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Jan 05 2014

Trying on atheism

The Huffington Post recently relayed the story of former pastor Ryan J. Bell, who is “trying on atheism” for a while. Bell says,

So, I’m making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will “try on” atheism for a year. 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).

Bell has his own blog, which I encourage you to check out at http://www.yearwithoutgod.com/

I’ve seen a few different reactions to this. Many of the commenters at his blog are clearly worried that he’s going to go through with it become atheist, and are trying to talk him out of it. Some atheists, notably Hemant Mehta, are telling Bell that he’s “doing it wrong.” Hemant says,

Make no mistake: Bell is not “trying on atheism.” He’s just a Christian doing what all people should do and exposing himself to an alternative perspective. That’s a very good thing, no doubt, but scrutinizing your own beliefs isn’t a substitute for being godless. Just as celebrating Hanukkah doesn’t make someone Jewish and fasting during Ramadan doesn’t make you a Muslim, not going through typical Christian rituals doesn’t make you an atheist.

Ultimately, Bell still believes in God, at least for now. Until he changes his mind about that, he’s not really living as an atheist. He says, for example, that he won’t read the Bible over the next year… but neither do a lot of Christians and it’s not like they’re giving atheism a try. Bell also says he’ll read books written by atheists and attend atheist gatherings… but let’s be honest: it’s not like a lot of atheists do those things either.

That may well be true, but you know what? I don’t really care.

One of the earliest experiences I had arguing with people on the internet was on a message board system on a private network called Prodigy. There was an active religion and atheism section on the Teens board, where kids of different faiths would mingle and take shots at each other. There was an incident when I suggested that everyone should try some roleplaying — atheists should post as Christians, and vice versa. The atheists threw themselves wholeheartedly, while the Christians shuffled around and made excuses, or flat out said that God wouldn’t approve of saying such things even as a joke.

I’m bringing this up because I think most Christians have a big hurdle to overcome, which is that they can’t even let themselves recognize and experience doubt, even hypothetically or temporarily, for fear that it would make them genuinely evil. As I pointed out in my recent lecture on atheism and the internet, Romans 14:22-23 says,

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

So if a Christian wants to experiment with atheism, are they an atheist? No, not necessarily. But they are casting aside the fear that they will not be allowed to access the real thoughts in the back of their mind, and that’s a good step that ought to be encouraged.

Would it please me if Ryan Bell finished his experiment and decided he was an atheist? Well, sure. I know there are some atheists who would hear about this and say, “Oh, now that Ryan has opened his mind, he will definitely become and atheist, because that’s the only logical position.” Not true. I know many sincere and intelligent Christians who have spent time investigating alternatives to their faith, and tell me it strengthened their position. I have no reason to doubt them. I think that someone who gets to Bell’s stage (he disagrees with his church on many significant issues, and doesn’t feel the need to reach out to a God in order to get by in his day-to-day life) is likely to come out on our side, but it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.

I do know that atheism is still an extreme minority position in our culture, and this makes it hard for many Christians to honestly evaluate the shortcomings of their faith. Many atheist came to their current position because they started out with sincere but manageable doubts, they investigated the issues as they arose, and found they couldn’t remain true to their integrity without abandoning belief in God entirely. It doesn’t always happen, but it seems to be one of the most popular paths to atheism. So I would much rather encourage that pastor to continue with his exploration rather than ridicule the way he’s chosen to approach it.

In the end though, what matters isn’t what position you take on whether there’s a God or not (“The easiest question in the world,” as Matt Dillahunty says), but whether your efforts to figure out the truth are driven by intellectual honesty, and a sincere desire to explore what other people believe and why. As long as that’s happening, there is no wrong way to try skepticism.

If I could offer one piece of advice to former pastor Bell: There is no need to isolate yourself from your former beliefs. You don’t have to stop praying for a year. You don’t have to stop reading the Bible. You don’t have to avoid asking yourself how a Christian perspective would respond to the difficult questions that you may encounter.

