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Former Pastor Decides To Spend A Year Without God
NPR ^ | January 12, 2014

Posted on 01/12/2014 4:02:50 PM PST by nickcarraway

Former Seventh-day Adventist Pastor Ryan Bell made an unusual New Year's resolution: to live for one year without God.

He used to lead a congregation in Southern California, but in March, he was asked to step down after voicing some of the doubts that led to this decision to "try on" atheism.

Just a few days into the new year, after announcing his resolution, Bell was asked to leave the teaching positions he held at the Christian Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary.

Bell spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about his flirtation with atheism and how he arrived at the decision to put his work as a religious leader — and follower — on hold.

Interview Highlights

On the expectations of belief for church leaders

My entire adult life, I've been a leader in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And I think the expectation of church leaders is that they would have fewer questions and more answers, and that the members or seekers or people that come to the church are the ones with the questions. And I can't remember a time that I wasn't wrestling with my faith. I think faith is one of those things that people wrestle with.

On experiencing doubt

When things start to come unwound, sometimes they unwind all the way. And then, you know, perhaps you can wind it up a little bit again later — who knows? But I feel like I lost my church leadership position and then I really didn't have any compulsion to go to church internally, like I just didn't feel like participating in church. I tried a number of times.

And it woke me up to the kinds of things people had been saying to me all these years, like, "I love what you're doing at the church, but church just isn't for me." ...

So I just decided not to fight it. I just decided to say, "Well, let me just give church a rest." And as I did that, I just began to wonder about the very existence of God.

On how members of his congregation have responded

Some people have been encouraging, some people have just been silently watching. Some are a little heartbroken. It's almost like people respond as though I've lost a loved one and I'm going through a deep grieving process and doing strange things as a result. Some people have just tried to talk me off the ledge.

Others have said, "I have these same questions. I'm really glad that you're doing this, and I'll be following along. Maybe I'll figure some things out along the way, too."

I'm not saying to my former members, "Follow me out the door." Nothing like that. I don't want them to do that. I want them to be on their own journey authentically.

On the reaction of the atheist community

Some people are, in a way, gloating. They're like, "Congratulations on coming to the other side" ... But other people are skeptical. There are a lot of atheists who are really not sure what I'm doing. So they say, "You are either an atheist or you're not. You can't be 'a little atheist,' like you're 'a little bit pregnant.' "

In a way, what I hear them saying is, "You're not authentically atheist" ... And my internal reaction to some of that is to say, oh, I was a Christian leader for a long time. I heard that argument on the other side, as well: "You're not properly Christian. You're not a Christian in our way of being a Christian, so you don't really fit here." And my response to that is, I'm used to not fitting places. So that's fine with me.


TOPICS: Hobbies; Religion; Weird Stuff
KEYWORDS: atheists; pastor; religiousleft; ryanbell
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1 posted on 01/12/2014 4:02:50 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Ridiculous.

You either believe or you don’t.


2 posted on 01/12/2014 4:05:19 PM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: nickcarraway

Pastor quits while NPR licks their chops.


3 posted on 01/12/2014 4:06:00 PM PST by shineon (.)
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To: cripplecreek

I don’t get it, is he going to go back to God after the year?


4 posted on 01/12/2014 4:06:23 PM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway

Exactly how does someone spend a year without God. I get not going to church for a year - decades actually - but it is impossible to go a year without God.


5 posted on 01/12/2014 4:06:27 PM PST by gunsequalfreedom (Conservative is not a label of convenience. It is a guide to your actions.)
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To: nickcarraway

Oh dear God. That is very dangerous. I hope and pray that he does not die during this stupid stunt. He is in need of some serious prayers.


6 posted on 01/12/2014 4:06:44 PM PST by napscoordinator ( Santorum-Bachmann 2016 for the future of the country!)
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To: shineon

NPR Not a Pastors Recource


7 posted on 01/12/2014 4:07:36 PM PST by shineon (.)
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To: nickcarraway

If a former atheist decided to become a Christian for a year, do you think he’d get this much coverage? Not likely.


8 posted on 01/12/2014 4:08:10 PM PST by aimhigh
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To: shineon

Resource


9 posted on 01/12/2014 4:08:18 PM PST by shineon (.)
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To: nickcarraway

He’d better hope that nothing happens to him that year.


10 posted on 01/12/2014 4:08:59 PM PST by 353FMG
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To: nickcarraway

How many stories of atheists becoming Christians has NPR run?
My guess is zero.
Yet, when a Christian experiences doubt, NPR and NPR’s Arun Rath get wet and can’t wait to get it on the air.

I used to listen to NPR all the time. But, it became unbearable after a while. This crap is an example why.


