Ryan Bell, a former Seventh Day Adventist pastor, has decided to try atheism for a year. His transition from faithful pastor to church critic to exploring non-belief have a familiar ring to them. It’s easy to identify with Bell’s description of life after leaving full-time ministry:
Since that time I have been a religious nomad. I have struggled to relate to the church and, if I’m honest, God. I haven’t attended church consistently; I struggle to relate to church people, preferring the company of skeptics and non-church-goers. I haven’t prayed much and, without sermons to write on a regular basis, I haven’t studied, or even really read, the Bible.
What Bell seems to be suffering is not only a faith crisis, but a career crisis. For professional pastors the two are one in the same. Having been there I can tell you, it can be quite scary.
So Bell is going to “try on” atheism for a year and write about it. I sense what he is trying to do, but I’m not sure of his methods. It’s his journey however I can’t quite gauge his sincerity. The whole thing seems very public after all (with a book deal no less).
During my transition from belief to non-belief, I was writing regularly online and touching on the subject but it was also deeply, deeply personal. It wasn’t something I was trying, it was something I was experiencing. It was also something I was becoming.
I’m not sure one can “try on” atheism any more than one can “try on” Christianity. Telling an atheist to “just believe” is like telling a pig to fly. I know that in my past as a Christian I could not have fathomed “not believing”. It’s just not something you try.
As I’ve said before, you can’t fake a belief that doesn’t exist. You can’t fake non-belief either.