Nietzsche approves of my journey

Thank you to Erwin Morales for leaving this quote in the comments today. I have never read it before but was surprised how closely Nietzsche’s recommendation resembles my own experiment this year.

These serious, excellent, upright, deeply sensitive people who are still Christian from the very heart: they owe it to themselves to try for once the experiment of living for some length of time without Christianity; they owe it to their faith in this way for once to sojourn ‘in the wilderness’ — if only to win for themselves the right to a voice on the question whether Christianity is necessary.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality (Cambridge University Press, 1997), 61.

Print Friendly

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://myatheistlife.wordpress.com myatheistlife

    Fred was an amazing guy

  • quine001

    Very good thinking.

  • http://justgiblets.com Scot

    Oh, my. Yeah, see that’s what I thought you were trying to do, despite all the other interpretations I’ve read that others were sharing. Good find. I’ve kind of been shy to read Nietzsche because of — well, his cultural reputation. But maybe I should.

  • http://gravatar.com/stuartcoyle StuartCoyle

    Nietzsche is a great author. His writings can be difficult to read, challenging, dangerous and sometimes wrong (as are we all), but are invaluable to those wanting

    to challenge the things they assume to be true.

    • http://justgiblets.com Scot

      This whole thing has really affected me, I gotta say. I didn’t have any New Year resolutions. (I did quit smoking on Dec. 26, but I am purposefully not tying that to the new year.) But now I’m starting to make a list of things I’d like to do or attempt.

      -Listen to people. Don’t assume that I know what they should do or what they believe.

      -Try to understand what faith is. Honestly, I don’t really get it, and I never have.

      -Read authors I feel I shouldn’t.

      -Participate in rituals I’ve never experienced.

      -Continue to examine all experiences with a rational mind.

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

        “Thumbs up”

      • Steve Brooks

        good on you. :) that is an excellent outlook, welcome to the darkside, we have cookies. :P

      • http://atheistapostates.wordpress.com atheistapostates

        I just say my first reaction was scorn to hearing this project, BUT I stopped and thought for a minute, and EVEN if you do go back to the SDA church, at least you will personally know the challenges atheists live with daily.

        Many atheistic people remember what it was like to be theistic, so we tend to TRY and be a little more open and understanding, where as most believing theistic people have never been in an atheistic persons shoes and have no clue the challenges we face in our modern societies.

        I was born into Christianity, and left it when I was 25. I studied with an Orthodox Rabbi for 5 years after that, and found myself questioning a lot more still. It took a long 8 years before I became atheistic in my views towards deities and the supernatural. It was not something I went looking for, but fell upon me.

        Really read into evolution by natural selection, read about it with a sincere heart and open mind. Challenge what history has told us, and verify it was credible sources. Knowledge does truly lead to greater understanding, and our universe, life and what we know is so much grander, so much more beautiful and much more a mystery knowing this is all without a god/creator. It TRULY is mind blowing and humbling.

      • https://plus.google.com/105189597847113416128 Gabe

        As someone who spent the majority of his life as a Christian and is now Agnostic I can tell you that the journey is difficult. I started thinking with logic and found that the world makes much more sense without a religious doctrine. I find my inspiration from helping people and being good to others. Good luck on your journey.

      • http://knit4peace.wordpress.com Rom

        Thank you, Gabe, for expressing so concisely the first part of my journey. For me the agnostic part of my journey is no longer difficult. I stopped believing in God 33 years ago, after MUCH study. A man told me if he didn’t believe in God there would be nothing to stop him from robbing a bank. I told him if that’s all that kept him from robbing a bank, I hoped he would continue believing in God. Most of us refrain from robbing banks for the same reason we don’t rob anything or anyone. The money or stuff isn’t ours. Logical. We aren’t two year old kids who take what we want – just because we want it. We don’t need a mommy or daddy to say, “No, no!”

  • Bob

    Ryan,

    Nietzsche’s experiences, which seem to have resulted from his metaphysics, are not what I would seek. He may be the best salesman against atheism I have ever encountered if one were to agree with him all the way. 1/5/14, 21:27 CST

    • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

      So it’s turning scary for you too even already Bob. I’m on the edge of my seat ;-)

      • Bob

        Steve,

        I’ve sort of resolved that issue, but I’m open to further consideration of it. I didn’t resolve it logically with lots of careful study. I resolved it more emotionally. Briefly, I disagree with N. that atheism must lead to nihilism. To me, nihilism is more an attitude than a philosophy. I think Buddhism might give a better idea of “nothingness” than nihilism. This is all a bit “squishy” and imprecise, so I imagine I’ll be taken to task by those who know more or are picky about details or wording. I have not found anything particularly alluring in my brief encounters with N., but I don’t much like the “dark” side. I know many are fascinated by the “dark” side, and I am not too surprised that N. might appeal to them. 1/6/14, 09:15 CST

        • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

          Done Buddhism (seven yrs Vipassana under S.N.Goenka, personally at first) but rejected it for its unproven assumption that “all is suffering” “ain’t necessarily so” IMHO, and becomes self fulfilling.

          Regarding the “Dark Side” – I’ve trod the “left hand path” too, but unlike many realised that there is more to well-being than pleasure. Tantra – properly understood – was fruitful, but only, as with so much, when you understand that it is not about power, which brings us back to Nietzsche. But power and “expression” was what nineteenth century Europe was all about, individual and collective. I find it overrated. For me the key to understanding “this world” is not domination but careful submission” – to reality. Which is why I find this guy’s work fascinating – concerning “reality” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqDP34a-epI – don’t be put off by the Deepak Chopra connection (I’m not a fan) or the fact that he starts with basics that we’ve all seen, watch to the end. He gives no comfort to dualist or non dualist, believer or non-believer. I’ve corresponded with him, I don’t think he really understands what he has stumbled on – not fully, he’s just a geek, hence vulnerability to DC’s charms and dollars. I arrived at a similar point via exploration of language, but that’s way more dangerous than modeling stuff on a big computer, as you can only “run” it in your mind. So I left off a long time ago. It’s not “it” but a powerful new tool for my kit.

          But I did point out to him that two “agents” are the minimum, to which he rapidly agreed, (I discovered that in Meditation – the “bliss of one” is a delusion – an intoxicant even) but by getting hung up on “left brain/right brain” showed that he has to think it through a lot more. At this moment that duo is “you and me”. Wisdom is not an achievement in my opinion – it is a Knack. Neither do I believe in “living in the now” I prefer to live in “everywhere, everyone and always”. On the divinity issue I keep plenty of room for a healthy adolescent “whatever”. On “truth” I make pleasant small talk.

          About ritual I agree wholehearedly – I was initiated by a “son” of A.E.Waite, decades ago, another tool in the kit, that did not make me a “follower” but does make me very alert to ritual, (and magic) to the point of having spent some of the summer before last visiting (and taking) various mainly very small country “RC” masses here in Portugal. The best was in a very remote village across the mountain, with a gay priest in his eighties, who also had a grown up son, but a weakness for money. One of the wizards that didn’t make the cut in Tolkein. While I was there I just was there, and took mass, and so was “christ” whatever that was. I felt the lack of wine though. My deep background was high anglican, one needs wine. Wisdom is not something to join, if you want to “belong” follow a sports team, otherwise get wise and “belong” everywhere.

          Nice to properly meet you Bob. :-) I’m pleased.

          • Bob

            Steve,

            Thank you for the link. That video is fascinating. It looks relevant, also, to another thread of comments on this blog. I admit that I would probably need to be shown more steps in his mathematical development to understand it. I have been out of academia for a number of years, and I’m rusty on that type of analytical precision. My initial conjecture is that, while one gets the impression in his lecture that the model he proposed just happened to correlate to the physics quantum model, the cleverness worked the other way. That is, he used the previously derived quantum model as a starting point and found a way of creating the analogue he presents. Either way, the analogy is “wonder” full.

            I have not yet explored Buddhism in much depth, but a few books and lectures have introduced me to some of its principles, which I find to be delightfully interesting and challenging. I can’t imagine myself calming my mind enough to successfully meditate, so I have no experience in it yet. I am getting some idea of the huge disconnect between Eastern and Western thought as I consider it and other Eastern religions and philosophies.

