Former Adventist Pastor Ryan Bell recently spent a “Year Without God,” where he submersed himself in atheism. After the completion of the project at the end of 2014, Bell announced that he now considered himself an agnostic atheist. I interviewed Bell for my Viewpoints interview series at Adventist Today (interview link, news story link, series link).
Here is an excerpt from the conversation:
AToday: You said in an interview that there are more important questions than if god is real. What types of questions, are more important to you and why are they more important?
Bell: I think one of the things that led me to where I am now is a concern that the kind of belief in God that most of us have puts our focus and our emphasis off into another world—some other time, some other place. What I think are the most important questions are the questions that pertain to how we live now. This is where I actually find Jesus to be quite a compelling character because he—sort of against his cultural stream—focused on the immediate needs of his community, the people that he encountered.
To me the question of whether there’s a god or not sort of pales in comparison to questions like How should we live with one another? What are we going to do about the climate crisis? What are we going to do about income inequality and racism? If I had to pick a way to spend my life, I would rather spend my life working on those issues than endlessly going around the question of whether there’s a god or not. I would rather focus on those humanistic questions—relationships between people, our communities and nature.
While working on the interview and news story, I read or listened to the following resources:
- Ex-Seventh-day Adventist pastor takes a yearlong timeout from God (Streeter, LA Times, 22 Dec 2014)
- After Year Of Atheism, Former Pastor: ‘I Don’t Think God Exists’ (NPR, 27 Dec 2014)
- ‘Year without God’ pastor: Why I’m no longer a believer (Stedman, Religion News Service, 29 Dec 2014)
- An End, and a New Beginning (Bell, Year Without God, 31 Dec 2014)
- A Year Without God: A Former Pastor’s Journey Into Atheism (Bell, Year Without God, 31 Dec 2013)
- Concern, Compassion, and Hope for Ex-Adventist Pastor Who Left God (Mackintosh, Adventist Review, 1 Jan 2015)
- Interview with WCCO Radio in Minnesota (WCCO Radio, 3 Jan 2015)
- Ryan Bell Begins Life After God (Wright, Spectrum, 4 Jan 2015)
- Current and Former Hollywood Church Attendees Speak About Ryan Bell (Wright, Spectrum, 4 Jan 2015)
- At The End of his Year Without God, Ryan Bell Speaks Out (Wright, Spectrum, 4 Jan 2015)
- Why you don’t need God (Bell, CNN, 8 Jan 2015)
- Guest Post: Rebecca speaks about her experience this year (Pratt, Year Without God, 8 Jan 2015)