HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – A former Seventh Day Adventist pastor has announced his intention to live without God for one year.
Ryan Bell, 42, led Hollywood Adventist Church until March of last year, when he was asked to resign over his increasingly liberal views and his disagreements with Adventist theology. Bell says that he expressed support for female ordination and the inclusion of homosexuals, and took issue with the literal six-day creation outlined in Genesis.
He told reporters this past week that his forced resignation partially fueled his decision to experiment with atheism this year.
“Not being a pastor for nine months has given me the freedom to not have to believe in something for other people’s sake,” he explained to Religion News Service.
Bell also wrote in a recent blog post that since stepping down from his position, “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.”
Therefore, Bell decided that he would take 2014 to “do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist.”
“For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God,” he explained. “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.”
Instead, Bell will seek to immerse himself in atheist writings, attend atheist events and seek to fellowship with atheists.
He said that the goal of his experiment is to understand his beliefs better as he currently is feeling unsettled and uncertain.
“It’s important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am,” Bell wrote. “That’s part of what this year is about.
As Bell is blogging about his experience online, he has already obtained significant feedback regarding the decision.
“Admirable. A tough decision, but one I think you find rewarding,” one commenter wrote. “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.”
“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,'” another wrote. “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.”
According to reports, Bell was recently asked to step down from one of his university teaching positions as a result of the announcement and also lost a job as a church consultant.