            You mention an interest, at some point, in language. Have you run into Owen Barfield or Antrhoposophy? Barfield thought that the changes in the way we use language over the centuries indicates a fundamental change in the prevailing state of consciousness of human beings from being more connected/unified with our universe to becoming more dualistic. I think his evidence to too thin to go as far as he does, but he generates interesting ideas from his hypothesis and calls into question how we interpret pre-Enlightenment history and literature.

            It’s good to get to know you, too. Thanks for your comments. 1/6/14, 15:07 CST

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

        Owen Barfield on language is one of my “demigods” that book is an eternal source of pleasure, frequently offered to friends. I was an administrator at a Stener school, that my kids also attended in Bristol UK, at a time when we were attempting to follow Steiner’s ideas on economics as well. I was never a card carrying follower, many of them attempted to turn his philosophy into a religion – with heretics and apostates, etc. But i find his attempt to bring science to bear on matter spiritual and metaphysical as wholely praiseworthy, rather as Sir Francis bacon’s cosmology was very wrong, but his methodology led to great things, Steiner had a fine mind, but got bogged down on detail somewhat.

        I think we can do better now. For me i will never be happy while there is still mystery to be revealed – i am never happy with “it just is’ or “stochastic”. Or rather i am never happier than when there is mystery before me, having cleaned out the Eugean stables of existing knowledge. these days it is so hard to be a true polymath, let alone know all of science – so one has to become alert for underlying principles. Search Mohism in the Stanford encyclopedic project on philosophy. They were there all that time ago and then Chuang Tsu (Zuangtse) commented incisively on that. Those two, plus the “Neo Confucians” around just before contact with Portuguese many centuries later, then Bacon, carry a humanist torch forward that does not shy away from the metaphysical, but avoids the sogginess of so much that one associates with “New Age” and such. For me Joseph campbell is also powerful – a mapmaker tracing my own path for me, after i had travelled it and observe the same truth, that fairytales are maps, Steiner too touched on this.

        I am also interested in “the right thinking for the right age”. What is “true” when you are 21 is not necessarily true when you are 57. Almost in an absolute sense. So i try to ‘act my age” because that is a current truth, not to be revisited, for a long time at least. Then there is metempsychosis, which can be allowed for in science, once you realise that there is no need for anything to “travel forward” except for your unique world view. Any data is there for you to rediscover in the “cloud”. Your true world view is very simple, observe yourself reacting to stimulus, that is the evidence for it, not your declared philosophy.

        You do not “decide” from opinion, you decide reflexively from experience, only later putting an intellectual “spin” on it, if you have that conceit. How do you know that “you” yesterday was the same as “you’ today? If you forgot all your yesterdays and started again, you might not be “Bob” but you would still exist.

        The trouble with meditation is that when in that state you are extremely suggestible, and no teaching organisation, even “secular”, I know of has been able to avoid inserting dogma. I would say – develop alert attention with equanimity, in your everyday existence. Develop the concentrated fascination you might well have been easily capable of as a young child.

        • Bob

          Steve K.,

          Thanks for your thoughts on so many things. Few know of Barfield these days. You tipped me to several things that are unfamiliar to me. Hopefully, I’ll get to them in due time. Interesting about meditation. Sounds like a sort of hypnotic state. I recently read about fMRI research on brain activity in various types of activities such as glossalalia and forms of meditation and prayer. Looks like much more work in that area could be interesting. I think it was in a book called “Why We Believe What We Believe.”

          I think this sidebar may be running pretty far afield of Ryan’s current concerns, although he may some day find some of these things to be relevant, but it’s pretty overwhelming to encounter all at once. 1/6/14, 19:50 CST

  • converttheatheist

    Really? Yesterday’s post was heavy. And personal. And incredibly worrisome.

    This? This, on the heels of yesterday is feeling like manipulation. This feels like staking a philosophical claim. Or at least making a show of doing so.

    How about a personal response? How about talking about what your mindset is as you are now struggling to determine how to make your year financially and societally feasible? You opened yourself up for this… You promised a personal journey. Quoting Nitzsche at this point, after yesterday, turns this into a joke. It raises the spectre of grandstanding.

    If you talk about the personal when it helps the narrative, but retreat to quotes when the personal doesn’t further the story, you lose your audience.

    I started following you with bated breath, hopeing that a genuine personal experience would follow, encompassing the individual travails and triumphs within the context of the great thinkers. But this, I’m sorry, feels like a cop-out. What has this done to YOU? Where are you going next? What help do you need?

    Because many of us would actually like to help! But only if we sense genuineness. Don’t throw that away.

    It is almost as though you didn’t realize that this religious tourism was going to get serious. And you are retreating to quotes to avoid having to face the reality of the expectations you have raised, and even the very personal consequences you are facing. God dammit… If you are serious, then treat your audience… and yourself… with respect. Don’t give us sound bites. Particularly quotes. Tell us WHERE YOU ARE and what you are going through. You opened yourself up to this. Have the guts to follow through, or as I suggested yesterday, back out.

    I hope it’s the former… Though I don’t envy you what that will mean for your next year.

    • http://justgiblets.com Scot

      Jeez. The man is 5 days — 5 very heavy days — into a very personal journey. Can you please lay off the criticism for at least a month?

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

        As I have said “Amen” Scot.

    • http://mine.icanhascheezburger.com/pictures-by-tessm/ tessm

      Scot said it before I could. Perfectionist much?

    • http://twitter.com/katiehippie Katie S (@katiehippie)

      @converttheatheist, I don’t think he is doing this for you. Let him proceed at his own pace. It can take more than 10 seconds to say what a quote means to you personally.

    • Caroline

      On a road trip sometimes one just enjoys the scenery along the way. Meanings come later.

      • Caroline

        This quote comes to mind:

        We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

        T. S. Eliot

      • http://hellyesitschicken.wordpress.com hellyesitschicken

        On a roadtrip, the driver does well to inform others of his or her approximate itinerary, and methods of conveyance.

        Converttheatheist is, at the least, right to point out that this post and the post from the 4th are extremely disjoint in their content, length and character. If Mr. Bell intends to establish a rotation of types of posts, well and good. However, without being informed of that intention, the effect of these two posts is rather like finding out that a friend who you expected to be en route from New York to Los Angeles has instead struck out for Philadelphia–it may ultimately mean very little, but it’s bothersome at the time.

        On a different note, we have here an ‘experiment’ with sample size one and no control group identified. Call it a journey, call it an exploration, endeavor, or project, or what-have-you, but please, when the word “theory” is already so misunderstood in this arena, please do not call this an experiment.

        • Caroline

          @Hellyesitschicken I guess it depends on what you were expecting. Personally, I understand this to be a journey into unknown territory with journal entries along the way. I connect with these posts as I am somewhat ‘bookish’, have left my church, former community and questioning if there is a God. What I am hearing is Mr. Bell grieving as he sets out following his conscience. I find these posts & comments helpful and I wish him well as he continues on his road ahead.

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

        @hellyesitschicken I have considered your comment for a while, in some astonishment, and it leaves me with the desire to ask you what exactly is your problem? It is certainly not Ryan’s.

        This man has made a public sacrifice of what was most dear to him, and you are quibbling about the detailed arrangement of his entrails.

        Forensic examination of yours leaves me feeling that you are most unusually full of their usual contents, particularly the colon.

      • http://hellyesitschicken.wordpress.com hellyesitschicken

        @Caroline and others; you are quite right; some of my reactions have come from expectations that are not warranted. That is something I should be aware of.

        @Steve Kane I had hoped to make two points in my previous post: One: that I agreed with @converttheatheist that the juxtaposition of a post about emotional and financial straits and a post containing a quote and two sentences related to that quote was jarring, and had the potential to alienate readers. Two: that Mr. Bell’s use of the word ‘experiment’ could create confusion that could burden future discourse, as his usage seems very different from what I believe to be the common usage of the word ‘experiment’.

        If those points failed to come across, or were obscured, that is a flaw in my writing that should be rectified. Does your assertion that I am full of shit (and presumably eviscerated) stem from a failure on my part to articulate these points, or does it seem to you that points One and Two above are without merit?

        • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

          They are, I consider without merit in this context, and timing is everything, and they are utterly lacking in empathy. Maybe you have a problem in these two areas, maybe not.

      • http://justgiblets.com Scot

        On the other hand, @hellyesitschicken, you have an awesome handle.

