am happy to accept that there are mysteries that we do not know the answers to – perhaps because we are never meant to, perhaps because we are not yet meant to know. I believe what power there is, it is within and around all of us, and whatever name you give it and call it, it is the same in the end for all of us. The alternative – that some set of humanity is automatically damned because they were never exposed to, let alone indoctrinated into, believing in a particular deity – defies all logic for me.

  • buruma

    I hope you don’t get too bogged down in the brands of atheism, keep it simple. Will you believe in magic or nature? Study some cosmology which gives perspective, and evolution and geology. At the end of the day the question is a basic one and all of the brands of secular humanism and post-humanism and their hybrids are concerned with rationalising the simple point that we have such a limited time to experience what is a great and unlikely gift of nature, this life – and one only.

  • http://www.anunscriptedlife.com brookst

    I’m really looking forward to your discoveries. I am an atheist who is out to my friends but not my family. I question that if you believe in your heart in God if you can turn that off and live “atheist” for a year. My hope is that you can come to understand that for an atheist all the goodness and miracles you experienced through the church we experience through each other and the miracle of science, which I see as no less magical and wonderous than say the holy spirit. Best of luck in your journey.

  • keithguerin

    Best of luck with your year Brian. Let yourself be your guide in your search for truth, and don’t rely too heavily on the atheist texts. I have always found Wikipedia and other scientific sources to be the best reading material. They will contain more truth than opinion pieces by atheists. I recommend Bill Bryson’s “History of Everything”.

    • https://www.facebook.com/steven.corry.39 Steven Corry

      ?Try being an atheist but don’t rely too much on atheists?Wikipedia and other scientific sources…………atheists aren’t scientists.Atheists like Dawkins,Dennett,Tyson,Harris,Hitchens,Myers…….not an ounce of truth,just opinions?

      The Bill Bryson thing seemed a decent request.

      • Linda

        When atheists write about atheism they are writing opinion pieces. When a scientist who happens to be an atheist writes about science he or she is writing a scientific piece which likely contains scientific truths, but that doesn’t make the science “atheist” science.

        Theist/scientist is not the dicotomy — is, I believe, the point keith was trying to make.

  • http://kathleenpagan.wordpress.com kmp1964

    I love your journey and I am very excited to see where your year takes you!! Your story is WAY different from my own but I sense a familiarity in the story you have told.

    When I turned my life over to Jesus as a 16 year old I figured the next day the world would change and admit that in my inexperience I was a little put off that my teachers, friends, my mom, my brothers, etc… were all the same. As a dutiful daughter and newly minted Christian I went to Sunday school, tried to do the right thing, and I felt bad when I cursed, and tried pot for the first time, and had my first drink of booze. At 17 I went with some friends to a “cooler” church and saw a film that demonstrated what would happen if the Biblical last days happened in our time… it made me turn away from God. I didn’t pray, I didn’t go to church, I turned my back on anything “religious”… except that I still had my Bible. I read the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, The Teachings of Buddah, the Quran… and I still had the Bible. So one day when I was 21 (don’t remember the date, just remember how old I was) I was getting some water from my fridge and had a “revelation”… the same experience I had at 16 came to me again and this time I realized that what I was searching for had been with me all along. God was not in a church, or a religion, or a path of enlightenment… God was in my heart, God was in control of not just my life but the lives of my mother who didn’t “love” me, my father who had passed away, my boss, my brothers, the lady at the grocery store who cut me off, my professors, etc, etc, etc, I realized my smallness and how incapable I was of making sure I would breath and my heart would function while I was sleeping, how little control I had over even the most mundane and basic things in my life. My heart grew that day and has grown exponentially ever since. All of us not matter how different we are in culture, in language, in ideology, etc, etc, etc, are all created in God’s image we are his most beloved. No matter how far we have to go, or what journey we have to take, God is there loving us even when we think he doesn’t exist or doesn’t love us!!

    One of my favorite quotes of all time is from C.S. Lewis “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

    I so look forward to your posts.

    • Feargal

      ‘Revelations’ are known as ‘seizures’ these days.

      • http://kathleenpagan.wordpress.com kmp1964

        My little brother had a seizure disorder and passed away several years ago… what happened to me at 21 was a revelation in that something was revealed to me… not a “seizure” or a seizure. :)

      • Matt

        Gotcha, kmp1964. Please reveal it to us here in a way that is clear to all of us so there is no misunderstanding of your revelation. Until then, I think it’s reasonable to dismiss your revelation out of hand.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      How you describe God being in control sounds exactly, and I mean exactly, like the Laws of the Universe (causality, the physical forces, etc.). Needing a controller for these laws which are in effect 24/7/365 and apply to every atom in existence… is like needing a controller for evolution (which, by natural selection and random mutation, needs none).

  • http://www.allcachedout.com dazed4rain

    Dear Ryan Bell,

    You state, “I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible.” This clear and forward way of speaking about one’s intentions indicates to me that you are truly commited to putting this to practice.

    As such, I look forward to speaking with you about my atheism; I don’t care to promote myself anymore than I care to speak with a man who, when it comes to spirituality/religion, is a man who reminds me of my father. It will be a mutually enligtening conversation.

    Sincerely, Torrie C.

  • dazed4rain

    Dear Ryan Bell,

    You state, “I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible.” This clear and forward way of speaking about one’s intentions indicates to me that you are truly commited to putting this to practice.

    As such, I look forward to speaking with you about my atheism; I don’t care to promote myself anymore than I care to speak with a man who, when it comes to spirituality/religion, is a man who reminds me of my father. It will be a mutually enligtening conversation.

    Sincerely, Torrie C.

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      Absolutely. Email me at rjbell@me.com.

  • Matt Woodling

    It appears you are leaving all the comforts of your church and belief. You define your coming year as not doing the things you used to do. It sounds like a recipe for misery. You don’t just leave your old community and traditions and magically re-grow them in a year.

    I would suggest that you keep practicing his faith (at least by yourself) while you explore the arguments against it and consider them with a skeptical eye. Do the arguments make sense? Does your faith and church’s dogma make sense? Does your faith ask you to reject anything that can’t be demonstrated or contradicts your own morals? Are you willing to accept a part of the faith if it can’t be demonstrated to others?

    Above all, I would ask you to read your Bible front-to-back to make sure you understand everything in it, even the bits that you don’t like. And research critiques of the bible, especially where it contradicts itself and contradicts what people say is in it, or contradicts what you think is in it. Research it with a new skeptical eye.

    Lastly, explore non-faith-based community. Explore humanist groups. Find people in similar situations. Investigate the Clergy Project, an organization that helps clergy who no longer believe.

    If you do the above, your faith may be strengthened or weakened, but at least you’ll understand it better and practice with open eyes.

    • J Man

      He is already miserable, the bilble doesnt give answers. It was written 100 yrs after the fact and many priests destroyed Jesus’s written word out of fear and not wanting to listen to Jesus. Jesus was teaching what is coming thru to us finally now! Read Power of the Magdalene. and get an app, voice America and listen to THEO and find out what really true! Tuesdays eastern time 11:00 am! important things were takin out of the bible from the high priests out fear to easier rule their kingdoms! ;) Even the new Pope has been put here to change the corrupt fake Controlling religion, its all about money! Keeping his head out of the bible is a good thing, maybe now he can here what hes supposed to!

  • http://www.churchofancientways.org Marie April Gismondi

    As the founder of an Interfaith Church I wish you much luck. If I may offer a few insights. Good people always have a strong internal moral compass. It is clear that you have one of those. Doing right simply because it is right with or without God has value in todays crazy world. It sounds to me like you were born with a wonderful True North as your original setting. To go from where you were to Atheism is, in my opinion, like going from 6 to 0 on the Kinsey scale. Secular Humanism, Spiritual Non-Religious, all those grey areas are extremely interesting and embrace the idea that what ever Spirit is… it’s too big to cram into the confines of any one religion, philosophy, or what ever other box one has. To me it’s more like the Christianity of the first 300 years, before it congealed around the political structure that seems to contradict a loving, ever growing philosophy. You may not pray, but please do allow yourself to quiet your mind and consider meditating or some way of allowing your higher self to be heard amid all the noise of the day. I think you are in for an interesting year and I hope you enjoy the ride!

  • David

    Wow. Just stumbled upon this article and I’m very curious to see where this year takes you. I’m not going to give you a bunch of advise, mainly because you’ve already received tons of it. Have a great year discovering!

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      Thanks, I’m relieved! ;)

  • Mike

    This reminds me of a question I once thought of when I was trying to define god’s exact job in the world today.

    “If god stopped existing tomorrow, what would be different”.

    Would nobody recover from cancer? would all coincidences stop?

    • buruma

      I think the easy answer to your question Mike is: if got stopped existing tomorrow it would be just like it is today.

    • Ben

      also, would nobody get cancer? would all wars suddenly end? would famine and disease disappear? you can’t say god fixes something without also admitting he causes it. religious philosophy is just another phrase for logical fallacy.

    • Rebecca

      “If god stopped existing tomorrow, what would be different?”

      That question is non-sensical to an Atheist. As stated, it *presumes* the existence of a deity, a presumption with which an Atheist wouldn’t agree.

  • https://www.facebook.com/Kristenmomof3 Kris Kramer

    Feel free to join groups on Facebook like…. https://www.facebook.com/groups/atheist.parents/

  • Shivenator

    Ryan,

    I am truly excited and encouraged by your honesty. I am in a similar boat, and unlike most of your audience I too am asking the same questions you are. I have lived nearly 8 months “without God” and plan to continue unless convinced otherwise.

    I was trained at a number of the “leading” conservative Protestant Seminaries and spent 4 years in the Navy Chaplain Corps. Being prior Army, I was able to convince myself that the discomfort I experienced was from missing my rifle and my men. However, the questioning only increased when I left the Chaplaincy and returned to be an Army Officer in the MP Corps.

    My questioning truly began when I studied Koine Greek and found alarming variations amongst translations. This uncovered the question I have yet to answer. What truly is the Bible? History, textual criticism, linguistic analysis, the tools the Conservative Christian culture claim to use as supporting evidence paint a different picture than they presume. I have a masters in Ethics and am very philosophically minded, yet the Doctrine of Inerrancy further supported my rejection of that faith tradition. I asked simple questions of the leading minds regarding Inerrancy, Dispensationalism, etc. and the answers would always be along the lines of…”well its complicated.” I would then receive numerous Bible references to read and would be laughed off when I asked why I should care what it said. No one has provided me a reason, supporting evidence outside of the Biblical text itself, as to why it is important in and of itself. What is the difference between the Christian Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, my autobiography which all cite they are the authority on all things related to God. I just can no longer stomach the statement “Because it says so.” any longer. What exactly is “it.”

    Good luck. One thing I have learned in these 8 months is that this journey is one hell of a ride.

  • Min. Nathaniel J. Wilcox

    It’s SAD to say that you are believing and worshiping God based on what PEOPLE do or didn’t do. JESUS said ” I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE.” In Him, do we live move and have our being. I made the same mistakes of putting people, church groups and other spiritual leaders, in front of God. They let me down and I was very hurt. However, I was not hurt enough to let go of God, not for one second. I love everyone but my foundation was not built on them (The sand), according to Matthew 7:24-27 which reads: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

    Getting advice from an atheist on how to do anything spiritual in relationship with God is foolish. According to Psalms 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” Psalms 14:2 states, “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.” Now is your time to SEEK GOD not seek the advice of an UNBELIEVER. Look for truth in the scriptures by acknowledging that you are confused and need guidance toward the Light, which is Christ Jesus. Man’s path toward righteousness must be guided by the Spirit of God. God’s Word says “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) You cannot obtain the truth and freedom you seek by seeking such from forces which are against God. This will lead to utter chaos, confusion, ruin, and death. This is sent to you in the sincerest hope that you will heed the voice of God and not harden your heart. I truly believe you are seeking truth.

    One final scripture to leave with you: Romans 8:13-14 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Please, before you venture down this slippery slope, ask Jesus to come into your heart and become your Lord and Savior through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    • https://www.facebook.com/steven.corry.39 Steven Corry

      Nice sermon….why would he want to take a break from a belief system that tells him what to think? Your scriptures portray atheists as evil,confused,sad,uneducated and listening to us would put him in the same categories.Therefore,you like him now but will hate him until he comes back to jesus…..that’s not very christian.

    • Susan B.

      ….and this is exactly why people are turned off of religion. Well done, Mr. Wilcox.

    • Shivenator

      Min. Wilcox,

      I have spent years preaching exactly what you put forth here. However, I must ask what is the Bible? You base your answers and doctrine on it. Please help me understand why it holds any more weight than the Illiad. I am not trying to be combative, I sincerely want to know (refer to my post immediately preceding yours).

      Shivenator

    • http://avengah.wordpress.com avengah

      You’ve got the “hardened heart” thing the wrong way round. Let me fix that for you.

      “At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail.

      There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

      There is only our natural world.

      Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

      So, you see, it’s RELIGION that hardens hearts, not atheism. Now you’ve learnt something, I hope. If you truly have an open mind, you will do some research with that open mind and learn that there is no god. Really. The truth will set you free from dogma and superstition.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      According to Psalms 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

      This is why you need to stop putting such authority in scriptures, because the real world contradicts them. For instance Bill Gates is a philanthropist that has donated millions to charity, and he’s an atheist. To deny that atheists can do good is insane, and that’s what you have become in accepting these doctrines; insane, and judgmental.

  • http://www.adamstrange.com adam strange

    Read THE RIGHTEOUS MIND while you still have an open mind. That book explains everything. I had very similar feelings, read all the best selling atheist books, and though I’m convinced there is no god, none of them convinced me that religion was “evil” as many set out to do. There is a growing idea that the world would be a better place without religion, and maybe it would be, but as skeptics we should look at the data, not get caught up in our own brand of beliefs.

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      I am reading it currently.

      • http://ignosticatheist.wordpress.com Ignostic Atheist

        Awesome! I’m finishing it up right now. If there’s anything I could tell you, it is to take notes. Each section builds upon the last, until you have to recall the entire book to fully comprehend the end. I’m going to have to start over again and break my rule about soiling books with post its and highlighter.

      • http://admstrange.wordpress.com admstrange

        Great! Can’t wait to watch this project going forward. I hope you can include some of the ideas from that book in this blog. Too many atheists are caught up in this “us versus them” mentality. I think that tribalist war-like thinking is what we really need to leave behind.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      I think a more balanced approach is to acknowledge both the good and evil done in the name of religion. The problem is that people seem unable to give up one without the other; to keep the good and leave the bad behind, because they think it’s the will of God and they’re afraid to be courageous in the face of what they’re told (which is why slavery, for instance, took so long to get abolished; the churches, quite correctly, identified that slavery was condoned in the Bible).

  • SMGreader

    I do not understand what you mean by atheist texts or atheist gatherings.

    I do not follow any of these writers, thinkers, “preachers”?

    I don’t even know who they are or why they would matter to your pursuit.

    I have never heard of or attended an atheist event.

    The ONLY thing any 2 atheists share is non belief.

    You don’t need a book, study group, science class or event to get there.

    If you believe in god you cannot “behave” like an atheist because you believe in god. You might not outwardly turn to your god for whatever, but somewhere you’re going to be believing god’s “got your back” the whole time, right?

    I really do not at all understand what you are trying to do.

    You can become a practitioner of religion A,B,C,D or E by following a path laid out for you, but there’s no path to atheism – though you seem to think there is. (so do many atheists I know)

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      You don’t have a desire to explore the philosophical and scientific reasons for the things you believe or don’t believe? I guess I just do have that desire. That’s all. I have an inquiring mind. What can I say?

      • http://lsendow.wordpress.com Larrice

        I recommend this book from a atheist philosopher: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (2012).

        The materialistic naturalistic justification for knowledge, the laws of logic, the mind, the law of induction, and moral laws are without a foundation.

        We must start with God for anything and everything to make sense. In Him all things consist.

      • Rey

        I think what she is trying to say is, atheism is the belief that there is no god. That there never was a god and never will be a god. So to say that I’m going to be an atheist for a year is a bit nonsensical, in that at the end of the year you’ll be able to just magically believe again. which wouldnt be possible if you actually stopped believing. What you’re doing is being agnostic for a year. Being agnostic means that you acknowledge its possible there’s a god, but at the same time its possible that there isnt a god. From everything you’re describing, it would seem that you still believe in god, you’ve just chosen not to worship. That’s closer to being agnostic, not atheism. It is entirely possible that at some point in the next year you come to the realization that there is no god, but you can’t just go back to “there is a god” from there.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      There is indeed a path to Atheism, SMGReader; it’s called Skepticism. Properly applied, skepticism leads (at the very least) to a loss of belief where claims (about the nature of reality, the existence of various beings, etc.) fail to be supported positively by reason, logic and evidence. Faith is not a demonstrable path to the truth, or else the Hindu gods exist by way of the faith that Hindus have in their existence, and the same holds true for Mohammed being the last prophet of Allah (God) and Jesus being a mere prophet (and not divine)… truths held, faithfully, by Muslims.

  • MDO

    It appears that you are a victim of nominal religion along with most of your commentator’s. The God that you worshiped is nothing like the true God of the bible. Rather than follow Jesus counsel to “ask and you will be given” you choose to go to the dark side so you can receive your reward now. It will be a great book to read but you won’t like the ending. As far as the question “Why does God want people to obey him?” is simple… Like any good loving father he wants the best for his children and knows that if they stray from his guidance they will suffer. That is the lesson that Adam and Eve failed to learn… look at the consequences today. God does not need anything from humans. Because he loves them he wants them to fare well and provides direction so that they can. It is a massive mistake to look to men for your answers… they have no life in them. I hope you reconsider. Remember all you need to do is humble yourself and ask and he will answer. You may not like the answer since it will require humility and sacrifice. The Remnant you refer to is there and he is with them as he promised he would be.

  • Gordon

    One thing that strikes me as interesting – is based on an article I read recently here – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201109/disbelief-is-not-choice

    Purely phsychologically, I, as an Atheist, was both struck and comforted in being able to share – hey critics of Atheism, I didn’t choose this – I followed a path and ended up here, and in many ways I expect there is no going back. I did choose to be open minded and seek the truth… While I chose the path, the results followed, somewhat inevitably.

    In your mission, you are making a decision, a choice, to experience life as an Atheist. I am skeptical that you CAN even do this. Your, at least initial, belief in God was not a choice for you… and I can respect that many people of religion, and ir-religion are in the same position – it is not a choice you can make without travelling a path – of enlightenment (in one direction or the other).

    At best, you are beginning, or continuing down a new path of exploration and discovery. You can’t experience Atheism itself until you are there.

    I do look forward to observing your journey, hoping to see you pursue it faithfully and open-ly. Ironic?

  • https://www.facebook.com/steven.corry.39 Steven Corry

    Its a very interesting idea.But I am confused as to what you think the outcome will be.Are you looking to redefine your “faith” or rather discover which “side” has the better answers?Yes,I am an atheist,born and raised Free Presbyterian in N.Ireland(talk about indoctrination).I moved to the US when I turned 18 in 1991 and never thought about religion…ever.But when my wife and I moved to Kentucky in 2005,everything changed.I am now a “strong” atheist because I have seen good people full of hatred,hypocracy and bigotry because of their religious beliefs.Just be careful how far it takes you.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      I think you mean that you’re an “anti-theist”. A “strong atheist” would be a 7 on the Dawkins Scale, meaning someone who positively claims there is no God (and no gods). Most atheists are not that high up, but you can be a relatively weak atheist and still be an anti-theist (against religion because of the harm it does in the world).

  • http://codethatsavedmylife.wordpress.com zephyrgod

    Ryan,

    I’m a self defined atheist, and scientist (I studied Physics). I don’t go to atheist gatherings, I haven’t read much about atheism, but the list of books you have in your hands is missing a very important author; Carl Sagan. I don’t know if he is atheist or agnostic, but one book that really amazed me and helped me open my eyes is:

    The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark ( http://www.amazon.com/The-Demon-Haunted-World-Science-Candle/dp/0345409469 ), just look at the number of 5 stars it haves, and the comments people left. It is really good. It have also helped my girlfriend be less afraid of the unknown.

    Atheism doesn’t mean lacking of morality, or humanitarianism, or love and respect to other persons. It doesn’t mean you will not help your neighbor in a flood, or someone in need. Being an atheist , you help other persons and/or give to charity not because you want to go to heaven or because God tells you it is good, but more because it is common sense, and because you have sincere empathy, and it hurts you seeing someone in need. If you were also in need, would you want some one to help you out? I would definitely want some one to help me out if I were in that kind of situations. Yes, there are atheists that will not help anyone in need, in the same way that there will be deeply religious people who won’t help someone in need, and that’s OK. Good people will always be there, regardless of their religion, sexual preferences, nationality, age, and social status.

    I hope you have luck on year trying atheism year, and I hope you meet the right kind of atheists on the way. My best wishes for you :)

    • Desdemona

      Sagan is an Atheist, and a great one in terms of not offending the religious. I have nothing against the “new,” Atheists (maybe because I grew up with a less nice religion ) but it is good to have some who can speak to the masses and not offend.

  • Joanne Holcomb

    So much has been said, on all sides, I just want to add one important point: GOD & RELIGION are often NOT related. Religions THINK they are godly, but often lack the very most important qualities that He demanded: Love, kindness & leaving judgment to Him. That’s why RELIGION crucified His Christ. Whether you’re a “believer” or not, just one thing matters: DO GOOD (being loving, kind, non-judgmental).

  • buruma

    I thought that this was appropriate: “In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.” We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”

    ― Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

    • Rebecca

      Yes, yes, yes!

    • http://ignosticatheist.wordpress.com Ignostic Atheist

      I recently had to disagree with Harris on this subject:

      “The thing is, though, when the majority of the world does believe something, a widespread lack of belief is significant. To not believe in a god means you’re different, and if there’s anything humans take notice of, it’s things that are different.

      Which is why we are called atheists, and not simply humans. We are different, and we can’t be ignored.”

      It’s not that we don’t believe something stupid, it’s that we don’t believe something that is the norm for the rest of the world. It is notable, and you give notable things names.

  • Kathleen Mitchell

    I’m very interested to see how this pans out for you, and I’m hoping you gain a positive or at least an insightful experience from this, regardless whether you actually change your belief.

    The only thing that struck a little fear in me was that you will be reading the New Atheists books, which I view as a branch of Atheism that most often aims to belittle religions. I’m glad to hear that you will be talking to a variety of Atheists during this year so that you don’t gain a negative view of Atheism as a whole from that one group.

    I wish you the best of luck!

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      I’ve already read most of them and I agree, the tone is unnecessarily harsh. Thanks!

  • B Geringer

    Ryan-

    I, too, stumbled upon this story at Huff Post and I wish you the best in your journey this year.

    I have no problem personally with the phrase “try on atheism” as I tried on the Baptist church many years ago (after growing up in the Methodist Church, visiting Mass with my friend’s Catholic Church, etc.). I was skeptical then – a mystical wizard in the sky? – but then my lack of belief was cemented by a scientific education. Regardless of the “result”, I commend you for your courage in this endeavor

  • Brian

    I was raised a reform Jew. I got sober in a program, that claims it works thru a higher power. My boys were Bar Mitzvah’ed. Yet over the years (to borrow a phrase) ‘I came to not believe’.

    My lack of belief just sort of evolved, It gets constantly reinforced by religion backed bigotry, but in the end the idea of a all knowing all seeing god, just seems childish. That’s not to say that there might not be a cosmic connection between us, in fact it seems to me that there is one, but we can have that without a god. I got here on my own, but reading “God is Not Great” and similar reading doesn’t hurt.

    It is sometimes difficult to cast off what you were told was true by all those that raised you. I think that is the same reason I like to see how my high school basketball team did, it’s just the way I was raised.

    Best of Luck, enjoy the ride

  • Ben

    My father was a pastor and, needless to say, I “grew up” in the church. Even from my early teenage years, everything about it seemed off to me, but I had to play along, lest I spend the rest of my youth imprisoned. Bible study every day, church at least three times a week. I couldn’t wait to turn 18 and get away from it all. It was a long path to get to atheism – I didn’t start out that way, and honestly didn’t firmly reach my conclusion until recently (I’m 31). My family took a very, very long time to accept my beliefs (or lack thereof), but they’ve at least finally stopped talking about it when I visit. I’m hoping you reach the end of your path unscathed by your loved ones. I don’t see any logical conclusion that will bring you to anything other than atheism, but that is your journey to take, not mine. I’ll be keeping up with you along the way, though. Godspeed, good sir. (Haha! Sorry, couldn’t help myself)

  • http://dodgers14.wordpress.com dodgers14

    Ryan, I am another voice adding support and expressions of curiosity to you and your venture. I, too, am a former pastor. I share a truly similar journey thus far, from a religious upbringing to expressing questions and challenges my congregations didn’t find as heart warming as they’d have liked.

    My wife, sister-in-law and I recently watched Bill Maher’s Religulous and I have to say I couldn’t handle watching it. I have to admit, however, the meat of it will not let go of me. There was much to challenge me, leaving me fearful of losing my own faith. I don’t believe I ultimately will, but there continues a nagging fear.

    Much luck (providence?) to you. I appreciate your boldness in sharing this journey publicly, and so look forward to reading your discovery.

    Peace and strength,

    Dave

  • http://ignosticatheist.wordpress.com Ignostic Atheist

    I started reading this article with the expectation that I would be telling you that “trying on” atheism would be meaningless for a person with no reason to doubt, but it seems that you may be in the right place for questioning after all. My own transformation took about five years, but I didn’t have any expectation about ending the process with a disbelief in god, nor did I have years of bible study and pastoring to examine. One year may be more than adequate for you. I look forward to reading your journey.

    I would suggest getting in touch with ex-clergy. Dan Barker comes to mind. You also might be able to do something with the Clergy Project. Naturally, they won’t accept non-atheists, but I’m sure they know plenty of people you can talk to.

  • https://www.facebook.com/jasontorpy Jason Torpy

    I was concerned reading this because you seem to be jumping into popular atheism – what society thinks atheism is. Not praying rejects your religion, but that’s not really living as an atheist. You talked about ‘religious atheism’ like Botton and Dworkin. But they’re just authors with no meaningful connection to any values-based community. You should check out aeu.org, shj.org, humanist-society.org, americanhumanist.org, huumanists.org . These are examples of what it looks like to live an ethical, values-based life without a god.

  • Bob Dias

    Best of luck in your journey. I applaud anyone seeking truth. But, I have to ask: What is it that you think you will find? There is only one question to be addressed: Why do you believe in one all-powerful being that created our universe and has dominion over your destiny? No amount of “being an atheist” for a year will answer that question for you. No amount of reading, no sacrifice, no lifestyle change will get you to an answer that matters. So, what is it you really hope to understand?

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      I guess I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

      • Rebecca

        Bob Dias said: “There is only one question to be addressed: Why do you believe in one all-powerful being that created our universe and has dominion over your destiny?”

        Again, your phrasing PRESUMES a god and that Ryan will end his journey of a year affirming a belief in that Christian deity. From what I understand, that’s not his path at all.

        He reports being SO increasingly at odds with the social and religious positions of his church that he feels his ethics and cosmology to be utterly outside the fold. So, it seems he is taking the feeling of otherness to the furthest extent, by asking “so, do I truly not believe in the Christian God?” “What would that be like?” “The person furthest outside the fold would be an atheist. Am I that person? Let me try it on and see if the atheist stance fits.”

        Who knows where Ryan will end up after this journey, but it for SURE is NOT guided by “why does he believe in god.”

  • http://lawlesslass.wordpress.com lawlesslass

    what an interesting journey. i can not wait to read about it. good luck to you! your first blog showed up on my fb page and caused me to sign up here to check in. i am an apathetic atheist with an affinity for Buddhist philosophies. if you ever want to chat feel free to email me at lawless.imagination@gmail.com. be well!

  • http://erickfredendall.wordpress.com erickfredendall

    I’m very excited to follow along in this journey, Ryan, and look forward to reading your conclusions at the end of the year. I’ve always believed it’s good to challenge your system of beliefs.

    I humbly suggest this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlnnWbkMlbg) video series by the Youtube user Evid3nc3. The videos are primarily about discrepancies in the Bible and is sort of a review about The History of God (http://www.amazon.com/History-God-000-Year-Judaism-Christianity/dp/0345384563) , but is not limited to that. Well worth a watch.

    I see in the above comments that you are currently reading the Righteous Mind. Excellent book. You should give us a review when you’re done. :)

  • http://none Jill

    Some people think atheism implies lack of values, lack of ethics, lack of meaning in life, and ultimate doom. To me, an atheist, it is very important to be compassionate because I can see how much life hurts and that there is no meaning to it, no reason, no reward. Since there is no God (or god) to love me anyway, to meet me when I die, to take care of people and animals and a world I love (sometimes,) to somehow take care of “wrongness” on “judgement day,” (actually, even when I was Catholic, I didn’t believe in judgement day. It made no sense to me. As if some people get to go to a heaven because they believe a guy died for them and everyone who doesn’t suffers for all eternity… dumb. As if half the world that isn’t Christian is doomed simply because they missed the point.) And anyway, I don’t live my life in the way I do so that I will get a reward in heaven. I live my life the way I do because I am a good, ethical, kind, caring person. And this is what is important to me. Not dogma.

    To make sense out of an world that seems senseless, then it is even more important to be good kind people, to care about each other, to find compassionate solutions to problems rather than waiting for some higher power to work it out or explain it. It is about taking responsibility and *making* meaning, creating a meaningful life here and now. I don’t believe in an afterlife. This it is. I better do my (damned) best to make it worthwhile while I am here to appreciate it because… it doesn’t make sense to me not to. Also… there is the scientific proof of evolution, among other things…

    Yeah, it is scary and freaky to realize that “this is it” — but the implications, to me, are profound. It isn’t that life is meaningless; we make meaning in life. I want to make it good.

    I can see how people throughout the ages constructed religion–I can certainly see the benefits for them, for society. But if people cannot now live an ethical life without thinking some force is upon them to do so, that someone is watching (like Santa?) — what kind of people are these?

    It isn’t as if atheists have been the ones to persecute others in wars, in mass genocides, in other terrible ways. All of this has been done in the name of religion. And still is. What has been done in the name of atheism? What moral atrocities have been committed by masses of atheists in the name of atheism?

    I remember in one of the _Narnia_ books, a character is reflecting to another that they would rather chose to believe in God (or was it Aslan?) than live as if God did not exist. This is because they would rather believe in a loving, presence in their life, I think, so that life will feel more certain, more meaningful, more bearable. I can understand that desire. But to me, the answer being to believe in God feels stagnant and absent of reality or potential for real growth (say, as a species, as a human.) If I were to think of an “answer” to the unbearableness of life, it would be that I must face it, contend with it, accept it. What could be more unbearable that losing all you love — let alone trying to comprehend the possibility that you lose what you love forever… (people, animals, nature dies and then is gone, just gone.) Yeah, unbearable. This is why love, tenderness, care, compassion are so important to me. The comfort is not located in any god, but in me and in my ability to nurture it in others. And it is not a lasting comfort. I continue to love because it helps (even as it hurts) and I continue to nurture compassion because… I believe it is wise, that real compassion coincides with wisdom.

    It doesn’t matter to me what happens after death. It matters to me how I live my life and how I contribute to the lives of others and to life as a whole.

    Also, being an atheist does not to me mean that I do not “pray.” I just do not “pray” to God or some being beyond me. And I would not call it “praying,” tho some of my Christian friends try to convince me that is what I am doing. (I think it makes them feel better.) I don’t need God to be able to love.

    Enjoy a fruitful journey. I recommend Paul Gilbert, _The Compassionate Life: A New Approach to Life’s …” (I forgot the last word!) He is a brilliant psychologist in Great Britain whose work with mindfulness and “compassion-focused therapy” has been most effective in helping people heal from difficult to treat mental illnesses such as eating disorders and borderline personality disorder.

  • arjil

    I wish you well on your journey, but I feel the need to say this:

    Atheism, in my experience and opinion, is often just as flawed, blind, and dogmatic a practice as Christianity.

    It is not the other side of the coin that you think it is, merely a different perspective.

    I would suggest in your reading (or perhaps after, once you’ve finished your year) that you practice some Buddhism and read the Tao, read about Hinduism, take a plunge with the Pagans- then in between All of these different views you can start to see, perhaps, what they were all trying to point at, but failing.

    None of them are right, but there’s good things to be found in all of them.

