Seventh-Day Adventist pastor abandons belief in God, embraces reality

Note: I’m informed by Grania that she wrote a very short post about this lapsed pastor on December 26, but her treatment, based on Hemant Mehta’s fund-raising for the guy, is considerably different from mine below, so I’m going to post this anyway.

*****

A pastor losing his faith and leaving the church is not a new story, but publicizing it in a major, as National Public Radio (NPR) did yesterday with a lapsed Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, is. And there’s been more publicity with Dan Dennett and Linda LaScola’s “Clergy Project,” which provides an internet “halfway house” in which preachers who are either doubters or are leaving their church can communicate privately with one another. (I’ve previously written about LaScola’s and Dennett’s book, Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind.)

The NPR precis of its 4.5-minute program on pastor Ryan Bell is reproduced in its entirety below (you can listen to the show here by clicking on “Listen to the Story”). The thing is that the short pieces elicited, as of this morning in India, 1815 comments!

I’ve highlighted my favorite bit at the end.

Now normally you wouldn’t think this kind of story would prompt such emotional reactions from readers, but it fits with my theory that America is slowly losing faith, and the number of doubters are increasing. Many will become “nones” (those without a formal church affiliation), others will go onto agnosticism or atheism, but the majority are still afflicted with confirmation bias, desperately seeking signs or evidence that there really is a God.

Before you look at the readers’ comments on this fairly tame piece, see if you can guess which bits got people riled up:

At the start of 2014, former Seventh-Day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell made an unusual New Year’s resolution: to live for one year without God. This, reflecting his own loss of faith. He kept a blog documenting his journey and has a documentary crew following him.

After a year, Bell tells NPR’s Arun Rath, “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.

“I don’t think that God exists. I think that makes the most sense of the evidence that I have and my experience. But I don’t think that’s necessarily the most interesting thing about me.”

Today, Bell has a new job at PATH, an organization dedicated to helping the homeless.

“It’s, I think, an expression of really the part of me that hasn’t changed. I’m still the same person deep down that I was before. I care about justice and equality and I want to see opportunities spread more evenly in our society,” Bell says.

Bell says he still feels like atheism is “an awkward fit,” and also feels uncomfortable around his former Christian friends who are adjusting to his new views.

One of his biggest lessons from the year is “that people very much value certainty and knowing and are uncomfortable saying that they don’t know.”

Now he thinks certainty is a bit overrated.

“I think before I wanted a closer relationship to God and today I just want a closer relationship with reality,” Bell says.

Note, too, that Bell’s statement about why he’s helping the homeless, “”It’s, I think, an expression of really the part of me that hasn’t changed. I’m still the same person deep down that I was before. I care about justice and equality and I want to see opportunities spread more evenly in our society,” gives a lie to the claim that one’s “purpose” comes from God. Clearly, for this man, it came from his innate concern for humanity and had nothing to do with a divine being.

I think that, unless you’re a believer, you’ll be heartened by the comments, especially since that they’re at soft-on-faith NPR. Yes, there’s an occasional Jesus-lover, but many are like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 7.58.26 AM

h/t: Eli

99 Comments

  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    🙏

    • GBJames
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      For me? That’s so nice of you!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        Oh hell no, I’d never do something so annoying to you as to pray for you!:)

  2. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Well stated, jmf4001.

    In addition, it’s OK to ask questions and be skeptical.

  3. GBJames
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting, and refreshing, to watch believers wake up. I like the fact that Bell did his “awakening” in public. Most clergy seem to do it privately, fearing the inevitable consequences of being fully honest in public. Bell paid for his honesty with his job. I’m happy he landed work fairly quickly and I’m happy Hemant’s fundraiser was able to lend a hand.

    • Lowen Gartner
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      He seems like a decent guy trying to do the right thing. He was amazing as a pastor in Hollywood helping the folks that “Jesus” would have helped–which got him fired. But going public with his search, he has helped many many more people…those that deny the “Holy Spirit” that “Jesus” would have sent to hell.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      I choose to hope that publicized events like this will serve as a kind of catalyst to get more of the wavering faithful to just shrug off their fear and say ‘screw it’, I’m comin’ out too’!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        It’s amazing how many people “come out” and admit their lack of faith when something like this is publicized. Especially in America (and other countries) where atheists are seen as morally bad and deficient, many struggle silently with their doubts. This guy has given many of those people a positive role model and helped to normalize atheism in America.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      ” I like the fact that Bell did his “awakening” in public.”

