*My short bio: *

Hi, my name is Ryan Bell, the pastor that lived a year as an atheist, blogged about it the whole year, and I now consider myself a humanist and atheist.

Two filmmakers are currently running an IndieGoGo to fund the documentary on me:


Trailer: www.YearWithoutGodFilm.com Blog:www.YearWithoutGod.com Twitter: @YearWithoutGod Facebook: Facebook.com/YearWithoutGod

My Proof:





Taking a break for tonight but will be back in the morning to answer any more questions you guys have. You guys have been great thanks for all the good questions!

Comments: 791 • Responses: 80  • Date: 

sorta_smart94 karma

What was the tipping point? I mean, I'm sure it was a long journey, but was there a specific moment, book, person, that led you to finally decide you were an atheist?

RyanJBell_YWG192 karma

It really was gradual. I think the tipping point for me was realizing that the Bible really was anti-LGBT. That undermined the authority of scripture. From there, I had to wonder if the whole thing was human-made.

Dragonmaw51 karma

A little late to the party, but I was wondering if you could comment a little more on this point - for you, is the existence of a God predicated on the literal veracity of the Bible?

RyanJBell_YWG44 karma

No, not necessarily. The Biblical God is just one possibility among many others. What fascinates me is that people who are making an argument for the Biblical God start with cosmological arguments and then try to bridge that to the Biblical God. It's very hard, if not impossible, to do. But I think there are dozens of ways to believe in God without believing in the Bible, being Christian, and all the rest. Think of Islam or Judaism? They believe in God without believing in the New Testament.

RespectableYoungMan64 karma

Right Shark or Left Shark?

RyanJBell_YWG130 karma

Left Shark

emeryemery55 karma

What advice would you have for other Pastors who are questioning the existence of God but afraid to walk away from the only livelihood/life they've ever known?

RyanJBell_YWG98 karma

First of all, contact the Clergy Project. Then make a plan to do something else for a living. Go back to school. Learn a trade. Do something to create and exit plan. I could never manage to stay in the pulpit if I genuinely didn't believe in god.

alan6622354 karma

Why do you think so many people on both sides seemed so determined to misunderstand your experiment?

RyanJBell_YWG120 karma

It's threatening. I think the harder position is Freethinking. Atheism can be as absolutist as Christianity. Not necessarily so, but it can be. But Freethinking is hard. It requires that you constantly evaluate what you think you know. So my experiment was threatening to people on both sides. But I think once the atheist community saw that I was being sincere they accepted what I was doing even though many of them would have worded it differently. Heck, I might word it differently now.

RyanJBell_YWG3 karma

It's threatening. I think the harder position is Freethinking. Atheism can be as absolutist as Christianity. Not necessarily so, but it can be. But Freethinking is hard. It requires that you constantly evaluate what you think you know. So my experiment was threatening to people on both sides. But I think once the atheist community saw that I was being sincere they accepted what I was doing even though many of them would have worded it differently. Heck, I might word it differently now.

catdogsquirrel52 karma

How did people react when you came up with this idea of living a year without god?

RyanJBell_YWG100 karma

It was mixed. People on both sides were skeptical, as they should be. Quite a few thought I was faking or using the atheist community to advance myself.

jt_121647 karma

Ryan, I have also been following your journey from the beginning. I had come to the point of questioning and doubting my own faith when your first blog post came across my news feed. It inspired me to take my own year without god. Are you surprised that your journey has inspired so many people?

RyanJBell_YWG45 karma

I have been very surprised. Some have said, "you're not the first, why is this a big deal?" The only answer I can come up with is that it is because I'm not the only one that it has become so popular. Most people go through this privately. I had no idea that it would cause such a stir but I think it's because SO MANY people can relate.

Andrewski200045 karma

If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?

RyanJBell_YWG85 karma


timewarp9158944 karma

Has your view of Christians changed? If you were to attend a church service, would you roll your eyes, feel frustrated, angry, or right at home?

RyanJBell_YWG163 karma

This is hard to answer. I think I would roll my eyes more now, for sure. Frustrated, YES! But I also know that people who believe are not "stupid" or "ignorant" the way that many atheists assume they are. They are very intelligent people, often, who have a belief system that was hard wired into them from birth. I have a great deal of compassion for people in that position. I was in that position.

itsthebigh36 karma

Do you wish you had lived your life differently all these years?