    And read Terry Pratchett- his whole Discworld series, It’s a less dry way to deal with certain atheistic concepts without ignoring the less tangible bits of reality.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “Atheism, in my experience and opinion, is often just as flawed, blind, and dogmatic a practice as Christianity.” You’re conflating atheism, which is merely (_merely_) the lack of belief in gods, with the further beliefs that individual atheists have (which vary widely). You don’t need to believe anything special to be an atheist; you don’t need to believe in Evolution or The Big Bang, though many atheists do. My advice would be to take this into consideration, and remember that what you are criticizing are particular beliefs held by particular people, not some kind of atheist dogma that applies to “Atheism” itself.

  • Axel Clavier

    I have noticed that many theists approach atheism as if it were an organized religion complete with a set of core beliefs, practices, and central authorities. This is a misconception that, I think, might interfere with your experiment. Atheism is a very nebulous concept that means a lot of different things to many different people.

    I live in an area where irreligion is the prevalent philosophy, and it is not treated like a religion in itself. In fact, it is not treated at all. People here don’t think of atheism or irreligion in such terms because it is really nothing, a void. To most of us, it is the absence of belief in a higher power. Belief is something that atheists choose simply not to participate in, and it feels odd that there is a word for that. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson pointed out, there is no word for non-golfers; why is there a word for those who don’t believe in God? Non-golfers don’t gather and talk about how much they don’t play golf, and it doesn’t make sense to me that people who don’t believe in God would do so.

    What I am trying to say is that atheism, for most of us, is not a way of life or a set of commandments like religion, it’s just an all-encompassing label – a generalization – that says nothing else about us except for the fact that we don’t participate in belief. There are, certainly, atheist philosophies that attempt to replace religion, and atheists who take it several steps further and assume a strong belief that there is no God, but this is not the case for everyone.

    It is a state of mind, a conclusion about the world that many people have reached through many different ways. Some have seen terrible things and lost faith because they consider that, if there was a God, he would have stopped such unnecessary suffering. They turn to irreligion out of anger or despair. Others react to religion and how it is conducted, think it stupid, and actively campaign against it. They turn to irreligion out of spite for religion. Others still have reached Atheism through reason, having observed nothing that gives them cause to think that there is a God. They turn to irreligion because they think it makes the most sense. Each person’s conception of Atheism is different because their experience is different.

    For your experiment, I don’t think you should try to quantify Atheism into an alternate religion you can easily slip into. The only thing that all atheists have in common is the concept that there may not be a God, so I recommend you wrestle with that concept as a religious man, and try to find the truth.

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  • https://www.facebook.com/tim.kleemann.75 Tim Kleemann

    Ryan, Very intrigued to read about your upcoming year. Looking forward to your updates, I was raised Christian, did all the usual things, Church, Sunday School, confirmation lessons, etc etc. In my late 20′s started having difficulties with faith. so I talked to people, went to evangelist type rallies, prayed for the holy spirit to enter my heart etc etc. And I meant it, I wanted to reconnect with faith.

    So I decided to do what most Xtians claim to do, but actually don’t. I read the Bible. Cover to cover, slowly, carefully, and reading each passage. You need to read it without what I call your “Jesus Sunglasses’ That means that you don’t skip over the horrible bits. As a result, I began to seriously doubt the Bible described real events. It wasn’t true. But then people told me that the Bible is the basis for modern morality and that is valuable. So I read it again from the viewpoint of looking for morality. Wow.

    That was the point when I said to myself that I can’t get my morality from this book because I (and you) are morally superior to the God described in the OT. I went into the process wanting to be a believer and I came out an atheist. When I went looking for the entity and found he wasn’t there, I stopped believing. Becoming an atheist is a process. It takes time.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “That was the point when I said to myself that I can’t get my morality from this book because I (and you) are morally superior to the God described in the OT.” It’s so difficult to get people to see that, unless they already have doubts. Also the concept of Hell and damnation for those who don’t accept Jesus as their personal Savior is, when examined, so incredibly immoral and cruel that it tops anything ever done by humans (including Adolf). It would make this God character the ultimate evil in the universe, the ultimate cause of suffering.

      • Quizzical

        So true, and there’s so much more. The very precepts of the faith are so glaringly unethical and cruel. If you ask most christians what their beliefs are, they will say we are all fallen and doomed, but “God” sent his only son to save us by suffering for our sins. I find it very disturbing that so many have set aside their ethics to save their own sorry skins from a mythical “Hell.” I haven’t spoken with any who see what is wrong with this story, but letting someone else pay the price for your wrongdoings is unethical. And any parent who would let his innocent child be tortured to death to appease his own wrath against the innocent child’s siblings does not deserve to be a parent. It’s so obvious. :/

  • Rutger Saly

    What an interesting idea. I think I will follow your blog. I am an atheist myself, although apparently not an active one. I never heard of atheist gatherings or texts, but maybe that’s just an american thing.

    I hope you find what you need through the coming year. :-)

    And I would love to discuss with you, if you like.

  • Steve

    Ryan,

    I wondered if you had on your list works by writers looking at the question of whether a propensity to believe in a deity is a genetic element. This question occurred to me reading the comment by Latrice that we must believe in God for anything to make sense.

    I’m not an atheist, but it seems to me that their main point is precisely that one does not need a deity to make sense of it all.

    Some of the geneticists usefully turn the question around and observe a universal craving and a universal need by pretty much all, individually or collectively, to make sense of a chaotic world. On top of that is the collective need to have organization in a social gathering. Some societies need a dad, some a King, some a brother, some a mother, and some a god. Some need a loving god, some a distant and aloof god, and some a vengeant and menacing god. The multiplicity, the almost infinite variation of gods that Man has invented, from their point of view, come from a need to find something that holds their belief system together and functionally undergirds a system of ethics and morals that preserves society. For some, the positive imperative (it’s good to be good to one another) works. Others need stricter stuff (be nice or ill send you to hell). And some people, from Aristotle forward to modern atheism, have found a way to make it hold together without needing a deity. Something else is at the core, be it humaneness, or reason.

    In a sense, part of your journey may be to consider that the whole concept of god is just a social construct, and to look at how people and societies can successfully sustain themselves morally without a deity. Many do. The geneticists writings may be useful in filling in that column.

    And I still recommend Doctor Who. :-)

    Cheers.

  • Phil

    As others have noted, actually entering the world of atheism isn’t really possible while you retain an active belief in some form of deity. After all, the lack of such a belief is the only thing atheists have in common, and even then we often differ in how strongly we disbelieve — some have an utter certainty in the absence of gods, while others such as me are atheists for all practical purposes but have a bit of an agnostic streak leaving them reluctant to say that the existence of gods is absolutely impossible.

    That said, I’m sure there’s scope for you to consider how you might view all sorts of events in your life if you lacked belief. I’d be interested to see what sort of things you might come up with, as the highly religious US appears to be a very different environment for atheists than other Western countries.

    Seek opportunities for casual socialising with atheists, if that’s practical — not any sort of organised atheist activity, just hanging out with atheists as you would with your current friends. That’ll let you see how others deal with life without god.

    I’m happy to answer questions if you have any, from the perspective of an atheist in a fairly secular country (getting on for 40% with no religion in the last census), with many Christian derived aspects in its culture.

    • buruma

      I disagree Phil, atheism is, by definition, pretty black and white. I don’t think that you can have different shades or streaks of agnosticism. You either believe in god/s or not.

      • Phil

        Some people are honestly certain there is no god (or gods). I believe very strongly that there isn’t a god, but cheerfully admit that I can’t be utterly certain. (Similarly, I strongly believe there isn’t a rhinoceros in my vege garden eating the lettuces, but I can’t rule it out entiely, and on the whole it seems more likely than god.) Other people can believe there’s no god while being less sure than me.

        • nwilcox2

          God is real, even if you don’t believe. The fool hath said

  • https://plus.google.com/108284627272850702877 Vaughan Wynne-Jones

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on the atheist ‘sacred texts’ – there aren’t any, that’s sort of the point. Atheism is not a philosophy that can be blurred into another kind of religion. Some atheists are spiritual, and I urge you to explore that: Absence of God does not mean absence of wonder or connectedness. Richard Dawkins is not our leader. Neil de Grasse Tyson isn’t either, but he does give some useful scientific information about why God is not necessary for the universe to exist, and certainly why the design cannot be considered intelligent. Most atheists do not attend atheists meetings. I think it is important that you realize that being atheist frequently means not being part of your community’s (especially in the bible belt) faith-based activities. I think you need to feel that to understand that atheism is not a whim, nor a philosophy. It is an integrity that comes with a cost. An atheist is not someone who has not found God yet, usually. More often than not, they have found that there is no place left to put such a figure since the world, the universe, good things, bad things and surprising things can be explained without such a presence. I’d love to talk more to you about this if you need someone on the inside as it were to help guide you through, or if you just want to ask questions from time to time. Please feel free to email me any time. Good Luck and Happy New Year!

  • https://www.facebook.com/littlebonita Bethzaida Adalis Wyche

    I am going to follow your blog because as a Christian, I want to witness what God has in stored for you. I am sure that something amazing will come out of this, so I will be reading you. Nothing happens as a coincidence…all has already been written. Thank you for sharing your journey…

  • http://quest4light.net Nelson Rose

    Sounds like someone is going to learn a lot this year with the proposed reading list. May I also suggest reading “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan. He has an incredible way of “spiritualizing” science. I think you will find the book both educational and inspiring.

  • Roy King

    Yes! What an interesting spiritual/non-spiritual practice. If you add Buddhist and Daoist and some Hindu texts as well, you’ll find many friends from antiquity. For me the problems with religion are the increasingly corporate approach to church growth, the implicit hierarchy–even if based on the plutocrats of a congregation often having veto power over innovation, and the hypocritical attitude toward solitary spiritual practice. I’ve heard so many ministers and seminary faculty dissing meditation and yoga, for example, under the assumption that solitary work is “narcissistic” and indifferent to communal social action. I just don’t see it. A belief in a god is not necessary for ethical action; if anything, it leads to an ethnocentric fear of difference. We are a community because of our shared (superior) values and beliefs.

  • Ken Loukinen

    Like many of the comments from atheists, This sounds like a poor experiment. To live “like” an atheist…all you have to do is not believe that gods exist, none of them. What you are describing is “pretending to be an atheist” for a year. Until you give up that last idea that a god is in the background for you to return to, you won’t be an atheist. Don’t let this stop you from trying though. A lot of what you are hoping to find isn’t “owned” by atheists or theists, it comes from compassion and empathy, the love of understanding and equality. You can find these traits in any group of people. It is when one group feels “chosen” and has special grace that you start losing these traits, despite the claim of “ownership”

    However, you might be on your way. If you do read atheistic books or books critical of religion (not always the same thing), i think you will find yourself approaching that last string of “belief” and realize how easy they break with honest inquiry. I would also suggest to not put your bible away. As a “believer taking a holiday”, re-read that bible in the same lamp that you read ANY other book claiming to be the “truth”. Take off the filter of reverence and ask honest questions, expect only honest answers.

    Atheism is not a choice. You can say you believe something, but you cannot “choose” what the brain perceives as true. The truth is supported by facts and has never partnered with miracle. A miracle is only needed when the facts don’t align with the story.

  • Jsmith

    I’m an Adventist Pastor. I’m praying for you.

  • http://gravatar.com/aleisterhermit A Hermit

    Your story is a familiar one to many who now call themselves atheists or agnostics or humanists I think. My grandfather was a Mennonite pastor, I never became a pastor, though my father, who was instrumental in building the church we attended when I was a child would have liked me to.

    I went through a long gradual process of questioning my faith after moving from my parents home; in a way a less formal version of your experiment. Thirty years on I’ve never looked back.

    One thing I do miss is the community (and the music; Mennonites can SING!) but the good news is that there are more and more options for unbelievers these days, from Universalist Churches to Humanist groups and now even atheist “assemblies” if you’re so inclined.

    As for “sacred texts” I haven’t bothered to read Dawkins, and wasn’t terribly impressed with Sam Harris, but I have some suggestions; a few books I found helpful which don’t often turn up on the usual lists;

    “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality” – Andre Comte-Sponville (This one in particular is an excellent introduction to positive atheism)

    “Presumption of Atheism” – Antony Flew (Good Philosophical foundation)

    “Doubt: A History” – Jennifer Michael Hecht (What you are going through is nothing new…we doubters have always been around)

    “Can We Be Good Without God?” – Robert Buckman (answer..yes…yes we can.)

    “Reinventing the Sacred” – Stuart Kaufmann (If you’re looking for technical discussion of how there can be “something and not nothing” this is an interesting way of thinking about the universe, if a bit of a slog to read…)

    Best of luck to you; above all be honest with yourself and those you love and fear not…

  • Amanda-S

    Ryan,

    When I saw this posted this morning I had to check it out. I am a former SDA member who has now been an atheist for 12 years, and 10 of those were closeted. I think it’s great that you are doing this, even if you decide atheism isn’t for you. I will definitely be following this blog. If you need another atheist to talk to feel free.

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  • http://twitter.com/emlynaddison Emlyn Addison (@emlynaddison)

    Take 20 minutes to read this essay by Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist, on the very reasonable grounds why a universe without gods is more reasonable and explainable than a universe with gods:

    http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/nd-paper/

  • Graciebaddog

    You really should reach to Dan Dennett’s group the Clergy Project. It’s a safe space for over 500 retired and “practicing” clergy who have lost their faith. Many are still in the pulpit even though they are atheists. They have no other way to earn a living and support their families.

    http://www.clergyproject.org/

    You might want to track down Jerry DeWitt a former Pentecostal Minister who is a “graduate” from The Clergy Project and has written a great book about his deconversion.

    http://www.hopeafterfaith.com/

    Best wishes to you in finding your path.

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  • Joel

    Jesus is not a book. Jesus is not a religion. Jesus is 100% man. I believe Jesus is also 100% God. I don’t have to quote the Bible to support my faith. If you are interested in being introduced to the man Jesus. Email me. 21jh21(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

    • http://avengah.wordpress.com avengah

      Oh, so you have a private line to jeebus? Let’s see some proof of your extravagant claims, please. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and you don’t appear to have any evidence at all.

  • Marco

    Umberto Eco: Belief or Non-belief. Fantastic text. Morality without theology, and a deep respecto for the faith of others.

  • Lori

    This fascinates me. I will definitely follow your journey. Kudos to you for doing it.

  • http://www.flame.org/~cdoswell/ Chuck Doswell

    You should investigate the Clergy Project:

    https://alstefanelliarchives.wordpress.com/tag/the-clergy-project/

    • http://findingtheowl.wordpress.com James

      Mr. Bell, as a former SDA and now a pagan, I have been following your story for some time now with a great deal of interest. I would suggest that on top of this experiment of yours, maybe try investigating some alternate religions. There is a great non “fluffy”, very scholastic pagan website I can direct you too, or if you would just like talk to someone feel free to contact me.

      • Matt

        So, post the URL. What’s holding you back?

  • http://toddard.wordpress.com toddard

    I applaud your search, and your willingness to share it with the world. The search for knowledge is I think one of the most noble. I’d recommend adding to your reading list a selection of non-Christian holy books such as the Koran, Book of Mormon, etc. Many atheists have read religious texts, not for supernatural revelation, but for a more sweeping view of the role of religion in the history of mankind, as well as a context within which to reflect on your own long-held beliefs and why they might be different from many other people’s beliefs.

    • http://gravatar.com/cjasonmyers cjasonmyers

      Absolutely–and add the Tao Te Ching to that list!

    • http://cjasonmyers.wordpress.com cjasonmyers

      Absolutely! And be sure to add the Tao Te Ching to that list.

  • Asholee

    I am looking forward to your posts. I myself have veered away from, not necessarily “God”, but the teaching of the Bible. The one that tells me it’s okay to have rules on slaves, rules on rape and basically disrespects women to where they are not even human like. I was raised as a baptist since I was born and now am engaged to an atheist and I couldn’t be more joyous of that fact. He’s taught me so much about life and reality about “real” respect, discernment, integrity, faith, parenthood and life. Without having to read a “guide”. I hope you find that atheist, agnostic, theist, humanitarians all alike share wonder and courage and help you understand why they’ve come to the place they are. And I really hope you write a book about it!! Best of luck!!

  • GS

    It’s nice to see that you made your choice for the side you should be on with things you have brought into the church. Brother. May you find your way to the Truth for as a pastor you were not living it and now this experiment shows your state. May you find God somehow but it will not be without prayer and it will not be by living as His enemy knowing what is right.

  • Katie

    Dear Mr. Bell,

    I don’t generally read blogs, but a friend sent this to me and it’s quite a unique idea. I imagine you will have more than enough people to talk to about their experiences, but I am a life-long atheist (save for a year spent testing the waters in the Catholic Church) who would be willing to discuss the subject; of course, I’m not a scholar on the subject so I’m not sure how much I would be able to contribute.

  • Rosalie

    I admit that I haven’t read every comment here, so forgive me if I’m repeating something already said. It seems like agnostic thought might make more sense to you. You say that you trust that, if there is a God, he’ll understand what you’re trying to do. Spoken like a true agnostic–don’t know if there’s a God and don’t care because you do the things you do because you feel they’re right, not because someone might be watching or judging. The most decent people I know are agnostics.

    • Matt

      I think you have a different definition of agnostic than I do. Agnostics and atheists all don’t believe in any gods. More specifically, agnostics (more correctly “atheist agnostics”) don’t believe and don’t claim to know gods don’t exist and think it probably can’t be proven they don’t exist – they just reserve judgment because they have not seen evidence of any gods. This is the “weak atheist” position which most atheists I’ve run into (including Matt Dillahunty and even Richard Dawkins) take. Atheist gnostics don’t believe and they claim they know that gods don’t exist (well-known adherents would be Lawrence Krauss and Christopher Hitchens).

      “atheist/theist” address belief and non-belief. “agnostic/gnostic” address knowledge about the belief.

      So, a fundamentalist Christian will be correctly called a gnostic theist, a believer who is certain of the existence of their god.

      I explain all this to dispel the common notion that atheists know gods don’t exist, or that they hate gods or could never be convinced that a god exists. Most atheists are just not that certain.

      • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

        I’ve recently taken to thinking of “Agnostics” (the ones who don’t claim to believe in God, but also don’t claim God doesn’t exist) as being “Skeptics” who nevertheless fail to comprehend that their lack of belief does indeed place them in the “Atheist” category as well. It’s either that reason, or to avoid conflict and discrimination, that they avoid the atheist label.

  • http://gravatar.com/joeyreynolds Joey Reynolds

    Looking forward to following your journey and watching you finally find a place where there’s no judgement, just logic, reason and acceptance. Your life free from the prison of religion is just beginning!

  • Starseeds

    Ryan, do you feel that the only options are to believe in the biblical God or be an atheist? You must realize that there are many other options. Aside from the many other religions there are to choose from, there is also the option of not aligning yourself with any group. I do not believe in the biblical God, but I can’t imagine living as you suggest, without believing in any higher power. Of course, my belief in a higher power has nothing to do with prayer, reading the Bible, looking for external causes, or consorting with atheists. It does relate to how I live every moment of my life, and the choices both large and small that I make. Your approach to try on atheism seems as radical and limiting to me as your previous Christian belief system and lifestyle. It seems to be a feast or famine approach that may not help you find the balance and peace that you seek. There are so many other ways to think about and experience life than through the lenses of dogmatic Christianity, or dogmatic atheism. I hope you find one that resonates with you.

    • https://www.facebook.com/swiftjuan John Bentley

      The phrase “dogmatic Atheism” or the other common “fundamentalist Atheism” are words that describe nothing. The word Atheism describes “not believing in a theistic god”. That is all that it describes. Can you fundamentally believe less in a theistic God then not at all? What specific Dogma is being brought up in the word Atheist? The word dogmatic or fundamentalist does not add anything to the meaning of the word and describes nothing.

      • Bill Goodwin

        I’m not sure if that is true. Given a definition “Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true”, a person could be “dogmatic” about their own certainty that there is no god. Where dogmatic is usually meant as pejorative– being someone who not only believes some dogma but seeks to force others to believe the same thing, thus becoming an insufferable pain in the ass to those who disagree– then I think you could describe some atheists as dogmatic even though that seems contradictory. I also don’t believe in unicorns but I am not often put in the position of needing to defend that lack of belief therefore I don’t have much anti-unicorn dogma on hand. I do have a bit more dogma as regards my lack of faith in homeopathy, astrology, bigfoot, acupuncture etc and occasionally need to be dogmatic about it. So the principles that are used to defend/support the atheistic position should qualify as dogma and the more one uses or promotes such dogma could be described as dogmatic.

        However, I’m not sure what could be meant by “fundamentalist Atheism”. Part of the definition says that “the term usually has a religious connotation indicating unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.” There is no primary source of atheistic belief and nothing more fundamental/ than the definition of atheism, “having no god belief”.

    • Quizzical

      Starseeds, what makes you think he is not aware of his millions of options in religious thought? It seems his interest here is in examining atheism vs. theism, not in sorting through every version of theism possible (which would take longer than a lifetime at one year, per).

      @John Bently, you are ignoring the part of the definition of “dogma” that says “imposed by an authority” (like an organization, a church, or a leader), which atheism simply does not have. There is no atheist “dogma.”

      Aside from all that, Ryan, I must say that pretending to be an atheist is not the same as getting the experience of being an atheist, since atheists don’t believe in any gods, and it appears you are saying that you do (so you will still be a theist). Regardless, if your intention is to try being as open to arguments against the existence of any gods as any atheist would be–unencumbered by fear of godly punishment for doubting (if you are able to shake it)–and to see what it is like to live “as if” there were no gods, nor need for religion in your life, I’m behind your exploration all the way and look forward to your entries.

      • Quizzical

        Sorry to John, I meant @Bill Goodwin.

    • ForeverLawst

      I believe people go as far to the left as they were to the right (of the middle) when seeking answers to something they question; then they find the answer somewhere in between.

  • http://thetaoofreason.blogspot.com/p/posts.html Richard Edmonds

    Good luck to you. I would like to suggest my own site, which addresses what I’ve learned about the nature of religion during my path toward atheism. http://thetaoofreason.blogspot.com/p/posts.html

  • Charles

    Mr. Bell,

    While it’s always nice to see someone of faith willing to try to see things from a different perspective, I do believe this experiment of yours is NOT going to teach you what it’s like to “live without God” at all. Your plan is to essentially be a Christian in absentia… a non-participant, yet still a believer. This is actually how many self-professed Christians live their normal lives. Roughly 83% of Americans describe themselves as “Christian” (http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=90356). But only 26% of Americans claim to read the Bible on a regular basis (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/04/americans-love-the-bible-but-dont-read-it-much_n_3018425.html). And only 17-18% of Americans actually attend church (http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html). So, living Bible and Church free is not that different from the majority of Christians.

    The true atheist does not live this way. The true atheist looks for scientific and rational explanations to life and all its complexity. The true atheists examines life without the need for miracles and the divine. It’s not just a lack of Biblical and service influence.

    Can you do THAT?

    • josh cheves

      The true athiest? A true athiest is one who believes in nothing and so that means they do not believe in living and so to be a true athiest they MUST cease to e xist. All self proclaimed athiests are not athiests at all each one of them believes in a god whether it be an ultimate creator or they themselves are their own god.

      • Matt

        That’s kind of a troll, Josh. You’re changing the definition of “atheist” and assuming way too much about what atheists believe. Atheists simply don’t believe in any gods (some are certain they don’t exist, most aren’t). They also arguably have more to live for because this one life in the natural world is all they are certain they will have. They are like most everyone else in that respect – they value this life enough to care about and for the other people in it.

      • https://www.facebook.com/bill.thacker.79 Bill Thacker

        ” A true athiest is one who believes in nothing and so that means they do not believe in living and so to be a true athiest they MUST cease to exist.”

        No, a true atheist is someone who doesn’t believe gods exist. But we still believe *something* exists — the universe, of which we and our lives are a part. And we understand something Josh apparently doesn’t: reality affects us, whether we believe in it or not.

        Perhaps you’ve confused atheism with nihilism, which is the belief that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value and is often caricatured as “believing in nothing”. But even there the key word is “objective”; life may have no objective purpose that every observer would agree on, but each of us can *subjectively* adopt a purpose for our lives. I think that’s what all of us do, and theists simply accept the default purpose their clergy tells them to fulfill – to serve God. Then, theists fight each other over the question of what God wants them to do.

        I generally object to constructions like “true atheist” or “true Christian”, because they’re usually empty terms that simply mean, “atheists of the type I admire” or “Christians who believe what I believe”. Neither term is trademarked, so nobody has the power to declare whether someone is a true atheist/Christian or not.

        So where Charles wrote, “The true atheist looks for scientific and rational explanations to life and all its complexity”, I would have replaced “true” with “informed” or “thoughtful”. Just as a large percentage of theists are largely ignorant of the theology they claim to believe and can’t explain why it makes sense, I’m sure many atheists are too ignorant about science to explain why the scientific/materialist worldview makes sense.

      • http://pseudotopia.wordpress.com pseudotopia

        Woah, what? An atheist doesn’t disbelieve in everything just a supernatural godlike power. It’s uneducated ideas like this that create the theological wars. No one’s lack of belief in a god is doing you any true harm, so please quit hoping they will stop existing.

      • http://mediaquake.wordpress.com Philip Buxton

        Mr Cheves. Atheism isn’t hard to define so there’s no need to make things up. It just means not believing there’s a God/gods. That’s it. How do you get from that to ‘believing in nothing’?

        And best of luck this year with ‘the experiment’ Mr Bell. I’d be extremely surprised if you didn’t come out of this year having had your most fulfilling yet.

        Also, be sure to look up Matt Dillahunty, a prominent atheist who came from Southern Baptist devoutness. His experience, intelligence, and eloquence will ring some bells for you I’m sure.

      • Booye

        That’s idiotic. Athiests believe in plenty of things. Just not imaginary things like Santa Claus, Ra, Thor, or God.

      • Steve

        Mr. Cheves, you’re describing a nihilist, not an atheist.

  • josh cheves

    At one point I was in a similar place as you. However I found the orthodox faith and found the ultimate truth there. I would encourage you to look in the orthodox faith when you decide to come back to Christianity. Ancientfaithradio.com is a great place to listen to podcast on the faith. Also read a book called “becoming orthodox” by Peter Gillquist… Mr Gillquist was at one point one of the head leaders of campus crusade. I hope you find what you are looking for and don’t keep your back turned for long while you do your experiment

    • Calvin

      If you want to get closer to the faith of Jesus you should become Jewish, not Christian. Christianity didn’t even exist when Jesus was alive. Orthodox Christianity in particular didn’t exist until a thousand years of years later, as it was a result of the Great Schism.

      As to your gross mislabeling of what atheism is in a different post, it’s ignorance like this that drives people away from religion. You don’t know it but you’re doing a lot to further the cause of freethinkers with your unwitting aping of religious ignorance. Keep up the good work!

  • http://gravatar.com/billygager billygager

    Rob! As an admirer of your pastoral work within and especially beyond the Adventist denomination, this makes me chuckle. You’ve always been one step beyond the edge of what church people feel comfortable with, no matter how progressive. I think you will likely challenge the assumptions of atheists and theists in your journey. I look forward to hearing about your journey this coming year. For some reason, I get the feeling you won’t find a neat place to belong anywhere, and hope just being authentically yourself is enough (for you and for God). Although you won’t be praying, I will be praying for you that God shows up in noticeable and relevant ways that encourage and convict in ways only God can.

  • liz murad used2bnun

    good for you. . If you need support from those who have been in your shoes, contact The Clergy Projectf I was a RC nun for 16 years and have been thru much of what you describe.. I’ve come out the other side of the wormhole, and let me tell you, the water’s fine!!! my name is liz murad if you would like to contact me. used2bnun

  • Nikki

    Hi Ryan,

    I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor. As a life-long atheist, I do have to make a point that while you refer to this experiment as “trying on atheism”, it’s really a bit more like learning about and delving into what atheism is and how we define it, as no individual atheist really goes about their non-belief in the same way. There are more atheist gatherings and debates occurring these days, but many atheists are apathetic or do not attend. Our “sacred texts” are really more of “recommended reading”, so I invite you to go beyond just those that you’ve listed and explore more. Atheism (as I’ve experienced it) is more of a personal, mental view that rarely has real ceremony or a specific lifestyle.

    I would suggest researching into other faiths and ancient mythologies, learning about all the cultures that have developed around them. Read the Bible as you would these other texts, with an open, critical mind, and with the context of its history and how its translations have changed over time. Read scientific books and articles the exact same way. Reach out to others who believe differently, not just those without belief, but those questioning, those within Islam and Judaism, and those whose world views include someone other than the Abrahamic God. Expand your base of knowledge, and always remain curious.

    But in the end, don’t feel pressured to leave Christianity. This is your journey. Whether this experiment reaffirms your belief in God, or convinces you to leave the church, is something you’ll only know over time. Just keep reading, learning, and experiencing everything that life can give you.

    Happy New Year, and best of luck to you!

  • JR

    I really appreciate what you’re trying to do, Mr. Bell, and I applaud your effort. However, one thing made me cringe: atheism isn’t something you “try out” for a short time. It trivializes my beliefs to say that you can simply “try it out.” I lost my faith recently, and it was agonizing, but I no longer have any connection, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise to my former faith. It is not like I am experimenting with a new hairdo. I was so sickened by American Christian culture that I openly renounced my faith, and since have become convinced that there really is no God. Also, reading those books won’t make you a better atheist anymore than reading Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, J.I. Packer, or St. Augustine make you a better Christian. If you want to be an atheist, start (for your sake) by embracing some fundamental truths: 1. human life is an accident, and we are for all intents and purposes alone, 2. believing in God(s) does not make you moral anymore than being in a garage makes you a mechanic, 3. human potential on an individual and corporate level is what will drive humanity forward, not religion, 4. wherever you put your faith, never abandon reason, logic, or rational thinking, 5. atheism isn’t a religion, and not all atheists believe the same things, and 6. if you start a Facebook page called “Atheist Girls are Hotter” you will be mocked endlessly. That said, I look forward to hearing how this ends.

  • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

    Best of luck to you, Ryan. I am one who has been there, SDA, education and all. I eventually discovered Darwin, at an SDA college. Set out to disprove evolution, or failing that, unify it with fundamentalist Christianity. Failed at both, very reluctantly accepted that evolution is true and that we are dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind. But it is some really excellent dust, and this life is very much worth living.

    My advice to you: don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater: keep the SDA lifestyle for the most part, and don’t be afraid to follow the best teachings of Jesus and his followers as they have evolved: love your neighbor etc. Throw out the bad: clearly they were not comfortable with gays. I am straight and admit I don’t understand gay, but I don’t need to understand in order to accept. Be open minded, be patient, be brave. Follow the truth wherever it leads. There is life after religion. Keep the good, throw out the bad, for there is plenty of both.

    Feel free to contact if you wish, spike66@att.net

    spike

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “I am straight and admit I don’t understand gay”. What is there to understand? We are attracted to the opposite sex; they are attracted to the same sex. We all want to be happy, to be fulfilled and content in this life (and most of us want a life-partner as part of that, hence why LGBT couples also desire the benefits, protections and equal recognition of marriage). So long as you’re not under the mistaken impression that being gay/lesbian is a choice, it’s not difficult at all to understand.

      • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

        I agree gay/straight is not a choice but rather an instinct. I don’t remember a sign-up sheet ever coming around for heterosexuality; I was just always that way. I have friends who are gay who say the same about themselves. So, I don’t get why we are gay or straight, so all I can do is take the word of those who seem honest to me. Furthermore, after having the old one-finger exam at the doctor, I cannot imagine anyone would choose that for fun, owwwww, most distasteful. And my doctor is even female, with small delicate fingers. I still found it a most unpleasant sensation. Gay men must just be fundamentally wired differently from me. They didn’t do the wiring, evolution did that.

        Be that as it may, my point really was that SDA and perhaps other Christian brands have some socially redeeming qualities that shouldn’t be quickly abandoned when one realizes the underlying theory is incorrect. When I went through the shattering experience of having my religion crumble beneath my feet, I determined to keep the lifestyle at least until I could sort it all out. I ended up mostly keeping nearly all of it, including old friends for the most part, many of whom are still believers in SDA to this day. They didn’t reject me: just the opposite in fact. I was asked to teach an adult Sabbath School class for many years after I let it be known I was no longer a believer. I still knew the bible and the material.

        To focus tightly on my point, for those who have not seen it, I recommend you go to a gathering of SDA or Mormons, a group where no one is drinking alcohol, no one is stoned, but they know how to have fun together anyway. You don’t need to pretend to be one of them; they will welcome visitors and observers. If you haven’t seen it, you should at some point observe people who have a lot of fun without chemical assistance. I still have a lot of fun at SDA school reunions. They are good people.

        I know of some who realize the theory is wrong, but go along anyway. I do not condemn those who go that route. I know a man whose love for his sweetheart is so strong he will play the game, since she is a true believer. The love of a good woman is worth all that. Likewise, I’m sure there are women who are quiet unbelievers, but you wouldn’t know it from an external view. I hold these blameless and do not question their motives.