      Actually, that really rubbed me the wrong way at first. I thought, oh great, yet another reality TV narcissist looking to get rich & famous by plastering his story all over the place, because everything is always all about him.

      Nice to be pleasantly surprised.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        I was hoping that whatever he chose in the end, he would be kind to atheists and not deride us.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

          That too.

  4. Schalk Van Wyk
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    👍 👍 👍

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  5. ricardomenacuevas
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s a sign of philosophical maturity.

    As Owen Flanagan asks in *The Really Hard Problem*: Can you have a meaningful life knowing that your life is going to end and you have no immortal soul? Yes, you can.

  6. Randy Schenck
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    When Grania posted this I looked at the talk he gave that lasted about an hour on You Tube. It seemed somewhat clear to me that he had given up on the religion before he even left the church.

    Anyway, I would think the line about – looking for God when he joined the church but now he is looking for reality may have pissed off the believers most of all. Made perfect sense to any of us, of course.

    • Sastra
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes, religious faith is really confirmation bias and motivated reasoning framed as if they were virtues. You can only do that if you assume in advance that God/Spirit is real and is patiently waiting for you to follow the clues towards a better relationship/understanding.

      Look at it objectively from a philosophical, scientific perspective and no, it’s not the correct conclusion. Thus the emotional bells and whistles leading the believer towards using some other method.

  7. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Clearly, for this man, it came from his innate concern for humanity and had nothing to do with a divine being./blockquote>

    I hope that’s the main thing Christians and other believers watching will walk away with.

    And that maybe one day atheism will be so common and detaboolized that people like this guy wouldn’t feel weird looking at himself as one.

    But kudos to him for being honest and facing it head-on.

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Dammit blockquote.

    • Posted December 29, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      I doubt any Christians will walk away with that thought. Most will argue that of course Jesus is responsible for his goodwill toward others, his morality, etc. Just because he doesn’t believe it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Etc, etc. So I have to respectfully disagree with Jerry here. After all, if an atheist converted to Christianity and said “I’m still the same nice guy I always was, but now I know that’s because of Jesus” you wouldn’t say that statement gives the lie to atheist beliefs that goodness doesn’t come from Jesus.

  8. Jerry Newingham
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I don’t mind eating crow when I’m wrong. I REALLY thought this guy would turn out to be just another scamming Preacher that was itching to write a book about trying atheism for a year, just so he could rake in the bucks from believers when he victoriously claims
    That Jesus won and he returned to the fold.

    It had all the earmarks of such a typical religious scam, but I was wrong.

    I wish the guy the best in his new relationship with reality.

    • Jacob van Beverningk
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Apparently, you weren’t the only one thinking that.

      The man tweeted this yesterday:

      “If I had a dollar for every person who said I was doing this to get rich I’d be…rich!”

      • Gamall
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        I thought the same.

        I am also happy to be wrong (it’s refreshing, once in a while 😛 ).

      • Alex
        Posted December 30, 2014 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        That’s funny.

  9. Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I thought every paragraph in the article would get the god whallopers riled up, except the one about his now working at PATH.

    • Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      I’m certain that bit would also irk the Repuplitheists, who maintain that the only appropriate response to homelessness is: “it’s their own damn fault, lazy bums”.

      • Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        Republitheists.

        Autocorrect is so strange. Why would it want to change one non-existent word into another non-existent word?

        • Lowen Gartner
          Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

          >Republitheists

          It’s brilliant. And here I thought you had Coyned a new word.

          • Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            I think I did.

            I just wanted a “b” instead of a “p”, which, for some inscrutable algorithmic reason, autocorrect insisted upon in my original comment.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 29, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

              I’m still too dense to know what you were aiming for, but the result was as serendipitous as it gets. 😀

              • Posted December 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

                I was trying to write “Republitheists”.

                I don’t know why autocorrect switched my “b” for a “p” before I hit post. You’d think autocorrect would replace a non-existent word with an existent one!

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

                Oh, duh. I’d read it that way in the first place. Thought you might have been going for something completely different. Nice coinage.

          • NewEnglandBob
            Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

            I prefer Republigelicals.

            • Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

              If we’re going for verbal efficiency I think idiots ought to do it.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          I thought you meant religious second-hand puppies. 🙂

        • Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          They exist now. I read the first one as “Repulpitheist” which Ryan Bell would be if he found God and went back to the pulpit to preach right-wing sermons that were not pithy but pulpy.

    • Posted December 29, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      You weren’t mistaken. They’re riled up:

      Pastor-turned-atheist-humanitarian targeted with vicious online attacks from Christians

      https://bogardiner.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/pastor-turned-atheist-humanitarian-targeted-with-vicious-online-attacks-from-christians/

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        I’m not surprised. They do not treat outsiders kindly. My mom’s family converted from Amglican to Seventh Day Adventist & she hated it. She calls the “Seventh Day Avengers”.

  11. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    A comment from a Christian site:

    jesusandme
    11:13 PM on December 23, 2014
    Who cares? So he found out he has free will. I’m surprised it took him so long.

    Not believing equals free will. 🙂

  12. Sastra
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Many years ago I performed a similar experiment. Although I was raised without religion I was surrounded by people I respected who were Quaker, Born Again, New Age, and Transcendentalist. I was “seeking.”

    I reasoned thus: given the incredible significance of God (it’s like ‘existence’ and ‘love’ rolled up into one), it ought to be impossible to live a happy, meaningful life without becoming a believer. So I was going to try it and see what happened.

    I announced this to my best friend at the time, who happened to be a fundamentalist Christian. I think it speaks much for both the depth of her faith and the extent of her naivete that she promptly hugged me and told me she thought this was a wonderful experiment! It was a great idea! She KNEW what (and Who) I was going to discover, because she knew I was a nice, honest person.

    So I felt good about that… and curious as to what would happen.

    You all know the result. I suspect that the fact that I was raised without religion allowed me to accept events and coincidences which someone who was “seeking” in the normal sense would have jumped on. I also meant it when I said I was going to try to live a happy, normal, good life as best I could without religion or Spirituality.

    I call it the atheist Argument from Irrelevance.

    • Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      The oblivious egocentrism of most theists really, really rubs me the wrong way.

      • Sastra
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        They don’t think of it as egocentrism because of the way the scenario is framed. A Playpen View of Reality casts the believer into the role of ignorant, helpless, selfish little Baby set inside a universe which was set up as a controlled learning environment.

        And what are we supposed to learn? Why, that we are but ignorant, helpless, selfish babies set inside a controlled learning environment so that we may say “thank you” and “I love you” to the Perfect Cosmic Parent. We’re only babies and the universe revolves around God, who loves us and will ensure we’re treated fairly once we’ve learned our place.

        See how that’s not egocentrism? See how that’s the very exact opposite of egocentrism???

        No. Me neither. We can look at the scenario from the outside and see how it manipulates reality around the believer even more than the supposed Central Character. It’s a stealth form of arrogance.

        You’ll only think this is humble and self-abdicating once you’re inside the Playpen View of Reality. From that perspective the skeptics and nonbelievers and atheists are easily cast as the ‘babies’ who think THEY built the playpen — or the playpen just happened. The refusal to accept the “baby” role denotes a desire for power and control. Gratitude is demeaning. Atheists are the egocentric ones. You see?

        No. Me neither.

        • Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, that’s what makes it oblivious.

          To be (perhaps undeservingly) fair, we and the theists are doing something at least superficially similar. We both think we’re correct.

          But one of the reasons I think my view really is correct is that I acknowledge that someone may legitimately seek the truth, come to the conclusion which I think is the truth, ie, that nothing supernatural is going on in our universe, but still hold many wildly different views from my own. And that’s fine. In fact, that’s great!

          Your theist friend thought that if you sincerely sought the truth you’d of course wind up a carbon copy of her.

          That’s just disgustingly egocentric, conscious or no.

          • Sastra
            Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think my friend imported all the political and social aspects into it — this happened in the early 80’s. I think she simply assumed that since the God of the Bible was real and would reach out to any honest seeker then the result was a given, given that she liked me and thought I was honest. It would be like our own feelings of confidence if a bright and fair-minded creationist friend told us they were going to seriously set forth to read a lot of evolutionary biology and see if it made sense after all.

            Not so much egocentric on her part, as naive.

            The egocentrism comes in on what and how we’re supposed to interpret the evidence. In the biology scenario everyone is presumably going to be in science-mode. The goal is to be objective.

