Viewpoints 17: Ryan Bell, Former Adventist Pastor

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:

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One Response to Viewpoints 17: Ryan Bell, Former Adventist Pastor

  1. Paul Reid says:

    I can definitely resonate with Bell’s frustration with the prevailing Christian sentiment that everything that matters is out there beyond this life. This philosophy is at odds with the ministry of Jesus which taught us to prove our religion by our works of service…a very integrated, dynamic view.

    Still, it seems hard for me to imagine tossing a greater vision for a restored “Kingdom of God”… without God! I guess theodicy makes sense to me as an integral part of inspiring me to work for justice.

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