RyanJBell_YWG86 karma

Sometimes I do. Especially vocationally, I wish I had taken a different course in college and picked a different career. It's hard to make a mid-life career change. On the other hand, I don't regret the time I've spent. I tried my best to focus on helping people and communities and not dogma.

gogojack34 karma

One of the things I've noticed after watching a few debates between pastors and atheists is that - by virtue of having to deliver regular sermons - pastors tend to be better prepared and better at communicating with an audience.

Are there things atheists can do to overcome this disadvantage in your opinion?


RyanJBell_YWG39 karma

I think perhaps spend some times learning those skills. I think that's actually a great point and something I haven't thought a lot about. It think I could actually teach some fairly simple things along this line.

aroundthewatercooler34 karma

I just can't understand how Christians look past the horrible atrocities in the bible (rape, murder, slavery, etc)...how as a pastor do you handle and teach these things?

RyanJBell_YWG76 karma

Great questions. When it came to the genocides commanded by God in the Old Testament I usually claimed that these were what people thought God was telling them. This doesn't fly in a conservative environment, though. This is part of why I was asked to resign. I wasn't going to defend genocide.

LaustenN29 karma

It appears church attendance in the US will continue to decline. Do you see a downside to this?

RyanJBell_YWG85 karma

Not really, as long as there are movement to organize secular people to think seriously about ethics and the public good.

honestyodyssey29 karma

What was the strongest emotional battle you had in this year?

RyanJBell_YWG82 karma

Great question! I think loneliness. Losing friends and my whole support structure. Like it or not, pastors thrive on approval from their members and followers. Loosing all that, along with my family and many of my friends was very hard. Also the idea of God being there was emotionally hard.

ultradip35 karma

I had a friend ask me on learning that I was atheist, "Doesn't that make you lonely?"

So my answer was "That's why atheists have family and make friends too."

RyanJBell_YWG65 karma

I remember saying to my now friend Emery, don't you still sometimes feel like there is something outside yourself. Something "out there" that is beyond yourself. His answer was as profound as it was simple--"Yes, OTHER PEOPLE!"

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

Cue "Say Something"

pianogirl788428 karma

Do you think you could return to believing in god?

RyanJBell_YWG121 karma

I guess if there was some evidence I could, yes. But I don't think you can un-see things. The more we learn about science the more we don't need God to explain things.

torbjnilsen12 karma

Do you think science has an answer for everything?

RyanJBell_YWG54 karma

Not at all. I think science has the potential to discover the answers to all the things there are observable. But there are many things, like our emotional lives, our experiences and our relationships that are not reducible to the hard sciences. Even psychology is not considered a "science" in the same way as physics or chemistry.

Sekuroon11 karma

If I were to discover proof of the christian god as depicted in the bible, I might believe in him, but it'd be the same type of belief I have in cancer...

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

I see what you mean. If the God depicted in the Old Testament turned out to be real I think we'd all be terrified of him and do what he said just to avoid being killed. This is how the ancients lived in relationship to their gods. The difference is they didn't consider their gods all good. They knew they were capricious.

cl2eep24 karma

They say an easy way to decide something is to flip a coin, in the moment before the coin hits, you'll find yourself hoping it lands one way or the other which tells you what you wanted all along. When you originally went public with the YWG, did you have a conclusion you were hoping for, either consciously or unconsciously?

RyanJBell_YWG27 karma

Nicely worded question. I think I was hoping there would be a God. I had serious doubts but my wish would have been that there is a God.

LaustenN24 karma

If a close friend said they wanted to go to seminary and then into ministry, and they asked your advice, what would say?

RyanJBell_YWG45 karma

Ugh, that's a hard one. It's hard for people to learn things before they're ready to learn them. I think I would ask them to at least read one story of someone who left. Maybe Jerry DeWitt's book. Maybe mine, if I ever write it.

LaustenN23 karma

How are things going with your family and your former religious community?

RyanJBell_YWG34 karma

Family is good. They are being very supportive although I know they are having a hard time with it, too. I'll be visiting my grandma again this weekend.

gazzahost22 karma

What does the SDA church need to do to move forward in 2015?

RyanJBell_YWG65 karma

I don't think the SDA church can move forward as long as it is committed to a fundamentalist view of scripture and hierarchical structure.

