HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — A former Seventh Day Adventist leader who announced at the beginning of 2014 that he would experiment with atheism for a year now claims that he doesn’t believe that God exists.
As previously reported, Ryan Bell, 43, 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 in January 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 said that he would immerse himself in atheist writings, attend atheist events and seek to fellowship with atheists. Now, in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Bell claims that he doesn’t believe in God anymore.
“I’ve looked at the majority of the arguments that I’ve been able to find for the existence of God and on the question of God’s existence or not, I have to say I don’t find there to be a convincing case in my view,” he told the outlet this week. “I don’t think that God exists. I think that makes the most sense of the evidence that I have and my experience.”
But Bell said that he finds atheism to be an “an awkward fit” for him, while he also feels uncomfortable around his Christian friends. However, he used the term “humanist” in a recent blog post where he expressed doubt over the biblical narrative regarding the events surrounding Christ’s birth.
“It’s probably been a decade since I was convinced about the virgin birth or the historicity of the birth narratives more generally,” Bell wrote. “In fact, Mark doesn’t even have a birth narrative, suggesting that it was invented later to tie the story together.”
“I think before I wanted a closer relationship to God,” he told NPR, “and today I just want a closer relationship with reality.”
But some opine that Bell never walked with God to begin with, as it states in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
“If you intentionally walk away from God to ‘see what it’s like,’ then I think you have already reached your conclusion. You didn’t really have a relationship with God in the first place,” one commenter stated. “Faith takes nurturing. Questioning your faith is perfectly fine, but intentionally walking away from your faith for a year might likely lead to the same outcome for many.”