            But the Playpen View of Reality has God revealing itself in private, personal “hints” like sunsets, odd coincidences, an inner voice, and a sudden feelings of loving certainty. My experimental stance wasn’t prepped along those lines. I wasn’t going off hopefully like someone who had been told by a psychic to expect “something unusual” in the next few days and twisting my neck craning to find something that fits.

            I was trying to see if I could be reasonably happy and not religious and this was probably going to be a process of years. The entire weight of the natural world and all the love and beauty it contained was going to work against the existence of God.

            I suspect she may have been thinking that I’d break down and recognize God while rocking my baby one night. Or maybe I’d find my glasses when I knew I’d looked there 3 times already. I don’t know. I don’t think she knew what the world looks like without what Julia Sweeney called the “God glasses.”

            The method is egocentric. The world view is egocentric. But the believers can be very kind, unselfish people who care very much about other people. It’s important to distinguish that. The enemy is religion. I usually like the religious.

            • Posted December 29, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

              Oh I agree and I should’ve been more clear. It’s the behavior that rubs me the wrong way. I’m sure people who exhibit this behavior also have redeeming qualities, but tbh I often don’t feel like I want to bother finding those redeeming qualities when my first impression of someone includes behaviors like bigotry, egocentrism or theocratic tendencies.

              This may be a cynical attitude I should work on tempering.

              Although I see what you’re saying when you describe your friend’s behavior as naïve rather than egocentric, I still think it’s legitimate to call it egocentrism. It’s de facto egocentrism. Even though theists insist they only try to inflict assimilation on others out of love – “we’re saving you!” – it’s still arrogant: the world will be right only when everyone thinks exactly as they do.

              I think calling this behavior egocentric could be a successful tactic for waking up some of the more thoughtful theists.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

                Sounds like a good idea to me!

            • darrelle
              Posted December 30, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink

              I like “God Goggles” because of the extra guhs, and the derivation from “Beer Goggles.”

              • Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

                Always, alliterative answers are accepted appreciably.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

                I think of the one night stands that Beer Goggles are notorious for leading to … And it’s probably just as well that I deride God as being a ‘she’ nearly as often as for being a ‘he’. Variety is good, even in anthropomorphic non-existent orifices.
                Where did I put those copper boots?

          • Sastra
            Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

            musical beef wrote:

            Even though theists insist they only try to inflict assimilation on others out of love – “we’re saving you!” – it’s still arrogant: the world will be right only when everyone thinks exactly as they do.

            But if they were right then they would be right. God and Christianity would be objective facts of reality and this recognition would lead to other bits of knowledge, same as in science. And preaching to the unconverted might be as wise as advocating better environmental policies.

            The problem isn’t that they think they’re right and we’re wrong; the problem is that they’re not right. That, and they’ve cut themselves off from discovering any errors with an elaborate system of logical fallacies, rational tricks, and faux-humble strategies.

            It seems to me that it’s only arrogant to believe “the world will be right only when everyone thinks exactly as I do” if we’re dealing with subjective matters like taste, lifestyle, and identity. They’re telling you to enjoy what they enjoy, want what they want, live how they live: be like them, not like you. They’re cutting down on diversity.

            But facts and questions of fact are another matter. Otherwise (as my newage friends insist) it’s “arrogant” to say that homeopathy doesn’t work or evolution is true. Or it’s arrogant to say the world would be better off with less violence, less ignorance, less hatred, and less superstition. Reason tries to cut down on diversity by weeding out errors and working towards improvement in areas where ‘error’ and ‘improvement’ apply and make sense.

            Religion doesn’t just involve mistaken fact claims about an egocentric reality: it brings in an arrogant, egocentric method of establishing their conclusions. But making claims about the nature of reality? Not arrogant in itself, I think.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

              The problem isn’t that they think they’re right and we’re wrong; the problem is that they’re not right. That, and they’ve cut themselves off from discovering any errors with an elaborate system of logical fallacies, rational tricks, and faux-humble strategies.

              Great distillation!

            • Elizabeth Oakley
              Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

              If God were really one entity with a strong underpinning as the creator of all things, then we would all have seen him more clearly in the world he created? That is, if I were to look at the wonderful design of say a tree root under the microscope, would I eventually see God in the fine detail, rather than have to rely on the broad brush aspects of belief?