DodieFreewomon22 karma

Have you been surprised at the intensity of the vitriol displayed by some (apparent) Christians? I've seen some pretty nasty comments directed toward you online.

RyanJBell_YWG51 karma

I should be surprised, but I am sometimes. I always wonder what they hope it will accomplish. I think that sort of vitriol and anger doesn't serve anyone, atheist or theist. I'm also not a huge advocate for that sort of frontal attack toward Christians.

gazzahost22 karma

When did you have your first beer? Prior to leaving or after leaving the SDA church?
Mmm beeeer.

RyanJBell_YWG20 karma


torbjnilsen5 karma

And bacon?

RyanJBell_YWG10 karma

After beer, believe it or not, but before YWG.

torbjnilsen11 karma

Why do you think bacon is so much harder to swallow?

RyanJBell_YWG10 karma


stellarbeing18 karma

Nearly every church I have been to has had, on multiple occasions, had a pastor who "heard from God." While you were a pastor, did you also make such claims?
If so, what is your perspective on that after your time as an atheist?

RyanJBell_YWG41 karma

I never made claims like that because I never "heard" anything more than a hunch. The only time I've every claimed to have heard from God it was a conviction about something I should do. That's the only way to approach that sort of thing, I think. Otherwise people are just trying to claim the moral high ground.

RyanJBell_YWG12 karma

The only exception I can think of is when there was something in the Bible that was already accepted as being "the word of God."

Black_Suit_Matty18 karma

What are your thoughts on death now? Do you find yourself doing the up all night thinking about not existing thing now? Had you ever when you believed in God?

RyanJBell_YWG73 karma

Death is terrifying for most people. But for all of time before September 26, 1971 I didn't exist either and I wasn't worried about it at all. I don't like the idea of dying. I don't think anyone does. But given that we age, I don't really like the idea of living much past 90 or 100 years of age either.

MacerV16 karma

By "lived a year as an atheist" do you simply mean you spent a year reflecting on your beliefs?

RyanJBell_YWG21 karma

No, it's more than that. I actually crossed the line beyond belief. I lost my faith and spent a year exploring atheism and Christianity. I explore the arguments but also experientially lived into the atheist worldview. I wanted to stay in the question for a year.

MacerV10 karma

Thats what I would personally call self-reflection. What was the significance of 1 year specifically?

RyanJBell_YWG17 karma

It was a bit arbitrary, but it felt like a long enough period of time to seriously consider the issues.

timtationn15 karma

What was the scariest part of your year?

RyanJBell_YWG44 karma

The scariest part was definitely not having work and running out of money.

LaustenN12 karma

I've followed how the atheist community embraced you, but is there anything happening on the believer side, hopefully something positive, maybe something less public, that you'd like to highlight or let us know about?

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

I had a very positive conversation with Rob Bell the other day. Then again, many Christians don't consider him a Christian either. :)

I've had a couple good conversation with John Christy (see My Week In Atheism documentary). But my best interactions with believers have been my close personal friends who also have many of the same doubts but still believe.

subsonicmonkey11 karma

Up until this comment, I was actually thinking that you were Rob Bell, and I was like "Wow, Rob Bell is an athiest? That's crazy!"

After reading this comment, I realized that you're not Rob Bell, and that I actually know you. I toured as a bassist for the Cobalt Season and we played a show at your former church.

As someone who has walked a similar path, I'm still inspired by how Jesus taught people to love one another, but also see that most of this religion shit was created by humans for dubious purposes.

You have a very interesting story, and I'm glad that you're living the transition publically. There's a lot of value in that.

RyanJBell_YWG8 karma

Dude, great to hear from you! You solved the riddle! :)

aviatortrevor11 karma

Hey Ryan, I've been following your story since it started. I've had an exodus from the church of my own, so your story is very relatable.

First of all, I'd just like to complement you on how mature you've handled this transition. My transition was very frustrating, and I wish I could have handled it better in the face of such ignorant and hurtful comments I received from the countless Christians in my life. You had the spotlight shining on you during this difficult transition time, and you handled it very well.

Second, I'd like to know what are some of the atheist/humanist reading material you've encountered since the beginning of your atheist-journey that you'd say really has opened your eyes on anything in particular?

Third, was there any atheist reading material you read while you were a Christian? Or did you wall yourself off from those sorts of influences during your Christian life?