    • Al

      Just adding my voice to say that this is blog not a novel. His journey won’t be what you want it to be. He is not going to tailor his posts to garner support from you or anyone else which, ironically, would be doing the very thing you are accusing him of.

    • http://gravatar.com/joealanjones2013 TexJoe

      Ha ha. This guy is putting his “personal” journey on display for all to see, and that on a medium (blog) that inherently fosters self-aggrandizement. How can you possibly wax incredulous? Te entire ordeal is one massive grandstand.

      • Christena

        @TexJoe… perhaps there’s a bit of grandstanding, but you don’t know this guy personally and you are drawing some pretty quick judgements about his motives… he’s a teacher and a preacher and it may just be in his character and experience to want to share his ‘personal’ journey – to teach and to learn. In any event, even if it’s grandstanding, why not think of it as reality entertainment with brains. Both the actor and the audience (even cynical grumps such as yourself) are of such superior intellectual caliber to the likes of Duck Dynasty and Real Housewives. And yet we still get these little inter-comment bickering sessions to add some spice to the entertainment! Good stuff…

      • Anne

        I would like to add here that our responses are important in Ryan’s experience. Regardless of what he posts as motivation for his journey, there are many other interesting response-generated subtopics made available for his use once his year is complete.

  • http://gravatar.com/polihronu polihronu
  • http://twitter.com/Besomyka Rachel (@Besomyka)

    Is this your first weekend in recent memory you’ve spent without attending a service? If so, I have to think that might be a little disorienting.

  • http://Tracismixedbag.com Traci

    I sincerely appreciate your sharing your journey with the world. Your posts have come at the perfect time, like a complimentary seasoning (to all other influences) in the stew of my life. As a religious nomad myself, I haven’t lost faith in God but rather the system in which people implement his “will”. This is a great quote by Nietzsche, thanks for sharing.

  • Stutz

    This Nietzsche quote made me think again of the discussion about this overall enterprise that was well debated in the “Am I Doing It Wrong” comments. I feel presumptuous in saying that I think Nietzsche is off-base, but I can’t help feeling that way, because to me “the question whether Christianity is necessary” is so, so beside the point. And similarly, that is also my initial reaction to your undertaking. So let me make it simple and explicit:

    If you truly want to understand atheism, it is my opinion that your focus should be first, foremost, and primarily on the question of whether God really exists or not.

    That’s it. Atheism is not about the authors or atheist groups or not reading the Bible. Now, on the other hand, I’m not so naive as to think that anyone comes to an honestly held opinion on God’s existence without first undertaking a journey. And because of that, I support you! But as others have said repeatedly, I just hope that this journey won’t just be about what it’s like to “live like an atheist”, because atheists don’t choose an atheist lifestyle over a Christian lifestyle; rather, they truly feel that God does not exist, and proceed accordingly. Therefore, it is my fervent hope that you deeply consider this basic question for yourself at least once along your path. To my mind, the best way you could go about living like an atheist would be simply to contemplate the arguments against God’s existence and to reach a point where you can see how they make sense to those of us convinced by them. Best of luck!

  • Phlllip

    Only time I’ve heard a quote from Nietzsche was from an old friend I knew from when I was a Christian. He quoting “God is dead” to give an example of how atheist know God exists because how could they think he’s dead if they didn’t believe he ever existed! Catch the fallacies…

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

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” -Marcus Aurelius

    • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

      That is a better take on Pascal’s wager – expressed long before his day.

    • http://myferalblog.wordpress.com joealanjones2013

      One teeny weeny little problem with that is the fact that no one lives by said “virtues.” We don’t even live up to the standards we mere mortals expect from others, let alone the virtue that would be required by God.

      Only the faith Bell is leaving (or, more accurately, was never actually a part of) has a legitimate answer to the hypocrisy that every honest human being sees in himself.

      Virtue. Pffft.

      • plutosdad

        So you can’t trust that if there is a God he will forgive your sins unless you kowtow to him and beg forgiveness?

        Of course no one is perfect or lives perfectly. But if God is just, he will forgive the sins of those who accept that fact and still strive, whether they heard of him or not, or whether they believe in him or not. Otherwise that god would be a monster, who condemns a person who strives to be good only because his brain chemistry results in him being less credulous than the person next to him.

        And I don’t think Christianity or forgiveness is based on how credulous you are. Most interpretations of faith are “trust”, not “belief”

        And it is awfully presumptuous to say those of us who were in ministry, spent decades in the church and believed, to say we were “never part of the faith” or “never truly believed”, when we had the courage to challenge our own ideas and admit when we are wrong, and that finally led us away from the “belief”.

  • Paul

    We just hope, Ryan, that you’re experiment doesn’t, in the end, destroy your life like it did Nietzsche’s. He was certainly not one to pattern one’s life after. He had bad moral character and he went mad towards the end of his life and was said to be quoting Bible verses on his death bed.

    No doubt his rejection of God haunted him to his dying day. It’s a sad ending to a troubled life.

    • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

      Read this, and the paragraph before, and tell me he was not “christlike”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche#Mental_breakdown_and_death_.281889.E2.80.931900.29

      What exactly was his “bad moral character”? “Hatred” of the unjust.

      BTW Steiner, who was the first to praise him, was a believer, a highly sophisticated believer based in science and what he would have considered ancient wisdom, I grant you.

      • Paul

        Steve, I did read that before commenting. I had heard comments through the years about him, but I wanted to educate myself a little more before commenting. He certainly was not “Christlike.”

        You asked how I derived at his bad moral character. It’s in the Wiki article: “Köhler argues that Nietzsche’s syphilis, which is “usually considered to be the product of his encounter with a prostitute in a brothel in Cologne or Leipzig, is equally likely, it is now held, to have been contracted in a male brothel in Genoa”.

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

        You may consider that bad, personally I would consider it forgivable. Compared to the sins of the church down the years it is positively saintly. I doubt he ever ordered anyone’s death for disagreeing with him. He didn’t turn in his theological rival to the French inquisitors like Calvin did, shall I go on?

        • Paul

          Bad and forgivable is comparing apples and oranges. Yes, bad things can be forgiven. But because of that those things don’t cease to be bad.

          In addition, being forgiven doesn’t right one’s character unless they choose to live a more morally upright life.

          How does comparing the moral character of two entities make the bad character of one of them “saintly”? Sorry, but that’s faulty logic. Bad or good character comes from individual choices and those choices are not related to others who make the same choices.

          I do find it ironic and interesting that you want to call Nietzsche “Christlike” in spite of this bad character, and then point out crimes of the church that were obviously NOT Christlike (and, therefore, not “Christian”) and somehow try to paint Christianity as a murderous religion. LOL! Why don’t you remain consistent and allow the same forgiveness to the church that you allow to Nietzsche? Why don’t you judge the church according to the standard of “Christlikeness” like you’re trying to do with Nietzsche? Why the double standard?

          The bottom line is that Christlikeness is the standard, and where anyone, a person or an organization, no matter what they claim to be, does not meet the standard they are not acting as a “Christian.” Those things you pointed out with the (Roman Catholic) church and Calvin were not consistent with Biblical Christianity. Therefore, they are not “Christian.” (And, please, spare me the silly “No True Scotsman” reply. It’s full of holes and is ridiculous.)

          So, by all means continue. All you can do is show how feeble men have abused the purity of the teachings of Jesus Christ. You can’t throw any mud on him, and he is the standard by which I choose to label someone “Christian” or “not Christian.” By the way, it is by that standard that you and I will be judged, too, some day. How do you fair in light of Jesus’s morality?

      • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

        I assume you keep all the rules of Leviticus, and do not just pick the ones that suit you. What fibers are your clothes made of? Can’t join the remnant surely if you get that one wrong. I’m hoping you are ready to impregnate your brother’s wife should he die without an heir. Wouldn’t want to be guilty of the sin of Onan, not masturbation but “bad faith”.

        • Paul

          Steve, why would I, a non Jew living in 2014, keep laws designed for ancient Jews living 4,000 years ago? Where in the Bible am I commanded to do that?

      • aesthete2

        What does visiting brothels have to do with morality?

    • stuartcoyle

      Nietzche was certainly a flawed character, I think the term “human, all too human” would sum it up. That does not mean that he was not one of the 19th centuries great thinkers. He never said, “look at how I live my life, you should live yours like this.” He did however enjoin people to strive to be better, more personally powerful and in control of their own lives.

