The former pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church, who stepped down from his position in March of 2013 before embarking on what he called a “Year without God,” has concluded that he no longer believes that God exists.
In an interview with NPR, former pastor Ryan Bell said his year long journey took him from merely questioning the existence of God to arriving at the conclusion that there is no convincing case for the existence of 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 explained. “I don’t think that God exists. I think that makes the most sense of the evidence that I have and my experience.”
Bell created a stir when he first announced his plans to “live as if there is no God” for 12 months, resulting in him being fired as an adjunct professor at Azusa Pacific University and at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he coached doctoral candidates preparing their dissertation proposals. Both schools are Christian institutions that require their instructors and staff to be committed followers of Jesus, and administrators didn’t feel Bell should be a part of the faculty while living outside his faith.
Speaking with NPR, Bell said that, while he no longer believes in the existence of God, he’s not comfortable being called an atheist.
“I think I’ve adjusted or sort of acclimatized a little bit to the atheist community. I’ve spent more time in settings with atheists,” he explained. ” But there are still elements of it that are a bit more confident than I find myself to be in some aspects, so still an awkward fit.”
Bell admitted that he also uncomfortable around some of his Christian friends.
“I think part of my discomfort is that I never like to make people feel uncomfortable by my personal experience or whatever I’m going through. So I’m sensitive that people around me are uncomfortable because of what I’m going through or what I’m exploring, ” he said. ” I think it just takes time to get used to the fact that I’m in a different place now than they are, and if they choose to be in relationship to me, then that’s just something we have to adjust to.”
Bell now works with PATH, an organization dedicated to helping the homeless, and says that is more important than his personal path.
“You know, I think there are much more important issues to be focused on – things that are really threatening our society while we’re worried about what’s going to happen about after we die, when in reality, no one of us knows what’s going to happen to us after we die,” he explained. ” But what we do know is that if we don’t do something about the immediate challenges that we’re facing today, we’re going to die a lot sooner (laughter) than we might otherwise.”
Bell added, “My focus is I want to have a closer relationship to reality. I think before I wanted a closer relationship to God, and today, I just want a closer relationship with reality.”