Instead, make an honest evaluation of the things you have been taught, and try your hardest to remain skeptical of the atheist material you hear about. I can’t guarantee it, but I’m betting you don’t have to stack the deck for atheism to stand up on its own.

61 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    I think that someone who gets to Bell’s stage (he disagrees with his church on many significant issues, and doesn’t feel the need to reach out to a God in order to get by in his day-to-day life) is likely to come out on our side, but it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bell goes into some other Christian sect than the one he’s affiliated with now. He might even go back to his original church, his faith renewed and strengthened. I’ve seen both of these outcomes in people who had doubts about God and their particular religion. Maybe Bell will become an atheist, maybe he won’t.

    1. 1.1
      Narf

      I lean towards your first suggestion. He disagrees with the doctrine, but he still holds a god-belief. He’ll probably stop playing pretend after a year, after never having reached a real mind-state of disbelief, and then he’ll find another sect that more closely matches his projection-of-self-as-god.

  2. 2
    Narf

    Personally, I doubt that it’s even possible for him to reach the point of getting a real taste of what it’s like to think like an atheist, in a year, no matter how genuine he is with this … assuming that he actually is genuine.

    Think about the direction from which he’s approaching this. He’s decided that he’s going to adjust his thought processes and make himself think like an atheist. Do you think a year is really enough for someone to shake off the reflexive god-thoughts that pop into his mind reflexively? It might take the better part of a year or longer to even reach the mental state in which he proposes to spend the entire year.

    I think the most likely result will be that we’ll have another apologists who runs around saying that when he was an atheist, he really knew that God (specifically his Christian one) existed the whole time. I hope I’m wrong, but I really don’t foresee anything meaningful coming from this.

    1. 2.1
      doublereed

      A year is a pretty long time, especially if he’s actively trying to see another side. Personally, I’ll be surprised if he lasts a year, assuming he is genuine of course. He has quite a lot of incentive to just use this as a publicity stunt.

      My experience is that when people change, they change quite fast. Just not immediately.

      1. brianpansky

        it took me a year of being an atheist to remember the repressed memories of being told about the abraham and isaac story (and its moral implications), among others, and just how abusive that had been to my young mind.

        but that was a year of being a real atheist haha.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    Then our new Bro should know how to answer the questions atheists get asked all the time, right?

    Let’s hear it, Ryan J. Bell!

    1. 3.1
      Narf

      Heh. Yeah, that would at least be a start. Although, there’s yet another hurdle to clear, from being able to insert an appropriate answer to truly internally grasping how inane those theistic assertions are.

      1. nor67

        Do you think it your intelligence that allows you to grasp that which others seemingly can’t?

        1. Narf

          Intelligence certainly helps, but it’s by no means a sure thing. In some people, their greater intelligence just makes them better at rationalizing their bat-shit insane beliefs. Skepticism is a much greater contributor to becoming an atheist.

          Of course an intelligent person is more likely to look around, see all of the religious con artists, and develop a skeptical mindset.

          Atheism is correlated with intelligence and education, so there’s something there. It’s just not a direct, certain cause-and-effect.

        2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

          The assertions that had been taken for granted need to be discovered, unpacked, and scrutinized.
          Even then, familiarity can numb the perceived inanity.

          Intelligence would help. But moreso, learning about similar foreign ideas for calibration, to kiskstart the Outsider Test.

          And morbid curiosity – after learning enough to discard an idea – to continue exploring all the fallacies/inaccuracies involved until the full extent of its (not-even-)wrongness has been grokked.

          1. Narf

            And morbid curiosity – after learning enough to discard an idea – to continue exploring all the fallacies/inaccuracies involved until the full extent of its (not-even-)wrongness has been grokked.

            So, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder leads to atheism? :D

          2. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

            @Narf:

            So, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder leads to atheism?