    • Anne

      Nietzsche questioned the use of religious belief in governing others. He wasn’t happy with how leaders used religion to rationalize killing people and enslaving nations (still going on today, unfortunately). For his questioning, he is to this day loved and hated. “God is dead.” For him, there was no longer a question of a God especially when His name was used to rationalize torture and killing. How could he possibly come to such a conclusion? I look at it this way. Saying “There is no such thing as a God” and “God is all there is” points to the same conclusion: Duality is an illusion. There is no God above and humankind below, forever separate and striving towards reunion. Yet through the lens of science, we learn that within the relationship of objects, the tension created is the very thing that creates and sustains life. I don’t think Nietzsche’s questions and answers were final truths, do you? Maybe this entire debate hinges on a matter of language. I mean, it all points to the same thing. “Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is our purpose? What does it all mean? Can we find out?” When I hear someone say “God only knows” and “It’s not for me to question God,” I am not satisfied. Are you? Really?

      • Paul

        No, I don’t think Nietzche’s questions and answers were final truths. He was a truth seeking human being like we all are (or should be). We will never know what his thoughts were during his last hours, but the quoting of Bible verses leads me to think that he was contemplating the truth behind God, the Bible, etc., even in his confused and poor mental condition. Perhaps he thought, “Was I wrong all these years?” Of course, that’s just speculation. But my speculation is as good as another’s. :-)

        As for the questions we all thinks about (even those who deny they do): “Who are we? Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is our purpose? What does it all mean? Can we find out?” I don’t think science can adequately answer them. It provides theories, but since (regarding past events) there were no observers, it cannot make statements of fact about origins (even though school textbooks do, which is misleading).

        I personally have never said “God only knows and it’s not for us to question God.” I think God likes questions. He made us autonomous beings with a mind, logic and reason. He’s not intimated by questions of his existence. There comes a point when the answer is sufficient even if we think it’s not. As a parent of many children, I love questions. But they can become irritations if too many are asked when a sufficient answer has been given.

        I will say that as humans it’s impossible to know everything, and that is where, I believe, we separate from God. He does know everything. He’s omniscient. So there is a matter of trust when the unknown comes upon us. But he has said that he is trustworthy, and that is good enough for me.

  • https://www.facebook.com/steve.kane.330 Steve Kane

    Unlike Martin Luther, who was a rabid and vocal anti-semite, among other things, Nietzsche expressed hatred for anti-semitism and many other unenlightened ways of being.

    This great quote, which I have not seen before, is a pearl. There Ryan – I expect you never expected today’s “Angel” to be Nietzsche. <3 :-)

    How's the jobseeking?

    Walking with you.

    • Zondervrees

      I do not intend to start a discussion on Nietzsche but I’d like to point out he was ill towards the end of his life, probably cancer of the brain. (This disease is, to my knowledge, not caused by rejecting a god as some seem to imply. It might be the cause of him starting to quote bible verses on his deathbed though…)

      And his sister, who ‘took care’ of his unpublished works after his death is largely responsible for the anti-semitic tendencies.

  • Mary

    “A voice”…I agree, but just one voice. Even if Christianity turns out to be necessary for you personally, that doesn’t mean that it is for others, at least not more than any other religion is.

    My problem is that, even if Christianity is necessary, it is not believable for me. So if I were to live as a Christian because it is “necessary,” it would all be a lie, using Jesus for his supposed benefits. And I think doing so would lead me to suicide, or at least a life full of suffering.

    Which brings up an interesting point. Will living a lie lead you to suffering and depression? It might. I hope you are ready.

  • Steve

    Atheism isn’t a journey away from Christianity, it is a journey away from belief in gods.

  • mnb0
  • Bob

    Ryan,

    You are getting lots of pointers to things to check out. I would be overwhelmed, but, in case you find the time, a blog that often has posts I find very insightful is:

    http://www.jimrigby.org/

    It and Jim can be followed on Facebook, which is how most people seem to access it. Here’s an example from today’s posting:

    “Forget the word “religion.” Forget the crosses and menorahs. Forget the churches and temples for a moment. I want to know what rituals hold your life together. I want to know what secret song of gratitude you sing to the universe. I want to know out of what ultimate value you are living your life. And I want to ask if some part of you does not long to share all of that with other human beings in community? Does any part of you feel a responsibility to share your experiences with children trying to find their way in this bewildering world? This is what I mean by the word “religion,” but call it by any name you like. Purge it of all you abhor, but remember that you do not need to live and die with your deepest treasures unknown to any but yourself.”

    1/6/14, 09:29 CST

  • txskeptic

    I see you have some heavy reading in your future, not the least of which will be the thousands of comments on this blog. I hate to toss another log on your fire, but I must, as it was one a favorite of mine during my journey. It is Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, by Susan Jacoby. You may find it a nice break from some of the heavier writings of Nietzsche or Spinoza.

  • https://www.facebook.com/jiiri1 Mark Horn

    Thanks for what you’re doing here. At the very least, regardless of any outcome in personal beliefs, what you’re doing helps with one of the main issues on both sides. I’m an atheist, and have been since I was a teenager. I wish I could say it was something sophisticated (I am now a 37 year-old philosophy major) that made me skeptical, but it wasn’t. My family was military growing up, and we lived in the deep south, where everyone I knew was Southern Baptist. Then, my father got orders to Idaho, and immediately, everyone I knew was Mormon. It became apparent that beliefs about the universe – truth claims about the universe – were geographically and family-based. I put down the C.S. Lewis and the next day I was an atheist, which I’ve been without any regrets since.

    Because I care very much about intellectual honesty – as, clearly, do you; it IS the cause of all of your ‘problems’ here – I’ve lived since then as an open atheist. And it has come with its share of challenges. But one challenge I don’t have to live with is suppressing what I think is true, and why I think it. If you work hard, and develop an intellectually honest and reasonably defensible position, you shouldn’t be ashamed of expressing and defending that view.

    The reason I even came to this blog to write all of this is this: I have long felt that religion (and, more explicitly, faith) are not only wrong, but harmful to mankind. Humanism is all of the good without all of the bad. And Humanism is inclusive, not exclusive. No eternal damnation here. But, since I’ve viewed religion as inherited from parents in most cases, I’ve tended to try to be as kind as possible to believers with whom I interact, since I understand the difficulty, both socially and intellectually, they must face for doubting. The other point I would take is that if I, as an atheist, could be as kind as possible, and treat believing individuals with maximum respect while still expressing my true and honest opinions, I might at least soften some of them away from the idea that the atheist is a dour, sad, bitter person. Most that I know are not.

    But, locked into my own perspective, I had neglected to see that the opposite can also be true. You have shown me that a strong believer, someone who has made a particular belief your life’s work – can also be intellectually honest, which is something I fear I may often not ascribe to my friends on the other side of this divide. So, thank you. I love philosophy because it helps me to challenge my assumptions – all of my assumptions. You have helped to do that with your project, and I think atheists and theists alike should applaud your intellectual honesty, regardless of outcome.

    I’m sure you’re a wonderful person to talk with – in fact, if you want to have a fun chat about the nature of the universe and man’s place in it, I love those and am available – email me and I’ll send you my number. But, whether you or I think something is true is far, far, less important than whether it ACTUALLY IS true. The truth of the matter is the thing I care about. So do you, and I applaud that in a deep and sincere way. Good luck on your journey!

    • quine001

      I have long felt that religion (and, more explicitly, faith) are not only wrong, but harmful to mankind.

      I agree with you, Mark, even though religion may have been beneficial to our ancestors who did not understand the mechanisms of Nature around them. Making myths that helped social organization and propagated accumulated wisdom from past experiences helped the lives of those who had no other source of what “ought” or “ought not” be done. We still have a basic problem at the bottom of choosing values, but given goals of improved quality of life, we can now use what we can empirically show is true about the world to go beyond the myths and superstitions that were the best our ancestors had to guide their lives.

      Today, the lack of a majority religion in the world, and the mutual exclusion of the teachings of the world’s thousands of religions and their sects, means that most people must be wrong about religion. The atheist position is that not only must most be wrong, but none have been able to present convincing evidence that he or she has a religion that is true. As Ryan goes along in his year he is not only going to see the hypocrisy he got hit with in the first couple of days, and ad hominem attacks like those against Nietzsche in this thread, but also continuing failure of the faithful to provide evidence that what they believe is actually true. In discussion with the religious I often end with one simple request that I am going to remind Ryan to ask as he goes along:

      Got evidence?