              • Sastra
                Posted December 30, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

                If God did underpin all things, as you put it, then my guess is that we wouldn’t find it with a microscope, we’d begin to discover it through scientific investigations of the paranormal.

                Take all the bells and whistles away from the God concept and we’re left with something like “reality is fundamentally mental.” Dualism or idealist monism, iow — both of which are supported by any paranormal claim, all of which can in principle be tested. If that were successfully established, we’ve got the broad underlying stroke of the supernatural category without any need to be motivated to read motivation into things.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 31, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

                How could you (or anyone) see god in the fine detail? What would be an unambiguous ‘signature’ of God?

                “God made this” in block capitals written into the molecular structure would be evidence I suppose (I’m not being sarcastic here).

                More likely would be some structures that couldn’t have arisen naturally, but that’s just the argument-from-design and science has got pretty good at explaining most of those in evolutionary terms.

                I’d just note that the *absence* of any such signatures doesn’t prove God didn’t make them. God didn’t have to ‘sign’ his work, any more than a painter has to sign his paintings. This is essentially why Richard Dawkins (and many others) is a 6.9 on his 1-to-7 scale of unbelief.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted January 1, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

              But making claims about the nature of reality? Not arrogant in itself, I think

              I have a sock in a rock which has firmly held opinions about the nature and existence of an objective external reality.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted January 2, 2015 at 5:29 am | Permalink

                “I have a sock in a rock”

                Fossilised sock?

                Maybe not quite as glamorous as a sword in a stone, but undoubtedly just as magical?

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 7, 2015 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

                Chalybeate spring.
                No magic, just chemistry.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted January 8, 2015 at 2:48 am | Permalink

                And I was so sure it was a misprint…

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 8, 2015 at 7:35 am | Permalink

                Well, initially it was. But it’s solidified now.

    • Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      “raised without religion … Many years ago I performed a similar experiment. ”

      Er, isn’t that like a vegetarian deciding to give up meat?

      • Sastra
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        No, because you can be raised as a vegetarian and start sneaking meat onto the plate as you get older.

        Besides, my parents were loosely “spiritual,” with a vague sort of Higher Power not directly taught but mentioned when questioned. The culture I lived in was pro-religion. Many literary giants were people of faith. I didn’t see how I could consider myself a proper ‘thinker’ if I didn’t investigate religion and give it a fair shot. I mean, the promotional material was all rave reviews.

        But you do bring up an important point: I’d never been systematically indoctrinated into a need to believe or a serious love affair with Faith. Thus I performed the experiment the wrong way. I went at it from the wrong direction.

        Most pro-faith books advocate living AS IF God exists — talking to Him, thanking Him, looking for little signs and messages from Spirit, engaging in prayer — as an ‘experiment.’ Do this for a week, a month, a year — whatever it takes — and see if you start to sense His presence. See if you start believing. Make it a habit and find out if it eventually feels right.

        Fake it till you make it, in other words.

        Only someone who considers “God” a conclusion as well as a hypothetical Existent would try it the other way. The preacher in the article apparently really meant to make an honest test. Game over.

        • NewEnglandBob
          Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          …the promotional material was all rave reviews

          I guess you had not read the OT at that point. 😉

          • Sastra
            Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

            The OT is not the review, it’s the product. 😉

            The Bible is the most over-hyped work of literature ever. I’ve often thought that I would have appreciated it far more if I came across it as an obscure collection of old writings in some college course on ancient history.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

              Oh man, that would be some Christians wet dream.

              Dead Poets Society, the Bible version.

            • Jerry Newingham
              Posted December 29, 2014 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

              “The Bible is the most over-hyped work of literature ever.”

              You sure said a mouthful…I couldn’t agree more.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

              To agree it is over rated. I could classify myself as someone who came upon it and compared to other ancient texts, it just doesn’t excite me. Perhaps it is because it is difficult to read it as a complete, coherent narrative like The Odyssey or even the Thebean cycle of Ancient Greek plays. I’ve tried to enjoy it & really like Genesis & the Armageddon part the best.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

                Oops that should be “I” not “to”. My sloppy thumb typing on my iPad has terrible consequences.

              • Sastra
                Posted December 29, 2014 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

                I once sat down to read it as an adult. I had a working knowledge of many of the stories used in literary allusions but had only read bits and pieces of the translation from the original. My expectations were high. I didn’t expect to cry, exactly, but I did think I’d be seriously impressed. I’d just graduated with a degree in English, so I was hoping my background would really enrich my appreciation. Perhaps I would discover my own spiritual path.