            Ehh… … related lecture:

            Video: Robert Sapolsky – Biological Underpinnings of Religiosity (1:22:47)
             
            Sometimes the exploration can lead to fascinating tangents.

          3. Narf

            It was a lame, obscure reference to one of the additional traits that tends to come along with OCD, racing thoughts. Basically, my mind grabs any idea that it fancies and runs off in every conceivable direction with it. My mind never freaking slows down and relaxes. Meditation is useless to me.

  4. 4
    Jasper of Maine

    I was talking to him briefly Hemant’s blog, and he said:

    Skeptical is what we do, right?

    I thought I’d post my response here too. I don’t think he read it (and I’m not sure he’d care):

    I take it you say that “as an atheist”.

    No, actually. Skepticism is what skeptics do. Atheists don’t do anything. Atheism doesn’t provide a world view, tenets, dogma, doctrine, etc.

    The error I see those making, who have taken similar courses to yours is that there’s more to the people than their atheism.

    Atheism aside, I have a world view that includes secular morality, humanism, skepticism, methodological naturalism, etc.

    Christians have their own established world view, but what happens, is that they try to jump from the Christian world view, to an “atheistic one”, where the underlying support structures mentioned above aren’t present.

    They inevitably crash, and then blame atheism for the ensuing misery.

    When most of us who “de-converted”, and became atheists, we basically rebuilt a world view from the ground-up from reality-based philosophies. Atheism is just a single aspect of who we are… but it’s not a foundational thing.. it’s a conclusion supported by the actual world view beneath.

    1. 4.1
      Monocle Smile

      This, all day.

      I would much prefer “trying on skepticism” to “trying on atheism.” This gets much more to the point, and this is also means you inevitably become an atheist for good reasons, at least in my opinion.

    2. 4.2
      Peter J Knight

      I entirely agree. I’m an atheist because I’m a sceptic.

  5. 5
    petemoulton

    Yes, by all means, he should continue to read his bible, but instead of dipping into it here and there to get support for positions he already holds the way cafeteria theists do, he should read it all from start to finish. If he has any predisposition to atheism, that’ll tip the balance.

    1. 5.1
      Narf

      Yeah, that’s the key, isn’t it? I’m not reading a predisposition towards atheism. I’m seeing something similar to the way that most people make New Year resolutions. The best interpretation I can put on this is that he’s shopping around for a new religion, after becoming disillusioned with his old one.

      And atheism is another religion, but worshiping science or worshiping yourself, right?

      Who knows? If he’s sufficiently disgruntled with his old religion, he might actually open his ears sufficiently to learn why all of his views of the atheist movement are so wrongheaded. I’m not hopeful, but it’s a possibility.

  6. 6
    Ubi Dubium

    I’m following his blog, and he’s already getting a taste of what it’s like for us. He’s already been fired from both of his current jobs, just for having the bravery to openly question and investigate. I hope someone from our community can help find him a new job fairly quickly, because I’d hate for his experiment to end prematurely because of money. (He lives in Los Angeles).

    1. 6.1
      Narf

      WTF? Where did he work?

      1. Narf

        Oh.

        Well yeah, he worked for a bunch of evangelical institutions and churches. Did he really not anticipate that they would toss him aside once he started openly questioning … assuming this thing is for real and not just some stunt to pile up his future preaching credentials?

        His point #2 is a major duh, which he could have learned from any of us:

        2. Christian educational institutions are not serving their students by eliminating professors that are on an honest intellectual and spiritual journey, just because it doesn’t line up with the official statement of faith.

        That made me laugh for a good portion of a minute. The only way to keep people faithful is with information control, and evangelical institutions know their business.

        I forget, are the Seventh Day Adventists generally fundamentalist young-earthers?

        1. Sadako

          I think so–and SDA also has elements of prophecy involved, too.

          I suppose I should go down the road and ask the folks at the Seventh Day Adventist college, shouldn’t I?