  • Joy

    Man, there’s some heavy stuff people are leaving you! You’re brave to go public for that reason alone! My few thoughts are not so deep, but heartfelt: First, I’m very sorry for the pain and stress you’ve experienced in your church. No one should have to deal with that there. Unfortunately, wherever human beings are, you’ll find dysfunction. People will always be people. Example: after almost 30 years of teaching, I’ve never had to instruct students on how to be naughty. You are right to question your faith. I hope you will learn many things this coming year, but mostly, I hope you discover the truth. It is absolutely out there to find. Godspeed!

  • TBIBarrett

    Mr. Bell – you are a brave man to enter this territory! The year is only a few days old and you are already being criticized at every turn (which some great conversation mixed in). You will be pulling many out of their comfort zone (sounds like that is already happening), but I hope most will state their opinion with respect. It was unfortunate, and definitely not surprising, that your employer decided that your journey didn’t fit with their vision and they let you go. To me that is one of the hardest concepts of many religions – you should not question faith, however if, as these institutions believe, that we are created in God’s image, wouldn’t we be great thinkers? Wouldn’t we always search for knowledge? Just doesn’t seem to fit together. In my situation, I was raised with faith, but there have been so many times as an adult where bad and good things have happened, always being touted by others as part of ‘God’s plan’. A child is born – ‘God’s plan’, a child dies – ‘God’s plan’, cancer – ‘God’s plan’, mental illness, winning sports teams, new jobs, raises, etc, etc, etc. The though of a blanket ‘God’s plan’ to relieve us from contemplating the ups and downs of life leaves me shaking my head, so I look forward to your journey, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t think you have to give a roadmap because there isn’t one. For me, my ‘faith’ is aligned with @Kris Kramer’s quote from Marcus Aurelius, but I don’t expect anyone else to have that same feeling. If they do, fine, if they don’t, I respect that too. Whatever we do individually to justify our lives and move us down the road is a very personal thing. I have Christian acquaintances that ‘feel sorry’ for me when I tell them my religious beliefs. Why? This is how I choose to deal with my life. I look forward to your writings and I hope that you find the answers to your questions. They only result that you can hope for is, at the end of they year, you can honestly say that you spent a year openly contemplating a very difficult subject. If you decide that you are a believer in God, then your faith will be stronger (and won’t the universities wish that they had retained you! Imagine, a year delving into faith and coming out the other side more faithful !). If you decide that your belief in God has changed or that you chose to follow a life without the religious God, you will have knowledge to continue on that path as well. The choice is yours and it’s going to be quite a ride.

  • Billzbub

    Ryan, I just discovered your blog and will be reading it daily for the next year. Thank you for going through this process and publicizing the journey.

    I saw a comment on a previous day that requested you let us know how often you prayed before this year and how often you catch yourself wanting to pray now. That poster’s comment got me thinking about why I am so entranced by your blog. I, and I’m sure other readers of this blog, would love for you to continue to post about your thoughts and feelings as you go through this transition. The Christian readers of the blog may not be familiar with the new ideas you are coming across, and the atheist readers may not be familiar with the ideas you are leaving behind, so thoughts and ideas that might seem mundane to you might fascinate us. I know it is asking a lot, but I hope you continue to keep us in the loop about what you are thinking and feeling as well as about what happens each day.

  • JTS

    I think that the idea of an “approval” of your journey from the author of a text takes you away from an atheist orientation. The text you quoted is interesting and supportive of your research here, but I think that the notion of receiving “an approval” from Nietzsche, or any other author, is more suited to a religious mode of thought.

  • http://isthatallthereisthejourneywithin.com Cindy

    Why do you need anyone to approve you? When you learn to love yourself and know you don’t need anyone’s approval but your own life changes for you. You change for you.

    We make little steps or big steps in so many areas of our life. We choose a direction all the time. It is where I harness and focus my thoughts and energy towards that gives so much meaning to each and every day. I chose high flying days.

    I will never have all the answers to life and God. I did just write a book asking God a lot of questions on life called “Is That All There Is…The Journey Within” a real soul searching journey. This book is filled with insight and love. It is a getting to know “you” book.

    I did come to a conclusion there is a God, I love both of us. I have found people in church lacking the true Spirit of what God is all about, others radiant and shine. I still have not found a home church. I know this sounds judgmental. I know I am the church I carry it inside of me.

    I hope you find what you are seeking in your life. I will always be a seeker of more knowledge, wisdom, truth. I hold onto faith and oodles of supernatural encounters.
    Forever gazing at the stars and looking out on a pouring rainy day taking in all the magnificence each day has to offer me.

    I can only imagine the next phase when we all depart. Amen

  • Nena

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It is yours, alone, and I am grateful for the blessing of sharing it.

  • Teresa Beem

    I think you should do something equally as stunning. In 2015–no matter where you are spiritually, even if you are a convicted atheist, you should try a year as a Catholic.

  • Brooknva

    A well known atheist from Austin, TX , Matt Dillahunty, is offering a weeks stay to you in his guest house in Austin during this journey of yours. Look him up.

  • http://villainousintent.wordpress.com Psycho Gecko

    I’d watch out for what Nietzsche seems to approve of. As far as I can tell, his writings underwent some posthumous editing to make them more palatable to a certain universally-reviled group. You know, the people who reacted to Superman beating them up in comics by declaring him a Jew.

    Anyway, good luck on all the reading. Hope Hemant’s fundraiser helps you out.

  • Mike Emanson

    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 wish you a good journey.

    • http://gravatar.com/dhanson0313 Dillon

      ^THIS!

      It honestly would not be a bad starting point. Matt Dillahunty was a devout Christian for much of his life before becoming an atheist — at the very least he could give you some insight into why he came to the conclusion that he did. Even if you don’t call into the show, emailing them (namely Matt) would be so beneficial to your journey IMHO. And of course we would love to hear about it. Good luck man, I hope this journey is fruitful for you.

    • Dillon Hanson

      ^THIS!

      It honestly would not be a bad starting point. Matt Dillahunty was a devout Christian for much of his life before becoming an atheist — at the very least he could give you some insight into why he came to the conclusion that he did. Even if you don’t call into the show, emailing them (namely Matt) would be so beneficial to your journey IMHO. And of course we would love to hear about it. Good luck man, I hope this journey is fruitful for you.

  • Nils

    Not directly linked to the Nietzshe post (Also sprach Zarathustra is good read if you have the time to contemplate it), but I would like to express good wishes for your project this year. As a life long atheist I am certain that only positive outcomes will come to you mentally and emotionally through this, but I also hope your financial situation will not get too bumpy, so I have supported the fundraiser. Good luck!

  • Ian

    A healthy introspection is at the core of my beliefs.

    I look critically at the world not because I’m an atheist, but instead I am an atheist because I look critically at the world.

    It’s the common bond between those that call themselves atheist: the desire to understand the world as it exists (and not how we hope it exists).

    Enjoy your journey and I hope like the rest of us you find a surreal beauty in understanding how things work.

  • Dennis N

    Is it really Athiesm you are attempting – an existance void of any god, spirits or afterlife, or some from of no God spiritualism — a Buddhism-like paradigm (No God, but believe in the afterlife and reincarnation)?

  • https://www.facebook.com/xanifred.qerp Sean Aaron Osborne

    I’ve never been a fan of Nietzsche, but when I was a Christian, I always assumed that God could handle any questions or doubt I threw his way. It used to bug me a lot that other Christians seemed so frightened of questioning their own doctrinal positions. A God who is too weak to handle struggling followers hardly seems worth following.

    After 18 years as a born-again fundamentalist Christian (converted as an adult), it simply stopped making sense to me. I would believe again if I could, but it would need to be founded on something more than unquestioning acceptance of the Bible, or the sense that I was feeling the Holy Spirit, or the teachings of others. I would need empirical evidence to ever return, and God seems to be somewhat short on that.

    Your Day 4 blog sounds so very familiar. I went through much the same experience, although it didn’t cost me my job. I am reminded of a song by Phil Keaggy, “Jesus Loves the Church.” Although Phil still believes in Jesus, even if he’s learned some painful truths about the church.