        I am an atheist, but not a particularly outspoken one. I will answer honestly an openly if questioned on it.

        spike

        • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

          Yeah I don’t know about anal; more straight people have anal sex, number-wise, than gays (and percentage-wise gays don’t all go that route; some do everything but that, which Stephen Fry made apparent in his documentary about how gays are treated around the world). Live and let live, I say. People react too much based on what disgusts them, instead of having compassion for others.

  • Matt

    If you are really (really) trying to take a critical view of your faith and represent publicly that you are considering being an atheist, and then telling your story, you absolutely must be honest enough to take a real skeptical look at your faith by reading the arguments against it. A really good place to start is the Iron Chariots wiki: http://ironchariots.org. This was started by Matt Dillahunty of the ACA (Atheist Community of Austin). I don’t think he has much involvement with the wiki any more but it seems to be well-maintained.

    I also suggest you watch his videos on YouTube and watch past episodes of “The Atheist Experience”, a weekly call-in public access cable show run by the ACA that is also live-streamed on the Internet every Sunday afternoon. The reason I suggest focusing for a while on Dillahunty is that he seems to express himself very clearly most of the time and also seems to take an honest and careful approach to his skepticism about all claims, religious or otherwise. He and his organization are also very active community-builders, which is something atheists haven’t been particularly good at. The show is hit-or-miss, but mostly really interesting. It often is a preaching-to-the-choir discussion with non-believers and very often the calls are really silly discussions with believers and trolls the show tries really hard to make sure believers get first dibs on-air and trolls are filtered out. It has a world-wide audience.

    The kicker about Dillahunty is that he was a Southern Baptist for about 30 years and was seriously considering going into training to be a minister. Prior to that, he lapsed from the church for quite a while but still considered himself to be a strong believer. Then, as he was considering going into training, he decided he needed to examine his faith and strengthen it by learning all he could about it, including arguments against it. He very slowly came to the realization he didn’t believe at all as he gained understanding that there weren’t any good reasons for him to believe there was a god.

    I also suggest watching Julia Sweeney’s (formerly of SNL) “Letting Go of God” one-woman show (a 2-hour YouTube video). She was a Catholic and also very slowly came to the realization she didn’t believe. It’s a riveting, funny, touching story.

  • https://www.facebook.com/bill.thacker.79 Bill Thacker

    Mr. Bell;

    This atheist wishes you the best in your experiment.

    You mentioned reading “the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett”, which I applaud. That sounds odd to me; people usually describe those three along with Sam Harris as “The Four Horsemen of Atheism”, and I would strongly encourage you to include Harris’ writings (at least, “End of Faith” and “The Moral Landscape”) in your curriculum.

    I would suggest this: the most important component of my atheism is my understanding that the human mind is simply a physical phenomenon created by our (material) brains, and that those brains, while marvelous, are the products of evolution. That means they work well enough to benefit us, but they don’t work perfectly. This means that you can’t trust “observations” that only you can make, which immediately discounts faith as simply “opinion”. So perhaps you should start by studying the latest ideas about how the human brain works, and to that end I’d recommend “How the Mind Works” by Stephen Pinker. (Other readers may have better suggestions.) Once you see the brain as a biological computer,it becomes much easier to grasp issues like morality and emotions without the need for God to explain them.

    You also wrote, “I will also attempt to speak to as many actual atheists as possible… to learn how they have come to their non-faith and what it means to them.” That’s a tall order. Like theism, atheism is an entire worldview. I got there by a lifetime of interest in hard science (physics, astronomy, chemistry, thermodynamics, biology and more) which gave me enough understanding of the subjects to accept Big Bang cosmology and evolution as not only reasonable, but compelling explanations for the present state of the universe. Psychology and evolutionary psychology helped me understand human moral reasoning. Philosophy taught me that there are subjective ways to judge some moral choices as better or worse than others.

    When I put this all together, I have a scientific worldview that explains everything the Bible claims to explain, but is infinitely more self-consistent, robust, objective and feasible. How I can tell you what brought me to non-faith short of teaching you everything I’ve learned? It would, at the very least, be a lengthy conversation. But if I can be of any help to you, I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

    • Matt

      Be careful of the word “worldview”. I and most other atheists I’ve chatted with don’t think there is an atheist worldview. Atheism is a simple thing: withholding belief in gods until there is sufficient evidence to warrant belief. We come to that viewpoint along different paths. I realized somewhere around the age of 17 or so that I didn’t believe – that was mostly because I realized there are lots of religions and lots of people practicing their own flavors of their religion. I realized that they can’t all be right and all are certain they are right. That info alone isn’t proof of anything, but it must be answered.

      I happened to view myself as a Christian when I was younger because most others around me said they were and my mom made me go to Sunday school when I was little. It occurred to me gradually that none of them had a good reason to believe, at least that they could describe to me. I continued “trying to believe” until only about 8 years ago (I am 56) and attended a very friendly, welcoming, atheist-friendly Catholic church with my Catholic wife regularly because we both thought it was a good idea to ‘expose’ our 4 children, and some of my best friends are from that church. But, it’s one of my biggest regrets as a father, to lead my children to think I believed something I didn’t. Happily, I don’t think any of them are conflicted or unhappy that I did that.

      We atheists have views and beliefs, some of which aren’t well-justified, just like everyone else. What we try to do, though, is not do that wherever possible. Obviously, we can’t know anything with certainty, and some things we can believe without without knowing because it’s the best current explanation for something. It’s the best we can do.

      • Matt

        Al clarification of one part of my post:

        “there are lots of religions and lots of people practicing their own flavors of their religion. I realized that they can’t all be right and all are certain they are right.”

        As I matured and understood more and more about different cultures and how large groups of people work, it gradually dawned on me that the most likely answer to this dilemma of multiple religions was: They are probably all wrong. I started paying attention over the years to attempts by believers to justify their faith. It became clear that all of them (and I mean all) came down to:

        1) because the holy book says so;

        2) you can’t have purpose without belief (justified or otherwise) in a supreme being;

        3) you can’t know right vs. wrong without a supreme being.

        I won’t go into refutations of these here, but they are all clearly and demonstrably wrong. There are just too many counter-examples in the world for them to be true. So, I withhold belief and don’t worry too much about it.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer is also excellent, one of the top books I’d recommend to get a skeptical view of our beliefs.

  • https://www.facebook.com/swiftjuan John Bentley

    Hi Ryan

    I know you are getting tons of advise on “how” to be an Atheist so I thought I might pile on. The following is my story and my 2 cents. I got to your blog after reading the article “You’re Doing It Wrong” in response to your post. I have to say I disagree with the author. While reason does dictate that Atheism be the default position, we are not mere clockwork. I started my life Catholic. My family converted protestant and so did I. My family gravitated to assembly of God, but I went to a Baptist school. The competing theologies of those two groups kept my mind occupied for my formative years and in the end I branded myself as a Bapticostal preferring to combine the eternal salvation of Romans with the gifts of Pentacost. I was a bit of a contrarian in my relatively small circle which made me feel some intellectual satisfaction even with my limited world view. I took a bit of seminary to hone my theological skills and off I went into the world.

    In my mid-twenties I was exposed more widely to the “secular” world through both books and later travel. I studied Islam, Buddism, Wicca, bits of Hinduism, and finally the books of Carlos Castaneda and Native American Shamanism. At that stage I learned that each one of those experiences had a very typical courting cycle, at times protracted and at times short lived. The first stage Excitement followed closely by either neglect or indifference and in the end disillusionment. What struck me about this later on was the fact that the excitement period was the virtually the same for me in each experience regardless of the belief structure I was “trying on”. It was the euphoria of discovering a secret truth or path that resonated in my heart, and because I was truly searching, the next experience was always a little better than the last. I would tell myself finally you found the answer. Maybe not the whole answer but at least one part or some of it. Inevitably, a few months or a year down the road I would send that belief system packing and start looking again. While the details changed I found that I didn’t change for the experience, instead I would evolve and have to find a new religion that fit those changes. And on a very common day (I like tell folks it was a Tuesday). I decided to stop looking. I became quiet. I unplugged from the noise of it.

    To be cliche, I just decided to be me and see if that had any teeth. I became somewhat skeptical even cynical of peoples motivations and claims. Individuals, organizations everything was the object of scrutiny. I stopped reading books and started reading articles, played my iPod and watched TV. The banal can be good medicine for the “soul” for a time. What is interesting is that i can tell you exactly what I was doing when I became an Atheist. I was driving in my car listening to the radio when a song came on the radio that I was quite fond of. But when I sang along the line “There are no unbeatable odds. There are no believable gods”, I knew in that moment for the first time that I meant it. I was not afraid. that enormous God sized hole in my heart was gone in an instant, and it wasn’t filled by anything else. It just stopped being a concept that made sense for me in every context. To paraphrase Hitch I no longer felt “That I was born sick and commanded to be well” . What I did find is my heart, my morals, my empathy, my compassion, and my values all completely intact and unchanged. Those had evolved over time as they always do so there was no jarring shift there. I was simply a man that shed one more myth. Like when you find out going outside with wet hair can’t give you a “cold”. I just felt a bit silly.

    The next few months and years educated me. I read all kinds of books, watched documentaries and tons of youtube. I exposed myself to every political, philosophical and scientific idea I could find. I even switched political affiliations. My worldview shifted dramatically, but who I was at core did not. The contrarian was still contrary, questioning everything. My desire for justice became more imperative. I wanted to live and leave a better place for my kids. Some say I am a bit softer at the edges than I used to be, but that could just be the kids and age that speed that along.

    In closing, while i must concede that your “trying” Atheism is a likely doomed proposition. I wish you the best. Keep in mind that Atheism really Is a lot like taking up “not collecting art” or “not collecting stamps” as a hobby. I think a friend of mine put it best when she said. “I started to pray while I was in traffic and realized I was talking to myself. Thats it”.

    • Victoria M

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, John. In the words of Socrates, the unexamined life is truly not worth living. I wish more people had your courage and desire for truth.

  • https://www.facebook.com/KyleLovesTess Kyle Teresa Beverly

    Mr. Bell,

    I truly hope this year brings you some form of contentment, regardless of where it leads you. I left Christianity 7 years ago, and now consider myself an atheist. When I left the Church, I did not seek out atheism, but studied all religions and faiths, and it took me quite a while to admit to myself who or what I was becoming. No one can choose to be an Atheist. You either believe in god and/or gods, or you do not. But there is a lot of good information out there, but as Nikki said above, there are no “sacred texts”, only rational explanations to be found where supernatural explanations have been used in religion.

    When I left Christianity, I challenged god. I asked to be given a “burning bush” experience to give me strength as a Christian. Personally, as an avid Bible reader, I felt that I had the right to ask for a sign, as almost every character in the Bible received such experiences to confirm that they were indeed following god. Over and over characters in the Bible received signs from god – Moses, Gideon, Abraham, Paul, everyone at Pentecost. Why shouldn’t we have these signs, if, as the Bible says, god never changes?

    I have yet to receive a sign, yet I have found many rational explanations for my life’s experiences and questions. Good luck to you, and I hope that 2014 leads to a 2015 full of peace and happiness with whichever path you follow.

  • http://heatherengen.com Heather

    Wow, very interesting. I will bookmark this page and plan to check back in.

  • Roxy

    Please include Bertrand Russell in your reading list. “Real” philosophers do not give him too much credence I believe, but being an accountant I find his writing easy to understand and his reasoning easy to follow. He graduated from Cambridge in 1895, but surprisingly his writing still stands up well.

    He makes some of the same points as Richard Dawkins, but the edges are not so sharp.

    • http://yearwithoutgod.wordpress.com Ryan Bell

      Oh yes, he’s on the list. Didn’t mention him in the piece.

      • Roxy

        Excellent. He is a “comfort read” for me. I have a collection of his essays and lectures (title is Why I am Not a Christian) that I pick up to kind of meditate over.

        I forgot to say….Welcome to the dark side. We have cooooookieeees!

  • Kate

    It sounds to me like you are chaffing at the structure that you also crave when thinking about reality.

    Believing in a god (theist) means that there defined ways to think about everything – that there are defined good things and bad things. You don’t have to figure it out.

    The problem is – when you see the cracks in those definitions – when what is supposedly bad – homosexuality is not for any reason you can comprehend. So what is bad? The rules of your church? Or the homosexuals?

    You can depart from that set of rules and go to another church and find a more acceptable set of rules for yourself – some that don’t cross over the obvious differences you have already discerned. But don’t you see? You’ve already made your first rules for yourself – that homosexuality is not bad. This rule you’ve made – from your own experiences and your own thoughts is now paramount over that of any God’s.

    That’s where you’ve crossed the line from theism, to atheism.

    Atheism is letting go of the rules and forging out into the waters of thought, of philosophy – of determining what is bad and what is good for yourself. And learning that something being good or bad, is a subjective determination. That it depends on the goal and each of us have our own priorities as to what that goal is.

    To a theist, the goal is obeying and pleasing their god. To an atheist, the goal is perhaps the well-being of yourself, your loved ones, and others – perhaps your countrymen, perhaps your race, perhaps your species, perhaps all life everywhere.

    To live as an atheist is to free oneself from the crazy making of rules that aren’t contributing to your well being.

    If you are doing that, you will find the peace of the atheist’s mind.

    If not, you are doomed to fail to understand what it is to be atheist. Frankly, once you find that peace, there is no going back.

  • Roxy

    D’oh

    I meant to recommend Keith Parsons also as a good . He is an atheist, but taught Philosophy of Religion. His writing is a little more rigorous in terms of the process of philosophy (remember, I am an accountant, not a philosopher) but still ok.

    Here is Prof. Parsons’s bio: http://coursesite.uhcl.edu/HSH/Parsons/bio.html

    I am working on “God and the Burden of Proof” and I have bought “Rational Episodes”, which is an introduction to logic – a useful tool for arguing of course, but something about which I have become curious.

    Here are books of his from a quick Amazon search: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001HCZ6KO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_pop_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Keith%20M.%20Parsons&search-alias=books&sort=relevancerank

    I promise I’m not on commission. :)

    I’ll stop now.

  • Roxy

    Nope, I can’t leave that – to “also as a good” add “commentator on atheism.”

    Done.

  • Richard Eawory

    I would love to see you getting into contact with the team of The Atheist Experience, weekly webcast and cable access television show in Austin, Texas.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atheist_Experience

    A discussion between you and Matt Dillahunty would probably be an extraordinary intellectual experience to watch.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Dillahunty

    I really hope this is not a strawman.

  • Bill Goodwin

    Though attractive at first blush, I’m not sure what the utility is of “trying atheism for a year”. The time frame is of course arbitrary and the “living as if” suggests a switch like capability that doesn’t really mean anything. I think you will really be doing what you would be doing anyway, reading philosophy, science, having deep conversations with friends, family and listening to lectures from a variety of sources. You will be using the same brain to evaluate the information you are seeking with all it’s preconceptions, biases, curiosities and knowledge. Maybe you are just giving yourself permission to “suspend belief” hole you review a wider range of material. If so, I think I know the outcome.

    I recommend that you read about early church history and the early church fathers. I spent a lot of time on http://www.earlychristianwritings.com and read many of its referenced books. Also read about biblical/textual criticism. Bart Erhman’s Forged and Misquoting Jesus are good. But also read the best philosophy of believers you can find so you can see the difference in the quality of good scholarly work whether it is from believers or non-believers (or the shades of grey you’ll find in between) I read for a couple thousand hours over a couple years before the mythology completely fell away. It was great about a year later when I realized that my mind was truly free of the mystical delusions of demons and angels, heaven and hell.

    Good luck. I hope your transition is as painless as mine was. It helped me to believe that if there was a god then he would surely be able to know the sincerity with which I was seeking truth and that if he could not appreciate or help me with that, then he was no god I wanted to worship.

  • David B.

    I’m sure that you are already an atheist, at least in regard to some ideas of God or gods across the world. To not believe in the Judeo-Christian god is exactly the same. It’s that simple. There’s no system you need to “try on” to in order to disbelieve something.

    Beliefs can’t be turned on or off at will; they’re formed of the information we encounter and what we process about them. I’m happy that you care enough about your beliefs to explore them, but surely you know that going through the motions of a belief system does not an adherent make (unless it’s brainwashing).

    This leads me back to the point I was trying to make in the first paragraph: atheism is not a system, school, or church. It’s merely an opinion on a single matter. To say that “I am an atheist” is about as informative as saying “I don’t like Pepsi.”

    Again, I think it’s great that you want to learn more about views that contrast your own, but you don’t have to “live as” anything to do so. If you’re not sure what you believe, that’s fine, and I hope you discover it. I also hope you’ll understand that “living as an atheist” on the personal level only means that you don’t believe in something.

    For me, if you come out of this experiment as a Christian pastor with a respect for the rights of others to believe and disbelieve as they choose, I would be very happy. I would rather you be an honest, understanding, and inquisitive believer than someone who made a conscious choice to brainwash himself into a “system” that doesn’t actually exist.

    Best wishes!

  • mnb0

    You run a serious risk to lose your faith totally and I write this being a hardcore atheist, 7 on the scale of Dawkins. Better be prepared for this.

    “I will read atheist “sacred texts””
    If you read Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science you can skip them all.
    Note that quite a few atheists – like me for instance – actually read the Bible. If you’re serious about your experiment you should do as well, but now with the thought in mind: suppose there is no god ….. The Skeptic Annotated Bible is pretty good; it’s online. It makes lots of silly points imo, but the atheist will look for the cherries – which points are good? What do they say about the reliability of the Bible?

    “It is as uncomfortable as a lifelong atheist trying on Christianity for a year.”
    You’re mistaken here. After I declared myself an atheist more than 25 years ago I have visited several religious services: catholic ones, protestant, islamic and hindu. Sometimes I was bored, sometimes I was interested, a few times I was even emotianally moved. My atheism never even got a scratch on the surface. The only reason I might feel comfortable is because I would feel like wasting my time.

    “My desire is, as always, to pursue the truth”
    For skeptical atheists like me the word truth is strictly speaking meaningless. We cannot be 100% sure of anything. The best we can get is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      I think a good description of truth is “justified belief”. We can’t be certain of many things, as you say, so it’s more important than ever to verify that we are justified in believing what we believe (and calling it “truth”). The true skeptic isn’t out to disprove the existence of gods; it’s enough to find the faults in reasoning and declare that a particular claim is unjustified and should not yet be regarded as true.

      • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

        That is, “truth” for practical purposes. We can distinguish this from the absolute truth of the matter (how things really are) that we may not grasp or even suspect.

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  • http://wcb@wcb1.com Bill Bruce

    You cannot “try on” atheism. You can study it. You can stop going to church. You can stop praying. None of these things is atheism.

    Definition of ATHEISM:

    1 archaic : ungodliness, wickedness

    2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity

    b : the doctrine that there is no deity

    I don’t believe you are willing to give up God for a minute, let alone for a year.

    I do believe that you can become an atheist, but not as long as you expect it to be for only a year.

    One of us does not understand what you mean by “A year without God”.

  • Irene Simmons

    Ryan, you don’t leave the Christian faith. If you can, then you were never a Christian, but just pretending to be one. Being a Christian is simply believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior, a relationship with Him and listening to His Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in your spirit, if you have sincerely asked Him. He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you and He has given you eternal life. The Bible is the Word of God, breathed to different authors by the Holy Spirit. You either believe it or you don’t. I personally don’t see how anyone can look at nature and think it all could have just happened without a creator. I also don’t understand how you think your body with all of its marvels could have accidentally happened.

    I also think your church could be the problem. You should be in a Bible Church and just study the Word in Hebrew and Greek in which it was written, and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to the truth, which is Jesus Christ. Your church, your church leaders, administration, etc. should have nothing to do with your relationship to God through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible says no man knows another man’s spirit except that man
    and God. I pray that God will reveal His truth to you.

    Sincerely, Irene Simmons

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “Ryan, you don’t leave the Christian faith. If you can, then you were never a Christian, but just pretending to be one.” — That’s not only hilariously wrong, but a terrible insult to all the people who used to be true believers and are now atheists. Perhaps it makes you feel better to think that you are a true believer and can’t lose your salvation, but you’d sing a different tune if one day you lost that faith.

  • Pyalie

    I think a better title for this experiment would be “A Year Without Religion”.

    God certainly (if not nearly entirely) exists outside of religion and without doubt our puny illogical and laughable attempts at describing and connecting to God fall short. So if God cannot be fully described or accessed via cultic dogmatic repetitious attempts, perhaps Bell will find a more meaningful experience with God outside of those religious prescriptions.

    And so, he may end up calling God something entirely different than what he used to. Or not calling God anything.

    Is he then without God?

    Christians would say so – but I know so many Godless Christians that it really shouldn’t matter.

  • http://gravatar.com/secularsanity Secular Sanity

    “To live with questions that may never be answered, rather than answers that can never be questioned.”

    To have hope in humanity and faith in the future. You’re a smart one. I faith in you.

    Cheers!

    Conflicts of Ideas and Beliefs

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r-7Sv6jA8A

  • SteterTropfen

    Interessante Reise. Werde ich gerne verfolgen.

  • Irene Simmons

    A year, a month, a day or a minute without God would be impossible for me. Without Him,

    nothing is possible. I feel so sorry for people who do not have the Holy Spirit living inside

    them and I pray that their darkness will be turned into light by belief in Jesus Christ as the

    only way, the truth and the life. Sincerely, Irene Simmons

    • Bill Goodwin

      I know you believe that Irene and can’t imagine it but I am so much happier, content and fulfilled in my life now that I no longer live by the myths of ancient people. Now that I can appreciate the natural wonder of the universe without having to make up fanciful stories about a creator. Now that my brain no longer entertains the imaginations of angels and demons as more than the stories they are. Now that I understand that every human, indeed, every living thing on this planet is LITERALLY my cousin and I love and care about them, not because of some invisible man in the sky, but because we all interdepend on each other and we all owe our lives to the struggle for survival which has been going on for 3.5 billion years on this planet. Now that I see the Bible is just one of the many ways that humans have tried to codify their beliefs, rules, ethics and culture, and I can appreciate its poetry and advances but reject the things it got so very wrong along with all the human literature that has survived the ages.

      I wish you the best, and hope that you have peace and happiness in your life regardless of how you achieve it (so long as your gain isn’t achieved by someone else’s loss). Consider though that others, like me, are not in need of any pity and would only pity you if your faith caused you or others pain and suffering…which it does for many.

      • Irene Simmons

        Sounds like you are very happy, Bill, but it will be interesting when this world comes to an end for you and you end up at the judgment for unbelievers! I still pray that you will receive the light. Sincerely, Irene Simmons

        • brian

          I realize that this is not a forum to belittle religions, so i mean no disrespect but my Christian friends tell me their God, and I therefore assume yours, is a loving and caring father figure. How can that be reconciled with a deity that would condemn its own creation to an eternity of pain and suffering?

        • Rebecca

          Do you have any idea just how utterly patronizing and obnoxious you sound?

          I’m sure you don’t care about that because you “have god on your side, etc. etc. etc.”

          As for a reply to you, I just shake my head. Enjoy your delusional system. Now, that is meaner than I have been in decades upon decades.

        • aesthete2

          Irene – you too are an unbeliever. Surely you don’t believe in every God. There are unlimited god possibilities out there. That means you have virtually no chance at picking the right one.

      • Rebecca

        Bill, EXACTLY. Thank you for this! Yes!

      • Bill Goodwin

        Ask yourself what your children would have to do to make you give up on them, and have them tortured mercilessly for the rest of their life (let alone eternity) as a punishment. Imagine the brother or sister of such a monstrous parent being somehow brainwashed to think such parental behavior was acceptable or even getting smug satisfaction at the concept. I’ve got no love, respect or use any god who so devalues human life and can’t think of a more constructive use for eternity.

        • Lee Reed

          And does a vengeful conception of God like this have any resonance with a deity that could create a universe that astronomers currently see of billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, or does this conception of God sound like some petty, cruel tribal chieftain of a people who didn’t know what the moon was.

          • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

            To all who have commented on a loving god torturing his unbelieving children for all eternity, do note that Ryan is a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor. Seventh Day Adventist theology specifically rejects the notion of eternal torture for God’s enemies. In their scenario, unbelievers perish in the end, but once they do, that’s it. There is no existence apart from the body, no departed loved ones’ souls looking down on us, no eternal suffering etc, just a final THE END. In the SDA scenario, any form of consciousness requires bodies made of atoms, even for superhuman beings, on an actual planet, with weather and gravity, even in the future theoretical perfect world.

            If SDA hadn’t rejected evolution, it would be a religion of the future. We can imagine some extraordinary technology that might allow us to somehow in the distant future do some form of super-advanced 3D printing to create a new physical body, then arrange the atoms of the brain to match some particular brain preserved using cryonic techniques, making the resurrection not exactly a supernatural miracle but rather some extraordinarily advanced technology, the kind Arthur C. Clarke suggested was indistinguishable from magic.

            But… Seventh Day Adventism specifically and energetically rejects the notion of evolution, even to this day, even after the Prophet of Profit was demonstrated to be a fraud around 1980. Sigh.

            spike

            spike66@att.net (feel free to contact with questions or comments using this @)

          • brian

            I have no reason to doubt what you say, and its seems like a much nicer way to get you to do what the church wants you to do. Do what they say and you get paradise forever. But still its a carrot :-)

      • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

        in response to spike66:

        >>…To all who have commented on a loving god torturing his unbelieving children for all eternity… Seventh Day Adventist theology specifically rejects the notion of eternal torture for God’s enemies. In their scenario, unbelievers perish in the end, but once they do, that’s it. [...]

        >…I have no reason to doubt what you say, and its seems like a much nicer way to get you to do what the church wants you to do. Do what they say and you get paradise forever. But still its a carrot :-)

        Ja. For me, it all came down to evolution. I was in the generation who knew what was really going on in the SDA church in 1979 and 1980, so we knew the Profit could make mistakes, big ones, even when speaking in the SDA equivalent of ex cathedra. But all that took a back seat for me to evolution. I studied the evidence carefully and decided Darwin was right. The church took (and still takes) a determined stand against evolution. It really is as simple and as complicated as that. Evolution won.

        There are many socially redeeming qualities to Seventh Day Adventism. To those who have been brought up in it, my advice is to keep the lifestyle for the most part, throw out that which doesn’t work, but keep that which does. There’s nothing at all wrong with vegetarianism, you need not apologize for that to anyone. Do leave the recreational pharmaceuticals alone completely, even grass, all of it, you don’t need that in your life to have fun and live life at its best. Most people would have a better life with little or even completely without alcohol. Sleep in your own bed every night with your own partner period end of story. (I am assuming the original pre-Obama definition of “period end of story.”) Keep the good, throw out the bad. Definitely stop giving piles of money to the church: it will get along just fine without your donations.

        For those who say there is no substitute for prayer, I can offer this one thing: a deep and profound sense of gratitude. It doesn’t matter if there is no one to receive your “prayers” of thanksgiving. Feel it anyway. Be thankful every day for our many blessings, consider how lucky we are to be living in the circumstances we do. Consider yourself right now, Brian, think. You are not hungry, you are not shivering or freezing, you are not living under the threat of death from something or someone just outside your door. You have access to information. You have a computer. You have it good, we all do. Part of having it made is knowing when we have it made. We do. So think on this often.

        Evolution has been kind to our species, and history has been kind to everyone who can read these words and can ponder their meaning. We are the fortunate ones; we are damn lucky my friends.

        There is life after religion. Live it to the fullest.

        spike

        spike66@att.net

        • brian

          I do believe that most, if not all, religions have well considered and meaningful suggestions for living, that can be of use for anyone. I was raised Jewish. The Rabbi told that the point of life was to leave this world a better place than we found it.

          In my Synagogue an afterlife was never mentioned.I once asked my Cantor why we didn’t talk about it, he smiled at me and said “its because we have no idea if there is one”.

  • walter mccoy

    Fascinating, is one way of putting it.I don’t remember when my life long S.D.A. ism wore off but it did and now I am living with my practicing brother.The irony is there can be no discussion.Rational thinking will only cause an explosion .Expressing the least bit of skeptisim causes apoplexy.So I look forward to following your blog.

  • http://janiceschmittou.wordpress.com janiceschmittou

    I am interesting in hearing your experiences…I personally don’t think it is possible to have a “year without God”. The most important teaching about God is “God is Love” in whom we “live and breath and have or being”…everything else–traditions, celebrations, doctrines, myths, theories, teachings/studies, law, scripture…are just our attempts to experience the Love that is God. As I read over the many comment I see this linking thread of truth…the goodness of God that shines as light from the post of the religious, spiritual, agnostic, atheists…our error is seeing our differences as separateness in the duality of “right and wrong” rather than the unity of uniqueness. Blessings for your journey!

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)”

      God is Love? How about “Love is Love”, and we’ll leave it at that. I shouldn’t even have to bring Hell and how much of an injustice, beyond anything humans could do to each other, to make the point that such a simple equivocation denies the evil side of the spectrum.

  • Irene Simmons

    While God is a God of love, He is also a God of Judgment and wrath. He loved the world

    so much that He sent His own Son to the earth to die on the cross for our sins. It is very

    complicated and needs lots of studying the Bible, but it is easy to realize that we need someone to save us; it’s easy to realize that this world and people could not have been the result of an accident; it had to be created. God is not condemning anyone to an eternity of pain and suffering. He has provided a way to avoid it, but it is a matter of free will. You don’t have to accept His way. You get to choose — an eternity with God in Heaven or the

    pain and suffering for eternity that you mentioned. I pray you make a good choice.

    Sincerely, Irene Simmons

    • Charles

      Free will is only free will when you have the ability to actually exercise it. Saying that a person is “free” to choose any path they wish, but that only one specific path (among the myriad available) is the “correct ” path is to say that there is no free will at all.

      It’s much like a multiple choice test. You’re not “freeb to give whatever answer you choose. You are required to select the “correct” answer, and if you do not, you will be punished.

      This is entrapment. It’s the ultimate mind game, and is insanely petty. I would hope that an omnipotent and omnipresent diety would be above such childishness.

    • Bill Goodwin

      Ok, then imagine a parent who tells their child that they can choose one of two doors, one has a reward behind it and one will kill you, and then watches idly as the kid chooses the killer. Even if it represents direct disobedience, selecting the one the parent said not to choose, how is that parent NOT a monster. Especially if the method of death were designed by he parent, not just a latent naturally occurring danger.

      Why do I care about god’s created more than he does? Why am I a better parent than this god you worship? I would always be ready to try to restore my fatherly relationship with my daughter regardless of how late she was choosing to come back to me and not do whatever she was doing wrong.

      But when you realize that he Bible was written by people in a culture who saw wives and children as property of the man, who could punish or kill them at will if they disobeyed or brought shame on the family, then this conceptualization of god makes sense. An anthropomorphized god like the patriarchs of the time…not different than middle eastern fathers committing honor killings today. Not the modern whitewashed concept that churches try to promote by avoiding the scriptures and plain interpretations that damn the one who would damn us.

    • aesthete2

      Irene – you know none of that. Why would you make outright lies to us all?

      Did you imagine that was a moral act?

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene Simmons.

      By invoking the “free will” argument, you have basically negated your argument for the existence of god, and I will explain why :-

      Basically you are saying that god does not want to “force” us to believe in “him”, and therefore remains hidden from our normal senses, so we have to “choose” to believe in “him”.

      This being the case, god cannot appear to us directly, and therefore -

      1. Prayers cannot be answered, as this would be a “dead give-away” that god exists. Therefore if you think a prayer of yours has been answered, it must just have been a co-incidence.

      2. Similarly, miracles cannot happen (ie suspension of “natural” laws), as again this would violate our “free will”. (This is the argument Douglas Adams uses in “The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy re. “the Babel Fish”)

      In fact, the world would look and behave exactly like it would if no god were to exist, which is exactly what we observe.

      So really the only way could “communicate” his message is by directly accessing our brains, and somehow implanting a belief there. I guess this is what christians call “receiving the holy spirit”. Now the problem here is that if god communicates this way, he should send the same message to everybody on the planet. This doesn’t appear to be the case, as we have multiple conflicting religions around the globe whose tenets can not be reconciled.

      From this discussion, it seems clear to me that the universe operates exactly as it would if there were no deities for the very reason that there aren’t any. QED.

      Regards

      David Austin

      Perth, Western Australia

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      This one is simple. Would you judge the Hindus, raised by their Hindu parents to believe in different gods, to be deserving of eternal damnation? If you wouldn’t, then surely a God that is infinitely more wise and compassionate than you are would not either… however, your views of salvation and damnation, those taught by most churches, are exactly that. It’s not a “good” deity; at the very least it’s ambivalent and only cares for those who do what he/she/it wants (like a mob boss), but it’s more likely an evil being (if it existed, which thankfully it doesn’t seem to).

