Ryan Bell, the Seventh-day Adventist pastor who undertook a “Year Without God” experiment, has concluded his findings and come to the realization that he no longer believes.
In recent interviews with Huffington Post and NPR, he detailed his journey, noting that the Christian view of atheists is wrong, and that non-believers “are not the miserable nihilists that many Christians think they are.”
Of his own loss of belief, he said that “the intellectual and emotional energy it takes to figure out how God fits into everything is far greater than dealing with reality as it presents itself to us.”
“That probably sounds very nonrational, and I want people to know that I have read several dozen books and understand a good many of the arguments. I’d just say that the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t necessary. The world makes more sense to me as it is, without postulating a divine being who is somehow in charge of things.”
Ryan Bell isn’t ready to condemn Christians for their worldview, however. In fact, he praises many of the people that he knew from his time as a pastor.
“I don’t think I’ll be joining a crusade to destroy all religion anytime soon, though some days I’m tempted,” he said. “I just know too many good people of faith to see religion as any kind of universal evil. But I do think that there is much work to be done with and among atheists.”
After the yearlong “Year Without God” experiment, Bell is happy with the results and said that he would “definitely” do it again. He also doesn’t expect his epiphany to negatively affect his marriage even though his wife remains Christian.
“It’s challenging sometimes, but she is an open-minded, thoughtful person. I’d call her a Christian Humanist, or a Humanist in the way of Jesus, if that makes any sense,” he said.
Bell is also still enamored with stories of “the radical Jesus preferring the poor and downtrodden.”
Addressing his lifestyle as both a Christian and an atheist, Bell shared with HuffPo the one thing he wishes Christians knew about atheists and vice versa.
“On Christians understanding atheists: ‘I wish more Christians knew that atheists are not nihilists who have no meaning to their lives or people with no moral compass. They’re not stubbornly rejecting God. All the atheists I have met have seriously hit a brick wall while trying to know God.’
“On atheists understanding Christians: ‘I wish more atheists knew that Christians care very deeply about knowledge and truth. They are not stupid. In every group there is a percentage that are ignorant — but if you take a wider view, Christian intellectuals have contributed a great deal to the body of human knowledge through history.'”
Bell’s “Year Without God” included no church, no studies, no prayers, and no references like “Thank God” or “God willing.”
What do you think about the findings of Ryan Bell, particularly his last statements about what Christians and atheists need to understand about one another? Is there room for dialogue? Share your thoughts in our comments section.