    If you’re interested in conversations with atheists and freethinkers, you might be interested in the Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board, at http://www.freeratio.org/ – there are some rough-edged people there as well as some wonderful folks, it’s a pretty representative cross-section of atheism, IMO. As long as you refrain from proselytizing, most members will treat you well. I hope to see you there!

  • Steve Brooks

    Now that I am caught up on your blog, I’ve forwarded this to my family and friends, my parents and brother are all going to put the website URL, the idea behind your journey, and your current need for help in your finances up on their respective work bulletin boards. I hope this helps bring people here, to hopefully inspire them and also to help with donations. You’ve undertaken a journey few have the conviction to follow through with or even attempt and for that I greatly admire your tenacity and dedication.

    Good luck, and as per usual I hope you find what you are looking for.

  • http://justgiblets.com Scot

    Okay, so I’ve probably become way too obsessed with what’s happening to you. Maybe not. Concern is not a bad thing, in itself. But holey moley. Some of the diatribes, not just on here or in other blogs and media, but on your other social media presences are really … I can’t say enlightening? Maybe illuminating? Some people really have their *own* stuff that they should be dealing with it seems, no matter their beliefs, faith, or ontological arguments.

    Oh, and regarding all the people who like to say you’re showing off, seeking attention, or just in this for a book deal … I, for one, will be the first person to pre-order your book. I don’t believe you intended to be an *observer* this year, but at least during this period, I can only imagine you’re taking notes on a lot of human behavior happening around you.

    Hope you’ve taken some time off to do something nice and ordinary like share a delicious meal with your family. That’s the kind of stuff that grounds me when the crap starts flying.

    • Barb

      No kidding. How does it feel to be a gigantic Rorschach inkblot, Ryan? Not only do you have your own stuff to deal with, but you have all sorts of people projecting all sorts of their own stuff on you. I hope you have someone (or several someones) in your life you can talk about all of this with. It would make me wiggy for sure!

      I know as a pastor you have probably experienced some of this already, but this is big time. Good luck, hang on, and remember, they aren’t you! I’m rooting for you to find contentment and joy wherever you can find it.

      • http://justgiblets.com Scot

        Barb, you rock. I feel this is going to be a “many hands” operation helping to keep Ryan going. I get the feeing we’re nearly aligned in why we’re here and in how we may assist. (From a distance.) But that’s just a hunch.

      • http://twitter.com/pinostabaum James Stabaum (@pinostabaum)

        rorshach inkblot. thats brilliant.

  • Coco Smith
    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com quine001

      Excellent book.

  • http://alyricandco.blogspot.com/ Alyssa Vaughn

    So I was trying to find if you had a facebook. I think you’d find a lot of stuff in my dad’s group called The Intellectual Barnyard … https://www.facebook.com/groups/595918933751963/ Its a group he created to have a dialogue between Atheist and Theists. May have some good tidbits on there. Good Luck!

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

    Nietszche as co pilot ? Cool. How is life on the other side of the Rorschach ?

  • http://renaissancejon.wordpress.com Jon Hanson

    To people complaining about this post I imagine Mr. Bell is a little busy looking for a new job today.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for being so public with this. I have been on a similar journey the last year . My Christian friends don’t understand it, and it can be so lonely at times. I honestly wish I could go back to believing in Christianity because of the camaraderie, but I fear that is long gone. I hope you are able to hold on to relationships or build new strong relationships during your journey.

  • http://araypress.com Angelyn

    Ryan, my heart is with you on your journey. I embarked on a similar one at age 28, after not knowing an “unsaved” person until I was 21. The only world I knew was the fundamentalist Christian world. I am now 72 and comfortable in my “atheism.” What it means to me is that I do not buy into any definition of “God” that I have heard. Your journey inward is where you will find the answers and I encourage and applaud you on your way. You are a brave and honest man.

  • Dillon Hanson
    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com quine001

      Good collection! Let me add a series on Youtube by someone who documented his own process of thinking his way out of faith:

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSy1-Q_BEtQ&w=560&h=315]

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com quine001

        That series gets started here:

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12rP8ybp13s&w=560&h=315]

  • Dillon Hanson

    ^The “Best atheist videos” link was added accidentally, but there may be some good stuff in there as well.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com quine001

    Ryan, you might want to listen to Linda LaScola in this video talk about her research into pastors who stop believing in what lacks evidence.

  • Kyle

    Good luck on your journey sir. My one comment as a past evangelical bible literalist, now atheist, is to please keep your bible with you when reading Hitchens, Dawkins and their ilk. Don’t take their word for the biblical passages they describe. Actually looking them up each and every time is extremely helpful in getting the point across. More atheists should get a better understanding of the bible (or more broadly, the religious text of any faith system we wish to criticize). It is easily my best tool in any discussion.

    • https://www.facebook.com/jiiri1 Mark Horn

      Kyle – Your point is well taken. I would argue that atheists, as a whole, are probably more educated on the Bible. As you say, especially the de-converts.

  • http://SpectrumMagazine Gary Whiteman

    Hmmm, could your reasons for this experiment be found in your experience in the world of religion? Is it possible that empty religious experience catapulted you into this Year Without God? Could this year be a Year Without Religious Interference? My own experience has proven more fulfilling without “religion”. Perhaps you are looking for something with which to fulfill your “spiritual” nature….

  • Andrew EC

    Mr. Bell — if no one has recommended that you check out The Clergy Project in response to Saturday’s announcement, you might want to give them a try. It’s a members-only site of current and former pastors who have lost their faith and they discuss issues involved with coming out, finding secular employment, etc. I’m not a member (I don’t meet the requirements), so I can’t say if *you* meet the requirements, either — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

  • R.

    I’ll be praying for you,brother, and hoping that somehow this year leads you to deeper experience with our almighty GOD.He’s wonderful and His wisdom will guide you even at this path you’re choosing.Mind your family, though.Be aware that they’ll be just by your side, “absorbing” all this.

    As a member of SDA, I had the opportunity to know the way you worked for your community and the way you served people.

    God guides us all, even when we’re “away” from him.

    Take Care

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

    I dont know if this was asked, and it seems you have quite a few comments to get though. I was wondering – are you also trying to understand the scientific perspective? Maybe watching documentaries on evolution, reading various books about it, and finding answers to your questions through science?

    I know for me, my biggest “awakening” happened during my pregnancy. I was an atheist, but less passionate about it. I remember the words pounding through my head “you are cursed and in pain you shall bring forth children, etc”. Well, when I began to understand my body, and the processes involved, I realized quite a different perspective. The pain isn’t the focus, but how the body works and WHY it works that way. Then continuing through parenting, almost every question about how to handle this new little person, came from nature and understanding our genetic history. It has been absolutely valuable to me – when “pain you shall bring forth children” was useless and traumatizing. Combining all of that with the things I’ve understood about evolution, and I realized just how much and how negatively I was impacted by religion even though I no longer saw it as truth.

    Ultimately, I realized that the belief system itself was what was so harmful. The bible, and organized religion. It drives me to be Rational and inquisitive (in an empathetic manor ;D). I’ve also realized that empathy is innate and part of us as beings.

  • Anne

    Is Christianity necessary? Yes. For anyone who has not internalized the Golden Rule, it most certainly is! Internalization of a rule of conduct is an essential part of social development. Children need these rules enforced by benevolent parents who understand that young ones experience overwhelming urges to take what does not belong to them, lash out at others in fits of anger, lie whenever they feel threatened, or disrespect authority. When the rules are not sufficiently internalized, Christianity (or any religion) can be particularly helpful in guiding people. But these rules of behavior did not originate with the Christian Bible. To date, the earliest written document describing the Golden Rule is known as the Code of Hammurabi of ancient Iraq (1772 BCE). The Code consists of over 280 laws including punishments such as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Clearly, wherever a large group of people resides in a relatively small area of land, laws are needed to govern society. Many of us are not ready to take the training wheels off and ride without the aid of support. Some of us are ready.

  • Carmen

    Ryan, bravo on mustering the courage to take this leap, and to expose your vulnerability so publically. The point has been made by so many: people who experience spirituality differently, who answer existential questions outside of mainstream religion, face a lot of stigmatization in our society. Like your friend who was concerned that you would not be able to guide doctoral seminary students spiritually during your year of sabbatical from faith — those who stray from the well-worn paths are regarded with apprehension and even suspicion. I am sad that this has been your experience so far, and I am hopeful that your experiment will allow the faithful to see how misguided their distrust is.