                Talk about major disappointment.”People believe this is inspired by God? Meaning of life? Wtf?”

                I really, really don’t think people raised with faith in the Bible understand how much their background brings to the Bible. They’re like marks helping out a bad cold reader.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 29, 2014 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

                When I was doing my English degree, I had to buy an allusion book. I got all the Classical allusions but was an ignormous about the biblical ones.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 30, 2014 at 1:47 am | Permalink

                @Diana

                “ignormous”

                That’s an enormous ignoramus, I take it? 😉

                I do agree about the literary (non-)merits of the Bible. I suppose it’s about what one would expect from a grab-bag collection of ancient legends, with no particular unifying theme.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 30, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

                😛

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 30, 2014 at 1:49 am | Permalink

                I should have added, I’m an ignormous too, Biblically speaking. 🙂

              • Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

                “For unto us a child is born” is one of Handel’s loveliest choruses, and this version frames it with its source-quote, but if you actually read Isaiah, it’s clear that whoever was on his mind, it wasn’t Jesus.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted January 1, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

              The Bible is the most over-hyped work of literature ever

              That’s a dangerously absolutist statement which absolutely lays open to dispute. As an epic, I’ve always found Gillamoor overrated. And the 100000 generations of Ugh trying his tired old joke about Ugh, Ugh and Ugh sitting around the campfire really teed people off before we got symbolic thought.

              • Sastra
                Posted January 1, 2015 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                Yes, it’s absolutist but not dangerously so, given that epic poems like Gilgamesh and Ugh’s “Ugh Ugh Ugh Ha-ha-ha” tale aren’t supposed to be God’s ideal manual for living. Though I admit I was forgetting the Quran.

                I’ve not been to Gillamoor, but I looked up some photos and it seems nice enough. Some tourist must have gone on about it a bit too long for your taste.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 1, 2015 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

                Bloody Autocorrect. Gillamoor is an a/c for Gilgamesh.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted January 2, 2015 at 5:43 am | Permalink

                Now *that* makes a difference. I found Gillamoor on Google Maps and it seems a perfectly inoffensive small Yorkshire village.

    • Posted December 30, 2014 at 2:17 am | Permalink

      I had a friend at work who was a very conservative Xtian and I noticed that she saw the divine hand and great miracles in minor coincidental occurrences. One day I lost my ring in the tissue paper while boxing a customer’s purchase. When I noticed it was missing I realized there was a possibility that the ring would be discovered and returned, which it was about a week later. My friend went on and on about what a miracle it was, that God was trying to communicate his presence to me. I was amused and said her bar was indeed set very low for miracles. She was very perplexed that I didn’t hold the return of the ring with awe and gratitude but as one probable outcome.

      • Sastra
        Posted December 30, 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes. You were grateful to the person who returned the ring, so it made no sense that you wouldn’t be grateful enough to think God must be involved. “Everything happens for a reason” is supposed to be translated in moral or psychological terms, not cause-and-effect.

        They keep moving the bar. Sometimes it’s the very same person moving the bar in the very same conversation.

        “Here’s a miracle you can’t explain: a video of a man being raised from the dead. And here’s another miracle you can’t explain: outside the window there’s a sunset.”

  13. @eightyc
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    lol

    the funny thing about reality is that it’s gonna have a relationship with him whether he likes it or not.

  14. Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Club Schadenfreude and commented:
    Rather than painting the same horse my own personal color, I thought my readers would like to see this blog post from Dr. Coyne over at Why Evolution is True, about a pastor’s experiment on being an atheist.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    In my own experience as a former seminarian (studying for Unitarian ministry), I found there are (at least) two types of unbelieving clergy.

    One set has effectively lost any and all confidence in the Christian tradition and thinks it is irretrievably broken.

    A second set is !*personally*! comfortable (for themselves) with a non-supernatural Christianity without virgin birth or resurrection focused on what some call “the religion of Jesus, not the religion about Jesus”, but often the latter clergy are still not able to admit publicly to their congregation that this is how they think. They’re stuck serving a traditional congregation, and thus they are still closeted.

    • Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Well, closeted and in many cases I imagine “stuck” because they hardly know another social mode or means of making a living! Mr. Bell might be something of an inspiration to clergy who’ve lost their faith, but I imagine they need a lot more than that to make big changes (The Clergy Project semis like a great resource but I don’t know much about its services or efficacy).