  • Irene Simmons

    I exercised my free will. No one, not even God, made me do it. I am thankful and grateful every single day that I made the decision I did. I have never doubted the truth or regretted my decision. The only difference I see is that I am very happy and you sound extremely angry and bitter.

    • Steve

      Irene, what you sense as bitterness is not, it’s embarrassment. You’re the kind of Christian that makes me embarrassed to be one, because the world hears you and thinks we all think like that.

      A divine being who creates a world of infinite beauty, then orders us to live our short lives in it cowering in fear of ever putting a foot wrong doesn’t sound like a God, it sounds more like a Satan. Or a high priest who just wanted every one to toe the line.

      Jesus gave us a command. It was be to good to each other in this earthly life and leave the rest up to God. I know a lot of people, of faith, agnostic, and atheist, who’ve come to the same conclusion: be good to each other, and don’t try to control what you can’t control. Leave it to God, fate, karma, or just random chance. Do what you can.

      Or as a pastor of mine one said, “as Christians, our job is to love, not control.” Do it my way or die in agony forever more is not love. It’s slavery.

      To those on this thread who are not Christians, I ask you please not to think that Irene represents all of us. She does not. Her doctrinaire brand of Christianity appears to many of us driven by fear and wrapped in anger and hatred, and it is profoundly not the image of Christian love, brotherhood, fellowship, and compassion that others of us respect and emulate.

      • Lepeke

        Thank you Steve. I think on of the things that is the greatest source of strife between the religious and the non-religious is the idea that one can not be good or moral without god. I am an atheist with no animosity towards Christians or any other people of faith. We are all just trying to find our way in a complicated, beautiful, and painful life. Thank you for accepting the idea that those without a faith can still ‘be good to each other’. Thank you for believing in a beautiful God.

  • Irene Simmons

    My relationship with God is simply between me and Him. I’m not trying to control anyone.

    I’m not trying to represent anyone else and I have absolutely no fear, anger or hatred. I have great love and compassion, brotherhood, fellowship. You have assumed way too much. Your relationship with God, or without God, is completely up to you. My brand of Christianity is purely a relationship with Jesus Christ. I do believe the Bible is the Word of

    God and contains all the wisdom we need to live this life.

    • brian

      Irene, You know you are right. You believe without evidence. Your ‘truth’ is faith.

      When I hear someone say the bible is the word of God, I wonder why it was okay with god to own slaves or why God told us that we can cure the leper by killing one dove and washing another with the first one’s blood (its in there). And that’s just the old testament.

      When the ancients made a human sacrifice they did it to appease an angry god, or so that it would rain. They knew this was real because they were raised to believe it was so.

      You can be nice and live your life with a good intent and have a moral compass and be compassionate without a higher power. I know when I act poorly, I know when I act correctly.

      Personally I know two things.I will never win over someone who’s belief is based on faith and two I am a bigger fool than they are when I try to show them the error in their thinking. So why do I do it?

  • Irene Simmons

    Bill, you and I have a very different view of God. It is your privilege to see Him as you do,

    and it is mine to be so positive that I know Him and love Him and He is everything to me. He is sovereign and in control of the universe and I am grateful that I can trust Him, no matter what my circumstances. Thank you for a good discussion. Sincerely, Irene Simmons

    • Bill Goodwin

      Thanks for the civil words. Wish you the best. And if turns there is a god, then I suggest the phrase “God bless everyone, everywhere. No exceptions.” And if judgment day comes, hopefully you and I won’t have to hold hands feeling stupid and beg him for mercy because it turns out that the supreme being was Ra, Zeus, Allah or Morgan Freeman all along.

  • http://privatefacesinpublicplaces.blogspot.co.uk/ Corylus

    I will read atheist “sacred texts” — from Hobbes and Spinoza to Russell and Nietzsche to the trinity of New Atheists, Hitchens, Dawkins and Dennett. I will explore the various ways of being atheist, from naturalism (Voltaire, Dewey, et al) to the new ‘religious atheists’ (Alain de Botton and Ronald Dworkin).

    Gosh, you will get a bit shattered if that is your reading list! Best to throw in a little light relief from time to time. I recommend Scepticism Inc. by Bo Fowler in that regard.

  • Corwyn

    “I will not… read the Bible for inspiration”

    On the other hand if you wish to emulate atheists, you could do well to read it from a different perspective. Read it *completely* from *start to end*, with a mind empty as possible of previous (or other’s) conceptions of it.

    • Lepeke

      I agree with Corwyn. I am an atheist and I read many of the sacred texts. Just because I don’t believe in a Creator, it doesn’t mean that these texts that have influenced so much of human development over the course of history have no value. Many atheists are quite conversant in the Bible, we simply read it as a work of fiction.

    • ex-sda

      Agree wholeheartedly. As an atheist, I’ve read more about religion (including “sacred texts” than I ever did as a believer. Somehow, I’ve become more thirsty for knowledge and understanding after I lost my theistic beliefs. I’m a much happier person as well.

  • http://spiritualitiesofdebt.wordpress.com spiritualitiesofdebt

    I’m working on a dissertation right now for a PhD in Religion. I feel a lot of what you’re saying, and as I struggle with my own relationship to the “church” and Christianity and “religion” in general, I look forward to reading about your journey. It’s one I’ve come very close to myself. Perhaps even fully lived through. In the mean time, might I suggest some Anthropology of Religion for your “atheist” reading? Talal Asad’s “Genealogies of Religion,” Karl Marx, “Introduction; Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” Gustavo Gutierrez, “A Theology of Liberation,” Walter Benjamin, “Capitalism as Religion”. Thanks for doing this, Ryan.

  • Ramin

    “My desire is, as always, to pursue the truth and do it in a sometimes serious, sometimes playful, way that might be insightful for others as well”
    If so become a scientist that’s the -ism you need to dedicate yourself to.

  • ex-sda

    You know what’s great about those atheist “sacred texts”? You can criticize and disagree with them all you want, atheists often do! I look forward to following your journey, you seem sincere. I came out of Adventism (and eventually theistic beliefs) progressively, with much of those same questions and doubts you address in your posts (treatment of women, gays and other minorities by the church) but what really sped up the process is when I attempted to read the bible as objectively as I could muster (given that I was a baptized seventh-day Adventist). I’ve always had an analytical and inquisitive nature when it came to everything else but my religious beliefs always seemed immune to that and this fact was made clear to me after a conversation I had with my younger sister (who was also a believer at the time). She basically posed the following question to me: “how do we know that God is the good guy and Satan the bad guy if we only have one side of the story (god’s)”. It was a fair question and it made me wonder how we make so many assumptions when we’re believers. We assumed that the bible is the word of THE god of the universe and that he is perfectly good. But why do we start with this assumption? That was the start of my journey to atheism.
    Happy searching my friend, no matter what the outcome of your journey, you will come out a better (and more educated) man.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      Yeah, why do we assume God is the good one? I think it’s only because that’s what we’re told to believe in order to gain salvation. If our eternal souls weren’t on the line, we’d be much more open to doubt. When you read the Bible objectively and see how “not good” this God seems from our modern perspective, such as condoning life-long slavery of outsiders (which not even Jesus corrected), it’s easy enough to see that we can’t even base our morality on “God’s Word”. Much of what we used to consider to be good is now in the wastebin of our primitive discriminatory history.

  • SEM

    I’m not sure just reading a lot of “sacred texts” about atheism is going to really do you much good if you *really* want to understand atheism (or, more precisely, “freethought”.) Compared to religion, freethought is a totally different method of seeking answers, not just an alternative set of answers. You can read the conclusions of a thousand different atheists and it will no doubt give you a compressive understanding of what answers are on offer to life’s biggest mysteries. sans religion, but until you study the “working out” you’ll never really understand why.

    I sometimes like to think of religious thinking as being the process of finding *a* truth: something that makes you happy, warm, fuzzy inside — an answer that satisfies you. Freethinking, alternatively, is often more akin to finding *the* truth: the reality of the situation, as best we can determine it using the best methods available at the time — an answer that satisfies all the evidence, even if we personally find it hard to accept or understand. It’s the old faith versus science schism: faith starts with a conclusion and finds the compatible evidence, science starts with evidence and finds a compatible conclusion.

    It might help before embarking on reading the likes of The God Delusion (which is not as universally regarded a book within the atheist community as many non-atheists seem to think it is, btw — although Dawkins is very highly regarded as a scientist) that you read something like Carl Sagan’s excellent The Demon Haunted World. Avoiding religion altogether, using fun topics like crop circles, alien abduction and all manner of new-age mysticism, Sagan explains chapter-by-chapter how one can acquire a “baloney detection kit” of critical thinking skills to avoid the common mind traps and reasoning pitfalls that have lead even very clever people into conclusions-driven thinking.

    And while I’m on the subject of books. one of the topics that inevitably will come up during your journey will be how morality can be explained without god. To pre-empt that discussion can I recommend Moral Minds by Marc D. Hauser. Despite Hauser’s academic reputation being marred in controversy, that book is still a fairly good (although far from comprehensive) introduction to morality without recourse to philosophical tail-chasing, and gives one plausible theory of how morality works within the human brain that fits scientific observation. Whether you agree with Hauser’s conclusions or not (and I’m personally not 100% convinced, although I find them interesting), the book is a useful introduction to many of the key psychology experiments that have been conducted in the last century or so. A fun follow-up text might be Dan Ariely’s The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty, which deals with the deceptively interesting topic of cheating (again, from a hard scientific evidence point of view.) This ties back into the theme of Sagan’s book, in that it reveals just how cautious we must always be about self-delusion… *a* truth rather than *the* truth..!

    Good luck.

    • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ricardo-Williams/194880490586949 Ricardo Williams

      I find it interesting that upon embracing an attitude of an open mind the writer decides to study and embrace the idea of Atheism. Here is my question to the author, “Will you become Gay to get a better understanding on why some Christians don’t embrace the Gay community?” I mean you can embrace their differences with love, but do you really have to become Gay to discover where you stand?

      I have been in a situation where I walked away from Christianity and swore I knew enough to never embrace it, but with all my preconceived wisdom, I’m back to believing in Christ. Why? Because it works. I’m about to publish my book, “Dear God, An Impatient Conversation with a Patient God.” The concept of Christianity works. There is no greater joy in loving God with all your might, and doing unto others as you do unto yourself. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself I still struggle with though. I find it a bit complicated. I try not to give up on my neighbors, but I do recognize there are some people I just won’t get along with.

      • Ezra Graves

        I think the probably obvious answer to your question is that the author’s faith was waining. If they were questioning their sexuality they might “become gay.” But that would be moot as we know why some christians don’t embrace the gay community, they think you can become gay.

        I’ve read your book already, I think you should become gay for a year and pen something interesting instead. It would be interesting to see if the same wisdom you thought you had applied to your sexuality. I know a publisher…

      • http://ernestleecking.wordpress.com Ernest Lee C King

        You can love others as you love yourself without believing in God. Speaking with a friend of mine the other day, we came to the conclusion that you can still follow most, if not all, of the principles Jesus preached about how to treat one another and still not believe that he was God, that the Bible was even true, or that God even existed.

        As to the point about there being no greater joy than loving God with all your heart. This is a subjective opinion.

        You say that you believe in Christianity because it brings you joy, and allows you to treat others better. Wouldn’t it be better to believe in it because it’s claims are true?

  • secularsage

    Glancing over the comments, I’m assuming that many of the people who are posting are people who have had similar journeys — raised in the church, passionate about Christ in their youth, eventually pursued an intellectual understanding of Christianity, and then found themselves slowly turning to a point of non-religion long before they could accept the label, “atheist.”

    For me, the journey started, ironically enough, by trying to understand the origin of the devil in scripture — a character whom the Jewish people have never formally included in their own understanding of their scriptures and who only appears in the Jewish scriptures as an accusing spirit, not the adversary of Yahweh and all that is good. That question led me to question much more about the scriptures, and I gradually found that there is a reason that many Biblical scholars lose their religion on their path to scholarship.

    This led to my final prayer to a God I once considered a close friend, but whom I now no longer believe in. During that prayer, I told God that I had reached a point where I could no longer believe in something that I had determined was not true, and I admitted that while I wanted to continue on, I needed more to go on than blind faith and that I needed some evidence to satisfy my intellectual understanding that Christianity of any sort was true. God and I left it there, and I am still waiting for that evidence to make its way into my life.

    For a long time, I described myself as a deist — I believed in a God, but not one who any one religion could describe adequately. Today, I feel much about God as I do about the myths and stories of my childhood — a wonderful, imaginative, shaping influence, but no longer a part of my life.

    I wish you luck and high spirits — your decision was bold and will draw controversy to you like a lightning rod, and you’ll find few friends among the faithful. But among the faithless, you’ll find much sympathy and understanding.

    • http://gravatar.com/lathropjoseph Joseph Lathrop

      thats because Judaism Dont have Satan as Christians have. Like you said he is an Accuser in Judaism, not a Fallen Angel but an Angel doing the Job of a Prosecuting Attorney if you will.Christianity has made him in Effect into a Demi God. as For God i Do believe in him. but i Left the christian Taditions behind and went Looking for Who Jesus realy was and what he Taught needless to say i Found my Self at a Synagogue. have a Good Day and God bless.

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  • http://gravatar.com/brian2c Brian Conklin

    I’m sure you’re receiving a lot of attention so I will keep this short.

    I wish to extend to you some heartfelt solidarity. I have deep respect for your search for truth. Whatever answers we find during our lives, for a long time I’ve felt that those answers are slightly less important than the way we found them. What’s important is the questions we ask, and the only way to find honest answers is to ask honest questions.

    So when this year is over, whether you return to your faith stronger than ever or if you become an atheist, my friend you have integrity. No matter what anyone- Christian, atheist, or otherwise- says about your decision, you can say that you pursued your questions with honesty.

    Cheers mate.

  • http://twrl.wordpress.com twrl

    It’s entirely possible for an atheist to read the Bible for inspiration. When it comes to that sort of thing the difference is that an atheist might read the Bible alongside the Quran or the Vedas, and see them as human artefacts rather than divine ones.

    Part of the atheist ‘journey’ is synthesising your own view of the world, and religions are just another set of spiritual, cultural, and philosophical traditions to draw upon. There is probably more reading, studying of religion and philosophy, self-reflection and meditation in thoughtful atheism than in most theology degrees.

    Anyway, this experiment of yours should be very interesting for all concerned and I plan to follow it closely. Good luck.

  • Cath

    If these haven’t already been mentioned can I suggest that you also read:

    “Why I believed: reflections of a former missionary” Kenneth Daniels

    “Godless: how an evangelical preacher became one of America’s leading atheists” Dan Barker

    “50 simple questions for every Christian” Guy Harrison

    The style of these may be more appropriate to what you are used to than some other, perhaps more aggressive books.

  • Goblinman

    (I should preface this by mentioning that I was raised in Reform Judaism, and became an atheist in my teens after long philosophical examination of the issue. I’m also not claiming to speak for all atheists here.)

    Ryan, I commend you for your dedication to broadening your horizons. You are, however, seemingly starting with an understanding of modern atheism that is somewhat off the mark. There are two major “myths” about modern atheism which emerge not necessarily out of discrimination, but from simple unfamiliarity.

    Myth 1: Atheism is a “negative” philosophy.

    That is, it is simply about rejecting god and religion. What is being overlooked is that most atheists (that I’m aware of, anyway) aren’t simply substituting something for nothing: we have each developed a personal system of morality, ethics, and understanding about the universe that has come into conflict with those derived from religion. For most of us, rejecting religion was a crucial step towards becoming better, more honest, and more fulfilled people.

    You’re taking the right track by seeking to research and communicate with the atheist community. I highly recommend Greta Christina’s writings on atheist philosophy, ethics, and purpose.

    Myth 2: Atheism is about God.

    It’s very difficult to say this in a way that doesn’t come off as rude or condescending, but it must be said: It’s painfully obvious that God does not exist.

    It is, for me, neither ambiguous nor a matter that requires devout belief. It is, instead, the sort of thing that becomes utterly undeniable once you start seeing it. As one atheist put it: “The universe functions exactly as you would expect it to if there was no God.”

    This is not to say that theists are stupid, however–and that leads to the real issue being masked by the myth:

    The true enemy of atheism is not God, but faith.

    Faith, as a means of knowing truth. Faith, as a virtue–especially when it is in contradiction with other evidence. (Faith, too, a word with so many positive connotations, that I may as well be arguing against “love”.)

    What’s the problem with faith as a way of knowing? Simply put: it’s an abject failure. Perhaps every single believer of every religion in the world plants the foundations of their worldview in their faith–and nearly every one of them comes to a completely different religious conclusion. If faith can lead to truth, why does it lead to a different truth each time?

    The heart of faith is a feeling, seemingly from deep inside, that something must be true. But why do we trust these feelings? How many “true loves” have proven false? How many times does someone’s “deep, personal faith” need to be used to justify unthinking hate and bigotry before people admit how shallow faith really is?

    Faith is a closed box: anything can be placed inside it, no matter how absurd or rotten, and we, as a culture, have agreed to call it sacred.

    I posit this: if God were real, there would be no need for faith. People only turn to faith when they can no longer support their beliefs using evidence. In our world, despite billions of believers looking for proof in reality’s every nook and cranny, the most evidence they can find for God is a few old books and some vague impressions on toast. For any other topic, that state of affairs would be seen as utterly embarrassing and pathetic.

    If you want to truly understand atheism in its modern form, your goal should be to live without faith. Atheism is a way of understanding the world that fosters doubt and skepticism, rather than holding firm to rigid beliefs. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • David Austin

      Hi Goblinman,

      I was very impressed with your post, and you expressed my thoughts perfectly.

      As you seem to be saying – “faith” is not a way to knowledge. It is a “trick” we play on ourselves when we have no evidence for something to try to overcome cognitive dissonance. If you could “prove” your religion was true, you would not need faith.

      As atheists, we live with the possibility that we could be wrong about anything, but this is in fact our strength. We are not afraid to change our opinion if evidence can prove us wrong. We can also look at all problems without bias that comes when we view things from a religious perspective. We can view the world without our “jesus spectacles”, and therefore see “reality” rather than a false universe.

      I argued that the “free will” argument that many Christians use to explain “divine hiddeness” reveals a fatal flaw in their reasoning. They say god gives us free will so we can freely choose to believe and not be forced to accept jesus as “our lord & saviour”. If this is true, then it follows that miracles cannot happen & prayers can never be answered, as this would force us to accept a divine “force” exists. So in this case the universe would look exactly like there was no god present (which is what we observe). Thus the only way god could “persuade” us to believe is to implant his/her/its message directly in out brain. Given this scenario, and assuming their was only “One True God”, the same message would have to be implanted in every persons’ brain. Since this is not what we see with so many religions with conflicting religious dogma, it seems to indicate that no god or gods can exist.

      Just me 2c worth from the “Land Down Under”,

      David Austin

      Perth, Western Australia

      • Victoria M

        Thanks for sharing your argument in the last paragraph, @David Austin. I’ve had trouble trying to reason with believers on this point. However, if they say that “God gave us free will so that we can either choose to be with him or be without him” and we refute with your argument, couldn’t they just come back with “that’s not true, there could still be miracles all over: you choosing not to believe in Lord Jesus Christ just means that you choose not to see (or acknowledge) these miracles”…In this case, I’m talking about those Christians with a pretty low threshold for what a “miracle” is (spontaneous remissions of diseases, feelings of “following the plan” in one instance or another etc)…How would you argue this point? I see it as a dead end, but hopefully I’m really missing something in this logic.

        • Irene Simmons

          I’ve experienced so many miracles in my life; I hardly know where to begin. Just being born into this world. Believing in Jesus Christ at the age of 13 and being transformed to a totally new person; having His Holy Spirit dwelling in my Spirit. Being married and having

          three baby sons. Talk about a miracle; having a live baby inside of you for 9 months; then giving birth to him and holding him in your arms and having the privilege of raising him.

          What a miracle to see three baby boys grow into such fine young men. Wow! A definite miracle occurred in our family when our oldest son received a call from God into His Ministry at age 16.

          Having 3 sons, 3 daughters in law and 7 grandchildren, all accepting Jesus Christ as

          their Savior …more miracles. Being in Bible Studies and Church Worship Services with other friends in Christ, and having Scriptures quickened to you by the Holy Spirit of God. Talk about a miracle!

          Satan doesn’t like this at all, so he sends me atheist friends to try to tear down my Christian beliefs. He realizes I am eternally safe but if only he can make me a stumbling block to others and cancel my Christian witness, he will win a victory. He hasn’t been able to even put a dent in my faith. I am very grateful since I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced a test like this before in my life.

          I am amazed how atheists can be so positive, when they haven’t even met someone, that they know they are fantasizing or having delusions, etc. I don’t question that they have no beliefs and haven’t caused them one minute of trouble. I don’t see why it is so difficult for them to understand that I have experienced and am experiencing God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in such a magnificent life.

          Praise God for Lori! Finally someone who is experiencing miracles and understands exactly what has happened to me. I’ve been waiting to hear from her!

          Also, those of you that have accused me of praying and answering my own prayers. That’s comical! God answers in different ways. He says “No” as often probably as He says “yes.” If you have asked in the name of Jesus and have asked in God’s Will, most likely your prayers have been answered. Also prayer is not just asking, it is listening, praising, thanking, etc. But, then most of you would not understand that. You certainly could, however, if you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.

          Blessings,

          Irene

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            “Being married and having

            three baby sons. Talk about a miracle; having a live baby inside of you for 9 months; then giving birth to him and holding him in your arms and having the privilege of raising him.

            What a miracle to see three baby boys grow into such fine young men. Wow!”

            Except there’s nothing more common than pregnancy and birth. It’s a natural phenomenon, not at all miraculous. Almost anyone could do it. But I guess if you need to feel special, you can pretend it’s a miracle–just shows your narcissism, though.

            “Satan doesn’t like this at all, so he sends me atheist friends to try to tear down my Christian beliefs.”

            LOL, yes, I’m sure that’s it, that “Satan” (the ultimate representative of “evil”) has sent we atheists to ruin you and torment you in “Hell.” Hehe. Great way to think about us (not).

          • Irene Simmons

            Giving birth to a baby might not be a miracle for you, but it sure was for me! But then, I was not the result of a “Big Bang!” I was created by God, as were my boys. Just being alive is a miracle. All the parts of your body that are there for a specific reason and your brain is more fantastic than any computer. It’s sad if you don’t feel that you are a miracle of God.

            It is indeed special to know why you were created and for what purpose, and to know what is going to happen to you when this life is over.

            Best of luck to you……….

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            “Giving birth to a baby might not be a miracle for you, but it sure was for me!”

            Not if you are defining a “miracle” biblically, as something that defies natural laws. Birth is natural. You may feel oh, so special because of it (which is fine), but with 358,192 births occurring every single day, the bigger miracle might be NOT adding to the population, rather than doing so.

            “But then, I was not the result of a ‘Big Bang!’ I was created by God,”

            Thats a big claim to make without evidence, but I suppose your standards for “knowing” things must be very low.

          • Irene Simmons

            I know what I experience, and I know what I know. Also, you know what you experience and you know what you know! A draw, I hope!

            Every baby born is an absolute miracle! I don’t understand how it could be ordinary or hum drum for anyone, but obviously it is. It sure wasn’t for me.

          • aesthete2

            You are actually trying to say all prayers get answered?

            So everybody that has ever been prayed to get well, recovered? Every disaster averted? Every war contained before every woman’s son is slain? Every ball game is won?

            Or are you implying your God answers each prayer with a response that cannot be told from every prayer not being noticed by anyone or anything?

            Not exactly a real advantage to your religion now is there? Seeing as every person as well as every animal has experienced this apparent common miracle of being born even if they don’t share your religion.

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            @aesthete2, remember when Rick Perry filled a stadium with Christians to pray together for rain, but instead of getting rain, the state of Texas caught on fire? That was funny. Well, not really funny, but ya gotta laugh. :)

          • Irene Simmons

            I can’t imagine thinking it is funny when prayer is not answered and fire results!

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            LOL, Irene, the fires weren’t funny. Rick Perry’s thinking a stadium of Christians praying would bring rain was hilarious, though. It must be awful not having a sense of humor.

          • Irene Simmons

            We just have a different sense of humor. At least Rick Perry and the stadium full of Christians wee trying to do something about a very bad situation. They were helpless and trying to do the only thing they knew to do. I wish we could hear from them about it.

          • aesthete2

            There were a lot of things Rick Perry could have done to absolve the water crisis in Texas that he didn’t do – so why you think that misleading a lot of people into thinking that praying instead of instituting good water regulations would help is good, I don’t know.

          • aesthete2

            So how do you explain that Irene? I thought you said if people prayed to your God, then there was an answer? Apparently this time the answer was fire? Are the good people of Texas that horrible that your God chose to burn them when they asked for some water?

          • Irene Simmons

            I said nothing of the sort. I said sometimes God answers “No”, “Yes” or “Maybe”, but He answers prayer. I also said if you are a believer in Jesus Christ and you pray in His name and you pray in God’s Will, your chances are extremely good of being answered. That’s a lot different than what you quoted me as saying!

            Prayer is not just a method of asking of God. It is communication with God. It is listening to Him, perhaps in your Spirit; perhaps through someone or a Scripture that is quickened to you by the Holy Spirit. It is very special to be able to go boldly to the throne of God and

            not through a priest or pastor, or anyone else. It’s a great privilege.

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            So, when things go your way, that means God answered “yes”? If you don’t get your way, that means God said “no”? And if you still don’t know the ultimate outcome, that means God is saying “maybe”? So that means there’s no difference in outcome whether you ask for things or you don’t, right? That’s what prayer studies show, that a world with your god in it acts no different from a natural world guided by random chance–interesting.

          • aesthete2

            Except praying to your God has absolutely no results – no evidence of it anywhere. Nice that you totally ignored that point. Perhaps Satan prompted that little white lie of yours?

            If you have some evidence – out with it Irene – the world would like to see that.

          • David Austin

            Hi Irene,

            I thought it would just be a matter of time before you accused all atheists of being “in league with Satan”. It is just so predictable and totally unfounded,

            To be honest, I couldn’t really care a less what you believe, and how you worship your god, but most non-believers have a problem when you (not you in particular, but christians generally) try to tell others how to live their lives.

            I don’t have a problem with religion being taught in schools as long as all major religions (and no religion) get equal coverage. I would prefer ethics be taught rather than religion, but that’s just my preference.

            Even if I was elected as President, I would not seek to ban religion, but I would try to ensure every one got fair treatment under the law (no priviledged religions) and policy was decided using reason & logic not religious dogma.

            Just saying…….

            David Austin

          • Irene Simmons

            David, I was accusing satan, not you or even atheists in general. However, this is the first time I have ever tried to debate anyone who did not believe the Bible. I was certainly not prepared for it. I just answered the SDA pastor of my thoughts, and wham! I truly believe satan was trying to see how positive I was about my belief. I feel good about the whole encounter because it got me deep into my Bible and my thoughts about events.

            I have known for a long time exactly what my relationship is with Christ and it has been

            confirmed to me again, Big Time! I do wish you the very best. I am going to drop out of this debate because I cannot express myself and have it interpreted it as I meant it. I guess maybe we speak different languages, or something.

            Anyway, it has been a very different experience for me. One more thing, I wanted to recommend a web site to you. http://www.everystudent.com. I would like comments about that. Just curious.

            Good Luck,

            Irene

          • David Austin

            Hi Irene,

            Good luck with your journey with Jesus.

            I’m glad he gives purpose to your life, but I doubt he will ever be a part of my life. That may be my loss, but I will have to live with that.

            I checked out the website ypi mentioned, but to me it is just more christian proselytizing, without giving any evidence to back up their claims. As I said, I don’t have a problem with religion being taught in schools, as long as the major religions (& no religion) are presented fairly. In most cases (like when I was at school), other religions are just dealt with very shallowy, and the main emphasis is on christianity. I think teaching morals & ethics based on sound psychology is as important if not more important than teaching religion.

            Take care,

            David Austin

      • Goblinman

        Irene,

        Again, a Christian who assumes I can simply choose to believe in God. If it bothers you so much when atheists assume you do not truly believe what you say you do, why, then, do you turn around and do the same to us?

        • Irene Simmons

          I didn’t intend to do the same thing to you. I said I understand you don’t believe in God or the Bible, but I do believe in Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Atheists are not bothering me. I know in whom I believe and I know who dwells in my Spirit.

      • Goblinman

        Also, Irene, maybe don’t do the thing where you accuse us of being agents of Satan? You’re coming off as incredibly self-centered by acting as though atheists are only here to personally tempt you away from God. We have our own lives, and I can promise you that deconverting Christians is not high on our list of priorities. It’s not all about you.

        Seriously, I’m not a demon. I’m just some guy. Just because you disagree with me doesn’t mean you need to dehumanize me, too.

        • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

          “Also, Irene, maybe don’t do the thing where you accuse us of being agents of Satan?”

          I second that request.

          “Seriously, I’m not a demon. I’m just some guy. Just because you disagree with me doesn’t mean you need to dehumanize me, too.”

          So true!

          I am not a demon, nor in cahoots with any demon. That’s an unkind thing to accuse without any evidence. Have you seem me, or anyone else, in the company of your horned imaginary foe? Naw, didn’t think so.

          • Irene Simmons

            I wasn’t accusing you personally of anything. I was accusing satan and I simply said that he was using a lot of atheists to try to convince me that my faith in God was misguided;

            a fantasy, a fiction of my imagination, but he was not even a little bit successful.

            Sorry if you took it personally. If you know positively that satan isn’t using you, then you know what you know!

          • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

            Satan must be using the billion Hindus and billion Muslims for the same purpose, eh. They’re just there to shake your faith and to burn, because God loves nothing better than to create lots of religions so he has an excuse to burn people.

          • Irene Simmons

            I praise God that I have not been even spoken to by a Muslim or a Hindu about my belief in the One True God of the Bible. I have not tried to convert any of them to Christianity either, but I am aware there are missionaries there for that purpose. They risk being killed if they are there for that purpose. I don’t know of anyone personally trying to shake my Spiritual beliefs except satan.

          • Bob Dias

            Wow. Just, wow. They risk being killed? wow.

          • Quizzical

            I suppose you think missionaries are good people by way of their missionary work. Not so. You might be interested in this documentary.

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=plpp&v=q3Zxjndf0mw&list=PL3CB4BC341D8A1319

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dkvdtzk1pbo

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=52Jok2Jzt3s

          • Steve

            Irene, your cluelessness about Muslims and Hindus is truly embarrassing.

            Hindus don’t proselytize.

            As for Muslims, I have two questions. A. What is the relation of the God of the Koran to the God of Genesis? B. How does Islam view Jesus?

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            I would ask that you not say in public that atheists are agents of “Satan.” What if I went around claiming that Christians are really just blind to the fact they are controlled by and working for Satan? Would you say that would be a fair and reasonable shot to take at you?

    • ken

      Well goblenman,

      Your post would make perfect sence except that you are starting with one wrong premis. Faith is not believing in something based on feelings or with out evidence. I encurage you to look up the catholic definition of faith. Faith has more to do with behavior and less to do with what you believe. Unfortunatly too many parents and preachers, when asked to defend there religion simply answered “you just have to have faith” because they didn’t know the answer and for too many generations christianity was passed along like a bit of unquestionable dogma. The answers are still there if you seek them out. I think what you will find is that our understanding of God is wrong. That the churches have remade God in our immage and that he is nothing more than a idol.

  • Steven

    Syllabus

    You mention the New Atheists. Don’t forget Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    Existentialism

    Atheism is a statement of non-belief. But people do believe things, and atheists believe things, and one thing that atheists commonly believe is existentialism.

    Existentialism isn’t quite a belief–it’s more like a state of mind. It is also where people tend to end up if they take atheism seriously. Anyway, when you get tired of not believing things, you might want to look into it. Here is some recommended reading.

    J.P. Sartre, The Flies. Very accessible.

    Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Funny, but a bit nihilistic.

    Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. Popular, but you have to like Vonnegut.

    Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Funny and accessible. The books are good, but the original radio plays are better. Avoid the TV and movie productions. They are OK as entertainment, but do justice to neither the originals nor the subject matter.

    And to see where all this is going: Rudy Rucker: Software, Wetware, Freeware, Realware.

  • David Austin

    Hi Victoria M,

    Thanks for reading & replying to my post.

    I think the question to ask christians when it comes to “miracles” is “Have you any verifiable evidence of god healing amputees?”.

