Former Seventh Day Adventist pastor and teacher at two Christian universities Ryan Bell decided to adopt as a New Year resolution to “live without God” for a year. In other words, he will live as an atheist would and “refrain from praying, reading the Bible and thinking about God at all”. Instead, he will read atheist authors, attend atheist gatherings and seek out conversation and companionship with unbelievers.
I think that I can understand him. When people who are in positions of religious authority, like clergy, begin to lose their faith, they cannot simply say so like the rest of us. They initially have to find some means of exploring nonbelief and its consequences without burning their religious bridges.
As Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola discovered with their Clergy Project that sought to provide a safe transition for clergy out of belief, many took the approach of saying that they wanted to try and understand what atheists were saying and thus sponsored book clubs, discussions groups, and the like. This enabled them to explore disbelief with their parishioners under the guise of an academic exercise.
I suspect that Ryan Bell is doing the same thing, that he is already pretty much a nonbeliever but not quite ready to admit it to himself. Actually, he has gone much further than other doubting clergy by publicly saying he has doubts, statements that have led to his losing teaching jobs with Christian schools and being asked by his church to resign. We should cut him some slack and give him time to affirmatively accept the fact that he has lost his faith.