RyanJBell_YWG19 karma

I read Dawkins, God Delusion, and Hitchens, God Is Not Great, while I was still a pastor. I read it through the lenses of someone who still believes.

JohnSmallBerries7 karma

What was your reaction, when viewed through that lens? How do you think your reaction would differ now?

RyanJBell_YWG28 karma

I was in a defensive posture before. This past year I was in a learning posture. There's a huge difference between those two things!

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

As for people I've read in the atheist/humanist world this year, I'd say a huge help for me was Gretta Vosper's book, With Or Without God. Also, Caught in the Pulpit was very relatable for me having been a pastor. Also a little of Ingersoll that I've been able to read has been amazing.

cl2eep4 karma

Reading a book of prose which supports a perspective you disagree with is hard! I'm really impressed you read all those books whilst you were still a believer! Reading the Bible is as an atheist is basically like reading fables. The Bible felt like Aesop to me. I didn't have to scream at the page or stop and shake my head at any point, because I had in my head it was fiction. I would imagine reading Hitchins would be a radically different experience for a Theist. I could never slough through a Bill O'Reilly or Ann Coulter book, I'm impressed when anyone even tries to do something like that. I'm curious, did reading those books effect your outlook at all or was it more just something you read to better understand the opposition?

RyanJBell_YWG11 karma

Well, during the YWG it definitely effected my outlook.

In this modern, social media age, we can self-select the information we consume, so we have to go out of our way to read or hear views that differ with those we currently hold. I think everyone should do that, no matter where the stand on a particular issue.

gazzahost11 karma

You come across as a very thoughtful and reflective person. Was that something that developed over the years or did it begin the journey to being a pastor in the first place?

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

I have always been a reflective person. I think if I wasn't religious I would have studied philosophy. I have always been interested in the big question of our existence. I've never been satisfied with the typical answers. Sometimes I think my life would have been easier if I was more content with the status quo.

eastofaether10 karma

How can people who do not believe in God help people with extremely Christian based vantage points become more accepting/tolerant of things that are not commonly accepted in religon?

RyanJBell_YWG23 karma

I think the best way is to appeal to people's stories. Conservative Christians are against gay people until it's their son or daughter. Even then some people are against their own kids. I'm not sure how to help those people. That just seems inhuman to me.

eastofaether3 karma

i agree. how can we help get your story out?

RyanJBell_YWG9 karma

I guess social media.

The film. If you can share the fund raising campaign to help us finish the film that will help. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-year-without-god-the-documentary

JoshuaSonOfNun9 karma

I believe you had said somewhere that you held beliefs that were in tension with you being an SDA pastor. Did you have those beliefs when you became a pastor or did you develop them later?

RyanJBell_YWG11 karma

I developed them later. When I became a pastor I was very conservative. I think the LA Times article about me was pretty good in explaining that. I graduated from Weimar College (fundamentalist Adventist college) and went straight from there to be a pastor in Pennsylvania.

Naikralc8 karma

was discontentment already growing before you started your year or did you just risk your faith?. by "discontentment" I mean the feeling that you stopped believing in god

RyanJBell_YWG12 karma

The feeling of disbelief definitely started before YWG. It was something that was in the back of my mind for many years. It just got louder after I was forced to resign as a pastor.

LadyAtheist8 karma

Do you find yourself shaking your head at parts of the theology you used to believe? Do new things continue to come up? For me, it took about ten years to realize the Eucharist was a cannibalistic ritual. I never looked at it that way as a church goer.

RyanJBell_YWG18 karma

Interesting you say that about the Eucharist. In the first century the Roman culture called Christians cannibals and atheists, actually.

I do sometimes shake my head. Mostly at the mental gymnastics I went through to make some things make sense in the modern world.

Hollyaeva47988 karma

Do you plan to retain any of your SDA lifestyle habits - such as diet? By the way, you are one of the BRAVEST people I have ever heard of!

RyanJBell_YWG12 karma

I haven't been a vegetarian for about 15 years. So it's been a while since I've been strict about it. I'd like to get back to being a vegetarian but for very different reasons that I was originally.

donipalmer8 karma

I haven't been able to read everything about your journey, but my main question is why?

RyanJBell_YWG27 karma

I came to the end of my belief system. It didn't account for all the things I was experiencing. It just stopped making sense.

edwards_j7 karma

Do you think science and faith could go hand in hand?

