Ryan Bell, a one-time Seventh-day Adventist pastor who announced he would embark on a "year without God" last January, is telling media outlets he no longer believes in God.
"I've looked at the majority of the arguments that I've been able to find for the existence of God, and on the question of God's existence or not, I have to say I don't find there to be a convincing case in my view," Bell told National Public Radio. "I don't think that God exists."
Bell's non-theistic notoriety began with a provocative blog post one year ago: "For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. 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. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result)."
That story spread like wildfire, with Bell attracting support from several corners, but also losing the last of his two paying jobs, counseling students at Fuller Theological Seminary and Azusa Pacific University, both in the Los Angeles area.
Bell, 43, said he'd left the Seventh-day Adventist pastorate in March 2013 when he was asked to resign after years of publicly challenging key Adventist beliefs. "I couldn't affirm the teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the 'remnant church' — God's chosen people to prepare the world for the last days," he noted on Huffington Post. "(In) fact, there was a lot about the church's beliefs concerning the last days (and the more proximate days) that troubled me."
Public reaction turned global, the Los Angeles Times noted in a year-end profile. "The storm of attention after he turned his back on God took Bell by surprise. Within two weeks, he was explaining himself on CNN, NPR and the BBC," the newspaper said.
Bell, whose divorce after 17 years of marriage that produced two daughters led to his now dating "a devoted Christian" woman, told the Times he felt caught between options. "Being with the atheists, they can have the same sort of obnoxious certainty that some Christians have, and I don't want to be a part of that," he said. "It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to be for something good, but I don't want boundaries, and religion just feels like a very bounded thing. The question I am asking right now: Why do I need religion to love?"
While Bell's stance received public support, his job loss presented challenges, London's Daily Mail reported. The ex-pastor "was left struggling to support his two young daughters, aged 10 and 13, until an atheist blogger set up an online fundraising site and helped raise over $27,000 to help him support his family."
Bell's future plans are uncertain, though the onetime minister is now employed teaching "life skills" at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles. His 12-month saga also may become a film, thanks to a pending Kickstarter fundraising campaign for a "Year Without God Film," according to a related website.
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