    Remission from cancer etc. cannot be regarded as a reliable “test” for the appearance of “miracles”, as such events can be spontaneous without “divine intervention”.

    If some-one could re-grow a limb in front of witnesses, then skeptics would certainly have to re-think their position. At the very least they would have to say that this phenomena needs to be looked into. Anyone who can do this repeatably would be in line for James Randi’s million dollar prize, so if it is possible, some-one should do it and claim the prize. I have yet heard of anyone taking up this challenge.

    Just my thoughts.

    Regards

    David Austin

    • Victoria M

      David, now I do see your point that if we accept that premise, no real miracles can happen. Could you elaborate on why no prayers can then be answered as well? Do all religious people argue that God answers prayers merely to prove his own existence?

      Thanks for your reply to my reply. I hope I’m not being bothersome, just trying to understand so I know what I’m talking about if/when I use that point in a discussion.

      • David Austin

        Hi Victoria M,

        Thanks for your latest comment.

        As to answering prayers :-

        If you pray for something and EVERY time that which you prayed for actually happened, then it is pretty clear that someone/something is “manipulating” reality to make your prayers be fulfilled. You could then logically conclude that there must be a “divine force” controlling matters in your favour. This would clearly violate your “free will”, as god must let you “freely chose” to believe in him/her/it if the “free will” argument is valid.

        Therefore, we must conclude that if one particular prayer is answered, it must just be a coincidence and not the hand of a “god”. Again, if you could demonstrate, in front of witnesses, that every prayer request you made was answered, you would certainly be in line for James Randi’s prize of one million dollars. It would certainly make skeptics like me to reconsider my position, and that studies should be carried out to investigate this phenomena. For example, is it only christian prayers that get answered, and, if so, does it apply across all denominations of christianity.

        Anyway, I think you get the drift of my argument.

        Regards,

        David Austin

      • David Austin

        Hi Victoria,

        No problem about being bothersome; I am happy to interact with anyone, as it helps to improve my arguments especially when debating christian apologists.

        I meant to state that studies were done on “miracles” that were noted from people travelling to Lourdes for a “cure”. They noted the number of attendees, and the number of “possible cures” that were reported. It works out that the number of “remissions” were actually LOWER than the general population which just goes to show the failure of prayers and the non-existence of miracles.

        Best wishes,

        David Austin

  • Goblinman

    David,

    As I have never been Christian, I wasn’t able to make any sense of the free will debate until I realized that the only choice that mattered in the equation was the one about “accepting Jesus”. Other than that, the entire debate is completely nonsensical: we have exactly as much free will as we have–no more, no less. It’s as though, when watching a car drive down a hill, one were to ask whether the car was moving because of its engine or because of gravity: yes, to both.

    Interstingly (if there are any Calvinists reading, I guess), I don’t feel particularly like I have a choice about being an atheist. As I said earlier, I can’t take the idea of God seriously anymore, and, for Christianity especially, I can’t see religion as anything other than fiction. It would probably be easier for me to convince myself that Harry Potter is true than the Bible at this point.

    On which note: The theistic assumption that atheists can simply choose whether or not we believe is what makes Pascal’s Wager so odious. When (supposedly moral) Christians use this, they are asking me to lie. Worse, they are asking me to lie to the face of God–do they think the Almighty has a cheat-code?. Even worse, in doing so, they are asking me to betray not only my integrity, but some of my deepest convictions. So much for “no cost”–if I took that bargain, I wouldn’t deserve salvation.

    Besides which, is just flat out insulting when theists insist we don’t really believe the things we say we do.

  • P Dempsey

    As a life-long (3rd generation) atheist who tries to remain open-minded and empathetic, I would implore you to leave the likes of Hitchens and Dawkins on a shelf somewhere. Not all of us are Anti-theists and who poke fun at the faithful and accuse them of intellectual deficiencies. Well, I may have been as a teenager, but there’s angst for you! You’d be better served reading poetry… Leaves of Grass perhaps… and maybe some of letters of Einstein. Those will get your further than Dawkins for sure!

    I also think you’ll find that many of the atheists you meet will be people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about religion, reading about religion, visiting religious places. For those of us on the outside it’s fascinating… like ancient Egypt or Rome or any other great human endeavor. Most of my friends and many of my relatives are also atheists or agnostics and I don’t know a single one who isn’t enthralled by science and nature, the beauty of the earth and the cosmos. Most are artists, musicians, writers, designers, or inventors, who are all able to find inspiration and wonder without any divine plan.

    • Bill Goodwin

      @P Dempsey. I’ve often admired the simplicity of being an atheist who was raised without religion. It’s refreshing but very foreign for someone raised in faith, so cut us religious victims a little slack. We were brainwashed for years and the invisible spiritual world that was in our heads was accepted as real. We had the spooky Hell dreams and freak out moments when we couldn’t find our friends and family and thought the rapture had come and we were left behind. As a result, studying religion, theology and scriptural criticism is both fascinating and possibly very necessary to maintain inoculation from our indoctrination. I think all facets of this conversation are needed. I know people who needed Dawkins and Hitchens to confront their faith. I personally was a big fan of Hitchens who, while confrontational, was very charming and insanely witty. I love Dawkins for his evolutionary biology more than his religious polemic. He has some blind spots, at least from a Evangelical Fundamentalist perspective (of course, he was raised Anglican right?), so I think he gets caught flat footed because he isn’t a biblical scholar. But I’m glad he’s doing what he’s doing. People need it…just not everyone.

  • Geri Kelly

    Good luck on your journey- I hope you find what you are looking for.

  • Elmer Cupino

    If you are beginning a journey to be an “atheist” soon after being disappointed with your last church affiliation, this would be similar to someone who enters into a relationship immediately after a failed, nasty divorce. Few have succeeded but… good luck. To succeed in being an atheist, you have to give up the concept of God for no absolute reason at all. None at all. But how do you do that after your long journey of belonging to a church? One does not give up on the concept of a lifelong relationship with someone because of one “bad” relationship. What is important here is how one manages the relationship instead of picking the “right” person. The person becomes “right” within the context of the relationship, not vice versa.

  • HR

    Walking away from religion does not necessitate walking away from God and becoming an atheist who believe that there is no God or spirit or non-material reality. I’ve personally walked away from religion, specifically the American brand of Christianity. However, I find what is called God to be the ground of existence and find the teachings of non-duality and A Course In Miracles to offer a clear explanation of the true nature of reality. I have no problem with God and avoid the limiting boxes called religions. I appreciate the honesty you have chosen to act from. I’m aware of the teachings of the Seven Day Adventists and understand the reaction of fear from the denomination as you shook the proverbial tree. My unsolicited word of advise is to inquire into the definition/concept of God handed

    down to you by the denomination to see if it is in alignment with reality. An incomplete or inaccurate map will get you lost even though there is nothing wrong with the terrain. The map is not the terrain, check the map before you come to the conclusion that the very terrain you are standing on does not exist.

    • Quizzical

      A Course in Miracles? Really? What, exactly, is so wrong with considering the atheist’s position that buying ANY form of superstition is preferable to it?

      • HR

        Nothing wrong. Just that dissatisfaction with a religion does not automatically mean that atheism is the ultimate truth and the de facto choice. In my view a religion is a view point regarding God, usually accompanied with various writings, declarations and rituals. By my definition I consider atheism a religion with a view point that there is no God.

        • Quizzical

          Ah, that’s where you are mistaken. Atheism is not having any belief in a god or gods, and that is all. It has no ideology. Some atheists feel quite certain there is no god (often based on probabilities or logic), some are less sure, but still don’t believe in any. Atheists can be interested in science, or they can be science-challenged. They may have studiously considered whether there might be a god, or they may never have taken the subject seriously at all. They don’t have any “atheistic guiding principles” in common–some may be selfish, others generous; some may be empathetic, others narcissistic; they could fall anywhere on the political and educational spectrum, etc. In other words, atheism says nothing about a person’s beliefs, personality, or lifestyle except that he or she has no belief in any deities. That’s it. So examining various religions for a personal match is a different thing from examining atheism vs. theism. Any religion incorporating a deity is theistic, and not believing in any deities is atheistic. Religions have ideologies, atheism does not (thus, no organization, dues/tithing, or leaders). I hope that helps make the difference more clear.

      • HR

        Notice I did not say belief but rather a view point. In my definition of religion I consider having a view point of no belief in God as a religious statement from the religion of no belief in God. Supported by the various writings, teachers, values and behaviors stemming from no belief in God.

        • Quizzical

          LOL, well, if you are making up your own definitions for words, then I guess you can speak your own language to yourself, but in English, atheism is not a religion.

          https://www.google.com/search?site=&source=hp&ei=TinPUrWsJsL9oASTiYGoAw&q=define+religion&oq=define+religion&gs_l=mobile-gws-hp.3..0l5.4089.9383.0.10266.16.16.0.4.4.1.969.9502.3-3j4j3j6.16.0….0…1c.1.32.mobile-gws-hp..5.11.4228.GqQQ00ipO7s

          Atheism is having no belief, rather than having one. And as I stated, it is not a system or ideology with teachers, nor leaders. If you had never been introduced to the notion of gods/god, and such a notion had never occurred to you, you would be just as much an atheist as a person who reads Hitchens and Dawkins, et al., and bases his atheism on logic. It’s simply a lack of belief in a deity, not a belief in anything. I hope that’s more clear.

          • Irene Simmons

            Could you perhaps answer a question for me? I am a believer in Jesus Christ and have been for a very long time. Why are Christian’s beliefs such a threat to Atheists? They don’t want anything Christian in their children’s schools; they don’t want any Christmas displays

            on public property, etc. What difference does it make to Atheists? You don’t believe in a deity and I do. Why is that a problem? As you pointed out, you don’t have a religion and I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, so why is there a problem? You are not a threat to me if you don’t have a belief in anything, and I do not understand why my belief is a threat to anyone. I would appreciate an answer. Thanks, IS

          • Quizzical

            Because of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. Government can’t favor one religion. Religious icons on state property are okay as long as any other religion is also allowed to erect their own monuments. So if you object to Satanist or Pagan or Muslim monuments on public property, use caution erecting Christian ones.

          • Steve

            First of all, Irene, you’re stereotyping when you state that “Atheists want…”. Just as it’s absolutely inaccurate to say that “All Christians…” believe or want one specific thing, it’s inaccurate to imply a single opinion to all Atheists.

            The objection that many — not just atheists but people of other religions, including Judaism and Islam — raise to pressure from some Christians to have public displays of Christian iconography has nothing to do with an objection to Christianity. It is about equality, parochialism, and the basic fundamental principle that as a society, we do not favor any one religion. Our society respects the right of each person to choose their faith, and our government is supposed to remain neutral with regard to faith.

            I object, as a Christian, to those who are pushing these efforts to enshrine Christian iconography because their motives are not admirable or just. They seek to favor Christianity over other religions, and they seek to make some point that this is supposed to be a “Christian” nation. That is ahistorical nonsense.

            There’s a thing going on right now in Oklahoma, where a Satanic temple has asked to erect a monument on the state capital grounds, and the hypocrisy of those who pushed for the Ten Commandments monument that’s there is being revealed. They didn’t erect that Ten Commandments monument out of a desire to protect religious freedom, they did it to enshrine a preference for one faith, Christianity. Now that another faith — and however noxious it may be to you, it’s someone’s faith — wants equal treatment, they’re not willing to give it. And that’s why, after centuries of bloodshed over religion, our founding fathers laid down the principle that the state keeps its nose out of the religious business of its citizens.

            We must give equal treatment to all, so it’s better to give preferential treatment to none.

          • Irene Simmons

            When I say Atheists object, I don’t mean every one of them, but it is almost always an Atheist who objects to Christian displays, school Christmas programs, celebrations., and even prayer. The Jews don’t really object nor do the Muslims; even though the Muslims kill unbelievers of their religion. Would you agree that the majority religion in America is Christianity?

            Regarding the Satanist monument in OK,

            As Jefferson wrote, “Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. IT MUST THEN REST WITH THE STATES…” (Emphasis mine)

            Story confirms Jefferson: “Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions.”

            The Founders could not have been clearer. The very first word of the First Amendment is Congress. Congress is the only entity that is restrained by the First Amendment. States are free, under the Constitution as given, to regulate religious expression as they see fit. What states do with regard to religious expression is literally to be none of the central government’s business, whether it’s Congress or the judiciary.

            In other words, if we operated under the Constitution as given to us by the Founders and not the unrecognizable one shredded by recklessly innovative jurists, who magically invented “the incorporation doctrine” out of the ether, the solution would be quite simple: Oklahoma can do anything it wants. If Oklahoma doesn’t want an idol to Satan on its capitol grounds, it doesn’t have to have one.

          • Quizzical

            Wow, so you think that if the majority in your state are Satanists, then the state should be able to advertise Satanism everywhere and indoctrinate children to Satanism while they’re at school? Hehe, just kidding, of course you don’t, but you don’t care about that because you’re in the majority and can’t see any other religion increasing in numbers over your own. You feel safely privileged. Boy, if you are fighting for state religions, the fact that Islam is the fastest-growing religion must give you terrible night frights, as it should.

          • Steve

            “It’s always atheists who object…” — another baseless generalization for which you have no evidence. Lots of people object to Christian arrogance, pushiness, exclusivity, and parochialism, but I think you’re not listening well enough to hear them. “The Jews don’t really object, nor do the Muslims…” Um, really? Half of my family is Jewish. Trust me, they object.

            “Are you comparing Muslim beliefs to Christian beliefs?” — in the sense that they are both religious systems, absolutely. Remember, Irene, the point of religious freedom is that you’re expected to respect the religious freedom of people with who you don’t agree, and even with those whose religions offend and perplex you. If you only have to respect people whose religions you approve of, that’s not religious freedom, it’s religious oppression.

            “Do you know how they treat their women, etc.?” — as someone who lived in the Muslim world for a number of years, yes, I have a very good idea of how they live together in society and treat each other. If you’d like to know how Muslims live, I suggest you actually go meet a few, and stop listening to the propaganda of Christian bigots. I’ve seen Christian societies, Jewish societies, and Muslim societies, and they are all capable of the same levels of sexism, community, unity, division, brotherhood, antagonism, love, hatred, and every other social good and social evil. People are people, regardless of their faith. I once managed an office that included Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Copts, Jews, Orthodox Christians, and even one Buddhist. You’d be stunned how much we had in common.

            I don’t really have a lot of patience for Christians who start riding the “evil Muslims” train, Irene, so if you’re going there, please expect that I will ignore you. Putting aside the point that the historical blood on Christian hands gives Christians no right to pontificate about other faiths and their excesses, the slanderous demonization of Muslims that conservative Christians engage in is an insult to reason and truth.

            I’m not even going to try to unpack your comments on the Constitution. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve invested years of study in Constitutional law; I plead with you to get a re-education on the Constitution from someone other than Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Bachmann.

          • Bill Goodwin

            Steve. Brav-fucking-o. I wanna have your baby. I’m a dude so I guess that means “take” your baby rather than “give birth to” it. But it’s meant as a compliment.

          • Steve

            Appreciated, Bill.

            I decided I am going to unpack one of Irene’s comments on the Constitution. The states do not get to abridge basic freedoms such as religion and expression based on tenth amendment-founded assertions of states rights. The idea that states rights can be asserted in defense of efforts to abridge fundamental freedoms is so offensive to the entire spirit and letter of the Constitution that it’s a ludicrous proposition. In any case, the fourteenth amendment establishing dual citizenship (every American is a citizen both of their State and of the United States) clearly says: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

            That is as clear as clear can be. If you have a right as a federal citizen, no state can take it away or abridge it. Period.

            I’m also going to add one further comment on Jewish opposition to Christians wanting monuments in public spaces. Not only do many Jews object, but many find the totemization of the Ten Commandments in particular to be offensive. In my experience, that surprises Christians. Christians think it’s some wonderful compliment, and Jews take it as anything but a compliment. Reasons vary. First, one of the commandments is that thou shalt not make graven images. So it’s a little ironic that people are going around making a graven image out of the very thing that says not to do that. Second, if you’re looking to enshrine Christian narrative, you look to the Gospels. The Ten Commandments and the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are the core of Jewish narrative. Talk to some Jewish theologians about their views on how Christians reinterpret the OT to support Christian narrative, essentially stealing another people’s historical narrative. You won’t get warm and fuzzy reactions. So when Christians expropriate the Ten Commandments, not a few Jews take offense at yet another example of Christians stealing and manipulating Jewish historical narrative to serve Christian purposes.

            If there’s anything theologically traumatic that I, as a Christian, have had to deal with, it’s the objection of Jews, in my own family and among my dearest friends, to what Christians do to Jewish narrative. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and deal with it all the time. So yes, Irene, they object. Sincerely and deeply.

          • Irene Simmons

            So, Steve, are you insinuating that all Jews react the same as your family and close friends? Yet, you cannot put all Christians or all atheists in the same circumstance.

            Below is a message from Ben Stein, a well-known Jew:

            The following was written by Ben Stein

            My confession:

            I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees.

            It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

            I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

            Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

          • Quizzical

            Ben Stein is a Right Wing extremist. Of course he wants a theocracy, LOL. Maybe he thinks Jews will outnumber christians in the future, and then he’ll be privileged. It’s not about what Ben Stein thinks; it’s about religious freedom for all, not just Christians (see Constitution).

          • Steve

            I’m insinuating nothing, Irene. I’ve clearly identified where the opinions I cite come from. You’ve insinuated that I said “all”. I didn’t. I’ve said some, many, and so forth. I have never used the word all. If you’re going to descend to the troll tactics of putting words in someone else’s mouth then attacking them for it, the conversation ends. Straw men are naughty debating tactics.

            Ben Stein is entitled to his opinion. Others have responded there. I think it’s fair to suggest that citing Ben Stein as representative of mainstream opinion in Judaism is like saying Glenn Beck represents mainstream America, or Pat Robertson represents mainstream Christianity. Stein’s on the record as an Islamophobic neoconservative. I expect nothing different from him.

            You’re also conflating general displays of faith, including those of private individuals expressing their faith, with public endorsement of a particular religion, it’s symbols, theology, or tenets. I can assure you that no Jew I know, and no one in my family, objects to Christians having Christmas trees, or any other manifestation of their faith. And by the way, none of my Christian relatives have any issues with the Jewish elements present in our family. We all cheerfully and respectfully light menorahs and decorate Christmas trees side by side. And we did it during Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr when we lived in the Muslim world, and received nothing but respect and acceptance (and frankly, curiosity and openminded desire to know more) from Muslim friends and neighbors. We’re talking about incidents where Christian activists want PUBLIC institutions to elevate Christianity and give it implicit (or even explicit) preference over other faiths in the public square. Monuments in public spaces. Prayer in school. Etc.

            Irene, challenge your assumptions. The way Pastor Bell is doing. You might learn something. In fact, it might just blow your mind to see how big the world really is!

          • Charles

            Let me ask you a question, Irene…

            Why are Muslim’s beliefs such a threat to so many Christians? They don’t want anything Muslim in their children’s schools; they don’t want any Muslim displays on public property, etc. What difference does it make to Christians? You don’t believe the same as they do. Why is that a problem?

          • Irene Simmons

            Are you comparing Christian beliefs with Muslim beliefs? Are you aware how Muslims treat women, gays, adulterers, unbelievers of their religion, etc.? What Christian beliefs are so

            dangerous?

          • Charles

            Thank you for so clearly demonstrating my point, IIrene. You are clearly both fearful and ignorant of any belief system outside your own and tremble at the thought of it gaining prominence in places where you feel Christian privilege exists.

            Am I aware of how Muslims treat women, gays, adulterers, unbelievers of their religion, etc.? Yes, very much so. But clearly you are not, or you would realize that to an atheist, or a Buddhist, or anyone not of the Abrahamic religions, the Christian treatment of those same people is abhorrent.

            So, you ask what Christian beliefs are so dangerous?

            Why, the very same ones. And that is but a small part of the larger problem.

          • Irene Simmons

            I have been a Christian for a very long time and I disagree with you strongly. No one is killed because of unbelief of Jesus Christ, tortured because of adultery or homosexuality

            and women are treated with much more dignity and respect by Christians. Actually, in the

            middle east and so many areas of the world, Christians are being tortured and killed;

            people who are there as missionaries to try to help the people who want to kill them.

            AND SO MUCH MORE!

          • Quizzical

            Really? You didn’t know about the witch trials, or the torture and murder of people like Matthew Shepard by Christians and others who are indoctrinated into hatred of gays, supported by Christians, tacitly, as well as overtly? That’s rather shocking, to be frank. Does the name Damon Fowler ring a bell? How about The West Memphis Three? Anything?

          • Quizzical

            Christian beliefs are currently costing lives. It is getting low-income health clinics closed all over the country and denying women reproductive rights over their bodies and their lives, as well as any right to privately make healthcare decisions with their doctors. Right now, it has a brain-dead woman being kept alive in Texas against her family’s wishes because she was 14 weeks pregnant when she brain-died, and now the religiously run state is using her body to farm a fetus that likely also suffered too much oxygen deprivation and will probably need round-the-clock care for life. And who’s paying for this anguish? Her family.

            There are many criticisms we can make about your religion, too, but that’s not the point. The point is that in the U.S., we have freedom of religion and separation of church and state.

            You must be aware of the Treaty of Tripoli, unanimously ratified by the Senate and signed by Pres. Adams? If not, you should look it up. It spells out our county’s secularism pretty clearly.

          • Irene Simmons

            Of course, you are talking about abortions and calling them women’s reproductive rights.

            Someone is going to have to atone to God for the millions of babies in America that have been killed inside their mother’s bodies. Yes, most Christians are pro-life. You are right. I don’t have to read the treaty you are speaking of. This world is a very complicated, evil one, which the Bible states is controlled by satan. He is the prince of this world. You can study the Bible and find out what is going to happen to satan eventually, what the next life is going involve for all of us.

          • Quizzical

            You’re thinking of “infanticide.” Abortion is different from killing babies; it’s usually killing embryos, sometimes zygotes or fetuses, nothing that’s a baby yet. Not much on biology, I’m guessing? See, this is why medicine needs to be left up to physicians and not a patient’s religious neighbors.

            Anyway, I was more referring to all the clinics that used to provide live-saving preventive care to low-income women (cancer and STI screenings. treatments, and the like). Christianity is horrible for women. I can’t understand how any woman would choose to be a Christian. But I know they are usually indoctrinated prior to the age of reason, so there you go.

          • Quizzical

            Also, if you won’t read the Treaty of Tripoli, then maybe you should stop referring to the Constitution or making knowledge claims about the founding fathers.

            In addition, I think “Satan” is a joke, so that rhetoric won’t work on me.

          • Bill Goodwin

            Christian beliefs are not a threat to atheists. But religious people who want to ensconce their beliefs into the law, who want to govern using their scriptures are a threat to EVERYONE. Christians have “enjoyed” a long but dwindling hold on the governance of this country in spite of the founding fathers initial intent to build a wall of separation between church and state. Go try raising your children in Utah where some schools indoctrinate the kids with Mormon theology and tell me you don’t want your school to be neutral.

            Imagine you live in an area that is predominantly Muslim. Are you going to feel fine if the teachers in school post scriptures from the Koran? Build shrines to Muhammed outside City Hall and use Ramadan as an excuse to proselytize on public property? No. You will wish that public schools were neutral so your child could just get an education and not feel ostracized by the majority. You will wonder if you can get a fair trial by people who view you as an apostate.

            If you understand this, then you’ll agree, the nativity scene belongs on the church property or outside your house. Not at school. Not at places of government. If the government lets Chistisns put up religious displays on public property then they must allow all religions and philosophies to be represented.

          • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

            I think that was a perfect reply Bill, bravo. The problem could also be summed up as saying that the majority is taking their religious freedoms too far and violating the religious freedoms of the minority. A religion shouldn’t be treated as special just because a lot of people follow it; not in a pluralistic society where we’re all free to believe differently.

          • Bill Goodwin

            Thanks aldrisang. It IS a very very simple concept which, I think, is why atheists (and believing First Amendment proponents) get soooo heated talking about it and it seems to go over people’s heads. But I think that people who are in the majority just really don’t/can’t see the inequity that is so very evident to us. Christian messages and symbolism in America is ubiquitous…it’s everywhere. Christians are comforted by these symbols and messages and think it’s part of being American. They see these as symbols of “good” and “morality” and “love”, but they are so used to seeing and hearing them that they don’t notice when they are out of place. It seems natural for a Christian to start a City Council meeting with a prayer (to Christians), but they freak out when non-Christian prayers are given a turn at bat. Or like in Louisiana where they bent over backwards to ram through laws to allow Government dollars to be spent at private religious schools so that they can get around rules about curriculum but then totally freaked out when Muslim and other religious schools applied to participate in the voucher program. These are otherwise intelligent people who stare in wide-eyed blank incredulity when they are confronted with their stunning hypocrisy.

            I think that because these symbols and messages are so connected to their sense of morality, ethics, love and peace that when you object to them being aired in public they think that you are against morality, ethics, love and peace. They don’t understand that someone might take offense to them trying to remind us that, in spite of the fact that we agree that you shouldn’t steal, kill, rape etc etc, they think we should all burn in torturous misery for eternity because we don’t agree with their choice of imaginary friend.

          • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

            We’re certainly of the same mind on these issues. It’s almost like when we still had segregation, and people didn’t understand why black people should be unhappy with it… citing that they had their own schools, their own water fountains, et al. Or the people who don’t understand why LGBT couples want (and deserve) to be able to get married (civil marriage at least). Perhaps it’s a combined lack of thought and empathy. The majority needs to be constantly reminded that “tyranny of the majority” is not the form of democracy that the USA was founded upon.

          • Bill Goodwin

            Right on aldrisang. Feeling warm fuzzy atheistically happy. Now nobody say anything else stupid on this thread. ;)

          • aesthete2

            Because you are asking me to pay taxes to pay people (teachers) who may also be atheists to teach my child that your religion is true.

            When a teacher who is a figure of authority over my child the student, leads the children in a prayer, that is pressure on my child to accept what she says as truth.

            Perhaps you would prefer Muslim religion to be present in all schools rather than Christianity? Maybe a different form of Christianity than the one you practice.

            The best course for government facilities, especially schools is to not mention religion at all. Why would you want your religion to be forced down all our children’s throats?

        • Charles

          Calling atheism a belief is like calling clear a color.

      • HR

        Beliefs are inescapable. You have a firm belief in your lack of belief. The lack of belief in a deity is a belief in and of itself. Atheism has a distinct ideology with teachers like “Hitchens and Dawkins, et al.” and their writings communicate their beliefs and gain believers just as religions do. A person basing his/hers atheism on logic implies a belief in logic as the superior source of truth. Therefore, atheists are unavoidably believers as well in a superior source of truth or reality. I can understand atheist difficulty in seeing themselves as believers in anything when they are deeply invested in a non theistic belief system. Fish discover water last.

        • Quizzical

          You assume too much. Show me strong evidence of a god, and I will be a theist. It’s really easy to get me to walk away from my *supposed* “dogma.” Oh yeah, that’s because it’s not a belief at all; I’m just accepting reality as it presents itself by evidence. When a god is in evidence, I become a theist–simple as that.

      • HR

        No interest in you becoming a theist. My point is that atheists are believers. The evidence you mention is for the most part gathered through the 5 senses. The hardness of wood, the smell of flowers, the appearance of the blue sky are all the brain’s electrochemical interpretations of input. We have no evidence of what really lies out there. It could all be composed out of variations in electrical frequencies, a vast construct of various types of gases or fluids. Ultimately, the brain that we are using to experience the tangible universe as ultimate truth and the logic that we have developed based on what our brain displays is suspect because we cannot get out of our brains and see what is out there and how it really looks like. It could all be a dream we are having for all we know. Radiation has no apparent sound, however a Geiger counter interprets radiation as a series of clicks and such counter does not pick up on all types of radiation due to inherent limitations. Therefore, if the device (brain) and systems (logic and definition of reality) derived by the device are not 100% conclusive and cannot be absolutely proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are by definition always dealing with beliefs of one form or another. There lies the problem. The way “reality presents itself by evidence” may not be the way reality really is.

        • Quizzical

          Right, and that’s why we consider the preponderance of the evidence.

          Not believing in something is still not a belief.

          LMAO, you’re starting to make me laugh (which is pleasant). :D

          So, you must also think that people who don’t believe in invisible pink unicorns have a some kind of belief in invisible unicorns not being real? Same with people who don’t believe in dragons or leprechauns? LOL You don’t seem very clear on the difference between believing in something and not believing in it, and it’s only natural to make our best guesses based on evidence perceived through the senses (unless you’ve been pressured to believe things through indoctrination). This is where science becomes so valuable, as we can become much more certain of things when we have repeatability and predictability.

      • HR

        The preponderance of evidence you allude to is questionable at best because we cannot be absolutely certain that the instrument we are using to gather and process the input is actually reporting as is or rearranging and interpreting the data (the Geiger counter interpreting the presence of radiation as audible clicks). You do do come around later in your post and say it is “only natural to make our best guesses based on evidence perceived through the senses”. My point exactly, the religions claim absolute certainty of their God (based on their sensory gathering instruments) and atheists claim absolute certainty of the absence of God (using their own sensory gathering instruments). Both have so much more in common than either is prepared to admit to. And now on to belief/non belief. You got it although it seems uncomfortable, people not believing in pink invisible (how could you verify color?? it must be a belief that there is an invisible pink color) unicorns believe that pink invisible unicorns do not exist. It is the other side of the coin or the other end of the stick, you can’t pick up one side without picking up the other. They are inseparable. I myself agree a lot of this is laughable. And yes here is where science can be of great value. If you look into the way the presumably solid material universe behaves at the fundamental or quantum level you will find out that it is not as solid and predictable as it appears to be. You might find this of interest http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/02/980227055013.htm. You may find this cartoonish explanation of the article enjoyable. Peter Russell has a thought provoking take on the nature of reality http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d4ugppcRUE.

        • Quizzical

          You lost me, there–somewhere around atheists believing that gods absolutely do not exist. To be clear, an atheist is a person who does not buy the god claims of others. There is no requirement of certainty in atheism. It is a lack of belief. Even a person who has never considered a god of any kind is an atheist.

          Not sure how the marvels of quantum mechanics make The Course In Miracles any more likely. Thanks for the reply, anyway.

        • aesthete2

          No, you are misinformed. Atheists simply don’t believe in gods. They don’t “atheists claim absolute certainty of the absence of God “. Only hard atheists say there is no God.

          You want to show us your evidence of Atheists “claiming absolute certainty of the absence of God”? I think you fell for the crap passed around as gospel by Christians.

      • HR

        Quizzical: Here is the link to the cartoonish explanation I mentioned above http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc. Sorry for the mistake.

        • Quizzical

          Huh, I get an error trying to load that. Maybe I can see it later when I get on wifi, hopefully.

  • http://faithrocksproductions.com Adele Terzis

    You talk about church as a religious institution that you belonged to. JESUS came to make us ONE in HIM, not relying on man made institutions. You say you seek the truth, JESUS is THE TRUTH,. So what does all you have been doing and learning have to do with HIM? JESUS said, “Follow me! HE never said, Follow the Adventist, the Methodist, the Catholics, etc. or any so named Christian denomination, and or any other cult or atheist or whatever or whoever.

    THE body of CHRIST has nothing to do with mankind or religious institutions, it is a work of GOD by THE SPIRIT Of GOD.

    You questioned your religious institution and how they handle things, like the homosexuals or woman etc. What would JESUS do? To a homosexual wouldn’t HE say.”Go and sin no more.” To woman we know what HE did, HE revealed HIMSELF to them, and treated them with dignity and respect, and used them to build HIS KINGDOM. JESUS told us to follow HIM. HE also told us in this world you will have tribulation.

    Before, I was a devout follower of JESUS, I went through many hard times from the time I was born, until I gave my life to JESUS CHRIST.

    Since, I became a follower of JESUS, I have had enumerable tribulations. I have been rejected by my closest family, friends, and some churches. I have been homeless and in total poverty. And I struggle with my life daily. What I do know is JESUS is in me in those struggles and has helped and seen me through many of them and still is. I am not alone I have JESUS, THE FATHER and THE HOLY SPIRIT. Also, I have the comfort in knowing that this fallen depraved world is not where I will spend eternity.

    I have received help here and there, and have kept on going, and I am a survivor for sure by the grace of GOD.

    Judas betrayed JESUS, because JESUS was not doing or being what Judas expected JESUS to be or do. Who knows what JESUS is trying to teach you. Maybe to stop looking to mankind, or religious institutions, and to be what JESUS created you to poor or rich.

    • Arizona

      TEDIOUS boilerplate, Adele.

      I have been so appreciating the thoughtful atheist voices here. The atheist expositions have been superlative, inspiring, and quite a relief.

