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42 thoughts on “Contact”

  1. Dear Mr. Bell,

    out of a coincidence I read your article in the German version of The Huffington Post. Since I am running a catholic blog myself, I wrote a comment about it, which you may read here: http://papsttreuer.blog.de/2014/01/07/jahr-gott-17563907/

    I am sorry that I don’t have the time to translate the text for you, but I would like to ask you to think about one thing: christiantity is not a religion about a book (although we have the bible), it is not a religion of rules (although the ten commendments, the beatitudes and the example of Jesus give us some advice) neither is it a religious institution (although the church also needs some sort of institution for their mission) – it is a personal friendship to Jesus.

    Why would you leave a good friend behind to find out, if you can do without him? Luckily this special friend will welcome you when you decide to return, unlike human friends would do, if you told them, you wanted to test your life without them. As much as I understood it is not, that you don’t believe in God at all, but that you have doubts about your friendship, His friendship to you.

    Like it is with human friends, the worst way to get clear about that is stop talking to your friend. So even if you try to get in contact with atheist thoughts, books and people, i beg you not to stop – or if it is necessary – start praying to God again. Talk to your friend, you have doubts about, maybe He can put things clear?

    In case you cannot do that, I will pray for you (and I apologize for my English language skills)

    Yours

    Felix Honekamp, Germany

    • Felix,
      I have left friends to go on a Journey, it does not mean I am abandoning them. Any personal friendship, whether with Jesus or others, would be bound by a solid, caring and loving relationship. The fact that Mr. Bell wants to explore new ideas is not a bad thing. I do not think Jesus would condemn is friend for looking. Exploring new ideas, paths and opportunities is how we grow and participate in the world. It is also how we make new friends. I wish Mr Bell a good journey.

      Remember, he is expanding his understanding of himself and his world. If he decides after a year that Jesus is still his best friend then good for him. If he decides to move in another direction, I am sure he will not look back at Jesus, Christianity or other friendships with disdain. I am sure he will still have a healthy respect and admiration for his old friends and understandings. I know for me, being an atheist is very freeing. My morality is intact, my friendships are strong, my understanding of myself and my world is an exploration every day. I have both my old, and new friends, most of whom love Jesus or the Bhudda, or Shiva. I respect them all, I know they respect me.
      Good for Bill

      Brett

    • A personal friend?… with Jesus?…not to be disrespectful to your faith but this comes across as very creepy to those of us who don’t adhere to superstition.

    • Very well said. It’s obvious to me that Ryan Bell has never had a relationship with Jesus Christ. He has been living a religion, but not a relationship. Communication is a 2 way street and God expects to speak to us. That’s what a relationship is all about. If he ever knew how wonderful and loving Jesus is, he wouldn’t give that up for anything.

      • My reply is to Brett and not Mark P. Sorry.

      • Oh, Judith. Pharisees have always existed. Glad to see one has found this blog! This should be interesting.

        How do I know you’re a pharisee? I think it’s your certainty that you know everything about the “right” way to have a relationship with Jesus and your ‘obvious’ certainty that Mr Bell does not now and never has made that cut. Do you really believe as you stated that you KNOW that Mr Bell has never been in relationship with Jesus Christ? All without knowing him in person or really knowing anything about him at all? Impressive. Even for a pharisee!

        Luckily for humanity if there is a god and if he is as he has been revealed in the bible, then according to his word he really doesn’t have a problem with imperfect humans and people who have questions or doubts. Plus when he communicates with those he does have a relationship with in the bible, he hates the immaculate, self righteous, scripture-twisting pharisees and he loves humble, confused, honest men and women. I wonder what Jesus would say to you if you was able to bust through your hard and delusional heart so that he could show you how wonderful and loving he is. 🙂

  2. I have to say I admire your choice to try it without God. For me God is a reality and not a belief but that has not made it any easier. Many years ago I spent almost four years away from God and it was very difficult but when I came back it was with a much clearer head. Being away had changed my perspective and the questions I began to ask were much more grounded in reality and far away from accepted religious dogma. If, as I believe, God is real, then testing your own faith is not a threat to God. We are no good as messengers of faith if we are not certain in what we believe. The only piece of advice I have for you is that when you find the failings of religion do not believe that they are the failings of God. I spent sometime speaking with the atheist community on-line and once they discovered that I was not a follower of the faulted religious beliefs I was literally kicked out of the forum. But I found their arguments very helpful and actually it increased my faith. Good luck to you in your journey and hope you find what you are looking for.

  3. chilosahatak said:

    I applaud your plan. Never be afraid to question WHY you believe things (this applies to faith, politics, everything). You may come back to the same stance you had, but you’ll have a deeper understanding and sense of fulfillment in the exercise.