    One question, which sounds like a point of semantics but really isn’t: are you taking a year off from God, or simply a year off from religion? Atheism, after all, is born of a life of experiencing a world that is complete in itself without room for God in it. Theism, one would hope, is born of at least one experience of the divine nature of some part of this world. Religion, I believe, exists as a placeholder for people who haven’t experienced either. If you are taking the year off from religion, take the opportunity to seize experiences, spiritual and mundane (sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which). This world is an enormous, wondrous place. You don’t have to pretend to be an atheist simply to wander off the itinerary your religion set out for you. Catch a different train. Skip the tourist traps. See what unfolds and who you are when you come out on the other side. And best of luck.

  • joshua

    Friedrich Nietzsche died an apostate death

    After he published GOD is dead he lost his mind and health.

    The LORD will deliver his promise in the Torah Deuteronomy 13:6-11.

    a Hard heart bring mental breakdown and soul death follows.

    NO GOD; NO PEACE

    KNOW GOD; KNOW PEACE

    Repent and believe the Gospel!

    • Paul

      Amen!

    • Anne

      So what are you saying, Joshua? Nietzsche’s health was never very good all his life. Sounds like you’re saying that his illness was caused by God’s displeasure. Are there no Christians suffering with illness and disease throughout history? Have the children dying of leukemia displeased your Lord? What about the men suffering with prostate cancer? Is AIDS a plague sent by Yahweh? Are you saying that the children at Sandy Hook Elementary deserved to die?

      • Jouras Docca

        Nietzsche was an evil man, who wrote that the weak and defective should be eliminated. (The Anti Christ. sec. 2)

        In his case, he not only deserved to die, but its too bad he didn’t die sooner.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kreese.baldwin Kreese Baldwin

      This guy is confusing religion with God. Christianity is vs. Christ: http://generation-magazine.com/v3iss1.htm

      • https://www.facebook.com/jiiri1 Mark Horn

        Atheists are aware of this distinction, we just don’t care that much. If God doesn’t exist, it take religion down with it as an ontological matter. Showing religion is wrong doesn’t prove God exists. You still have the heavy lifting to do.

    • aaron

      Oddly, sir, I don’t think the “reign” of Christianity brought us much more than both the Dark and Middle Ages which didn’t see any great deal peace–indeed, the exact opposite.

  • http://suspendedoblivion.wordpress.com suspendedoblivion

    Good luck to you sir. I’ll be following your blog. Also, not sure if you’ve read much Albert Camus? Maybe check him out if you have the time. Much in common with Nietzsche, but a few critical differences. Camus claimed that to accept faith was philiosophical suicide. I think perhaps your choice to entertain other beliefs, even if only temporary, might have produced very interesting thoughts from Camus.

  • https://www.blogger.com/profile/03703613924914591347 Alex

    Very interested in seeing how this goes for you. One of my biggest complaints about Christianity is that its followers are often so closed minded about any other belief or school of thought, as though asking questions and sorting out answers would somehow cause injury. As humans we are meant to question everything, and why would any creator have it otherwise….blind followers are not people, they are sheep.

    I walked away from Christianity many years ago, and have lived a happy, and emotionally healthy life, free from the fears that a man-made doctrine force fed the flock.

    Namaste

    Alex

  • https://www.facebook.com/kreese.baldwin Kreese Baldwin

    You are confusing religion with God. Christianity is vs. Christ: http://generation-magazine.com/v3iss1.htm

  • Ethan

    i pick up your story on cnn, and i wasn’t so surprised until i noticed that you were Seventh-day Adventist, man you realy are messed up, you had the truth in your hand and you decided to do a publicity stunt to the devil? but thats alright, i get you, your mind is not working straight. Only think that worries me is your 2 daughter, please tell me that you will not speak to them during your ridiculous adventure, please let them be with their mother, because you are not the role model that they need. But in this moment i would like for you be my brother though, because i could beat you up to put some senses into your head!

    • Laurie

      One does not have to have god or Christianity to raise healthy moral children. I am agnostic and my 17 year old son also alligns himself as agnostic. My children volunteer for a just cause, are good students and involved in sports. Their circle of friends are diversified and from faiths of many backgrounds. They are never in trouble at school and get compliments on their manners and politness. My daughter is Christian and we support her in her following of Christ. These are personal choices and nobody should be chastised for thier religious beliefs. Isn’t the Bible that teaches one not to judge? What will your judgement day look like? Shame on you for implying this journey has anything to do with his ability to parent his children. This is what is wrong with religion.

    • Elizabeth

      Sadly, you Ethan, are whats wrong with religion.

  • aaron

    From the man who gave us “Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am)”, René Descartes:

    “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

    This started my own long and arduous journey from Christianity. It’s been worth the journey.

  • M

    Ryan; A possible subject for future exploration, relating to whether Christianity is necessary: A friend of mine is in Christian missions, traveling to many countries outside the USA for the purposes of sharing Jesus’ love and healing through prayer. She testifies that she’s seen the sick be healed and the blind gain sight.

    I was discussing her mission with some other friends, two of whom were adamant that what she was doing was wrong, seeing it as a disparagement of the other cultures, influencing the natives to change their “wrong” behaviors and ideas (perhaps a milder form of what many Europeans did to various aboriginal cultures).

    Considering the extreme wrongs that have been done to other cultures as a result of missionaries, I wondered if you (or other people commenting) could explore the “Great Commission,” particularly looking at intercultural communication and where you draw the line between giving aid and influencing cultural practices and beliefs (I’m thinking also of certain medical/health-conscious activities that may interfere with others’ cultural/religious practices–is it right to interfere then?).

    • Zondervrees

      “She testifies that she’s seen the sick be healed and the blind gain sight.” Any hard proof available? Can she testify the regrowth of limbs too?

      I don’t care if people believe in stuff like that, but when it comes down to spending money, I’d rather spend it on regular medicine then on some religious hocus pocus.

  • BC

    Ryan,

    As a Christian I personally have no issue with your attempt to walk away from your faith, and live life as if God does not exist–I know many who profess the name of Christ who do this already, they just don’t acknowledge that is how they are living their lives–so really the only difference here is that you have verbally expressed that is what you are doing.

    Years ago, I walked away from God and my faith, and lived out in the world, I was living in the wickedness of the world for a number of years–not going to Church, not praying, not being fed from the Words of God, even the Israelite’s have done the same. As you know the Scriptures are filled with men who walked away from God, denying His existence and embracing the things of this world, so really your walk in this area is no different.

    It was while I was walking in the depths of a sin filled life that God stepped in and brought me home, even as He did the Prodigal Son, who took his fathers inheritance and squandered it until he ended up eating slop from the pig pen, and He was brought to his senses. My faith teaches that even if you are run from God,

    He will never leave you, nor forsake you, and if you are truly His Child He will bring you home, it may not be at the end of this year long ‘experiment’ it may be five or even ten years down the road..then you will live with that knowledge of squandered years–But even that God will forgive,

    I do pray for your sake that He does not turn you over to dishonorable passions and to a debased mind, as is taught to us in the letter to the church at Rome, but then I guess if your desire is to live as if God does not exist, then God may bring that about–so that you may fully live as if He does not exist, where you may also suffer those worldly consequences of living fully with a debased mind–all the while knowing in the depths of your being God really is real, and trying to push all your years of education and teaching aside. That will be a challenge.

    • aaron

      “Depths of sin filled life” and “dishonorable passions”, show’s me you did not learn what it takes to live without god. If your perception of Atheism is that we all live “sin filled lives” with “debased minds” and no guiding principles then you don’t understand Atheism now and never did. Many of us live philosophically rich lives, celebrate aspects of the religious that does good in the world, and live in mental balance within our selves and with our environment. You should give it another try… just without the “depths of sin” and “dishonorable passions” component. To the question: Can I be an honorable person and at the same time not believe in god or the bible? I answer Yes. You answered no and now assume the same of others. Myopic to say the least.

      • http://dougwolven.wordpress.com Doug Wolven

        St. Augustine said there is a God-shaped vacuum in each heart that can only be filled by God. Atheists fill it with ‘philosophically rich lives, [that] celebrate aspects of the religious that does good in the world, and live in mental balance within our selves and with our environment’.Other people might fill it with video games, wealth and good time, or sex, green this and that, or even religiosity. In the end it’s all bogus; all of them leave you thirsty—only God satisfies. He created us to have fellowship with him.