    • David Austin

      Hi Adele Terzis,

      The reason Jesus (if he even existed) never said to follow any particular church, is because he expected the world to end with god returning to earth to restore his kingdom within the lifetime of his disciples – “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” – Matthew 16:28.

      He got that very wrong, so what else was he delusional about?

      If you got through hard times, it was through your own efforts; you don’t need to believe in a non-existent deity to use as a crutch.

      Just open you eyes and see the world without your “Jesus spectacles” and experience “reality” and not “make believe”.

      I wish you good luck.

      David Austin

  • Irene Simmons

    In answer to Adele Terzis .

    I’ve been wondering where the Christians were. in answer to Ryan’s leaving God for a year!

    Your answer and suggestions were right on! Irene Simmons

    • http://faithrocksproductions.com Adele Terzis

      I am a follower of JESUS .

      • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

        You mean Yeshua? That was his name after all, if he even existed.

      • David Austin

        Hi Adele Terzis,

        You say “I am a follower of JESUS”. What exactly does that mean? How much do you know about Jesus? Do you even know who he was, and whether he even existed?

        The only information you have about him is from the bible, and its various gospels & epistles present conflicting views about him.

        Can you tell me when he was born? Was it about 6 BCE according to Matthew or was it 6 CE according to Luke (and incidentally who were these people who wrote the gospels, as the manuscripts were anonymous?).

        Did he wander in the wilderness for 40 days after his baptism, or did he go straight to Canna for the wedding?

        Did Jesus predict the end of the world within the lifetime of his disciples or not, and if so, why hasn’t it happened yet 2,000 years later?

        Did Jesus say the Old Testament laws still applied, ot did he change them?

        What were Jesus’s last words on the cross? Were they “My god, my god, why have you forsaken me” or “It is finished”?

        Were there guards at the tomb according to Matthew, or none? How many people visited the tomb on the third day, and how many people/angels did they meet? Was the stone already rolled away, or rolled away by an angel when the women approached?

        Did you know the gospel of Mark had no appearances of Jesus after the discovery of the empty tomb? Was he even placed in a tomb at all; Paul just said he as buried (no mention of a tomb).

        I would love you to answer at least one of these questions, but I am betting you don’t know even though you say you are a follower of Jesus.

        Just saying ….

        Peace,

        David Austin

  • Miracle

    I admire what you are doing, not becoming an atheist per se, but to be brave enough to walk away from the institution you are not comfortable with anymore. From my point of view you will find in this way nothing but yourself, and there you will find the piece of God you are made of. I have taken the Course in Miracles mentioned above by HR, it is awesome to get to understand the human experience we all are living here, the relation we have with God and the spiritual truth we all are looking at some point in our lives.

    Have a good, safe and interesting trip during this year, for sure I will visit your blog to see how things are going.

    I think it is not necessary becoming an atheist, but who knows, hope you find balance between the extremes you are traveling from and to.

  • ER

    I too left the SDA church a couple years ago, but instead ran towards Christ. Religion and religious institutions were the enemy of Christ and it looks like your issue with God was an actual issue with the institutions or religion. This is not a matter of semantics, but rather the essence of Christianity – a relationship. One more thing I discovered after devoting my life to social justice and causes (homeless ministry, serving with International Justice Mission) – social justice is not the gospel, and I was careful not to let it become it. This is another concern I have for my brothers and sisters heavily involved in “causes” rather than a relationship with Christ. God bless you brother. I hope you find what you are looking for.

    • Quizzical

      You have a relationship with someone who doesn’t exist, with long-dead person? That must be a very one-sided conversation, unless you talk to yourself and then answer yourself. I guess that’s what people like you (who have a “relationship” with Jesus) do, isn’t it? Then they sound like they’re blathering about their hallucinations. (Sorry, sometimes reality bites.)

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  • http://Facebook Victoria Cross Fiedler Johnson

    I am in utter awe of your courage and strength. My former husband graduated from Fuller Seminary in 1979. We were close with Dr. Bob Munger who wrote “My Heart, Christ’s Home,” the evangelical pamphlet you are I’m sure familiar with. We lived in Pasadena those three years and I taught at a Catholic school in Hollywood, and one in Pasadena while he took classes at Fuller. My husband became a Presbyterian USA pastor and our first church was in Omaha. I had been raised in the Nazarene church, a fundamentalist church with similar beliefs as the SDA church. I even took classes at Walla Walla University, graduated from Northwest Nazarene University, and had my first negative interaction as a female student in one of my many required religion classes in 1973. The class was on Romans, and I remember clearly becoming enraged with the instructor who refused to allow discussion or disagreement of any sort. All I wanted was to become an English teacher and assumed learning rhetoric, strategies and philosophies of thought would be encouraged. I was looked upon with disgust as if I were one of Virgil’s victim from the seven circle. I majored in Literature and my very small closed world, began cracking open like an egg’s shell in hot water. I read everything I could get my hands on, sometimes hiding books under the bed from my pastor husband. He became increasingly difficult, verbally abusive, then physically abusive to both me and my two girls, punching holes in the wall, etc. The overlay of what was coming out of his mouth in the pulpit was too much for my brain to even begin to consider with all that was going on in our home. Because I had the audacity to sincerely question him theologically in small group settings, was off putting–he felt I was putting his job at times at risk. He said I was playing good cop bad cop, and to stop. It took me eighteen more years, and I did stop. I divorced him. My faith began as a child looking at that picture of Jesus standing at the door without the door handle, you know the one…he won’t open it unless you knock. So my journey is an every day journey. My son in law is a Buddhist. I have read many books on Buddhism, A Course in Miracles, Sartre, Niche, etc. I just retired from teaching after 39 years. I am just beginning my journey. I had the same resolution this year. I resolved to find out what my belief system was, if I even had one. I have not attended church of any kind 18 years. Eventually my former pastor husband was defrocked and asked to leave the church because he refused to go along with the LGBT movement, especially in leadership and he has now started a very small and conservative seed church in Montana. With an agreeable and pleasant wife. Who questions nothing and believes her husband is God himself. I will be reading you everyday dear dear man.

    Victoria Johnson

    Lake Stevens, WA

    • NuAgnostic

      Thanks for sharing your story. I like the tone and insight your words gave.

      • Victoria J

        I AM UTTERLY FASCINATED BY THIS MAN’S JOURNEY AND AM BECOMING A BIT OBSESSED WITH THIS BLOG. ON ANOTHER NOTE, I SENT THE LINK TO MY EX HUSBAND, AND HE HAS ALREADY BEGAN THE ARGUMENT. FOR HIM, I THINK IT IS “LET THE GAMES BEGIN” BUT FOR ME IT IS LET’S FIND THE ANSWERS, THE SUMMUM BONUM, THE PERFECT TRUTH–NOT THE RELATIVE TRUTH, BUT LET’S BEGIN WITH SOCRATES. REMEMBER THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE? YES. LET’S USE OUR BRAINS AND THINK. LET’S CLIMB THE STAIRS OUT OF THE CAVE AND BE BLINDED BY THE SKY. NO SHADOWS, NO PUPPETS, JUST REALITY.

  • Marc Simone

    While atheism is the correct choice, and reflects reality, you have to replace the bad philosophy that was the core of your religion. Ridding oneself of the concept of God is fine, and true. But religious belief is accompanied by a philosophy of its own, and that must be replaced also. Atheism is not a philosophy or a code to guide your life. It is simply observation and acceptance of that which is objectively true. The next step is to establish a comprehensive personal philosophy, based on reality and the Law of Identity. I strongly suggest that you explore the philosophy of Objectivism. The best way to understand and appreciate it is to read the novel Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. It will change your life in ways you cannot imagine, and will enable you to become the best possible person you could ever hope to be. But not without cost. The standards requires are high, and require painful introspection. You might not be able to live up to them. It’s a huge undertaking. But the quest to even attempt it will itself become a pinnacle in your life.

  • http://www.scientology.org Mark

    Don’t forget to look into Scientology. It is not specifically atheistic. I have never read or heard Hubbard say there is no God, but he has at times taken shots at modern Christianity in his lectures and writings. Here is one example: “Christianity succeeded by making people into victims. We can succeed by making victims into people.”, HCOB 18 July, 1959

    Scientology simply includes in its teachings that a person has 8 urges to survive (called ‘dynamics’): surviving as oneself, as a family, as a member of a group, and so on. “The Eighth Dynamic also is commonly called God, the Supreme Being or Creator, but it is correctly defined as infinity. It actually embraces the allness of all.” There is no worship in Scientology, just study and religious counsel. It is a religion because it addresses the spirit and eternity.

    Here is a general description of Scientology from Wikipedia:

    Scientology teaches that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature. Its method of spiritual rehabilitation is a type of counselling known as auditing, in which practitioners aim to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects.

    Good luck on your journey!

    • Quizzical

      Scientology? LOL, you are kidding, right? Why jump from one cult to another? Scientology will separate you from your family and friends, work you like a dog, and take all your money. But if that’s what you’re into . . .

      • http://www.scientology.org Mark

        Though one or more of these things has happened to some people, they are in the small minority. I know a number of Scientologists who are tight with their non-Scientology family members and have enough (or even plenty) of money. And although their core dedicated members do work 7 days a week for more than 8 hours most of those days, they have agreed that they want to dedicate their lives to their religion and know about this commitment up front. Easily 99% of Scientologists live a similar lifestyle to their friends, neighbors and co-workers. You will find “wronged” members in any religion. And you will find members who are little “too obsessed with their religion” in any religion. Scientology is no different in that aspect.

        • Quizzical

          Some of that may be true, and I have not much trouble admitting that all religions can be equally abusive, depending on the day. If you think it’s fine to support an organization that would abuse its core members, then I guess that’s you. It’s not me.

          And of course, it was made up by a failed sci-fi writer who wanted to show that the more outlandish it is, the more believers you could enroll into a religion. Sure, there are space travelers and volcanoes, and all kinds of fun auditing your brain, and stuff, but it sure costs a bundle to buy the final secrets.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      Scientology is even more harmful than Christianity, if you’ve ever read up about how it “really” is. Try Googling “Operation Clambake”. Scientology ruins lives and relationships. Perhaps their emerging reformation (separating Scientology from the Church of Scientology) will be another story, but the church-controlled movement is insidious.

      • brian

        Really? You can quantify the amount of damage one religion does over another? I don’t disagree with you that they ruin lives and relationships but no more so than any other religion. In our world today we have, Buddhist monks killing people in Burma, Catholic Priests rapping boys, Orthodox Jews blockading Palestinians so they starve. It’s not to say that some of these religions cannot do some good things too but the truth is they think that the other religion is wrong. Therefore God is on their side. By that standard they are all insane.

        It seems to me they exist because our fragile ego’s cannot accept the fact that we are just self aware pattern seeking primates. That there is no ‘bigger plan’. We like the idea of being a part of a grand plan, something to make us more important than what we actually are, the result of millions of years of genetic trial and error. But enough about religion :-)

        • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

          You caught me Brian, I made a claim I can’t back up. =P I still recommend going to the Operation Clambake site and reading up on how the Church of Scientology actually runs that religion; that will speak for itself, beyond anything I have to say.

  • Lori

    First, I’d like to say you have great courage.

    Regardless of where you land, you are doing something important. Too many people simply accept the dogma feed them as children. How do we know what works best if we don’t evaluate what’s out there? I don’t think you can actually claim a religion as your own without taking this journey. Without the journey, it’s inherited and not truly your own.

    I was raised SDA and value the lifestyle it provided, healthily, honest, hard-working folk.

    I underwent my own journey and found it necessary to keep it private. Uncertainty makes people uncomfortable.

    I landed on Humanism. I found A.C.Graylings books to be very helpful.

    Your are doing something great!

    All the best to you!

  • doaa

    so ,why you don’t try islam …. i think it will answer all your question undoubtedly

    follow this link i think you will find tour inquiry

    http://www.islamreligion.com/category/39/

    • doaa

      so ,why you don’t try islam …. i think it will answer all your question undoubtedly

      follow this link i think you will find your inquiry

      http://www.islamreligion.com/category/39/

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      Don’t be absurd. He’s leaving his Christian church behind because of issues he has with it, such as their discrimination against gay/lesbian people. Islam is much worse in all the areas he has expressed concern; do you even care about this man, or do you just want to proselytize your religion?

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  • Marie

    You have a lot of comments here, so I’ll make it short. I also grew up SDA and I understand and deeply appreciate your train of thought. People are going to mock you and misunderstand, but just remember that you’re doing this for you and no one else. I am very anxious to read your blog for the year and really hope I can gain some insight as well. Thank you for blogging this experiment. It means a lot to me personally.

  • Gary

    Enough already of the attempts at prosylyting. I too grew up in the SDA church, spent most of my life teaching in one of their universities, and continue on the journey to come to a worldview that works for me. It really doesn’t matter that it is impossible to truly become an atheist in the blink of an eye, nor does it matter that the defining characteristic is lack of belief.

    I have seen many of my students over the decades make a similar experiment. It is like they put on an “atheist” cloak, spend some time in it, read and think about atheism, and see if it fits. For some it fits and they discard any theism they have. Others retreat to an agnostic atheism or an agnostic theism.

    I see Ryan “trying on the cloak” to see how it fits and he is favoring us by letting us watch his journey. I appreciate that very much and don’t care to read attempts by Christians to “save” him nor do I care to have atheists point out that he really isn’t one of them yet.

    Thank you for taking the journey publically that many of us have taken very privately.

    • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

      BTW “agnostic atheists” comprise the vast majority of atheists, and your post makes it seem like being an atheist is one thing and an agnostic atheist another. It would work better to compare “gnostic atheists” (strong) and “agnostic atheists” (weak), with the former being the ones who claim there are no gods and the latter simply not holding any belief in gods. As far as I know, the Dawkins’ Scale (“a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is certitude that God exists and 7 is certitude that God does not exist”) doesn’t get to gnostic/strong atheism until “7″ is reached.

      • Gary

        Good point aldrisang. I should have used gnostic atheist to describe the “cloak” that many have tried on. Hence the “retreat” to agnostic atheist or some type of theist.

        • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

          Yeah I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. Most people who go from religion to atheism don’t go straight to strong atheism, they in fact lose their faith little by little and only a minority end up becoming strong atheists.

          • Gary

            My experience is with college-aged people who “try on” gnostic atheism to see how it fits. I agree that many of us on this journey moved slowly away from theism and that most journeys end without traveling all the way to gnostic atheism. What I am saying is that what Ryan is exploring is similar to many of the explorations that I have observed first hand.

          • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

            Still I think you’re confusing gnostic and agnostic atheism. What Ryan Bell is doing is trying on agnostic atheism, at least in behavior if not in belief (or lack thereof). I find it strange that you say college students try on “gnostic” atheism… that would mean they go from belief in God to claiming with certainty that there are no gods, instead of considering that belief in gods are unjustified and investigating naturalistic/alternative explanations for the big questions (which would be agnostic atheism). Are you sure that you simply are not mislabeling?

          • Gary

            I now see that the very act of trying on the cloak makes them agnostic because the very nature of the trial period leaves them in the agnostic camp. Thank you for clarifying that for me. The end result of the experiment may see them being comfortable with that position, may see them slip back towards theism of some kind, or the investigation may eventually lead them into gnostic atheism.

          • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

            Oh really? I thought we were going to argue more. =) This is much better. Yeah someone who is questioning and looking at alternatives almost never starts out at the opposite extreme of their own position. Glad we came to agreement on that, I was about to just agree to disagree and walk away. ;)

        • Quizzical

          How can one “try on a cloak” of belief or disbelief? Either you are convinced of a thing, or you aren’t (thus believing or disbelieving it). I don’t understand that. There is no way I could believe in any gods (thus far presented to me); how could I change that? The closest I could come is pretending to believe in it, and clearly pretending to believe in a god is not the same thing as actually believing in one. I’m head scratching.

          I still think this is a worthy experiment on Ryan’s part, however, since the religious rule against doubting is plainly self-serving to any cult. Everything should be subject to examination.

          • http://gravatar.com/lathropjoseph Joseph Lathrop

            I have to Agree with Quizzical you cant NOT believe something you believe any more than you can Believe something you Dont believe. if you say you believe and say you Dont your A Lier same if you say you Dont believe if you Do, you cant Try out unbeliefe there is no middle Ground and befor any one says yes there is Doubt its not a middle Ground its questioning Something you believe in.

    • Lisa Gamble

      Gary, that was very well said. It would have been very nice, indeed, to have had others to talk with and bounce ideas and thoughts off of when I took my own “journey” many years ago.

      It would be wonderful if Ryan’s public quest led to more people talking to each other about their various personal beliefs instead of at each other. Sadly, the cynical side of me doubts it will, but there is always hope. :-)

    • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

      Thanks for the comments Gary.

      Something I am finding interesting in this thread is an unstated assumption that we have some control over what we believe. I discovered I have exactly zero control over what I believe. I was convinced of the truth of evolution completely against my will. I too was puzzled by the notion of trying on atheism. It makes it sound like there are choices.

      I didn’t want to be an unbeliever, I never did. I was always comfortable in the SDA church, and still think it has many socially redeeming qualities. It took on Darwin and lost. But it wasn’t the first time for a church: Catholicism took on Galileo and lost. Eventually Catholicism found a way. Seventh Day Adventism as far as I can tell, is still struggling in a hopeless battle against Darwin.

      Being a believer for me was more comfortable and more comforting than atheism. I didn’t choose atheism, it chose me. My own belief system required Creationism with a capital C. I never found a way around that. Fundamentalist Christianity and evolutionary theory just don’t play well together.

      What the SDA church needs is a counterpart to the Catholic’s Jesuits. The SDA university scientists are the closest it has, but they need more freedom to speak out and point out the obvious.

      spike

      • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

        Aldrisang commented: …someone who is questioning and looking at alternatives almost never starts out at the opposite extreme of their own position…

        Worth noting somewhere in this discussion is an observation that fundamentalist theism and hardcore atheism are not really opposites. Depending on how one maps these things, the two are nearly adjacent on a belief scale. This may not seem all that obvious to those who haven’t experienced fundamentalist religious thought. It often carries a clear message that things are exactly this way or not at all. Fundamentalist belief systems are rigid and therefore brittle. They don’t bend easily, they just break. If that happens, it is a logical direction for the former believer to go straight to atheism, and if they do, they tend to be very convinced and strict in their atheism, just as they were once rigid in their beliefs.

        Fundamentalist Christianity and atheism are adjacent and similar in some important ways.

        spike

        • Gary

          Good point aldrisang. The move from Fundamentalist Christian to atheist that you so perceptively address is that binary-seeming choice that ignores the intervening positions on the religio-philosophic spectrum.

      • Gary

        Thanks Spike66. I understand a little of your journey but in my experience there are plenty of Christians who have come to peace with Darwinian evolution.

        I was one of those SDA scientists who spent my life trying to get that church to accept the scientific evidence and incorporate it into its world view. I finally got tossed under the bus after 46 years of teaching in their school system.

        Perhaps my continuing journey will lead me to where you are but I think it is much more complex than the seemingly binary choice that you are suggesting.

        I must say that I am grateful for the healthy lifestyle that I inherited.

        • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

          Hi Gary,

          After I read your comment I realized that you and I may have met, on an outing with a church group some time ago. One of your former students introduced us, but it was professor, not Gary. I didn’t feel we could talk in that setting. I was hoping to discuss the matter further, but not in this medium. Do feel free to contact me at my home @ and be assured the matter will be private, spike66@att.net. There are other kindred spirits, people who realize SDA is a gift but faces an enormous problem which will eventually destroy it, should it not recognize the lesson Catholicism learned in its attack on Galileo. spike

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  • http://repressedexpressions.wordpress.com gimpet

    Ecclesiastes is an interesting book in that the author did exactly what you are doing. He ‘did it all’ and in the end decided that it was all meaningless EXCEPT for the fear of the Lord. In some way this one concept alone meant something to him after seeking the world. Christianity may be a free gift but it is a hard road that few will complete and takes a re-commitment every day of one’s life to gird oneself up for the battle and run the race. If you are tired of the race, perhaps you never started it, perhaps you just need to sit and rest. Resting outside of the protection of God’s hands is definitely risky, as my story on my blog will attest. But my hope for you is that you will come out a strong person with whatever you decide at the end of this year and that you can use these experiences for good.

    • Irene Simmons

      Gimpet, finally there is a response to Ryan Bell that makes a lot of sense. You understand about the battle and the race. You obviously understand and know about which you are speaking. I was beginning to wonder if anyone on this site truly knew the mystery of God.

      What a relief to know there is at leas one!

      • Quizzical

        So the most important thing in life is to be afraid? And to be afraid of an invisible figure whom you learn about in a book? That sounds really sad. :’(

      • David Austin

        Hi Irene Simmons & Gimpet,

        I am amazed at your god’s omnibenevolence.

        He/she/it says that you have “free will” to believe, but if you make the wrong choice and reject god, you will be cast into “a lake of fire”.

        This seems NOT a very free choice does it?.

        How can you love such a cruel tyrant? Even if I knew for certain that your god exists, I would not wish to worship such a evil person.

        I just hope you have chosen the right god to worship. If the “one true god” is Allah, then you are in for a terrible time when you die. The muslim hell involves burning off your skin, and then re-growing it again & again so it can be burned off eternally.

        Just saying………….

        David Austin

        • Irene Simmons

          I am extremely grateful that I know my God well. I have studied His Word for a very long time and His Holy Spirit has filled my Spirit for a long time. I know Him well and am not even a little bit concerned about the Muslims being correct. The One True God provides a way for everyone to be saved for eternity and He desires that all would be saved, but unfortunately many will not believe. You cannot blame Him for that. I guess you would desire a god that would make robots out of everyone, giving them no free choice. I sincerely pray that you will see the light which is Jesus Christ.

          • Quizzical

            “Many will not believe”? You say that almost as if it were a choice. One cannot simply decide to believe something. In order to believe in a god, my mind would have to be convinced of it. I’ve not seen anything convincing yet. Perhaps you have some evidence?

            It’s not very nice of your god (were he to exist against all odds) to make me unable to believe in him and then torture me for Being the way he made me. it’s not my choice. That is not someone I would worship, or even give the time of day. That’s an abusive personality. Would you adore a person who said, “Love me, or else”? I wouldn’t.

          • Quizzical

            Also, Irene, he could show some compassion by at least proving he exists. That would hardly take away our free will to love him or not. How am I supposed to decide whether I love someone I’ve never met or even spoken with? Maybe he’s really a demon who got people to write the Bible in order to sucker people into his trap. You can’t see him, nor detect him in any way, so he could be anything (or nothing).

      • David Austin

        Hi Irene,

        I can see that you are so indocrinated in your “faith”, that you cannot see outside your “christian bubble”.

        Have you ever used the “Outsiders Test of Faith” (by John Loftus) to critique your assumptions about Christianity”? This test involves looking at the tenets of your faith from an outsiders perspective to see if it is coherent and believable, You are already doing this when you say that Islam is not the true faith, but have you considered how Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddists etc view Christianity? I very much doubt it !!

        If you just take off your “jesus spectacles” for a minute and view the world through logic & reason you would see how absurd your beliefs are.

        The reason for your large brain can be explained by evolution. There is no reason to invoke a “creator”.

        You say :-

        ” I feel great sorrow for anyone, living in this evil world, who does not know the one true God and I pray that you will be convicted at some point to make the right decision.”. I think your use of “convicted” rather than “convinced” is a Freudian slip that reveals your true feelings. You are saying I am convicted by god for non-belief and doomed to eternal torture. If god is so cruel to punish people for honestly seeking the truth, then this is not a god I would want to worship.

        Regards,

        David Austin

      • ken

        Well goblenman,

        Your post would make perfect sence except that you are starting with one wrong premis. Faith is not believing in something based on feelings or with out evidence. I encurage you to look up the catholic definition of faith. Faith has more to do with behavior and less to do with what you believe. Unfortunatly too many parents and preachers, when asked to defend there religion simply answered “you just have to have faith” because they didn’t know the answer and for too many generations christianity was passed along like a bit of unquestionable dogma. The answers are still there if you seek them out. I think what you will find is that our understanding of God is wrong. That the churches have remade God in our immage and that he is nothing more than a idol.

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  • Irene Simmons

    for Quizzical, in the Bible, the fear of God means respect for His awesomeness!

    • Quizzical

      Oh. I wonder why they use the word “fear,” instead of “respect,” then. I’m sure they had a word meaning “respect” back then. Strange, isn’t it? Huh, oh well, just another inexplicable “mystery,” I suppose.

      • Irene Simmons

        The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Sometimes

        the original meaning is different than it is in English.

        • Quizzical

          Yes, Irene, obviously. I’m still pretty sure the Hebrews and Greeks had a word for “respect” other than “fear.” Those weren’t prehistoric times, though it was long ago.

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene Simmons,

      It just amazes me how you can claim that you “know” your god so well. I would love for you to give me the evidence on which you base that assurance.

      If you say that your god has omnibenevolence, why does he/she/it not make its appearance known to everybody? Billions of people around the world (not just atheists, but muslims, hindus, buddists,jains etc etc) are, by your reckoning, doomed to hell and etenal torture. How can you reconcile this with a “loving” god?

      You can give people evidence and still have “free will”. For example, Satan knew god intimately, and yet he still rebelled against him/her/it. Even if you could prove today that your god existed, I would still not wish to worship some-one so evil.At the very least, he/she/it would have a lot of explaining to do, as to why god is such a cruel tyrant.

      Maybe, if there is a god, he/she/it is just testing you to see if you can use the large brain you were given for its proper purpose. Maybe it is only atheists that get “saved” for using their intellect as god intended.

      I just hope that you will escape from your belief in a non-existent god, and come back to the real world. I guess it is a forlorn hope as you are so heavily indoctrinated.

      Good luck

      David Austin

      • Irene Simmons

        David, the only proof I can give you is that I accepted Jesus Christ as a 13 year old and have never been more sure of anything in my life. My spirit was empty and void at that tme and since that time, my spirit has been filled with the Holy Spirit. There is no way for you to know that. The Bible says only the “man” (which means man or woman) and God know

        that the Holy Spirit resides inside a person. It also makes it clear that no one can judge that either.

        I am using my intellect given to me by God. You mention my large brain. Where do you think your brain came from? It is such a brilliant mechanism and could not have just happened. It had to be created and planned.

        I have only been indoctrinated by God and I can’t think of any reason why I would want to belong to anyone else. God is not even a little bit evil. It is because of His righteousness that you rebel against Him. He is Almighty, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Awesome, AND SO MUCH MORE. God is Sovereign and in control. You can’t decide what He should do or even guess why He does what He does. You can only accept Him or reject Him. I feel great sorrow for anyone, living in this evil world, who does not know the one true God and I pray that you will be convicted at some point to make the right decision.

        • Quizzical

          Actually, Irene, we have an excellent explanation for the existence of brains. Apparently, they evolved by natural selection (and that’s what ALL the evidence supports).

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene Simmons,

      By using the “free will” defence for divine hiddeness, you have proved conclusively that your god cannot exist. How is that possible? I will explain:-

      1. I guess you agree that your god is supposed to be omnibenevolent and he wants as many of his “children” to be saved – OK so far.

      2. He wants us to feely choose to believe or not (You said he doesn’t want robots).

      3. He must therefore have to communicate with us somehow in a manner not to violate our free will.

      4. Therefore miracles are not be available to god as a way of letting us know his presence as a suspension of natural laws would be a “dead give-away” that he exists.

      5. Similarly, prayers cannot be answered. If every time someone prayed, the prayer was answered, this would lead you to logically assume some-one or something was manipulating “nature” in your favour, which would again violate your free will. You must therefore assume that when, occasionally, your prayer was answered it was just a coincidence and it was going to happen anyway.

      6. God would not transmit his message in a book, which could be mis-translated or misinterpreted. That would be far too risky for an important message.

      7. Hence, the only way to reliably transmit this important message would be to some-how implant it directly in your mind (conciousness).

      8. Assuming there is only “One True God”, this message must be the same for all people around the world, as your god would only want himself to be worshipped.

      9. There are many different gods worshipped around the world with totally conflicting doctrines.

      10. Hence all people do not receive the same message, and thus god cannot exist or multiple gods exist (which you reject). Thus your christian god does not exist.

      QED

      Have a great day,

      David Austin

      • ken

        David,

        That’s the most ridicoulis argument I have heard so far and you must be self deluded if you think that even makes sense. Its funny how people fool themselves into tbinking they are rational when they are realy driven by emotion

        • David Austin

          Hi Ken,

          Thanks for your comments.

          I would ask you to explain how my argument is ridiculous. It is no good just making an attack on my reasoning without giving a refutation.

          If you cannot explain where you think my reasoning is flawed, I am at liberty to reject your comment.

          You say I am deluded and driven by emotion not rationality, but ad hominen attacks do not count as evidence. Can you back up this claim?

          I see the world through the eyes of rationality, and any other perspective, to me, is delusion.

          Just saying,

          Cheers

          David Austin

  • Irene Simmons

    David, you are putting words in my message that I did not mean. The Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity whose job it is to “convict” people of their need for a Savior. I can see that you are so Teflon in your belief against the one True God that it would be almost impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

    Have you ever studied the Bible at all? I don’t see any evidence of it, but I am curious.

    I appreciate your being willing to debate me. I feel so blessed to be a member of God’s Kingdom and I very much look forward to being with Him after this life is over. There is nothing you could say that would influence me otherwise and I see that it is the same wih you, so I’ll just say I wish you all the luck in this world.

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      As an atheist, I do not say “there is no god”. I just say “I have not been presented with enough evidence for me to be “convinced” or “convicted” that a god (or any gods) exist”. If god is so powerful (omnipotent) he could easily persuade me, but apparently he is not interested in saving my “soul”.

      I have read much of the bible, and also carefully studied the ancient history of 1st century Palestine. I do not base my arguments on the bible because we have no way of knowing who wrote it and how much can be confirmed by eye-wirtness reports.

      I would ask you to present one piece of evidence, (outside of the bible) from the time that Jesus supposedly lived, that indicates that Jesus even existed? You cannot because such evidence does not exist. If some-one found it they would be a world-wide sensation overnight, but it has never happened. This is surprising since Jesus supposedly did amazing things, and strange things happened when he was apparently crucified (two earthquakes, eclipse lasting three hours, dead saints rising from their graves and marching through Jerusalem, Temple curtain ripped top to bottom) and yet nothing of this gets reported by Jewish or Roman historians. On one hand apologists say Jesus was the most amazing person of all time, and yet documentation of him outside the bible is practically non-existent.

      You say :-

      “There is nothing you could say that would influence me otherwise and I see that it is the same wih you,” This is the ultimate example of closed-minedness. At least I admit evidence would persuade me if presented, but apologists can never seem to come up with anything convincing.

      I see no point continuing this discussion since you have been completely “sucked in” by your indoctrination, but I hope (maybe forlornly) thay one day your eyes will be opened and you will release yourself from the shackles of religion.

      Good luck

      David Austin

    • Lorie Klahn

      Dear Irene,

      God bless your Lioness’ heart of courage on this forum. I love you with the love of the Lord! I am just posting to give you a shout out, as you have tried to share your heart ‘s beliefs, which is a very difficult thing to explain to an intellectual’s satisfaction. I think that perhaps many people who have come to believe that there is no God came to that point through a purely intellectual process. If you are like me, you came to faith by hearing and then believing. We know and understand how we got to this position of faith, but because it was not an intellectual process, but rather the work of the Holy Spirit upon our soul, our explanations of our faith will only frustrate an intellectual Atheist. Many of the Atheists here do not appear to accept that there is more than one way to KNOW. I just wanted to chime in so you would know that you do not stand here all alone. WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe, the Creator, and the Savior who died and rose again. He did indeed give you and I (and everyone else reading this forum) a CHOICE to accept Him, or Reject Him, because He loves us all, and, as you said, He wants our love for Him to be real, not robotic. He respects peoples’ choices. Free will is one of His greatest gifts to mankind, and every person here has exercised it. You and I stand for our faith not as great orators or professional debaters who want to (or are able to) win an argument here, but as Sisters in Christ who are concerned about our brother Mr Bell. I came here to say to him that I am continuing to pray for him. I guess I expected more congenial debate on here, so I’ll ALSO pray for everyone here to treat each other with more love, kindness and tolerance! Yikes people!

      ~Lorie Klahn, a Fellow Follower of Jesus Christ (which is not a religion)

      • Quizzical

        “Many of the Atheists here do not appear to accept that there is more than one way to KNOW. . . WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW THAT WE KNOW that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe, the Creator, and the Savior who died and rose again.”

