A year ago, Seventh Day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell decided to spend a year living as an atheist, in his own words,
“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.”
He’d apparently already had issues with his church over their homophobic campaigning against same-sex marriage causing him to resign his position. Hemant Mehta over at The Friendly Atheist set up a fundraiser to help him financially during the year.
After a year, a lot has changed. He has a new job teaching life skills to the homeless, has a new girlfriend and claims he is a ‘weak atheist’ and says he is “comfortable with not having all the answers about the meaning of life and why we are here”.
He officially announces on 1st January whether he will continue as an atheist or return to being a Christian. I can’t really imagine why anyone who self-describes as an atheist would go back to religion, unless perhaps they miss the community that goes with it. The community he left may not be particularly welcoming to him, but I have no doubt that there are probably many others who would be. Welcoming newcomers with love and happiness is pretty standard fare for any cult, whether it is of a benign or predatory predisposition.
There are plenty of reasons one can use to convince oneself that belief is the better option, as Dan Dennett noted in his 2007 AAI talk, but you can’t pretend to believe in something that you don’t. I wish Ryan Bell well, his choice is his own business and I hope it brings him happiness.