RyanJBell_YWG21 karma

Depends on what you mean by faith, I guess. I don't see how you could believe in a conservative view of the Bible and science. Seventh-day Adventists are the perfect example of this. How can you believe the earth was created in 6 literal days and science?

ReidN7 karma

What would you most like to see come out of the atheist community?

RyanJBell_YWG26 karma

I think I'd like to see them focus more on forethought and less on atheism. It think people will become atheists all on their own. I think the skeptical community is doing a good job of challenging bogus ideas that are really dangerous.

Splitsubject3 karma

that's a great point. Slowly but surely, truth begets truth

RyanJBell_YWG14 karma

That should read "freethought" not "forethought"

chrishudsonjr7 karma

Concerning Seventh-day Adventism. Regardless of whether or not the bible is true(ish), based on your studies as a pastor and your year as an atheist, which sect of Christianity do you think has the most biblical support? Still Adventism? Why or why not?

RyanJBell_YWG13 karma

It depends on what you mean by Christianity. Do you mean following Jesus or following the Bible?

Broketographer7 karma

I caught one of your interviews awhile back on NPR- fascinating. Many atheists lean heavily on philosophy for wisdom. Do you have a favorite philosopher past or present that you would like to share? Has it changed recently?

RyanJBell_YWG18 karma

I have a lot of favorites. I think the one philosopher that helped me the most this year is Ludwig Feuerbach. I haven't even read all of his stuff but he was really the first to suggest that humans created God and not the other way around.

I've also retained some favorites like the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas who argues that ethics precedes philosophy. I think this is an amazing idea and something that needs to be explored further.

aviatortrevor7 karma

What were your views on young-earth creationism throughout your upbringing and while you were a pastor?

Was creationism a factor in your doubts, or were things like church beliefs about LGBT a bigger factor? I know you've mentioned several times in interviews that your LGBT views were at odds with your church.

Sorry, I don't know much about Seventh Day Adventists. I grew up in a Calvary Chapel where they taught that Seventh Day Adventists weren't "true Christians."

RyanJBell_YWG15 karma

In my childhood I took young earth creationism to be a given. I never questioned it. As I learned more I figured there was a way to reconcile the Bible and science. I never remember thinking that science was bad or dangerous.

Creationism vs. evolution was the second factor, along with LGBT issues, that led me out of the church.

torbjnilsen6 karma

What do you miss the most about being a pastor?

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

The moral platform it gave me to speak into the culture about things that matter to me. But I'm finding my voice now in the secular community. People need the same things, religious or non-religious.

brooklynspy6 karma

What do you think is the best church for raising your kids if you value the community and moral teachings, but don't believe in religion? (I have not heard of an atheist "church" like this)

RyanJBell_YWG10 karma

If you want Christianity I would say the Episcopal church in the US. Perhaps the United Church of Canada in Canada. Sunday Assembly is making a claim for that spot in the secular world in the United States. In the UK there is something called School of Life by Alain de Botton that is pretty awesome.

Davoelkanator6 karma

How many children did you sacrifice to Satan?

RyanJBell_YWG12 karma

Only one, but don't tell anyone!

QuesterX5 karma

Hi Ryan,

I have never heard of this before. Very interesting :)

I have regular, rather productive arguments with a mate of mine who I affectionately call "God Boy" because he wants to be a priest... person. Anyway the one point he keeps on coming back to, and that I find personally insulting, is the thought that without God how can we have morality.

I would like to know how you struggled with this particular tenet of Christian belief? When you left did you have to consciously restructure your morality so that it was internalised rather than imposed?

RyanJBell_YWG12 karma

There is a good conversation with me and Michael Sheerer about this. Christians and non-Christians develop their morals the same way, though Christians don't like to admit it. We all form our morality from the culture and our parents and our reading and learning. Religion is usually running to catch up.

positron_potato5 karma

I'm a bit confused by what you mean by 'living as an atheist'. Other than just not partaking in religious activities, what did you do to live as an atheist? Especially in those first months, when (I assume) you still believed in God.

RyanJBell_YWG9 karma

It was more about mentally putting myself in the place of an atheist. I had come to the point where I seriously questioned the existence of God. So I would liken it to the place that everyone approaches when they've been religious and are now atheist. There came a point when they crossed a line--where they said, I don't think I believe anymore, but I'm not sure. That's where I started the year.

yoshitoshit5 karma

Do you think the opposite could work - i.e. someone being an athiest goes to seminary and becomes a deacon/priest for a year?