        2. heicart

          >Did he really not anticipate that they would toss him aside once he started openly questioning…

          This is a point I often make. Many people talk about how religion brings people together and creates community. But they don’t realize how exclusive and divisive it is, until they say to their “community” that they have a few different ideas. It’s amazing how quickly a person then learns that “Loyalty to the Meme” is what is actually required here to participate, not community, friendship, love, caring, compassion, togetherness. You’re part of the Meme, or your not. And if you’re not–you quickly find yourself on the outside looking in–looking in at people who used to be your father, mother, sibling, children, life-long friends, you-name-it. They will turn on you like rabid dogs the second you say you still love them, but just don’t think there is a god anymore.

          And while I know not all religious communities do this, I’m responding to the comment above, and addressing those that we so often hear about, that do.

          1. Narf

            Yeah, not all religious communities do this, but then again, there are others that are worse, as well. How do you think the Jehovah’s Witnesses would have reacted? :?

          2. JT Rager

            I think religion does bring community together in the same sense that tribalism does. Everyone looks out for each other, and may genuinely care about each other. But if you’re not in the tribe, then you are a threat. To the insiders, you can’t really care about everyone in the group. So, yes, religion admittedly builds community, albeit in a xenophobic fear-based way.

        3. sonwinks

          Yes… I’m an ex SDA….and they are definitely young earthers……
          It definitely is a journey…and it is interesting to see where it will lead him…. Hopefully it will free him of the clutches of guilt and indoctrination ….

  7. 7
    Cephus

    You cannot “try on atheism” any more than you can “try on religion”. If an atheist said they were going to spend a year praying, reading the Bible and going to church, but they were never going to actually believe in God, no Christian out there would ever consider them a Christian. The same is true here. The only way to do atheism wrong is to believe in a god and Bell is still going to believe in God, even while he’s wrapping himself in the trappings of atheism.

    So yes, he’s doing it entirely wrong. It’s not something you can try. It’s something you have to be.

  8. 8
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    This was the stupidest idea that I’ve heard in a while, but then I read above that he got fired from his jobs, so I take that back. It’s not the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a while. Some good may come of this. Sure, he may not know fully what atheists think, and more importantly skeptics, but at least he can see the actual persecution of atheists as opposed to this silly idea of the persecution of Christians. That’s better than nothing, right?

    1. 8.1
      Narf

      Not really. You have to get the fundie-nutjob ringleaders in the mega-churches and on Faux News to listen to him and learn from what he’s discovered.

      That’s never going to happen. It doesn’t fit the narrative. You seem to be under the impression that the driving forces in the Christian media give a damn about the truth.

      1. EnlightenmentLiberal

        I meant this guy individually.

        1. Narf

          Ah.

      2. Sir Real

        If the Christian media did give a damn about the truth there would be no Christian media to speak of. They’re only concern about ratings and money like any of the other media. To me there no more honest then a con-artist. That’s why I have my doubts about the honesty of this Ryan J. Bell.

  9. 9
    Sir Real

    It looks like he’s being treated like an atheist perhaps he’ll realize that there are those who discriminate against atheist and our choice is not an easy one. Time will tell if his so called god gives a rat’s ass about him as much as his former employers did. When I made the choice it was for life, not just a year, that is until someone is able to prove the existence of their god. It would appear that this guy doesn’t know why he chose to become an athesit, it’s just that I think there is more to it then he’s letting on. Like some kind of a publicity stunt.

    1. 9.1
      Narf

      The publicity stunt is one of the significant probabilities that I see, yeah. Imagine all of the apologetics books that he will be able to write about his experiences “finding his way back to Christ,” if that’s what it turns out to be.

  10. 10
    John Kruger

    I think a few raised eyebrows are appropriate here. How many theists have called in with no real idea what atheists are or what their actual positions are? At least he did not say he was going to jettison all his morals and act like his grandfather was an ape. Hopefully he could also start attending atheist gatherings and such to really get a feel for who the people are in the modern movements.