        So you think something called a “holy spirit” can give you knowledge of things by bypassing your intellect? So you get to know things without ever thinking about them at all? Wow, that’s special. Or maybe it’s an excuse to be lazy and decide what is true based on how it makes you feel, rather than on the facts. And keep in mind that people of every religion say the same thing about their own gods–they just know they know they know. You can’t all be right about your gods, but you are all convinced by some feeling or another that you “know” your beliefs are true. See how that works? .

      • David Austin

        Lorie,

        Most of the atheists who comment on this blog are not trying to be deliberately confrontational, and just want healthy discourse. It seems asking simple questions of christians is somehow seen as aggressive and impolite. We try not to denigrate people but I think we have the right to question ideas.

        Theists, such as yourself, are, by virtue of your religion, making a claim that what you believe is true and correct. I think when you are claiming that a person 2,000 years ago was sent down to earth by a “god”, lived amongst people in 1st century Palestine and performed miracles to prove that he was also a “god”, and finally was killed, rose from the dead and was taken into “heaven”, this is quite a claim. You are also claiming, that if we believe this, we can be forgiven of “sins” we may have done in our lifetime, and go to “heaven” after we die. These are pretty extraordinary claims, and as was remarked “extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence”. Similarly some-one quoted “That which is claimed without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”.

        All we are asking, as skeptics, is some shred of evidence that can support your claims. Have you examples of genuine “miracles” occuring (eg amputated limb regrowing)? Can you show that prayers are answered every time? After all, Jesus said :-

        And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:13-14

        It is frustrating that christians never provide any evidence. You are quick to say Islam, Hinduism, Buddism etc is false, but again you do not produce any evidence to back this up. How do you disprove their “god” claims?

        You can imagine that a muslim would look at the claims of christianity and find them contradictory and illogical from their perspective.

        How do you know as christians that you have picked the right “version” of christianity? Maybe catholics have got the right formula for entry to heaven, or maybe they are doing it all wrong and will be condemned. Maybe Anglicans are right or Methodists or Baptists. It would be a great catastrophe if you accidentally picked the wrong one. How can you even prove your own version is the “One True Faith”?

        You say you get your “authority” from the Bible, but non-one has ever proved that the bible is true & correct. You say it is “divinely inspired” but do you claim “god” actually wrote it? If humans wrote it, how do you know they copied it down correctly. Did “god” make sure it could never be altered, or prevent mistakes creeping in? If “god” did, then why have you so many manuscripts with different text?

        The originals were most likely written in Hebrew & Greek, so how do we know the English translations we now have are correct, and express what the original authors intended.

        When you can answer at least some of these questions, we would be more interested in what your religion purports to teach us all about this life we live on this speck of dust in the vast cosmos.

        Regards

        David Austin

        • Steve

          David (and several others who are atheists),

          I think my own comments have made it abundantly clear that I don’t ascribe to Irene’s brand of charismatic Christianity. There’s plenty of room to question the details, to put it briefly.

          That said, some of the atheists here are also missing the point. When you try to dissect the Bible and religious belief with exacting logic, you’re falling into the same trap as Christians who try to prove the Bible scientifically and rationally. It was never meant to be a science text or a history book. Ok, well, that’s not entirely accurate, there is some history in the OT, particularly Judges and Kings. But I think you get the broader point.

          It’s a work of ethics and morality. It highlights stories of good and bad behavior (mostly bad, if you count…) and strives to show the consequences of both. It’s a shorthand for stuff humanity has learned the hard way and sought to pass on. “We know, says a generation passed, that you can figure this out with a lot of pain and bloodshed, but for what it’s worth, we figured out a long time ago that a society that tries to get rid of X, Y, and Z is going to be better off and we thought we’d pass that on to the future. Good luck to you, love, your ancestors.”

          You’re free to dispute, laugh at, and even mock the details. Plenty of us roll our eyes at the idea of seas parting, loaves dropping from heaven, virgin birth, and resurrection from the dead. Lots of us groan and want to bang our heads on the wall when we hear fellow Christians assert that the Earth is 6000 years old despite every evidence to the contrary, or that man walked the Earth with the dinosaurs. And there are plenty of questions about the divinity of Jesus, the historical person of Jesus, and even whether such a single person existed. Maybe he was just a political radical, or a philosopher seeking to reform Judaism, or an amalgam of people created 300 years later to save a faith whose institutions had nearly been obliterated by the Greeks and Romans. Christians have been debating and struggling with those questions for 2000 years. And along the way, Christians have made deeply regrettable and painfully stupid mistakes, many of them shamefully bloody. We wear that blood, and the shame that it rightfully brings.

          What I do know is three things. First, it is perfectly possible to live a wholesome and decent life without believing in a supreme deity. Second, regardless of whether you agree with me or not, there are things I have seen and felt in my life that are very hard to explain without thinking that there’s something out there or up there a little larger than all of us. I can’t explain it rationally, and I don’t try. And third, having explored the systems put forward by several faiths, Christianity well-interpreted offers a code of morals and ethics that makes sense to me. I’ve read Bart Ehrman’s critiques, and I agree there are plenty of holes in the narrative. I would never assert that it is the only path to a moral life, but it is one. And what I can tell you is that it has never hurt me or any of the people around me to live my life according to its tenets.

          And maybe that’s all that really is needed. It works, and it makes things a little better in a messy and troubling world. It is not history or science, but it is a moral center in the storm that is our all-too brief passage in this life. While you’re picking apart the holes in Irene’s narrative (which I acknowledge is like shooting fish in a barrel), please try not to overlook that side of the story.

          Sincere regards.

          • David Austin

            Hi Steve,

            Thanks for responding to my post, and for your thoughtful insights.

            I understand what you are saying, but to my point of view, I can come to understanding morality wihout having to resort to a “divine spirit” or refer to a 2,000 year old book where you have to “cherry-pick” what nuggets of useful information it might contain

            How do you decide which bits are descriptive and which are prescriptive or proscriptive. You cannot really tell from the context of any given passage whether it is supposed to be telling what you should do, and what you shouldn’t do.

            I prefer to get my morality from considering what is generally good for society as a whole. The “golden rule” is quite useful, and was, of course formulated long before Jesus’s time.

            I don’t know what your actual experiences were, so I cannot comment, but I would say that humans generally do sometimes attribute strange events to a “supernatural” explanation when they cannot immediately think of a natural explanation. We are all guilty of confirmation bias too sometimes.

            I would just say to people like Irene is that, why is that you having been given, apparently, a wonderful “free gift” of eternal life, and yet billions of us not privy to this special knowledge (atheists, muslims, sikhs, hindus, buddists) have been deprived. Surely, for an omnibenevolent god, this seems incredibly wicked, sending us all non-true-christians to eternal torture.

            God was always popping down to earth to chat with Adam & Eve, Abraham, Moses, Noah and even wrestling with Jacob, but now he seems to want to hide himself for no apparent reason (apart from the ridiculous “free will” argument).

            Even if he doesn’t pop down to talk to us, couldn’t he leave some undeniable proof of his presence. I was thinking of a huge carved writing across Mt Sinai saying “I am your god Yahweh; The Bible is my message to you all”, that could not possibly have got there by natural means. Couldn’t the Bible contain some amazing insight into science that would be instantly recognized as something only an omniscient god would know. Instead we see none of that, just some miracles that were only viewable, apparently, by the people of that time, and left no lasting impression.

            Now the only miracles we see are when a plane crashes and hundreds of people are killed and one baby survives. “Its a miracle” everybody shouts, not thinking about the hundreds that god allowed to perish.

            Why does god inflict a typhoon on the Phillipines and kills thousands in one of the most christian countries in the world? Obviously they didn’t have the wrong religion, so it can’t be a punishment. Maybe to punish Gays in the US for fighting for marriage equality; Yes that must be it.!!

            I respect your attitude to have a very moderate view of christianity, but unfortunately you don’t speak for the vast majority who want to inflict their radical views on the rest of the population. I am fortunate to live in Australia where there is not so much radical religion practised. This is probably why Ken Ham left for the US as he didn’t get much support for his nonsense here.

            I hope your views can be more widely adopted.

            Regards

            David Austin

          • http://avengah.wordpress.com avengah

            I found this the other day. It’s about how atheists and progressive Christians can work together. Have a look and see what you think; the talk in question was a few days ago but the premise is good. We have much more in common than we do with the wingnuts! http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2014/01/attn-dcmaryland-upcoming-discusson-on-how-atheist-religious-progressives-can-work-together/

          • Quizzical

            Christianity has great moral tenets? It makes the world a better place? How? Which tenets? Maybe if you are a heterosexual male, it does good things for your privilege, but do you think it makes life better for women and gays? Right now, it’s closing clinics all over the country that poor women once relied on for preventive care (including cancer screenings)–because it’s so “moral.” I guess it’s better than being burned alive, tortured, mutilated, publicly drowned. or otherwise brutally murdered, like in the good ol’ days, but it appears more of a divisive (in-group) tribal mentality than a good moral contributor.

          • Steve

            Qizzical, you’re now guilty of the same inaccuracy as those Christians who ignorantly denounce Islam as nothing but a religion of violence and murder, and all Muslims as terrorists. There are bad people in every religion, there are people who warp religion to serve their selfish purposes. There are people without religion who do the same, and people without religion who live very decent, ethical lives.

            Like I said, Christianity — well-interpreted. I think I was also pretty clear that other faiths and philosophies without a deity have equally functional and equally valid systems for morality and ethics. There are seven billion people on this globe, and one size don’t fit all. Everyone needs to find a way to get through the brief journey. For some, Christianity works. For others, it doesn’t. I don’t really care if someone finds a decent life via Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, Ehtical Culture, Humanism, or revering a flying spaghetti monster. Heck, I’ve learned a lot from Star Trek and Doctor Who.

            As for Judaism and Christianity, I think don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t covet what others have, love your fellow man, treat others as you would want to be treated (Immanuel Kant founded his whole philosophy of the General Will on that principle), focus on relations not material goods, and a few others I could list, are pretty good. Things that our ancestors learned, and thought well enough of us to try to pass on. Aristotle did it as rational argument. Jews and early Christians did it as prophecies, laws, commandments, parables, and aphorisms, Other systems do it through other means. Again, seven billion people, thousands of different cultures and languages, one size doesn’t fit all.

            Do people traduce those dictates? Sure, all the time. I said so. But if you want to go to the idea that we should eliminate laws because people sometimes fail to obey them, I don’t think that’s a really robust hypothesis.

            There’s a great proverb I’ve heard, I’ve been told it’s a Hindu or Indian proverb. Everyone in life is trying to reach the top of a mountain. We’re all headed to the same point, but how you get there, the path you take, is a completely individual journey, It depends on where at the base of the mountain you start, and which way you make your way among the rocks, pebbles, and foliage. No one puts their feet in exactly the same places. The proverb also says that some people spend their lives running around the mountain base trying to convince others that their own path is the only right one, or that everyone else’s path is wrong. It ends by pointing out that those people are not doing a lot of climbing, now are they? I’m not going to spend my time trying to convince you there is a God, and I don’t think you’re going to burn in some hell. That would make me a bit too much like Irene for my tastes. I’m sort of getting the sense that some folks here are feeling a lot of pressure to make believers change. It’s like you need us to stop believing for some reason.

            Ive seen Christians (and others) who get way too pushy about their faith, and I think it’s because they’ve invested so much in having to be right, that they can’t stand to be challenged. If they’re wrong, boy have they wasted a lot of time and effort, you know? They have to be right, and everyone else has to change. Yeah, I’ve seen that, I don’t agree with it. You might be right, I might be right, and maybe — as South Park once put it — we’re ALL wrong, only the Mormons go to heaven. I can’t control that, so there’s no sense worrying about it. I think as long as we’re trying to get it right, we’re doing the best that God or nature has allowed us. Irene is worried about the destination. I’m worried about the journey. If there is a God, he or she will take care of the destination. My responsibility is to be the best human I can be. As long as you’re doing likewise, however you do it, we can share the climb up the mountain, you by your path, and me by mine. I’ll meet you at the top. Bring beer, I’ll bring chips.

            Peace,

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            I think you made the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought us the “Don’t kill; don’t steal” values. LOL, we knew that long before Christians showed up on the scene. Those rules evolved as part of the morality that allows us to benefit by living in groups, just like many other species. They are very, very old. So what did Christianity bring us that we didn’t already know? Hmmm.

          • Steve

            Youre again missing my point. There’s nothing new under the sun. But everything needs to be refreshed now and then, for a new era, or a different culture.

            Did you kinda miss where I said to David that Jesus might be a political radical, a religious reformer, or an amalgam of people invented by folks who were trying to resuce Judaism from destruction at the hands of the Greeks and Romans? If you know history — not the Bible history, but just regular ordinary good old fashioned history history — you know that the Greeks and Romans nearly destroyed Judiasm in the Levant. The co-optation of the priestly caste and the destruction of the temple shattered the institutions of the religion. Well, folks came up with two ways to revive a religion whose priests and temples have been eradicated. One is Rabbinic Judaism. Did you know that rabbis are not and never were priests, they are and always have been teachers and law scholars? Judaism doesnt have priests anymore, it has rabbis; and religious functions (sacrifice and expiation of sin) no longer depend on temple ritual, but on other mechanisms. Throwing a goat on the burning altar has been replaced by the Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur prayers, legal absolutions of oaths and swears. The other way was Christianity. Jesus as sacrifice for sin stands as permanent reconciliation with God. It gets a lot more complicated from there on out.

            I think part of the problem here, guys, is that you don’t really understand what you’re trying to tear down. (Just as I would say that I think Irene has a limited understanding of what she’s trying to defend). You each see one monolitihc version of Christianity, and it’s a pretty superficial and caricature-based misunderstanding of an institution that has 5000 years of history (good and bad) behind it. There have been tens of thousands of books written on it over time; It’s not easy to unpack it all in a couple of blog posts.

            I have never said Christianity invented those things. Read back to a post I gave Ryan at the start — Aristotle almost blew Aquinas’ mind and caused him to doubt his faith when Aquinas discovered Aristotle had articulated a moral system that needed only reason, no deity. Much of Christian ethics looks a lot like Greek ethics. But it goes without saying that when faith articulates ethics and morals, it is in a cultural, historical, social, and temporal context. The failure of some Christians to understand that the context changes, has changed, and MUST change with the times is one of the leading problems with Christian theology in the modern world. You can see that contradiction in Irene’s statement — and in my rebuke about the silliness of the statement — that she’s “not under the OT”. How ridiculous. The NT continues the moral code of the OT, but reinterprets it for another era. Modern Christianity looks nothing like the Christianity of the first century, and shouldn’t be expected to. But some folks insist that it must. Those folks get caught in the contradiction of wanting to dismiss Leviticus’ clobber clauses against pork, shelffish, and mixed fabrics, but cling firmly to the ones that justify discriminating against gay people. And that’s a big old load of hypocrisy. You’ll dismiss that as cherry-picking. I call it taking a sober look at a document that’s filled with a mix of timeless moral advice and archaic socio-cultural conventions, and separating the two intelligently and thoughtfully. It’s the difference between treating the book as stereo instructions (put tab a in slot b and out pops salvation), and treating it as a work of moral philosophy that invites inquiry, interpretation, and challenge, not one that closes off human reflection and thought.

            I’m not trying to convince you there’s a God. I’m not trying to convince you that the Judeo-Christian system (either part of it or the amalgam of it) is the only path, the right path for you, or an exclusive path. It works for me and about 1,5 billion other people. It really seems to vex you that I get peace of mind from that, and I’m not sure why. Do your thing, brother. Just don’t hurt your fellow humans, and you’ll get no complaint from me.

          • aesthete2

            Do whatever you like, but you haven’t explained how all that works for you – other than perhaps implying that you disregard most of it, what do you get out of it? A vague feeling of history?

            I don’t think the 1.5 billion other people are seeing it your way. And well slavery worked for lots of people too – that doesn’t make it a moral choice.

            Religion and in particular Christianity is abusive – maybe not to you, but to some people. To gays, to women, to children, to priests, to people who don’t share your religion… The list is pretty long.

            So – how do you justify contributing to that abuse?

          • Irene Simmons

            I did not say I was not under the OT, I said I was not under the OT Law! I was studying the OT this morning and discovered much in the OT regarding the Amorites. The 10 commandments were reiterated in the NT, as were many of the things in the OT. If you are going to criticize my beliefs or statements, please get it right. You may still be under the Law, but I am not! However, Jesus’ commandments in the NT are much stronger than those in the OT. For instance, yes, murder is a sin, but anger and hate in your heart for a brother or sister in Christ is equally a sin. Adultery is a sin, but to have lust in your heart

            is also a sin.

            Thanks,

            Irene

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            So Irene, are you saying that your bible informs you that feeling lust or covetousness is equally unethical (“sinful”) to murdering another human being? Because those are natural feelings, lust and covetousness. They will arise uninvited into the mental/emotional experience. Wouldn’t a better moral code differentiate between spontaneously arising feelings and dastardly acts?

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            “I think part of the problem here, guys, is that you don’t really understand what you’re trying to tear down.”

            I’m not trying to tear anything down. I’m only defending my own outlook and asking religion to stay out of my government, that’s really it.

            “It really seems to vex you that I get peace of mind from that, and I’m not sure why.”

            You are mistaken here. I have no idea why you would think I’d be in the slightest bit vexed by your god beliefs or the feelings it brings you. I don’t even know you, lol, and I certainly don’t care what myths you believe, as long as it doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights.

            Sometimes, when people (like me) say out loud what they don’t like about the religion they were raised in, other members of that religion feel threatened (I suppose because they are told not to doubt? IDK) and automatically react by assuming their religious beliefs are important to others, or they imagine they are persecuted, lol. I have no interest in your beliefs as long as you don’t use them to oppress any of the rest of us, at which point I become interested–otherwise, it just doesn’t matter at all (maybe only to you).

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            “It’s like you need us to stop believing for some reason.”

            I don’t need you to stop believing. I’m in defensive mode, with Christianity being enforced on me and my secular brothers and sisters through my government and having its opinions forced on all of us by controlling our lives. This is wrong, and believers need to be constantly reminded of this. If you can believe without forcing your religious views on others, have at it. Why should anyone care what you believe if you aren’t using it against others, trying to deprive them of a science education, or family planning services, or healthcare? I sure don’t. But that is part of what we get from christianity; don’t expect us to take it lying down. We will speak out about the deleterious effects of various religions, as we have every right to do. It’s about time, and we don’t need anyone’s approval.

          • Quizzically think you make the mistake of thinking that Christianity brought the values of “don’t kill, don’t steal,” etc. we had those values long, l

            “Bring beer, I’ll bring chips.”

            Agreed! I love the “live and let live” approach. It seems that’s yours, and I respect that way of being–in fact, I try to follow it, myself. (Though I may want to bring spirits for cocktails, and magic cookies.) :D

          • Steve

            > Beer, chips, spirits, cookies…

            Chocolate. I’ve yet to meet two people who couldn’t agree on chocolate.

      • http://avengah.wordpress.com avengah

        If it’s not a religion, then you’re not protected by religious freedom. Be careful what you wish for. The holy spirit is a creation of your mind. You were indoctrinated to believe it exists, so your mind goes full circle and creates it in your imagination. It’s not real.

        Have you heard of the Outsider Test? It’s where you look at the claims of your religion from the outside – not as a member, but as a sceptic. You pretend to be, say, an atheist or a Hindu, and read the claims presented by Christianity in sceptical terms – the same way you, as a Christian, would evaluate Islam’s tenets. I understand it’s very difficult to do, as the indoctrination is clearly strong, but try your best. You might free yourself from the shackles of your brainwashing. We really are trying to help!

      • http://twrl.wordpress.com twrl

        One of the few things which I think I can safely say for most atheists is this: your beliefs are incredibly puzzling to us, and we don’t really understand them or you, so we try to learn from time to time. The goal is not to be confrontational, but to become less puzzled.

        I think in part it’s a question of premises. In a rationalistic view, an unfalsifiable statement needs to be assumed false or the whole edifice of rational thought comes crashing down. More than that though, while Christianity is comforting to many people there’s nothing in it which appeals to me, so there’s nothing drive confirmation bias or provoke spiritual experience or any of that other neurotheological jazz. The values and thought processes which motivate our positions are even more different than the positions themselves, which is why it’s so puzzling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mocktan james

    Thank you for freeing my mind through your thoughtful words on ism. I was a confused mind for over 30 years..

  • Pingback: Atheism, The New Religion? | Eyes Wide Open

  • Irene Simmons

    David Austin, I apologize to you. I want to recommend a history book to you of the time that Jesus lived. It is called “Killing Jesus,” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. It is not a Spiritual book nor is it trying to convince anyone who Jesus was. It is simply a history book

    of that time.

    Next, I want to say to you that I definitely believe God wants you to be saved.

    He does not force you in anyway. The Bible says in many places that if you seek God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, etc., you will surely find Him. You have to seek Him and ask Jesus to be your Savior. This is God’s provision — God’s free gift for you, but you have to accept it and believe that Jesus died for you and was resurrected and is now at the right hand of the Father to intercede for believers.

    The Bible was breathed into men by the Holy Spirit. It is amazing how it is foolishness to unbelievers, but God’s absolute truth for believers. I listened to Dr. Michael Usseff on TV this morning about the subject of salvation and I wished that you could hear him. I have only been listening to him for a few months. He is so good at explaining the Bible. This morning in Sunday School, a good book was recommended by someone I admire about this subject. “The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel (not sure about the spelling of his last name.

    Good luck.

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      No apologies necessary.

      I too apologise for my rather harsh tone, but I think you can understand that it is hard to discuss things rationally with some-one who says “There is nothing you could say that would influence me otherwise “, which rather limits further dialogue.

      Thanks for alerting me to the “Killing Jesus” book, but neither Bill O’Reilly nor Martin Dugard (with due respect to them) are 1st Century religious historians. I already know that this book has been soundly refuted by historians who have scholarship in this area.

      I am also aware of the book “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel.I have researched this book and my conclusion is that is very poorly written and its claims are easily refuted. It is not considered a serious book for scholarly research about Christianity, and makes bizarre and unsupported claims.

      I know you believe the Bible is divinely inspired, but its many contradictions, anachronisms, errors and outrageous claims make it something I cannot take seriously. Even Christian theologians agree that the Gospels were not written by eye-witnesses, and the authors are anonymous. Only abour half of Paul’s epistles are thought to be genuine. The NT in particular was written several decades after the supposed death of Jesus, and the contents are not corroborated by any other literature from this time. Even Lee Strobel admits the earliest gospel (Mark) was written decades after Jesus.

      I know that you have only my best interests at heart, but until some-one can present evidence supporting the claims of theists and christians in particular, I am quite comfortable in my current position as an atheist.

      Best wishes,

      David Austin

      • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

        Amen! You can’t just believe everything you read. Confirmation bias is so strong, you have to be on constant guard against it and to look at everything with a skeptical eye and your critical thinking cap on.

    • aesthete2

      Bill O’Reilly? The guy that lied repeatedly about his military career and generally acts like a complete idiot? I didn’t think anyone took him seriously about anything.

      • David Austin

        Hi aesthete2,

        Mr O;Reilly is always going to be reminded of his comment :-

        “Tide goes in, Tide goes, never any mis-communication. You can’t explain that”.

        If you appear on TV, you had better get your facts straight before opening your mouth. As Abraham Lincoln remarked “Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt” :-)

        Cheers

        David Austin

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      I know this is a bit controversial, but how about you ask your Pastor/Priest/Vicar about the contradictions in the Bible? They know that they are there because they are taught about them in Seminary so that they will have some knowledge if they get asked about them by a member of their congregation.

      For instance you can ask them why Matthew says Jesus’s parents already lived in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, then left for Egypt after being visited by the Magi, and eventually settled in Nazareth. This all happened around 6 BC when Herod the Great was King of the Jews.

      Now contrast this with Luke, who said Jesus’s parents lived in Nazareth, and travelled to Bethlehem for a census which happened when Quirinius was Governor of Syria. According to Josephus, this occurred in 6 AD (12 years after Matthews account). There is no mention of a flight into Egypt, only a circumcision at 8 days and presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem after 40 days. They just then returned to Nazareth.

      Then compare the two geneologies from the two accounts; One says Joseph’s father was Jacob & the other says it was Heli. The rest of the geneologies don’t match up either. Apologists will say one is for Mary, but this cannot be as she is never mentioned, and also Mary was a Levite as she was a cousin of Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist).

      I asked these questions of a member of the Bible Society in Australia, and he was unable to explain either contradiction.

      You should really study some “Proper Bible study” and not just swallow whole what you have been “spoon-fed” by your religious teachers. You will be amazed at how riddled with errors the Bible is. If this is a measure of “divine inspiration”, I am staggered that anyone should think so.

      If your faith is strong it should be able withstand rigourous examination. If you think it is too delicate, then why do you hold to it so strongly?

      Just a suggestion,

      David Austin

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      Since we are talking about the Bible, can you tell me what is the 10th Commandment according to the OT?

      I wonder if you ever eat shellfish, or wear clothes made of two different materials? I hope you don’t work on the sabbath; that’s a serious offence punishable by stoning. I guess Walmart should shut down :-)

      What is your opinion of “Happy is he who dasheth thy infants on the rocks” – Psalm 137:9?

      What do you think about the Amalekits? :-

      “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Sam 15:1‑3)”

      Why should children & infants be punished; What do they do that they deserved to be killed?

      How about the treatment of the Midianites? :-

      “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man,but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man. (Numbers 31:17-18).

      I don’t suppose your Pastor/Priest/Vicar ever quotes these passages.

      They are all in your loving god’s Bible. Now you will say “That’s the OT”, but think about this; According to your interpretation of the Trinity Doctrine, God,Jesus and the Holy Spirit have always existed eternally, so God in the OT is also still Jesus by your own doctrine.

      I guess to the faithful, questioning the Bible is considered a “sin”. I wonder why this is? My cynical self says the church does not want you to discover these passages, and ask for interpretation. They just want you to stick to what they dole out each Sunday. I guess I must be the Devil for pointing this out :-)

      Remember 1st Peter 3:15 :-

      But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, So according to your Bible you should be prepared to answer any question about your faith.

      Have a good day,

      David Austin

      • Irene Simmons

        David, first let me say there is plenty in the Bible that I do not understand, but after studying it for many years, there is more that I do understand. I am so grateful that I don’t have to go to a pastor, priest or vicar to ask questions. I can study it myself, but it will take time to check out all the passages you mentioned. Also, our oldest son is a minister.

        We have a visiting Bible professor this week and we are studying Colossians. Again, I was wishing you were there last night to hear him. I have studied some other religions, but not until I knew exactly what I believed. Christianity is really not a religion, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is my desire to grow more like Him every day, but I won’t reach that goal until I meet Him face to face. My husband and I are in two Bible Studies a week and thoroughly enjoying them. I have studied the Judgments and the Millennium. Recently we have studied the Feasts of Israel and currently, the ladies study is on all the “ites” in the Old

        Testament.

        The happiest day in my life was when I realized I don’t have to depend on a pastor, priest,

        etc. for Scripture. I can do it myself with the Holy Spirit’s help, and I can pray boldly to God in the name of Jesus Christ. I’ll get back to you about those passages that you sent. I wish you were a believer so you could really wrestle with God about those passages!

        Thanks for the debate.

        • Quizzical

          10, 9, 8, and there it is: “Christianity is really not a religion, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.” Okay, sure, then tell the IRS, as the Christian denominations owe us trillions in taxes, if this is true.

        • Quizzical

          So far, there is no evidence that prayer has any effect. See this study: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          Maybe you are talking to yourself, and answering.

          • http://spike@rainier.com spike66

            >…So far, there is no evidence that prayer has any effect. See this study: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

            Maybe you are talking to yourself, and answering… Quizzical

            Hi Quiz,

            As I became an atheist, prayer is one of the things I really missed the most. I found a substitute grounded in reason. It is perfectly reasonable for an atheist to experience a most profound sense of gratitude. It matters not that there is no one there to say “You’re welcome” or “bless you my child” etc. If you can strain to imagine all the things that went right for us, all the times our ancestors and ancestor lifeforms died off, but by sheer luck (miracles, as the religious like to say) or a series of astonishing and fortunate events, the DNA segments which make up you and me managed to survive time and again. An overpowering sense of gratitude is perfectly appropriate. Gratitude is a very powerful positive emotion. Don’t hesitate to ponder on this, early and often.

            Prayer doesn’t change things, it changes people. Likewise, the atheist’s version of prayer (or my counterpart to prayer, gratitude) changes me and my outlook on life. We are the fortunate ones, all of us. Be thankful.

            spike

            spike66@att.net

          • Quizzical

            LOL, of course I feel thankfulness. I’m not a bot. I simply would caution against the superstitious and unfounded idea that prayer affects outcomes. Then you get things like the Texas governor wasting millions on an overgrown prayer meeting, instead of doing his job and legislating good water policies. Sometimes fantasies can do harm. People need to be aware.

      • Irene Simmons

        David, this was easier than I thought it would be!

        The 10th commandment in Exodus 20:17 is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

        I do not eat shellfish just because I do not like them, but not because I am under the OT Law. I have no idea if I wear clothes made of two different materials, but again I am not under the OT Law. I have never had a job where I was required to work on Sunday, which is the Sabbath I celebrate in the NT. However, I would not be concerned about doing things on the Sabbath because every day is the same as the Sabbath to me as far as what I do. I feel sure there are many Christians working at Walmart on Sunday. The SDA celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday as the OT did before Jesus crucifixion and resurrection,

        and I suspect they would be strict about not working on that day, but I do not know that for sure.

        As for stoning, the only religion I know of still doing that is the Muslims or Islam. It was not Christians doing the stoning in the Bible. At least I don’t know of one. The Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus, but even though they were the religious leaders of the day, I do not consider them as Christians.

        1 Sam. 15:1-3

        Our ladies Bible Study will be about the Amalakites this Wednesday. I might learn something then! The Amalakites were a band of guerilla terrorists. They lived by attacking other nations and carrying off their wealth and their families. They were the first to attack the Israelites as they entered the promised land, and they continued to raid Israelite camps at every opportunity. God knew that the Israelites could never live peacefully in the promised land as long as the Amalekites existed. He also knew that their corrupt, idolatrous religious practices threatened Israel’s relationship with Him. The only way to protect the Israelites’ bodies and souls was to utterly destroy the people of this war-like nation and all their possessions, including their idols.

        Numbers 31:17-18

        Because Midianites were responsible for enticing Israel into Baal worship, God commanded Israel to destroy them. But Israel took the women as captives, rather than killing them, probably because of the tempting enticements of the Midianites’ sinful life-style.

        As I told you before, I don’t understand a lot of things in the Bible, but I pray someday I will understand everything. Yes, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have always existed and were certainly there in the OT.

        This last one is easy. 1 Peter 3:15

        In the Bible, “hope” does not mean something you wish for as we use it today, but it means

        confident expectation. The hope that is in me is Christ in me. I love telling people about the difference He has made in my life. I am full of peace and joy as long as I keep my eyes on Him and trust Him, and I look forward to that day when I do see Him face to face.

        It is my prayer that I do this gently and respectfully.

        I praise God for holy people who help me interpret the Scriptures! I should have been studying Colossians today instead of doing your assignment. Now I’m off to the bowling

        alley!

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      Thanks for answering my questions.

      Commandment #10 – Your answer is INcorrect. The correct answer is :-

      “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Exodus 34:26

      This the 10th Commandment that god supposedly wrote on a stone tablet , then given to Moses, and which was later placed in the Ark of the Covenant. It is actually described as a “Commandment” in the bible.

      You say that you are not under the law of the OT, but Jesus specifically said :-

      “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means

      disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

      Matthew 5:17-18

      Now you might say Jesus’s death & resurrection initiated a new covenant. However, christians are always saying that the bible has give them “objective” morality. Now “objective” morality means that it should be unchangeable, but now they are claiming that god has changed his laws between the old covenant and the new covenant. You can’t have it both ways – say morality is objective and then say god can change morality.

      Your answers to my next comments are very disturbing. It is scary to me how christians can condone and justify wholesale genocide just because god commanded it. This is called “Divine Command Theory”. If this happened in modern times like in Africa or Bosnia you would condemn such action, but since you think god commanded it, it is OK.

      I ask you how you would feel like if you were one of Midianite virgin girls, seeing your mother & father and any siblings slaughtered in front of your eyes, and then dragged off to be a “sex slave” of the people who just murdered your whole family.

      If you thought that god specifically commanded you to kill another person, would you do it? Don’t say god would never ask you to do that, After all he commanded Abraham to kill Isaac.

      The Israelites were invading other peoples land, and slaughtering the inhabitants. They made up stories, as propaganda,that god had promised them this land to justify their invasion. You should ask yourself, why didn’t god just give the Israelites

      some empty land, or somehow magically displace the current occupants to another area without bloodshed. Obviously god is not omnipotent, and was not able to do either of these things.