RyanJBell_YWG12 karma

Sure, I actually just (reluctantly) bought a book about that. I don't know if I'll ever read it, but the think you suggest is possible. The world of belief and unbelief is far more complicated than it seems. When you arrive at new understanding it's so hard to understand how everyone else doesn't see the world like you do.

yoshitoshit2 karma

Thank for your answer Ryan. Would you mind sharing the book?

danielbirwin5 karma

I've been avoiding reading your blog for fear it might ruin your eventual book. Is this a rational fear?

RyanJBell_YWG10 karma

It is not! The book will be a memoir and will not be taken directly from the blog, so read away!

HermesTheMessenger5 karma

A regular criticism of atheists and atheist groups is that they are often too harsh in either their message, approach, and/or tone.

  • From what you have seen, do you think this criticism is justified?

RyanJBell_YWG18 karma

It's just like Christians. It just depends on the Christian/atheist. Many are what I would consider to harsh. Mostly because I think it's not a good strategy. most of the time I think people will hold on tighter to their beliefs the more they feel attacked.

brianmeert4 karma

Do you believe Ellen G White was a prophet?

RyanJBell_YWG4 karma

I used to. Then again, I used Ellen White's understanding of inspiration in Selected Message, vol 1, and the Introduction to the Great Controversy, to understand inspiration. After I was a pastor and studied it more, I never thought she was infallible.

johnkarpf3 karma

How's the movie coming along?

RyanJBell_YWG4 karma

Very good! In fact, if you'd like to help us raise the money to finish the post production, please visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-year-without-god-the-documentary

papa_machine3 karma

do you still like big franks?

RyanJBell_YWG6 karma


mawkishdave3 karma

Thank you for doing the AMA I have been watching your story for a long time now. What do you think needs to be done on both sides to allow them to get along, or do you think religion and the secular community can't get along?

RyanJBell_YWG11 karma

I think that they can get along as certain points. The liberal religious community can have common cause with the secular community around religious liberty, ethical issues like LGBT equality and women' rights, etc.

MiyamotoFn3 karma

I have two questions:

  1. What are the three Christian denominations that you think are as close to having "it" as they can? (You mentioned Episcopalians, I'd be curious to see if there are some others). I LOVE the United Church of Canada, but in America our Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians are all split up.

  2. You have certainly engaged with far more moderate-liberal Christian traditions and have no doubt been exposed to the variety of ways in which Christians read Scripture. But I get confused when you talk about the relation of faith and science, the inspiration of Scripture, and other matters and speak as if Christianity monolithically affirms a conservative view of Scripture. Given your advocacy in your church life for social justice issues over the past ~5 years of your ministry, you had to have known that there were other ways of being Christian that love all of humanity even without the rationale being that we do it simply because that's would Jesus would do (or whatever), not to mention favorable views of science and human knowledge in general. For example, I study under theologians and biblical scholars who even see LGBT relationships affirmed in Scripture, even under Israelite law. They still don't use this interpretation as the reason Christians should affirm LGBT relationships, but they certainly see it as a reason for Christians not to oppose LGBT relationships. In general they believe Christianity should be fundamentally life-affirming in all its aspects. Wherever Christianity fails to do this, these type of Christians would seek ways to correct and re-constitute Christianity so it does so. So how did Christianity come to be objectionable on the basis of biblical interpretation for you in light of the complexity of interpretive procedures out there?

RyanJBell_YWG8 karma

I'm not sure how to answer 1 any better than I have earlier. It really depends on what "it" is. I think Unitarian Universalists (who aren't Christians, I realize) are very good. They entertain some notion of divine or spiritual without needing to personalize it in a God. Or some congregants don't even go that far, and that's acceptable.

As for 2, yes, I do understand all these ways of interpreting scripture. I just feel like I stretched the scripture to the breaking point. Beyond credibility. It finally hit me that I was trying so hard to make scripture be this acceptable book and it just wasn't. I was picking and choosing the parts I wanted. The parts I liked. I was the arbiter of what was good and bad in the Bible. Not just me, but our moral and ethical sensibilities learned from the modern moral reasoning and scientific discovery. I just came to the point that I had to admit I was starting with people I knew and the modern consensus on morality and then post facto coming to the Bible and reading it through those lenses.