    So, I agree with Russel. Any attempt to see things from the other side is going to help this guy, even if he only manages to do it poorly. The strongest point though, is that he should try acting like a skeptic, as others have already said. “Skeptic” is a label I would choose in any context to explain my mindset. “Atheist” is only a label I use because of the overwhelming theist culture I live in where belief is an assumed default.

    1. 10.1
      Carmine Ost

      I dont think skepticism is something that you can “Try”, though. Not that you could just try atheism either, but skepticism is a whole other deal entirely. This guy might actually do better if he hung out with alien abductees or 9/11 whackos

      1. Narf

        The wording is one of the things that rubbed me the wrong way, too. “Trying it on” sounds like a game of pretend. If he was more serious and honest about it, I would expect some wording like “learning everything he can from atheists and attempting to emulate them and get his mind wrapped around it,” or something to that effect.

        Of course he’s probably just that ignorant of the concepts that he doesn’t know how to phrase it in such a way that we would find acceptable. He could just be well-meaning and clueless.

  11. 11
    Carmine Ost

    So the pastor wants to try on the frilly blouse of atheism? Let him. If it turns out in our favor its another bullet for the fundamentalists to scare their congregation with. They might even make it into one of those “Not even once” commercials. If it turns out the guy is still a christian after a year then that too works for the church. Its a win-win for them and a “yeah, well… whatever” for atheism

  12. 12
    hexidecima

    in my opinion, pretending to be a strawman atheist will do nothing for Bell. That’s all he is doing, with his ludicrous assumption of what an atheist “is”. It seems to be nothing more than a stunt.

  13. 13
    Raging Bee

    So, I’m making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will “try on” atheism for a year. 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.

    This sounds bogus and downright silly. For starters he really sounds like he’s saying he’ll try acting
    like atheists act (at least according to his understanding); but he’s NOT saying he’ll listen to and try to understand actual atheist thoughts, or entertain any atheist’s actual reasons for not believing in any gods.

    In addition to sounding like a shallow kid making a big show of taking on other people’s identities or mannerisms (“look, I’m acting like a Jew this year!”), he really sounds like he’s setting himself up to come back to his flock and say “I tried atheism, and it didn’t work, and that’s proof that atheism is wrong!”

    In my experience, atheism isn’t an identity-badge you play with or “try on;” it’s a decision, based on knowledge and experience, that affects how you view the Universe and how you decide what’s right or wrong. I, for one, did not “try on” atheism, I came to a conclusion, based on what I’d learned so far, that all the talk I’d heard of gods just didn’t make sense. And when I announced my change of mind, I didn’t say “I’m trying on atheism for awhile,” I said (to my dad) “None of this God stuff makes sense, and I don’t believe it anymore.” When this guy blathers about “trying on” atheism, he’s just engaging in silly-assed childish identity games.

  14. 14
    Matt Gerrans

    Clearly he’s just doing this so he can go on a hedonistic rampage of rape, murder, bestiality and barbecuing babies. Because that’s why all atheists choose to turn their backs on God*, right? They deny the Truth of Jesus because they want to wallow in sin and debauchery.

    * Yahweh, of course, not Thor.

    1. 14.1
      DataCable

      Of course not Thor. Turn your back on him and he’ll open a can of Mjölnir-flavored whoopass on ya. ;p

  15. 15
    Sir Real

    I think just being objective and skeptical would work. If he was to learn about his religion as well as others with some objectiveness as opposed to being biased then at least he would be fair. As an atheist I will remain objective and skeptical until someone is able to establish the truth about their god(s).

  16. 16
    Matt Gerrans

    Heh. If he was really brave, he’d try being a Muslim for a year.

    They are not so forgiving when you decide to return to Christ.

  17. 17
    pac1261 .

    Imagine an atheist who decides to “try out” accepting Jesus as his lord and savior for a period of one year. Some interesting theological question will arise, such as: If he dies during that time, does he go to heaven? Or will he have to go down to the other place on January 1, 2015? Or will he be resurrected on that date to resume his previously heathen existance?

