A former Seventh Day Adventist pastor, who was relieved from his position at the Hollywood Adventist Church in California last March for supporting gay rights, announced that he has decided to try an experiment where he would live like an atheist for a year.
Ryan J. Bell, an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary, has struggled with his faith and discussed his criticism of the church throughout the past 22 years in a Huffington Post blog post. For example, the ex-pastor didn’t like how homosexuals and women were being treated in the Adventist Church.
"In March (2013), I stood my ground on these issues and was asked to resign,” he wrote in the article. “My family and my health had suffered over the past several years but my faith had suffered most of all. Since that time I have been a religious nomad.”
Bell said he quit attending church regularly, hasn’t picked up the Bible and that now has a difficult time relating to other people of the church.
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“For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God,” he said. “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.”
Bell claims that he isn’t an atheist and that he’s not exactly sure what he would call himself yet.
"I will do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist,” he said. “It's important to make the distinction that I am not an atheist. At least not yet. I am not sure what I am. That's part of what this year is about.”
On his blog “Year Without God,” Bell admitted that he had been fired from his teaching jobs. He also lost a consulting job, in which he was asked to start a non-profit for a local Seventh Day Adventist Church.
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“It began on the evening of Jan. 1—the very first day of my year without God. First text messages, then email saying, 'We need to talk.' By noon on Friday I had been let go from all the jobs that I had," wrote Bell.
"Since leaving my position with the Seventh-day Adventist Church—and even before—I was an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University (APU) teaching intercultural communication to undergrads, and Fuller Theological Seminary, coaching doctoral candidates in the writing of their dissertation proposals. Both are Christian institutions of higher learning that have a requirement that their instructors and staff be committed followers of Jesus and, obviously, believers in God. They simply feel they cannot have me as a part of the faculty while I'm am in this year long process," Bell continued.
"Both APU and Fuller welcomed a conversation with me at the end of the year to see about my future work with their institutions. The Deans of both schools encouraged me and said they felt my project was bold and even important and necessary," he added.