Oooh, do I smell a book deal! NPR today ran an interview with a Christian pastor who supposedly made a New Year’s resolution to live for a year without God. Ryan Bell was the pastor of a Seventh-Day Adventist congregation but was asked to resign when he expressed doubts about God.
The nature of Rev. Bell’s doubts was not made clear. Nevertheless, shortly after he announced his resolution, Rev. Bell was fired from teaching positions at 2 sectarian colleges – not entirely unreasonably, I think, if he truly “came out” as an atheist, but very unreasonably if he was simply thinking for himself or thinking aloud. (Just to be clear: If you may not teach religion in a public school, perhaps you may not espouse atheism in a private, sectarian school.)
Even if he does not have an advance from a publisher, Rev. Bell’s year off will be aided by a gofundme campaign that has so far raised over $26,000 in less than 1 week. I do not know whether all the contributors are atheists, but the campaign was initiated by the atheist Hemant Mehta.
Rev. Bell says that he has always been “wrestling with [his] faith” and when he lost his positions no longer felt like “participating in church.” Things, as he put it, started to unwind, and “sometimes they unwind all the way.” Perhaps the most telling reactions were those of the atheists who told him, “You are either an atheist or you’re not. You can’t be ‘a little atheist,’ like you’re ‘a little bit pregnant,’ “ a reaction he likens to Christians telling him, “You’re not properly Christian. You’re not a Christian in our way of being a Christian, so you don’t really fit here.”