    I won’t be long before he’s counting the days till his self-inposed sentence is over and he can quit agonizing over this stuff.

  18. 18
    scourge99

    I don’t see how we can “try on” atheism. And furthermore i don’t think he should try on atheism but instead try on skepticism and critical thinking. Raeliens and Buddhists are technically atheists. Skepticism and critical thinking are what bring rational people to atheism. Atheism is not a presupposition as he seems to imply.

    Skeptics tend to have a completely different worldview than theists. We tend to reject the following things :
    1) telepathy (prayer).
    2) a world full of demons and angels lurking in the shadows.
    3) magic and the supernatural
    4) an afterlife.
    5) that this life is temporary stop and/or a proving ground for some afterlife.

    I don’t see how this man can “pretend” not to believe these things. They are the lens by which he views and understands reality.

  19. 19
    hjhornbeck

    There was an incident when I suggested that everyone should try some roleplaying — atheists should post as Christians, and vice versa. The atheists threw themselves wholeheartedly, while the Christians shuffled around and made excuses, or flat out said that God wouldn’t approve of saying such things even as a joke.

    I’m bringing this up because I think most Christians have a big hurdle to overcome, which is that they can’t even let themselves recognize and experience doubt, even hypothetically or temporarily, for fear that it would make them genuinely evil.

    I agree overall, but there’s some interesting counter-evidence. For three years now, Leah Libresco has been running what she calls the “Ideological Turing Test,” where she asks Christians to pretend to be atheist and vice-versa. Every single year, the Christians do a better job of pretending to be atheist than actual atheists giving honest answers.

    The entrant with the highest percentage of atheists rating him ‘Very Likely Atheist’ was the very Catholic Gilbert of The Last Conformer (entry 10, who netted 42% of atheist readers, and 74% rating him as more likely atheist than Christian. Personally, I’m wondering how many votes his ‘System 1/System 2‘ reference netted him. Brendan Hodge of DarwinCatholic (entry 1) was the next runner up, with 36% of atheists judging him as very likely atheist and 70% rating him likely or very likely atheist.

    And then the real atheists all appeared in a block. The next five placements went to all five atheists, with Chana Messinger (The Merely Real) taking the lead as the real atheist most likely to be recognized as such (entry 5, 28% very likely atheist). Right behind her was Chris Hallquist of The Uncredible Hallq (entry 2) with 27% of atheists giving him the most plausible rating.

    So either the situation is more complicated than typically thought, or someone has a thumb on the scale.

    1. 19.1
      Narf

      What do the two scenarios even have to do with each other? The initial scenario proposed by Russel is a statement that a good percentage of theists won’t try to see things from the atheist side, because they think it’s sinful or whatever. Pretty much any atheist would be willing to pretend to be a theist (and many often do, as evidenced by the frequent asshole posers who call into the show).

      The second scenario is within the confines of the first scenario, taking those theists who are willing to pretend to be atheists and pitting them against a random assortment of atheists. Hell, that could be a self-selection problem with the contest you mentioned, right there. The theists are those who are more tolerant and open-minded to positions other than their own, while the atheists could be any random jerks.

      Anyway, the first proposition is about willingness to do something and the second proposition is about the skill at doing something … with the selection bias that I mentioned.

      Could you explain how the two propositions are more closely related than what I mentioned? I don’t see it.

      1. Narf

        … and hell, how do we know that Gilbert isn’t someone like Edward Current? :D

    2. 19.2
      corwyn

      If your test subjects have names and reputations, then you are doing the experiment wrong.

    3. 19.3
      Jacob Schmidt

      Unless I’m missing something, doesn’t that just mean that those christians (who, as Narf pointed out, are part of a self selected population) are better adhering to atheist stereotypes than atheists are? Atheism is a very broad category; I wouldn’t expect a population of atheists to fit some nebulous category that “looks like atheism”.