11 posted on 01/12/2014 4:09:21 PM PST by Skooz (Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us Gabba Gabba we accept you we accept you one of us)
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To: nickcarraway

This jackass can go as long as he wants without God for his new BFFs down at the taxpayer subsidized NPR. However, God will still be here if and when he decides he’s had enough of his “15 minutes”. God isn’t going anywhere.


12 posted on 01/12/2014 4:10:37 PM PST by FlingWingFlyer (Where are Holder's "po folks" getting the I.D.s to sign up for ObamaCare?)
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To: nickcarraway

The only “proper” way to be a Christian is to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Once you have become one of his, you can’t change your mind. If you change your mind, you were never saved to begin with.


13 posted on 01/12/2014 4:12:35 PM PST by jimbobfoster
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To: jimbobfoster

Calvin would be happy with your assessment.


14 posted on 01/12/2014 4:14:12 PM PST by madison10 ( Taking a husband shopping is akin to hunting with the game warden.)
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To: nickcarraway

You fool! This very night your life will be required of you!


15 posted on 01/12/2014 4:14:33 PM PST by Dr. Sivana (Five years, my brain hurts a lot.)
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To: nickcarraway

I could see taking a break from church duties and activities but going away from God what can fill the inner hole left in the spirit?


16 posted on 01/12/2014 4:15:05 PM PST by tflabo (Truth or Tyranny)
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To: nickcarraway

Also a good read:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/my-train-wreck-conversion.html


17 posted on 01/12/2014 4:15:14 PM PST by struggle
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To: cripplecreek

He probably never did. I’ve had pastors tell me that a large percentage don’t.


18 posted on 01/12/2014 4:16:21 PM PST by driftdiver (I could eat it raw, but why do that when I have a fire.)
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To: nickcarraway

Wow. He really likes attention.


19 posted on 01/12/2014 4:16:30 PM PST by wideawake
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To: jimbobfoster
What a hilarious statement.

A perfect illustration of the "No true Scotsman" logical fallacy.

20 posted on 01/12/2014 4:18:07 PM PST by wideawake
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To: aimhigh
If a former atheist decided to become a Christian for a year, do you think he’d get this much coverage? Not likely.

I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with a reality show where an atheist and a christian trade places for a year.

21 posted on 01/12/2014 4:22:26 PM PST by plain talk
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To: nickcarraway

Hey look! NPR doing a story on a Pastor.


22 posted on 01/12/2014 4:23:40 PM PST by ansel12 (Ben Bradlee, Wash Post-JFK told me that "he was all for people's solving their problems by abortion")
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To: nickcarraway

Pathetic b7stard fishing for money more like. Atheists have donated thousands to this guy’s ‘cause’. Total fraud, just like the lesbian waitress.


23 posted on 01/12/2014 4:26:33 PM PST by Viennacon
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To: nickcarraway

One question for the former pastor, “What is her/his name?”


24 posted on 01/12/2014 4:29:47 PM PST by BwanaNdege
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To: nickcarraway

“Some are a little heartbroken.”

I’m a tad devastated.

Just a wee bit destroyed.

My life is slightly ruined.

Terrible writing.


25 posted on 01/12/2014 4:29:49 PM PST by jocon307
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To: nickcarraway

Is it just me, or is anyone elses’ gaydar going off just a smidge ?


26 posted on 01/12/2014 4:31:42 PM PST by fieldmarshaldj (Resist We Much)
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To: nickcarraway

Jonah tried that. So did Judas.


27 posted on 01/12/2014 4:37:33 PM PST by gitmo (If your theology doesn't become your biography, what good is it?)
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To: nickcarraway
He is spending a year without God.

God is not spending a year without him.

28 posted on 01/12/2014 4:41:33 PM PST by real saxophonist
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To: nickcarraway
I don’t get it, is he going to go back to God after the year?

1. Who knows?
2. Who cares?
3. God DOES know but I doubt that even HE cares.

29 posted on 01/12/2014 4:54:29 PM PST by cloudmountain
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To: gunsequalfreedom
Exactly how does someone spend a year without God. I get not going to church for a year - decades actually - but it is impossible to go a year without God.

Of COURSE it's impossible to go a year without God. This minister REALLY needs a LONG trip to his local seminary to REVIEW what he is about.

30 posted on 01/12/2014 4:56:07 PM PST by cloudmountain
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To: nickcarraway

Npr.... always on the look out for mainstreaming the weird and advancing weird provocative meek language.

So the pastor has decided to pollute. I thought we always were away from God.


