The former pastor of the Hollywood Adventist Church, Calif., Ryan Bell is shucking Christianity for a year to experiment with living as an atheist. For the next 12 months Bell will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change his circumstances. He said that if God does exist, that he hopes God will not be too bewildered with his foolish experiment. Bell made the announcement at the Huffing Post website last Monday. He will be blogging about his experience at A Year Without God and writing a book.
In March 2013 Bell announced his employment with the Seventh-day Adventist Church would end in April 2013:
[T]he Southern California Conference administration [has come] to the conclusion that they cannot trust me to lead this church as a Seventh-day Adventist Church. . . . they feel that my leadership has led our church outside the accepted framework of Seventh-day Adventism. We have not been able come to an understanding about these things and so my denominational employment will end on or about April 1, 2013.
Since his resignation, Bell said he's been a religious nomad, struggling to relate with God and church people. He prefers the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. He hasn't prayed, studied or read the Bible much.
Atheist blogger Jacques Rousseau said Bell is arguably already an atheist. Rousseau thinks Bell's model is flawed and confuses lifestyle with ontology. There are two important details Bell's experiment obscures, Rousseau said at his blog Synapses.
First, Bell is arguably already an atheist. The lack of conviction he describes, and the lack of closeness to the church, its teachings and its god, offers quite a clear indication that he’s already “lost his faith”. So, one way of putting his resolution would be to say something prosaic like “former pastor decides to leave the church”, and that’s hardly a story.
Rousseau's second point is educating yourself on what your strongest critics say about what you believe is something religious people should do anyway. Despite the plethora of critiques from atheists, many of them wish him the best in his journey. One comment under Bell's argument said, "This sounds like a PR stunt." Bell was unable to receive unemployment after he lost his job with the Adventist Church because the church is exempt. Bell has not commented on whether he plans to benefit financially from his 12 month experiment.