    Best of luck, no matter what happens.

  4. Your thirst for understanding things you aren’t familiar with is refreshing. You are going to have a fantastic year. I suggest that you look into existentialism. My most favorite literary exploration of this belief system is the play “No Exit” by Sartre. He lived in France during World War II and was one of the founders of existentialism, which is essentially the belief that while everything that happens to you has no rhyme or reason to it, there are consequences to whichever way you respond to these events, which means you have personal responsibility in everything you do and all these actions create and mold who you are. I find strength in this belief because although I can’t control what happens to me, I can control what i do or don’t do about it and it’s up to me, not anyone else real or literary, to do the right thing and the consequences are mine for better or worse. Since you are delving into atheism, you might be looking to explore how athiests and agnostics establish and maintain moral codes and value systems, and this is one of the ways, and mine personally. Thanks for tuning into us and happy exploring!

  5. Not sure what your plans are this year (not the specifics) but I was wondering if you planned on speaking to Jerry DeWitt of The Clergy Project. I think he might be able to give you some extra perspective.

  6. Steve Capellini said:

    Best of luck to you. You are a “seeker,” and one thing that’s true for all seekers is that they don’t “believe” they have found the answer or the truth. It is so, so much more comforting to be a believer. To put yourself, and your livelihood, on the line is courageous, especially since you have children. It requires, in a certain sense, a deeper faith, don’t you think? Some might call that kind of faith naivete. Others apostasy. But for your fellow seekers, there is only one word to describe it: authentic. Congratulations on living an authentic life.

  7. Freedom is amazing. One question to ask and look for an answer, along your travels, is: “What came first, the sun or the eye?”.

  8. I am a Roman Catholic. I even own and administer a private Catholic website. I tried this as well … not believing in God for about a year and a half, though I still attended Mass. Did same thing, no praying outside Mass. I wanted to affirm my faith by answering the question “Does God exist?” I studied Steven Hawking, all the latest on particle physics, theories on creation of the Universe, the latest studies on how life developed on Earth. I was most shaken when I learned that scientists were able to create a nucleotide (part of DNA) in a lab simply by recreating the conditions of early earth. That is, they basically proved life could appear on it’s own out of matter. But in the end, all the string theories and lab experiments STILL could not disprove God’s existence. Neither could faith, with all its miracles and near-death testimonies provide tangible proof for God’s existence. What I learned is that in the end it boils down to a simple choice, a choice as simple as turning your car to the right or left at an intersection. Faith is not a feeling, a motive of the heart. It is a choice. You choose to believe or not. I’m glad I put it to the test though. I think you’re doing the right thing.

    • Is it truely possible to choose to believe? Does not reason come first, then belief?

      Imagine standing on the top of a tall building, looking down, can you choose to believe that you can fly?

      Imagine buying a used car, and the seller tells you it’s a good deal, you may choose to take his word for it and act as if you believe him, but do you then truely believe that what he said is true, or do you choose to act as if it is the truth?

    • Choose to believe? This makes no sense to me. My disbelief is not a “choice” I am incapable of making this choice, It either is or is not, My mind has examined the question and the claim that there is a god has been found unsubstantiated. Without this substantiation there is no way for me to suspend my disbelief.

      You say that this is a choice that is easy as whether to turn a car left or right, I cannot even begin to wrap my head around how this is so. It is not a choice I can make no matter how much I might wish it to be, Belief either is or is not, and is a product of substantiation, not choice. A choice implies an ability to suppress thoughts to the contrary, even if your mind tugs one way you tell it to go the other. It reeks of a profound ability and tendency towards self delusion (and sorry if this offends, but I see no way to sugar coat that for you).

      You also mention “no way to disprove god”. There is no way to prove a negative, that is not how it works -this thinking is fallacious.

    • Bruce Williamson said:

      You have clearly hit a nerve with several of us by talking about religious belief as a “choice”. Unlike the above commenters, however, I support your meaning.

      Perhaps another way of phrasing this is to say that faith is an interpretation. The choice, at a fundamental level, is: Does our experience here have meaning? My understanding of atheism would suggest that atheists’ answer to that question is no: there is no spiritual meaning behind our existence in this universe. I cannot accept this. I “choose” (using your word) or interpret, based on my experience, that there is meaning here.

      I sense that meaning in so much of my surroundings. Once that interpretation is made, then it is a matter of finding an expression of meaning that most closely fits each of our personal experiences. No established religion or philosophy can ever perfectly accomplish this for any individual. Because of that, the true believer must give up on being a follower, and must lead himself / herself to a relationship with the source of meaning in our universe.