      • Jesper Both Pedersen
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        It’s sort of a secular Opus Dei. They keep a tight lid on communications… although for good reasons, I reckon.

    • Sastra
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      That ‘second set’ is usually very adept at the Little People Argument. Give the simple what they need in the only way they can handle it. The actual truth would destroy them.

      So the congregation gets “truth” and the clergy gets to concentrate their focus on useful services like handing out good advice and food.

    • Elizabeth Oakley
      Posted December 30, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      I do think Christianity has benefits but the supernatural bits are the hardest to deal with. After all we live in a largely non miraculous world today. I’ve known close shaves but no miracles. Clearly the world is set up in a way to be non miraculous most of the time. It’s generally run by laws we are beginning to understand and by coincidences and correlations of all kinds. No matter what my faith, I could not conjure a miracle into existence and I’ve never known anyone else do it either. St Mark’s Gospel has far too much miracle making to be credible. Also where are the accounts by contemporary writers of all these miracles? Did they not write at all? Were they all illiterate the beneficiaries of the miracles?

      Nonetheless there are some very good men (and women) working within the Christian tradition. One could not say they did not have a beneficial affect on their communities. They definitely do.

  16. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    “Certainty is a very overrated quality. Certainty is what most people prefer to truth, and it cannot be kept from them.”
    — John Barnes

  17. Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    We all know believers who became atheists because they followed the evidence where it led. And we all know believers who have big hearts and want to contribute to a better world. It’s really interesting to see someone who seems to be both, and to be watching the process unfold for him in realtime.

    I think this is also a good time to note that the Seventh Day Adventists have not issued a death sentence for Mr. Bell and it is highly, highly unlikely they will do so. He certainly speaks fondly of the franchise, but I’m not sure that buys you out of heresy charges in certain other circles.

    • Lowen Gartner
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      >Seventh Day Adventists have not issued a death sentence for Mr. Bell

      Surely not in an immediate sense. But dig around in advindicate.com and you will see that the consensus is that he issued himself one.

      • Posted December 30, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        Well, if they imagine he is damned – or even wish it – he’s in good company around here. It’s violent, physical harm too many ex-Muslims often have to face.

  18. Posted December 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Note: Grania gave us vague information and used quotes that didn’t work well. I don’t read Hemant Mehta’s blog because his site is terrible (without elaborating further).

    • Paul S.
      Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. Grania did a wonderful job as Prof CC pro tem, from the open thread asking what readers are reading, to xmas on Saturn to the update on the clinically dead pregnant woman in Ireland to the Ryan Bell story. BTW, Hemant’s article was worth the read.
      Much appreciation to Grania.

      • Posted December 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        I’m obviously referring to the NOTE at the top of this article, not other unrelated stories.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 29, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, Grania did a commendable job!

  19. Larry Esser
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    While never a heavy-duty believer like Ryan Bell, I also simply stopped saying prayers because I had no idea to whom or to what I was praying! So what happened? Nothing. Life went on just like before except I found a wonderful sense of freedom from fear and a new delight in asking questions about anything without feeling like I shouldn’t or couldn’t ask them. This “freedom of inquiry” is one of the best things about being a non-believer.

  20. Posted December 31, 2014 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    In immediate practicality, yes, avoiding more thrown acid is more important than limiting the teaching of creationism. But in the big picture, the need to challenge religion is based in the fact that it is the primary context for reinforcement and refinement of the natural tendency toward blindly and loyally guarding beliefs of preference. Once well habituated, this leads us to deny anything we don’t like… no matter what the evidence says. Thus many deny, without exploration, understanding, or evidence, the whole of climate change. Many jumped right onto the band wagon of invading Iraq. The bottom line: if we’re going to problem-solve well, we’ve got to be willing to change our minds, to respect evidence, to admit when we were wrong. Beliefs of preference, best exemplified in religion, fight against that.

    • Posted December 31, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Great comment.

      +1

      • Posted January 2, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        If you might like to see thoughts like this taken farther, you could visit actuallythinking.com

        Best wishes.


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  1. […] A pastor losing his faith and leaving the church is not a new story, but publicizing it in a major, as National Public Radio (NPR) did yesterday with a lapsed Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, is. [Read more] […]

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