      The saving grace in all this is that probably none of this ever happened. Archeology has revealed that there was probably no enslavement of the Hebrews in Egypt, no Exodus and wandering in the desert for 40 years. Many of the cities mentioned in the OT were not even settlements at the time that is mentioned in the bible. There is no evidence of Jericho as a walled city etc etc. Most of the stories appear to be just legends and fables.

      Good luck with your next assignment.

      David Austin

      • Steve

        I’d like to explore Irene’s concept that the OT no longer applies when it comes to eating pork and shellfish, or wearing clothes of mixed threads, or many of the other Jewish strictures that Christians dismiss with a shrug, but by God almighty, they’re gonna come down like a ton of bricks on the gays…because Leviticus says so. We’re no longer under the OT…but those gays are!! What shameful hypocrisy.

        That is exactly the kind of selective Christianity that embarrasses the faith, when we appear to be theological hypocrites in the service of catering to our social bigotry.

      • Irene Simmons

        Dave, I knew you had a trick question. As far as I am concerned, the 10 Commandments on my wall are the 10 that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. I do not question the God who created the Universe and all of us in it. You choose only the parts of the Bible that you do not like and that’s your privilege. Our study on Colossians has been absolutely wonderful and we are so blessed to be a part of it. We were with a Sanctuary full of Christians who are very special people.

        I believe the Bible is the absolute Word of God. I am not under the Old Covenant even though there is much I can learn from it. I am under the New Covenant and the 10 commandments are repeated in it. The law was a school teacher to show the people their sin and their need for a Savior. Jesus did fulfill the law when He came to earth in the form

        of a man to die on the cross to pay our debt of sin and make it possible for us to be reunited with the Father God.

        I understand that you do not believe the Bible and think it is foolishness. I very much regret that, but you indicate that you are happy. The more I study the Bible, the more the Holy

        Spirit quickens Scripture to me. The more I learn, the more I realize that I do not know.

        Good Luck.

        • David Austin

          Hi Irene,

          You may insist the 10 Commandments on your wall are the “real deal”, but this doesn’t align with the “infallible word of god”.

          If you read the scriptures properly (as you should) you will see that the original stone tablets that Moses received were broken when he came down from Mt Sinai, and saw the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf. (As a aside, how come the Israelites rejected Yahweh so quickly. Surely they remember Yahweh getting them out of bondage from Egypt. Must have very short memories or just ingrates).

          I guess “Thou shalt not kill” was not on the tablets he broke, as he promptly ordered the death of about 3,000 of his people.

          Anyway, Moses had to go up again to get new tablets, and these contained the instructions that I referenced about not boiling baby goats in their mother’s milk. Whether you like it or not, these were the tablets that went into the Ark of the Covenant, and the bible actually describes them as “commandments”.

          The commandments you are referring to seem not to mention things like “Thou shalt not rape” or “Thou shalt not keep slaves” or anything useful like that. The first 4 are just for massaging Yahweh’s ego. Really, the commandments are pretty useless for modern people to get their morality.

          Just my random thoughts.

          David Austin

        • Steve

          Irene, why do you keep the Ten Commandments on your wall if you are, in your own words, no longer under the OT? The Decalogue is the heart of Exodus, after all. Please explain that inconsistency. Or at least please explain the formula you use to pick and choose what parts of the Bible you follow and what parts you dismiss.

          • Irene Simmons

            I already said the 10 commandments were repeated in the NT and there are many other Scriptures in the NT that refer to the OT. I do believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God

            and I also said there are many things I do not understand in it; however, there are many more that I do understand. You have to take it in context. Some things were meant for that time only, for Israel only and other things were meant for the Church (Body of Christ) today. Even God lets you believe what you want to, and so far, this is still a free country.

            You guys are spending your lives trying to tear down Christians and the Bible. Go right ahead if that’s what you enjoy. Have your fun now while you can. In the meantime, I will be praising God that I am His adopted child and for all the blessings bestowed on me in this life and looking forward to that time when I leave this earth and meet Jesus face to face, or when Jesus returns to this earth as the King of the Universe.

            May God have mercy on your souls!

          • Steve

            Irene,

            I welcome God’s mercy in all things, as I welcome with gratitude the many blessings he has added to my life.

            As I said once before, my problem is not with God. Just some of his followers.

            I certainly agree that there’s a lot about the Bible you don’t know.

            Best wishes.

          • Irene Simmons

            Steve, we were studying the second chapter of Colossians tonight and there were several verses where the Apostle Paul was admonishing the believers not to let the false teachers put them back under the law. Galations is really full of false teachers trying to put the believers back under the law.

            Irene

          • Quizzical

            Erm, just, wow.

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      Further to our discussions on bible passages, I want to focus on slavery in the OT & NT.

      It seems the Israelites didn’t have a problem owning slaves :-

      “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance”

      Leviticus 25:44-46

      Now when Jesus (meek & mild) came along, you would think he would denounce owning another person as property, but he still is comfortable with the idea, and uses them in a parable, and has no problem with beating them :-

      The Faithful or the Unfaithful Slave

      Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

      Luke 12:41-48

      St Paul also didn’t seem to mind the idea of slavery :-

      “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.”

      Titus 2:9-10

      Slave owners in the US used many of these verses to justify slavery.

      I could quote other passages but I think you can see that the bible cannot be used as a guide to morality.

      Regards

      David Austin

    • David Austin

      Hi Irene,

      I would just like you to answer one important question. It is a question I asked my local Anglican Vicar, but I won’t tell you what his answer was, before I hear from you.

      The scenario is :-

      A few years from now, some-one develops a “time machine” that can transport you back to any time & place in history. You decide to go back to 1st century Palestine, and you park your “time machine” outside the tomb where Jesus is going to be laid.

      You see his body go in, and you can definitely see he is dead, and you wait patiently outside the tomb for 3 days (video camera in hand).

      After 3 days, nothing has happened (no stone rollled away; no angels etc), and later you check inside the tomb, and Jesus is still lying there; dead.

      No resurrection has happened, and you witnessed all this with your own eyes.

      My question is :- Would you still be a christian?

      Think carefully before you answer.

      Look forward to your response.

      Regards

      David Austin

      .

      • Irene Simmons

        I think not! In he first place, my sin would not be forgiven. Jesus did not have to die;

        He could have called 10,000 angels to His defense. He was the spotless Lamb of Sacrifice for the world. Someone had to pay the cost of our sin and it had to be someone without sin. He was the only person that ever lived on this earth without sin. He willingly gave His physical life on the cross. That’s what He came to earth to do. He was resurrected and now resides at the right hand of the Father to intercede for believers.

        I’m glad you have a Vicar of whom to ask questions and perhaps, maybe, you believe him?

        I’m so glad I can go boldly before the throne of God and ask Him questions!

        Peace be unto you!

        • David Austin

          Hi Irene,

          At least you do admit that if the resurrection never happened you could not be a christian. My local vicar also agreed with that view which Paul expressed:-

          And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.

          However noted apologist, William Lane Craig, said he would still be a christian as he believed he had the confirmation of the holy spirit in his heart that christianity was true.

          Regards

          David Austin

          • Irene Simmons

            David, I have that same confirmation in my Spirit, but I would not have it if Jesus was not the Son of God and had not come to earth to die for “my” sin, was crucified, resurrected and is coming again. It was also necessary that Jesus be born of a virgin and God was His Father. Since the sin nature comes through the father, he would have been born in sin

            and not qualified to be the blameless sacrifice for “me.”

            I recommend you read through the book of Colossians! Our Bible Study this week has been outstanding.

            Blessings, Irene

          • http://aldrisang.wordpress.com aldrisang

            Strange how that works, having confirmation in you soul that tells you your religion and god are true. People of other religions have that too, and say that their gods are the true ones and others (like yours) are not. Funny, eh? It’s almost like it’s just emotions and opinions, and not ultimately a measure of truth at all.

          • Quizzical

            If there’s one thing that puzzles me most about Christians, it’s how you can be okay with an innocent person being tortured and killed as a punishment for YOUR transgressions. How is that acceptable? And then you want people to worship the god who demanded it be done to appease his own petty self. WTH is that god’s problem? I don’t see how you can do it. I was raised with it, but the whole thing conflicted with my conscience.

          • David Austin

            Hi Quizzical,

            This is also something I find very disturbing. The whole Judeo/Christian faiths seems to be based on blood sacrifice.

            I can never understand why, if god wanted to forgive our sins, why he couldn’t just forgive them, Instead he has to sacrifice himself to himself to somehow atone for the original sin he gave us all in the first place; Pretty bizarre thinking.

            Let’s face it, god, assuming he exists, brought evil into the world,:-

            I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Isaiah 45:7

            Therefore he should be made accountable for all the trouble he caused to mankind.

            I like how christians say Jesus was sinless. I don’t call some-one sinless who charged into the Temple with a whip to drive out the merchants.

            He also made comments like :-

            “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household”

            Matthew 10:34-36

            and in a parable :-

            “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me” Luke 19:27

            BTW, the “Virgin birth” business seems to be a later addition to the Gospels. Mark (the first Gospel) doesn’t bother to mention such an important fact (it it were true). Matthew reports it and misquotes a passage from Isaiah which never mentions a virgin, and Luke seems to just copy his idea, but has a birth narrative completely contradictory to that of Matthew. John’s gospel & Paul’s epistles make no mention.

            Anyway Jesus could not be a perfect sacrifice. He was scourged before the crucifiction, and according to Mosaic law, the Passover lamb must be unblemished before slaughter, and sacrificed in the correct manner.

            The whole story just reeks with contradictions and anomalies.

            Just my 2c worth.

            David Austin

          • Quizzical

            Yes, David, all of that, and you reminded me that I wanted to ask Irene why it’s so important Jesus was born to a virgin. What is this obsession christians have with virginity? It’s a terrible measure of a woman, her virginity or lack thereof. How dehumanizing. Grrrr. I’m not a fan.

      • https://www.facebook.com/danny.klopovic Danny Klopovic

        It is also puzzling to me that quite a few atheists seem to be fairly ignorant about Christianity as evidenced by Quizzical’s broad brush question. There are plenty of Christians who do not subscribe to the notion that Jesus as an innocent person was killed in order to satisfy some petulant deity who needed satisfaction for sins committed by others.

        I will say though – as a Christian – that such a god and all notions of penal substitution are morally and theologically repugnant.

        • Quizzical

          Yes, vicarious redemption is repugnant in every way.

          Of course there are “christians” who don’t believe in the core tenets of Christianity, like Jesus as the “lamb” who died for your “salvation.” But I don’t think it’s using too broad a brush to say that for most Christians, vicarious redemption is a central tenet of their religion. You could find people who call themselves atheist Christians, too, if you looked, but that doesn’t make Christianity an atheistic religion, on the whole. It more likely means you had some atheists somewhere at one time trying not to be stoned to death, or perhaps fired from their jobs, by Christians for being heathen. “I believe! I believe! I’m a Christian! Don’t shoot!” :)

      • http://avengah.wordpress.com avengah

        Irene, this should hopefully be enlightening to you. As has been said elsewhere on this thread, there are others of other faiths, such as Muslims, who believe in the prophethood of Mohammed and the deity of Allah with all their heart – so much so that they are prepared to perform suicide bombings in the name of their god. This shows how strong (and dangerous, of course) their faith is.

        Neuroscientists have studied religious experiences. People who have never been religious tend to have a part of their brain that is smaller than the same part in deeply religious people’s brains; the part in question is responsible for generating subjective “religious experiences”.

        Essentially, it is all in the mind, and what you may think is god talking to you is, in fact, not. It is a projection created by your mind, and it is something that we have evolved with over the millennia. It may have been a useful survival mechanism in our very early years (as our knowledge of science was so limited that everything unexplainable was attributed to some god or other), but in our modern age of enlightenment and understanding, it is no longer necessary.

        Since people of very different faiths all report having these experiences, and even in the case of “near death experiences”, they always confirm the faith of the person who has them – they never contradict it – it’s clearly a construct of the imagination, and of the mind. Neuroscientists can tell you more about this; I’m afraid my knowledge is also quite limited but these are the basics. If a Hindu can say he’s spoken to various polytheistic deities and believe it with all his heart to be true, you can see how this sort of thing really can be a mental projection.

        So, your mind is creating a god as you imagine it to be, talking back to you. It is not real. Your mind is playing the part of “god” or “jesus” and you are having a conversation with yourself. Once you realise this, hopefully you will be able to see that you have actually been seriously brainwashed and indoctrinated, and we really are only trying to help you break free. There is light at the end of the tunnel once you are free from the shackles of religion! Religion really does harden hearts and enslave minds.

        Do good because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect eternal reward and fear eternal punishment. No religion needed to do the right thing.

      • bob

        David,

        Why are you trying to break Irene down all the time? She is trying to share with you something that is deeply importaint to her and you are clearly taking delight in trying to knock her down. I think you are the devil. It is clear from reading this board the the athiest are the real biggots, full of hate and pride and not the least bit interested in real truth.

        • David Austin

          Hi Bob,

          David,

          Why are you trying to break Irene down all the time? She is trying to share with you something that is deeply importaint to her and you are clearly taking delight in trying to knock her down. I think you are the devil. It is clear from reading this board the the athiest are the real biggots, full of hate and pride and not the least bit interested in real truth.

          Thanks for your comments.

          Your assessment of myself couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the “real truth” that I seek.

          Why is that everybody that disagrees with your position is labelled as a “devil” & “bigot”. Are you are the only one that is not bigotted? It is very easy to label some-one “full of hate & pride”, but, of course, you are full of “love”, except when some-one doesn’t agree with your views.

          I have no interest in breaking Irene down. I am sure she is deeply commited to her “faith”, but it is good sometimes to let people know that there are other views out there. If she did not want robust discussion, she should have stayed out of the forum. Nobody forced her to comment, and nobody was rude to her, just confronting her beliefs. People deserve respect, but ideas are open to discussion. I don’t attack the person, just the ideas that I feel are not supported by evidence. I have a right, as do you, to express my opinion. If I offend you, that is not my problem.

          Just my 2c worth.

          Cheers

          David Austin

        • Quizzical

          LOL, Bob, that was nice and Christian of you, calling us all “the devil.” Where do you get that? Bet you it was one of your preachers who told you that. I don’t really care because as far as I can tell, the “devil” is imaginary. But I know what “devil” means to you, so that wasn’t very charitable on your part.

          • David Austin

            Hi Quizzical,

            Not to worry. I was quite flattered to be called “the devil”. I didn’t realise I was so powerful, that I should earn that accolade. Nobody has ever called me that before, so I guess I should wear it as a “badge of honour”.

            I don’t know where theists get the idea that we are “the devil”. If we don’t believe in supernatural things, how could we believe in the devil, satan, angels, fairies etc.

            It is interesting that when anyone challenges their beliefs we are so labelled, and we are not allowed to criticize their religion, but they seem to feel they are free to criticize our views with impunity.

            I think it amazing, their concept of “love thy neighbour”, as long as your neighbour believes what you do, but woe betide you if you believe something different; “neighbourly love” goes right out the window.

            Just saying….

            David Austin

          • bob

            Well Quizno, I didn’t call you the devil did I. I was only refering to David because I think what he is doing is wicked. He acts so nice and polite and pretends that he is interested in heari g Irene’s explanations when in fact his mind was already made up. All he realy wants to do is knock her down. He knew from the beginning of the conversation that he had the intilectual edge on her but he played dumb ” hay I’m just some guy” he has obviously spent lots of time reserching this stuff just wating for some unsuspecting person like Irene to come along so he can punch holes in her faith, but praise God he has not, because what people like you and David don’t understand is that we christians know Him.

          • David Austin

            Hi Bob,

            So now I am “wicked” as well as “the devil”. I am thrilled that you credit me with so much intellect.

            If Irene’s faith is so strong, why should you worry that I might “punch holes in her faith”. Is your faith so fragile, that it cannot stand some robust discourse? Irene is an adult, and can do her own defending. She doesn’t need you to rush in on your “white horse” to defend her virtue.

            Despite what you may think, I am just a normal guy (no horns or tail), who just takes an interest in secular discussion. If you were to do a bit of research yourself instead of denigrating others who have taken the time to enlighten themselves, you too might learn something. I guess it is too much to ask that you have actual empirical evidence to back up any of the claims of your religion.

            Ah well, you are obviously too indoctrinated to see outside your “christian bubble”. What a shame, another wasted life !!!

            Have a good day,

            David Austin

          • bob

            First, I don’t know how strong her faith is because I don’t know her. Second, I don’t know if she is an adult.

            Third, you didn’t seem to mind when there were four of you athiest hitting her with questions, so don’t tell me that she can take care of her self, sje probably can but it still wasn’t fair how you were treating her.

            For athiests everything is fair because you make up your morals as you go untill they don’t suit you then you call foul.

            Ps. I still think you are the devil

          • David Austin

            Hi Bob,

            Thanks for clarifying.

            I guess I will just have to live my life the only way I know. If that makes me “the devil” & “wicked” , then so be it. Now I am immoral as well. I have won the “trifecta” !!!

            Life is to short to worry about such things. I’m surprised you haven’t said “you will pray for me”. Maybe I am too far gone to be redeemed.

            Have a good day.

            Regards

            David Austin

          • Quizzical

            Biblical morals are better than modern morals? I don’t think so. Look at the commandments. Nowhere do they say not to rape or to abuse your children or spouse, so you think it’s more important to praise a god (covered by several commandments) than not to do those things? How is that more moral? I’m afraid you have misplaced your priorities as a member of society.

          • bob

            What are modern morals? Where is that written down and who decides? And you know full well that the bible does not say its ok to rape or abuse children so don’t be rediculous.

          • Quizzical

            Bob, in the bible, Jesus explains how you should treat your slaves. We have since outlawed slavery. That is called moral progress.

          • Quizzical

            Or was it that he explained the obedient attitude slaves should have? I forget. Maybe it was both.

          • Quizzical

            Hi Bob, you got my name wrong.

            You certainly implied that was directed at all of us. Let me remind you: “I think you are the devil. It is clear from reading this board the the athiest are the real biggots, full of hate and pride and not the least bit interested in real truth.”

            Also, you attacked a man for doing his research. I am baffled by that.

            You also talk about discussing beliefs objectively is “punching holes in faith,” and thus somehow bad. Can you see how that attitude would be designed to end the conversation in order to protect an idea from scrutiny? How can eliminating examination of something important in one’s life be an aim? Ignorance is not so helpful.

          • bob

            Quizzical,

            Sory I got your name wrong, I thought you were someone else. The devil comment was directed at David in specific, the other stuff was directed at the atheists on this blog in general, not you in specific or all atheists. What I am seeing here ( by atheist on this blog) is an atempt to discredit christians rather than an honest discourse. There are only a few on this blog who sound like they are realy interested in hearing what christians want to say rather than malign them and discredit them. If I thought for a moment that David was honestly serching for truth rather than just trying to prove someone wrong I wouldn’t have said that.

          • Quizzical

            Thanks for your reply, Bob.

            “the other stuff was directed at the atheists on this blog in general, not you in specific or all atheists. What I am seeing here ( by atheist on this blog) is an atempt to discredit christians rather than an honest discourse.”

            Yes, that includes me. I am an atheist on this blog.

            If honest discourse can’t include discussion of reality or discrediting claims that bear no evidence, then how honest is it?

          • David Austin

            Hi Bob,

            Just in case you didn’t get my links :

            Salvation Army :-

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-28/boys-27punched-and-locked-in-cages27-at-salvos-homes/5222338

            Cheers

            David Austin

          • David Austin

            Hi Bob,

            Another link for you.

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

            Cheers

            David Austin

          • David Austin

            Hi Bob,

            You don’t know me, and yet you accuse me of being immoral. That is a pretty strong accusation to level at anybody. This seems a typical coward’s tactic. Make an accusation, and then scuttle off.

            I would just like to ask you this question :-

            If you woke up tomorrow, and realised you didn’t believe in god, would you rush out and steal, kill & rape without stopping. I would hope, that this would not be the case. If you said you would do such things, It would speak volumes about your internal moral compass.

            However you are quick to accuse atheists of having no moral compass just because we do not believe in your god.

            Just my opinion.

            Cheers

            David Austin

          • bob

            So where is your moral compass? Can you show me? Prove to me that you have one. You can’t therfore it does not exist. Because your morals don’t come from a higher power then you are free to change them when YOU decide that they don’t suit you. A compass that doesn’t always point the same direction is not realy a compass at all.

          • Quizzical

            “Can you show me? Prove to me that you have one. You can’t therfore it does not exist. Because your morals don’t come from a higher power then you are free to change them when YOU decide that they don’t suit you. A compass that doesn’t always point the same direction is not realy a compass at all.”

            Can you show me your god? If not, then how do I know you have any moral compass at all?

            Christian morality has changed (kicking and screaming) over the centuries to accommodate secular culture, so you cannot say your moral compass does not change. Do we still value women as human beings based on their virginity or lack thereof? Do we stone them in the streets if they are worthless nonvirgins? Do we take an eye for an eye? Times change, and over time we have improved on biblical morality. Your morals are now based on secular law, (unless you believe in stoning your bride to death if she is not a virgin).

            If the bible is the only thing keeping you from harming others, don’t get near me, please. If you have empathy and concern for humanity’s welfare, then you can see an atheist’s moral compass. There it is. We are no different.

      • http://dawnthorntonduke.wordpress.com upsidedawn00

        If the devil were a real being, he would not take the guise of an atheist. He’d be the very picture of Christian piety.

    • http://avengah.wordpress.com avengah

      Lee Strobel is a liar. He pretends he was an atheist. He was never an atheist; when he debates actual atheists it’s clear he was never one of us. His claims in his books are simplistic and will only convince people who don’t have a solid grounding in reality.

      • ken

        Your explination of how God is just your head is deeply flawed. Just because a part of your brain is more devoloped dosnt mean you are imagining things it only means you are using that part of the brain more. People who are blind have less developed part of the brain that deals with sight because they are not using it. You wouldn’t ssy that a sighted person is imagining what they see because that part of the brain is more developed.

        As for different religions having different ideas about things. Peoples interpritatioms of things will always be influenced by their culture. What is remarkable is how similar they all are. The vast majority of people around the world believe in a just, all knowing God who created the universe for a reason.

        How we see the world is always filtered through our brain. Have you ever been in a situation where you witnessed an event with other people but the next day you all remembered it differently. That dosnt mean that you all imagined it. Maybe if you spent some time developing the spiritual side of your brain you would be able to hear God too. In fact most of what we do as religious people is just that, developing our spiritual sense

        • David Austin

          Hi Ken,

          As for different religions having different ideas about things. Peoples interpritatioms of things will always be influenced by their culture. What is remarkable is how similar they all are. The vast majority of people around the world believe in a just, all knowing God who created the universe for a reason.

          I think you were addressing these remarks to me, so I will critique your response.

          Not all cultures have created a just all-knowing god eg :-

          1. Hindus have a whole host of different gods.

          2. Some cultures practise animism, where basically everything around then including plants & animals have “spirits”.

          3. Some cultures such as the Pirahã tribes of the Amazon are completely atheistic

          4. Some forms of Buddism do not believe in a Supreme Being.

          So far you have not presented any evidence to refute my argument, so as far as I am concerned by proposition stands

          Regards

          David Austin

          • ken

            No it was a responce to Avengah’s claim that all Irene’s experiences of God were caused by delusions formed in her brain. But sense you asked, I suppose it is like arguing if a glass is half full or half empty. I see the similarities in different religions while you see the difference.

            The way I see religion is that it is an atempt to understand the most importaint questions we as humans have. Why are we here and what is our purpose. Different people have come up with mithology to answer these questions. It is the answers that are importaint not the specifics of the mithology. If you look at it this way you will see that the similarities are more than the differences

          • David Austin

            Hi Ken,

            Sorry if I butted in on your conversation.

            The way I see religion is that it is an atempt to understand the most importaint questions we as humans have. Why are we here and what is our purpose. Different people have come up with mithology to answer these questions. It is the answers that are importaint not the specifics of the mithology. If you look at it this way you will see that the similarities are more than the differences

            It is interesting that you say that “Different people have come up with mithology to answer these questions.”. Are you saying that all religion is mythology, including christianity? If you are saying this, then I heartily agree; All religions are mythology.

            Atheists don’t consider such questions as “Why are we here and what is our purpose.” ? What makes you think that there is some purpose? To most atheists this is an arrogant assertion. We are a few insignificant animals on an insignificant planet amongst billions of planetary systems. When set against the back-drop of the immensity of the universe, we are just specks of dust. Do you arrogantly think this universe was made especially for you? I think not.

            As an atheist, I just want to make the most of my short stay on this earth, and hopefully leave it in a better state than I found it. That is all I can aspire to. We make our own purpose. You may say this is an empty life, but I say it is a fulfilled life, and I can feel free from the enslavement of religion that is trying to tell me what I can and cannot do, and how my morals should be. I know when I am moral or not, and if I mess up I apologise for what I have done and make restitution. I don’t pass my guilt onto a “saviour”, and feel that I am free from guilt. That is just scapegoating. I will not spend my life “bowing & scraping” to some mythical deity just so I can earn “brownie points” to get me into heaven. If I do a good deed, it is because I like to help my fellow humans, not for some heavenly reward.

            Sorry to ramble on, but I hold my views as passionately as anyone else. This is something theists seem to overlook, and think they have a monopoly on “truth” & “purpose”.

            Cheers

            David Austin

          • ken

            There is a difference between mythology and a made up story. Yes I think stories like the garden of eden are mythology, that is they are not literaly true, but they are true in there meaning.

            For example, if you study light you will read in one book that light is a wave. Then you pick up a book written by a physist and you are told that it is a particle. To the atheist this would be evidence that light dosnt realy exist because different schools of thought describe it differently. The truth is that no one knows exactly what light is so we come up with different explainations that describe some aspect of this truth. These explainations are a type of myth. I don’t know if that helps.

            You said that without religion you are free to decide what is moral. You further said that you know when you are being moral. I would like to know how you know when you are being moral? After all diferent societies have different ideas about morality just like they do about religion. By your standard then morality must also be an alusion.

          • David Austin

            Hi Ken,

            Thanks for your comments.

            You agree that the “Garden of Eden” story is mythology, so how do you know that other parts of the Bible are not also mythology? In recent years, Jewish scholars have come to the conclusion that nearly all the stories in the OT are “made up”. No Exodus, no conquest of the Canaanites etc etc. This is what puzzles me about christians; How can you possibly know what parts are “true” and which parts are “fiction”. I have talked with a few Pastors, and they can never give me a satisfactory answer. One told me that the part in Matthew regarding 3 hour eclipses, earthquakes, dead saints rising was just some “artistic license” with the story to add some drama. So how can we even start to believe the “resurrection” narrative.

            You talk about morals. You like to think that christians somehow have a monopoly on “objective morals”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most are “cafeteria christians” and just pick which moral stance best fits their own proclivities. You can ask about god’s morals using the “Euthyphro dilemma”. In other words “Is something moral because god says so, or does god say so because it is moral”. If the former, then morality is not objecive because god could change his mind any time and say that something that was immoral is now moral. If the latter. then why do you need a god to tell you what is moral?

            I get my morals from the fact that we are social animals, and we need certains “code of conduct” to live harmoniously in larger social groups. We also all share an empathy with other humans (unless you are sociopath or psychopath). The golden rule, which is common to many cultures rhat predate christianity, is quite applicable even in a secular society. We all know instinctively that murder is wrong, but we would kill if our life or families lives were threatened. We don’t need a “god moral” to know that. Similarly, lying is to be avoided, but I’m sure you would lie to protect some-one from harm. Would you lie if you were harbouring a jewish family and nazi soldiers banged on your door? We also have laws that are designed to protect the majority from the thoughtless actions of a minority.

            Hope that explains my position.

            Regards

            David Austin

  • Tittan

    Ryan, I am one of the “ordinary unbelievers” you’re talking about, and I’d love to have a conversation with you about my “unbelief”.

    I was raised by a lutheran minister (dad), and a sunday school teacher (mum), and from an early age I just didn’t “buy” religion. Maybe it has to do with me living in Norway, one of the most secular nations of the world? Maybe it has to do with my many questions when I was a child/young adult – most of them answered with “The Lord moves in mysterious ways” (Yes, but why does he do that?) Maybe it has to do with my never-ending thirst for knowledge? I read LaVey’s Satanic Bible at 14, the Qua’ran at 16, the Bible regularly, and a lot of other religious “holy books”. I tried to be a good Christian, by visiting Adventists, Baptists, Chatolics, etc, I triet the Mosque, the Hare Krishna, the Mormons, any religion I vould find – and they all left me with more questions than I had before visiting them.

    I have a (a bit silly, a bit serious) atheist blog, with hardly no followers @ My life, No God. Have a look if you will.

    Good luck in your search for whatever you’re looking for.

    Tittan

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  • esme

    Hi, your posts as a whole sounds like you are a thoughtful and likeable person, and while “living like an atheist” rightfully gets you some critique, you seem to have a reasonable game plan to explore atheism. I still want to point out two things that caught my eye:

    1. Make sure to talk to enough female atheists as your book list is already entirely male and please do not equate atheists with “organized” atheists. While churches have some very misogynist traditions, they do not own the patent on misogyny and atheist associations and vocal atheists are often very male-dominated and less than welcoming to women. (An example are the reactions after a female atheist says that one problem is being constantly hit on at an atheist convention…)

    2. “Whether during my fundamentalist phase, during college, or my growing progressive convictions in recent years, I always had a nagging sense that I didn’t fit. So, naturally, I became a pastor.” I sure hope that your ironic undertone here is not just aimed at “pastors are not really part of their flock”, but that you do realize how subtly and mercilessly you have been indoctrinated on this point. It is an unforgivable manipulation:

    Teach people that doubts (or loss of belief or depression) are a sign that they are chosen/beloved and tested by God/actually believers and that they have to do just this more thing to receive their reward of feeling Gods presence/love (again).

    “You think that God does not exist / does not care what you eat your dinner / …? Well, rejoice, if you stay with our Church / follow our eating rules and do as we say, God will reward you a lot for ignoring your own doubts.”

    It is the ultimate immunisation and teaches people to disregard their own feelings, self-reflexion and thoughts. It makes no sense at all that any god would reward people for pretending not to doubt his existence (or much more so some finer details of his instructions), it makes a lot of sense for a church to say so.

    In any case, I wish you the best.

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  • andrewellison

    I found a link to your blog and I am interested to hear more of your thoughts. I have been in or around the church most of my life, and the last year brought lots of change. I have sought to remove the traditions of men without removing God from my life, and that has been difficult and challenging on many levels. Even so, I am happy to take the kind of risks that people of faith in the Bible always took.

    I am friends with a few pastors, and I know the kind of burnout that can come with the job. I feel it is thankless work. Anyhow, I hope that the real, living, risen Jesus, who was the friend of sinners will be the goal and end of your journey.

  • http://gandalfofthenorth.wordpress.com Treebeard

    Hello Ryan,

    Sorry to be coming to the discussion so late… but maybe you can help me test some of my conceptions…

    I’ve often said I’ve never met an atheist who didn’t have a really good reason be be one… Mainly the really unchristian people they have had to live with, work with, or attempt to worship with. I’d be interested to know if you find any exceptions.

    I also notice Julian Barnes is not in your reading list with his “Nothing To Be Frightened Of”. In your reflections I almost hear some of the wistfulness of his opening line. “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him”

    I once had an opportunity to read Simone Weil’s “Waiting for God” What surprised me in her view of spirituality there was not the monolithic depiction of “faith” that most “religions” seem to assume is necessary for “real belief”

    I also had the opportunity to record an interview with a gentleman addressing the statement: “Tell me about your spiritual journey, You can begin anywhere you like”

    His first words were “I don’t believe in a Higher Power”… and then he spend the next 40 minutes describing changes in his life that seemed to be coming from outside himself. Hmmm…

    And then there was the Harrisburg PA, Market Square Presbyterian pastor in my pastoral care clinical workshop who announced the the class of fellow clergy… “I don’t believe in God” You could feel the rest of the class leaping out of their seats. (He preached the ethics of the New Testament)

    Henri Nouwen talks about praying our questions day after day, and one day praying the answer… You may not agree with me but I see your asking question as praying (wanting, desiring, craving, begging, wishing) for an answer… It is just not explicitly directed to an anthropomorphized depiction of an ultimate being. Yes I think the nature of your questioning is going to place you outside some of the resources, institutional and spiritual you may have had available in the past. Some of us have to eat pig fodder… But… Hmmm… Wonder what’s in store for you… I have a feeling you will be surprised…


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