      Mr. Bell is a true believer. Kudos to him on his journey.

  9. Rev. Bell,

    I am not an ordained minister (they don’t do that for females in the PCA), nor have i ever officially worked in the ministry. However, my spiritual journey feels very similar to what you have described in your blog regarding the isolation from the body of believers once you express doubts or conflicting perspective.

    I was raised in an incredibly strict, conservative, republican, Christian household and the PCA church. I am 29 and I have been a “none” (of no religious affiliation) for about 4 years officially, 15 years unofficially. I still don’t have the guts to look my mother in the face and tell her i no longer believe in God. I keep separate Facebook pages, one for my friends and persons of similar views, and one for my family and coworkers, simply so I don’t have to be “ministered” to on a daily basis, or fired from my company that has strong religious affiliation. The only person who knows my struggles with this is my husband, who holds similar views, only without all the internal conflict.

    I guess I’m writing this to let you know there’s yet one more person who relates. And also, someone with a sympathetic ear who will be closely reading your blog.

    all the best,

    ALDSDLLS

    • Jon McAlister said:

      Unitarian Universalism might be a place for you. All religious creeds welcome, including atheists. Also many there are many who are looking for sanctuary from conservative upbringing. Lots of religious expats among UU members.

  10. We would be very happy to have you attend a meeting of Atheists United in Los Angeles. We meet at CFI (Center for Inquiry) every 4th Sunday at 11 am. Our next meeting will be on January 26th. After the meeting there is a free lunch. Your year is over now and we would all like to know the results of your experience. Christine

    • Is it over or just starting? I only see a week’s worth of introductory posts. Lunch sounds good though. What are we having?

  11. Hello Ryan. Im really excited ti hear about Your experiment. Last year was a total change in my life i literally can tell u i reborn. I though i was smart enough And blessed enough. I even though i was awake but today i know i learning everything again. I was raise as chatolic in Colombia very conservative compare with other countries. After all I lived I encourage u to go own and I’m sure the results u will found my sorprice u coz u may find that all u knew and believe may be not what really u re. I definetelly have a question for u as I consider myself as agnostic after all. It is all this about God or about religion? Or science?…co if is about God u re on the right path to find ur answer by deleting all u have been teach but if is about religion or science (intelectual approach) u will find both have many in common but mostly are writen by man…good luck in ur quest and I’m sure u will find more than u want to prove.
    Thank U for taking the risk to prove something to all of us.
    And best ones u open the first door this process won’t stop 🙂 good luck Ryan!

  12. I have blog here at WordPress called the Free Thought Bibliography http://freethoughtbiblio.wordpress.com/

    It lists, both chronologically and by author, as many writings on free thought as I have gathered so far. When I get a spare moment, I track down online sources of the ones in public domain and make links. It’s a slow process but I feel good when I can get a few more done.

    I’m a little behind on the literature of the past few years, which has become prolific. But I’ll get there.

    I created this bibliography for people exactly like you and I hope it might be useful to you.

    Listen to many but decide for yourself. Think in the best and most rigorous way you know how. I wish you joy and safe journeying.

    Jessie

  13. Good luck on your journey. And remember, it’s ok to feel grateful for things in life without feeling the need to attribute them to anyone. Sometimes just feeling the feeling of being alive is a great experience and a helpful meditation. I personally think the less thoughts we have and the more we are in touch with our senses and the feelings we have, the more grateful we become. Take every day in stride, and know that there are millions more with you on this journey, even if they don’t have blogs about it. And don’t forget to smile!

  14. A similar thing happened to me several years ago. I say “happened” because it wasn’t something I proposed to do, as much as it was something I was propelled to do. I was a very devout lover and follower of God, Christianity and the tenets of that faith. My world was engulfed in worshiping the most high God, and spending my time with God in near constant prayer and meditation created a life for me that was happier than it had ever been. It was devastating to my core when I began to question everything I believed about God. Finally, at one of the lowest points in my life, I said to God, “I will throw out every belief I have, except You. Start there and refill me with the beliefs You want me to have. I believe in You” There were many days and nights I would sob before Him and ask what I did to be punished in such a way, that He would take away all of my beliefs. At some point, I was reminded of a very earnest prayer I used to pray to Him before my beliefs began to waver. I would tell him, “Though none go with me, still I would follow.” Additionally in that prayer, I would tell Him, “I don’t want to go along with the crowd, just for the sake of belonging to a community of people. If the church crowd had it wrong, then I want to be outside, as long as it means that I had God.” I prayed that I wanted God without filters and if that meant everyone had it wrong, I wanted Him to make me have it right, because I loved Him so much. He was all I wanted. After a very difficult few years, I realized that I wasn’t being punished, He was loving me like I loved Him and allowing me to truly have Him. I’ve found that often, people follow religion, but do so believing themselves to be following God. I’ve found that when God moves, people miss it because they remain unwilling to move from the tenets of their religion. Its not really their fault. The Christian bible comes with threats to their safety if they veer from its teaching. Jesus came veering from the religion that had been taught for centuries, and the religious of the day crucified Him for it. Let me say that again; God Himself came and His people were so wrapped up in following their religion, that they rejected Him. I don’t ever want to be so out of step with God that I don’t recognize Him. God bless you in this most sacred of journeys.