31 posted on 01/12/2014 4:57:09 PM PST by lavaroise (A well regulated gun being necessary to the state, the rights of the militia shall not be infringed)
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To: jimbobfoster
The only “proper” way to be a Christian is to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Once you have become one of his, you can’t change your mind. If you change your mind, you were never saved to begin with.

Hasn't accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior always been the definition of a Christian? Of course, I happen to be a Catholic but I ASSUME that's true. It's what I was brought up with.

32 posted on 01/12/2014 4:58:30 PM PST by cloudmountain
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To: cloudmountain

Indeed...plus the presumption that he always was with God..... this is a play on narcissism.


33 posted on 01/12/2014 4:58:38 PM PST by lavaroise (A well regulated gun being necessary to the state, the rights of the militia shall not be infringed)
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To: nickcarraway

I pray he finds his way back to God, Who will be patiently waiting for him.


34 posted on 01/12/2014 4:58:50 PM PST by SuziQ
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To: lavaroise

I see.


35 posted on 01/12/2014 4:59:16 PM PST by cloudmountain
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To: napscoordinator

How about he decides to become a cat for a year and live in alley in the Bronx.


36 posted on 01/12/2014 5:00:16 PM PST by lavaroise (A well regulated gun being necessary to the state, the rights of the militia shall not be infringed)
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To: wideawake

I wasn’t trying to make a logical argument.

What I was trying to say is when we are saved, we are sealed by God and indwelt with His holy spirit. We may wander away from time to time, which will grieve the Spirit, but the Spirit still lives in us.

I’m not sure, but it may be possible for a person to willingly give up his salvation. But God has promised us he will keep us until the end.

If we can wander away with no consequences, then the Spirit was never in us, otherwise He would be grieved and we would know it.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.


37 posted on 01/12/2014 5:05:54 PM PST by jimbobfoster
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To: nickcarraway

Gettin’ warmed up for eternity.


38 posted on 01/12/2014 5:06:35 PM PST by WorkingClassFilth
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To: nickcarraway

Didn’t Jonah try that?


39 posted on 01/12/2014 5:09:22 PM PST by Hoodat (Democrats - Opposing Equal Protection since 1828)
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To: nickcarraway

God just might allow him to spend eternity without God...


40 posted on 01/12/2014 5:15:44 PM PST by dps.inspect (rage against the Obama machine...)
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To: napscoordinator

Future Darwin Award nominee?


41 posted on 01/12/2014 5:17:53 PM PST by GeronL (Extra Large Cheesy Over-Stuffed Hobbit)
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To: nickcarraway

i can’t do anything without God. He sustains us every second, that enables us to do whatever we want to do.


42 posted on 01/12/2014 5:20:44 PM PST by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: nickcarraway

Sounds to me more like he wants to spend a year away from the Ten Commandments.


43 posted on 01/12/2014 5:29:03 PM PST by Beowulf9
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To: nickcarraway

He’d better pray that God doesn’t decide to live a year without him.

A thousand years is like a single day to God.


44 posted on 01/12/2014 5:30:20 PM PST by P-Marlowe (There can be no Victory without a fight and no battle without wounds)
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To: wideawake; jimbobfoster

Hey, you got in there before I did! My instant thought was, “Why, that’s perfect! It’s the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy!”


45 posted on 01/12/2014 5:44:48 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o ("See something, say something.")
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To: Mrs. Don-o

See my post 37


46 posted on 01/12/2014 5:46:22 PM PST by jimbobfoster
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To: jimbobfoster
OK, I understand.

"But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22)

47 posted on 01/12/2014 5:48:52 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o ("See something, say something.")
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To: nickcarraway

Could be this——’Bell was asked to leave the congregation a week ago(April 2013), not by its members, but by the governing body—the administration of the Southern California Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church—after his theological and ideological convictions were deemed inconsistent with the trajectory of the Adventists.

When asked if he saw the termination coming, Bell—an LGBT ally and marriage equality advocate...’


48 posted on 01/12/2014 6:32:01 PM PST by yadent
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To: nickcarraway

Former Seventh-day Adventist Pastor Ryan Bell made an unusual New Year’s resolution: to live for one year without God.

He may think he is living a year without God.
God unlike man does not abandon his children.
God will be there at all times.
Silly human being...........


49 posted on 01/12/2014 8:11:01 PM PST by SECURE AMERICA (Where can I go to sign up for the American Revolution 2014 and the Crusades 2014?)
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To: yadent

Sounds like a very strange SDA-er. According to his beliefs, homosexuality is OK but non-kosher diets and worshiping on Sunday instead of Saturday are sinful? :?


50 posted on 01/12/2014 9:15:00 PM PST by ReformationFan
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