      This is an actual problem with turing tests, where the humans need to exaggerate their “humanness” in order to be regularly identified.

      1. Narf

        Anyway, Libresco isn’t running a scientific experiment, and I don’t believe she’s trying to pass it off as anything of the sort. It’s just a silly little contest she runs every year.

    4. 19.4
      deesse23

      Maybe it shows that mentioned theists are just better/best at PRETENDING TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING THEY DONT REALLY INTERNALIZE(?).

      In other words: maybe they are really good inpretending belief, while they really dont….which probably just fits to their “real” belief, theism as well?

    5. 19.5
      AhmNee

      I find that highly suspect in light of the studies that show that atheists, on average, know more about the bible than theists.

      But as Narf mentions, it’s not a scientific experiment.

  20. 20
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    @hjhornbeck
    Or, you know, an insufficiently large sample size. Statistics. They should try it.

  21. 21
    DataCable

    For some reason I’m picturing Bell going through theological withdrawal symptoms. Sitting in a chair, nervously fidgeting, foot tapping, he darts his gaze across the room to that Bible on the shelf. “No, Ryan,” he mutters to himself, “you’re stronger than that.” Then the thought of a 12-step group popped in and the whole scenario collapsed under its own meta irony.

  22. 22
    fulcrumx

    I wonder if saying he is going to ‘try on’ atheism is not just an admission that his religion is nothing more than cloth with no meaning other than to hide the fact that he does not think it is true. I’m not sure anyone has ever demonstrated that they actually believe any of that religious stuff they put words like ‘believe in’ in front of. They are so used to saying that stuff without being accountable for it that he thinks atheism is just an act also. What his poor brain fails to recognize is that atheism is simply absence of thinking there is a god.

  23. 23
    Sir Real

    One of the misconceptions about atheism I was told when I was a Christian was that atheists say there is no god because they enjoy sinning so much that they aren’t concern about going to hell and are too narrow minded and ignorant of the truth. It’s amazing how churches will resort to tactics like fear and guilt to maintain their beliefs like having church revivals. I even recall a time at a church where the pastor invited atheists to attend and to make a long story short his proof that there was a god was he had a guy hooked up to a polygraph and asked him if there was a god or not. When the guy passed the test then the pastor said that there is scientific proof that god exist because it proves that the guy taking the test wasn’t lying. To this day I think about how narrow minded and ignorant that is and how at one time in my life I actually believed it was true.

  24. 24
    silverbuttons

    Does this guy believe in God or not? If he does, he’s not an atheist. Belief isn’t simply a switch that you can flip on or off at will; you believe something because you find it plausible and sensible. As long as he finds the idea of God being real a plausible notion, he’ll never know what it’s like to be an atheist, because we don’t find that idea the least bit plausible. For that reason, I don’t know how he thinks he’ll be able to truly “live like an atheist.” He could be just another Christian who doesn’t go to church, read the Bible, or pray very much–and there are lots of those around. I wish the guy luck and all, but I can’t help but notice that he has a donation button on his blog. Wish I had known, 20+ years ago, that I could make money from ditching my religion!

    1. 24.1
      Narf

      The best I’ve been able to discern from his words, he’s still a theist. He’s just playing pretend for a year. We’ll have to wait and see if any of his actual beliefs change.

      At the very least, it’s amusing that he’s providing us with a no-true-Scotsman scenario that isn’t a fallacy, if he later comes back with stories about his time as an atheist, when he reverts to his Christian label.

  25. 25
    David Munson

    This reminds me of a book by A J Jacobs called The Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs (who is Jewish, although not necessarily practicing) decides to live for a year following the rules set forth in the OT. Sadly Jacobs wasted a good opportunity and I am not endorsing his book at all. Instead of actually trying to follow all the lunacy of the OT, he merely dabbles in it. His dabbling leads him to see the “beauty” of the biblical rituals instead of seeing the sheer impossibility of following a set of insanely restrictive rules.

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