It was at that point that I said, why am I doing this? Why bother with it? Plus I was still structurally in a fundamentalist denomination where I had to do this all in very clever ways so as not to be found out.

Beardedcap3 karma

I'm an Atheist, but how the hell do you go from having a strong belief to ignoring it? And somehow changing your mind. Like do you just tell yourself every day "OK I'm NOT going to believe in god today.". How does that work?

RyanJBell_YWG4 karma

No. It's more like I gradually lost my faith, I came to the line between faith and unbelief, and decided to spend a year crossing the line.

catsro0l2 karma

Although you no longer are SDA, do you still hold onto any of your Christian beliefs? Particularly, has your change in spiritual beliefs caused any changes to moral beliefs?

RyanJBell_YWG8 karma

No, my moral beliefs have not changed except in regard to their origins. I think people develop their morality from the process of human evolution and social interactions. But my views about what is right and wrong have largely stayed the same. Perhaps in the are of sexuality I'm more libertarian.

brianmeert2 karma

Ryan, Hi. From my standpoint, it feels like you are claiming its all about option A, but the reality seems more like option B. Can you elaborate?

A. A year without God, questioning his existence.

B. A rough year that included a divorce along with bitterness towards an employer (church with conservative beliefs).

RyanJBell_YWG8 karma

the events of our lives all contribute to our views of the world. I'm not going to say that my divorce and my firing didn't have an influence but it was more like the events that precipitated me asking the questions that were always there and I never gave space to. YWG was really about A, whereas B had a part in pushing toward that point of asking those questions.

brianmeert3 karma

If the divorce never happened and the church had allowed for you to innovate in your position, would YWG ever happened?

RyanJBell_YWG6 karma

It's hard to say. It wouldn't have happened nearly as soon, I can say that for sure. I think the restrictions of my group pushed me to ask the questions I ended up asking.

iamdatabass2 karma

Hi Ryan, Thanks again for coming forward and doing this AMA, unfortunately I couldn't be online when you did the original AMA (being the person who made the original request)

These are my questions from my original request thread

  1. During this year did you also give up the dietary restrictions imposed by the Adventist Church?
  2. Would you still consider yourself religious or just spiritual?
  3. Do you see a problem existing with organised religion?
  4. What purpose do you see religion having in today's society?
  5. If you could give advice to anybody reading this AmA what advice would you give?

RyanJBell_YWG6 karma

  1. I already had - ha.
  2. I'm really not very spiritual or religious at this point. Trying to see what can be reconstructed. I'm optimistic about secular "religion" though I think we need a better word. I also think the secular world needs to rethink "spiritual." Sam Harris has made a good start on this with his book, Waking Up.
  3. Huge problems. Too many to name here, but I think you know what they are.
  4. At it's best, religion helps people to organize their search for answers to life's big questions and to organize their charitable impulses. It has also helped to anchor people's efforts to be moral people, though the results there are mixed, at best.
  5. Keep courageous asking the questions that you have. Don't stop.

terrible_medic2 karma

Prior to living as an atheist, were you completely devout, or was there already doubt in your mind to God's existence?

RyanJBell_YWG7 karma

Already doubt. For quite a while it had been growing in a variety of ways.

xCmac2 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA cant wait for YWG to release :)

What do you like doing for fun / spare time?

RyanJBell_YWG6 karma

I wish I had more spare time. I'm doing a lot of writing and phone conversations...interviews...etc. But I do love reading in my spare time, spending time with my daughters, hiking, visiting art museums and going to the beach.

CTFO2 karma

Were your questioning regarding the church's positions part of what led to the breakdown of your marriage?

RyanJBell_YWG4 karma

Nope. She was on the same page with me on that one.

rabidbunnyrabbit1 karma

What has been the most difficult part about having your journey closely watched and scrutinized by not only both the atheist and christian communities, but also the media?

Also, how do you take your coffee?

RyanJBell_YWG7 karma

I think it's been the time it's taken away from my studying.

If it's good I take it black. Starbucks, a little cream and sugar.

af505-1 karma

Why do you choose to identify as atheist instead of agnostic? More specifically, what proof do you have that there is not a God (versus being neutral and not knowing either way).

RyanJBell_YWG16 karma

Being an atheist is not about being able to prove there is no God. It simply means you don't believe in God. I've never met an atheist who believes you can prove there are no Gods.