        • Paul

          Good, Doug! Thanks.

        • Zondervrees

          You’re wrong. Atheists simply say that that your hole of yours doesn’t exist.

        • aaron

          *Doug, I’m responding in depth because I think you can handle it*

          Sure. That’s the psychology for people with regard to god. It’s convenient. “He can fill any ‘hole’ there is” (I’ll save the Freudian analysis, but no wonder Christians don’t like Freud). But this is how it basically works: I’m feeling lonely? He never leaves me. Not feeling loved? He loves me. Feeling hopeless? God is hope. It’s good for my psychology. God becomes the “is” that’s missing. From a scientific standpoint: Where did the world came from? God created it. Why are we here? For god. So that’s the functionality: Anything perceived to be ‘lacking’, god can help fill the void. I’m sure you’re agreeing with me… up until now. He becomes an imaginary friend and a figment of imagination. He becomes the answer to every mystery. And that’s EXACTLY what you’re saying. When Christians hold on to the “god story” in the face of scientific evidence, such as evolution, gravity or the location of the earth in the solar system, Christians say, “it was god” until the evidence builds and builds and builds and then Christians finally latch on to it and then say “look at this amazing evidence for god!” Among every other scientific achievement in the modern era, Christianity and “god filling” has become the greatest source of ignorance, attachment, and aversion in it’s own sake. Belief in god becomes religiosity and dogma, eventually justifying intolerance, hatred, and bitterness–whether cloaked in religiosity or not; I have no patience for it.

          HOWEVER!

          Many Christians are widely read; many have built a large base of philosophy; many tolerate and respect other religions AND Atheists; many actively do good in the world — as if the “fruits” of THEIR belief in god are “love, patience, kindness, compassion, etc”. I’m not one to gripe with these people. I know many of these people and I love them. We have kindred spirits. These are the people who can look at science and not be threatened. These are the people who I go to and they provide wisdom from biblical passages that I long forgot, and come away feeling enlightened. Because these are the people who do not read the bible as literal and they acknowledge the inconsistencies, they are less likely to be trapped in religiosity and dogma.

          To me, Jesus was a teacher, just as Buddha was: They both taught love and compassion. If that is the result of a belief, I don’t care what psychological “tricks” they’re playing on themselves, I’m happy with it. If god fills your hole, then “great”, as long as you find yourself with the “fruits”. I happen to not need “god” to fill any holes for me in order to express the “fruits”. I am spiritual but I don’t attribute anything to the Christian “god” as an anthropomorphized being staring down at us–like Zeus. And you’ll say, well, because you express love, that’s god. Fine. That’s just your hole-filling again. Ultimately, I’m the same as you with moments of feeling lonely: So I call home and talk to my parents. I have moments of self-doubt: I meditate on the source, look for the base but then realise there is no base because it’s coming from a chemical/electrical impulse shooting between two neurons, and then it becomes baseless. The power of the mind is incredible, and mysteriously so, and god is a convenient explanation for how it all came to be: That’s fine. Just don’t let it make you averse to science that explains mysteries you once thought were explained only by god, nor let ‘god-filling’ keep you from insights into yourself.

          I’m not going to respond to future posts because I have a lot to be doing right now. All the best to you – Sincerely.

  • Lucas

    You might want to add Hume to your readings. I found his Dialogues to be quite enlightening

    • http://dougwolven.wordpress.com Doug Wolven

      It looks like a-theists, Aaron, fill the vacuum with words. You certainly made a lot of assumptions about me, and my brothers and sisters in Christ. It boils down to belief. You don’t.

      Beyond your papal litany, it seems atheism has gone from ‘no god’ to ‘anti-God’. Atheists spend an awful lot of time on the attack, considering there is no God. That’s commitment.

      Read C. S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. He didn’t come to Christ until late in life. Want a comic-book-simple illustration of the power of pride in humanist thought and what it’ll get you? Read The Great Divorce. Lewis answers most atheistic arguments in about 150 pages.

      I know what I’m bound to do, how I’ll spend my time—man’s purpose is to know God and to make him known. A simple hymn written by the blind composer, Ken Medima about 40 years ago marks the difference between us. It runs like this: “Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin, the blood of Jesus whispers peace within.” No God—no peace.

      • Paul

        Well said, Doug. God bless you.

      • Zondervrees

        There simply is no vacuum, nothing needs to be filled.

  • http://myatheistblog.com Mr. Atheist

    I wish you the best. I hope you are sincere in your journey and quest for truth. “Seek and ye shall find.” I hope you find.

    I asked a christian once if they could “remove god” for 24 hours what would really change. This open minded person stared at me and said they couldn’t even contemplate that question.

    I asked if there was no god would you suddenly NOT STOP at the STOP SIGN? Will you suddenly feel the urge to rape and murder?

    We are here for you. You’d be surprised how welcoming atheists are.

    I will say that I disagree with your “trying on” atheism. You can’t really “try it on”. I think after a few weeks you might see things a little differently.

    Much love to you.

  • JAB

    I went to your church in Hollywood two times and liked it very much. I am a bit troubled by your journey though. Although I think it is fine to pursue religious beliefs and find ones own truth, I question making money on this experiement. I understand that someone else started a donation page in your honor, but now I see you have a donation lilnk on this blog. I fully undestand it being tough to lose three jobs with two kids to take care of, but what did you expect. You were a pastor and Christian teacher who wantted to “try out” athieism, do you think they were going to let you keep your job?? Why should we send you money? You should have contemplated the consequences this decision was going to place on you financially, especially having children to raise.

    You say you are surprised this went public, but now it seems like you are enjoying the attention and now, the money it is bringing your way.

    I have a question for you. Was there ever a time in your life when Jesus made himself real to you? If he never had, then you were never a true believer to begin with and if he had made Himself real, then why don’t you try to go back and remember that time.

    I have another question for all athiests, What if you are wrong??

    • Ray

      Hello Jab. Your question works both ways. What if you are wrong? Are you a Catholic? If so, you are happy with believing a Bible that was compiled by the Vatican. If not, and if you do not espouse the infallibility of the Pope, then are you aware that your Bible beliefs are based in a “Scripture” issued by the Vatican, with political motives? You can check out Council of Rome and see how the Bible came about.

      “…especially having children to raise…” you say. Those children are fortunate to have a father who is true to his heart. May they follow his example, whether it leads to or away from the church.

      It makes sense that Ryan set up a way for people to contribute, since obviously there are some who wanted to do so. Why should Ryan (or anyone for that matter) be faulted for doing what the churches do – accept free will offerings? Do you willingly pay your taxes? Ryan is not taxing you against your will.

      As for your question “Has Jesus made himself real to you?” That is a question for Jesus, not for Ryan.

      I do agree with you though. That is, Christians tend to be intolerant of any journey not to their liking, and judgmental of any who explore outside the circumscribed fold. So it is perfectly logical, and to be expected, that Ryan would be cut off of resources he had earned.

      Frankly, I believe that God, and Jesus, are able to handle what Ryan is doing, and who is to say it is not They who are creating the means for his support?

      • JAB

        Hi Ray. Nice points.

        Firstly, I am not a catholic and actually have had a lot of disagreements with organized religious institutions. However, I am a Christian. Not because of the Bible, or a church, or a specific teacher, I am a Christion because of what believing in Jesus has done in my life. Once I stopped trying to figure it all out and what life all means and just let go, everything changed.

        The reason I am even responding to what Ryan is doing, is because I was blessed by his preaching. I could tell he loved Jesus and the things he was doing for the community in Hollywood California to open to the doors of the church to everyone, was great to see. So to see him walk away from Jesus, is difficult to.. Even though he has the free will to do so, it is still hard because Hollywood needs him.

        I’d like to see him open up his own church and run it how he wants. It will be something after a year and he comes back to Jesus. Time will tell.

        I guess it is o.k. for him to set up a fund to gain support and people can pay if they want. I will give my money to the local soup kitchen.

        God and Jesus can handle what any of us jars of clay do.

  • Zondervrees

    “God and Jesus can handle what any of us jars of clay do.” I am not, repeat not a jar of clay. What a disgusting way to think about oneself or other fellow-humans. Vade retro satanas!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X