  15. Jon McAlister said:

    Ryan,

    Please look into Unitarian Universalism. Our First Principle encourages a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” I sit in pews next to atheists, pagans, Christians, Buddhists, and people who are a mix of all those.

  16. Thanks for sharing your journey. I look forward to your word this year. Being apart of a religious community in which deep query is discouraged I have had to look outside and find people with intellect and a religious background to help discover the true nature of faith. I have found the more I doubt and seek the more I find. To be sure of a thing is to lack faith. To doubt a thing is to have great faith in that thing.

  17. From the place where we are right
    flowers will never grow
    in the spring.

    The place where we are right
    is hard and trampled
    like a yard.

    But doubts and loves
    dig up the world
    like a mole, a plow.
    And a whisper will be heard in the place
    where the ruined
    house once stood.

    –Yehuda Amichai

  18. Dear Ryan, I wonder if you could write about what your closest family and friends might think if you end up without faith in God. Would you tell them? How do you think they will react?

    I struggle almost daily because my mother claims that my lack of belief actually HURTS her. She acts like de-conversion was my choice, and I firmly feel that it was not. She also seems to believe that it might have been better if I had hidden the truth from her, at least insomuch as I would not have HURT her that way.

    It is incredibly difficult for me to reconcile the fact that simply being myself hurts another person. Especially since I try so hard to be kind, considerate and loving with everyone and do not choose to be HURT that other people believe in God. The fact that my honesty will hurt other people is what keeps me mostly closeted even now…that and the fact that telling the truth will immediately end their respect for me. I feel like telling the truth will cut my vocal chords in a way…silence me in their hearts.

    I just wanted to share. I really connect with your journey, no matter where it leads you. I am afraid it will inevitably lead you away from your faith (I’m not sure how it could not, honestly. Learning = growing = changing.). The fallout can be really hard. But in most ways I am much happier than I was before. It is hard to believe my world was so small and simple for so many years.

    • Mary it sounds like your mom may have borderline personality disorder There are lots of books out about how to deal with people like that. One I can recommend as very practical and helpful regarding communication and dealing with personality disordered people is “It’s all your fault” by Bill Eddy. Good luck to you. 🙂

  19. Coco Martin said:

    I am a christian by baptism, but i must admit, doubts regarding my faith continue to hunt me. But even the doubt itself hunts me. If there is one person who should be doubtful like the deaf, mute, poor, abandoned, i should say i am also one of them because of the kind of physical orientation that i posses. I was born immature, was left in the hospital for 3 months in the care of nurses. I grew up not enjoying the joy of puberty, adolescence, and manhood. But a life full of questions and what ifs. My family’s Christian belief has greatly influenced in my believing and knowing that there is a God. A God who once in His life, gave Himself for His own creatures. In my youth, I once played the mind of a non-believer… and i found out that it was a lonely path. No hope, no inner joy, and no inner peace. Until there came a point of making the decision of returning, believing back… there i knew the difference of believing and not believing. Believing gives hope, gives inner peace and inner joy. While the life of not believing gives misery, sows hatred and restlessness. One time I decided to give gifts to my poor relatives, 3 days after Christmas, when i got home I could not explain the joy that i have experienced, when I looked up my clock and the time was 3:33 p.m. while the temperature revealed 33 degrees centigrade. My belief in this God through that experience has been re-affirmed. To the believer who lost His faith, and chose the life of athiesm… I just want to say… May God bless you.

  20. A couple questions to cycle between.

    What is “God”?
    Do any of the things in the religion follow from just that definition?

    We can’t talk about whether a “Zabie” exists or what a “Zabie” means we need to do unless we know what a “Zabie” IS, exactly.
    But something that happens in a lot of arguments is that a religious person will offer a very easy definition for a word, then try to ram a trainload of baggage in that won’t fit with that definition.

    For instance, take “UFOs”. Have you ever seen something in the air and you didn’t know what it was? You’ve seen a UFO! It might have been a leaf in the wind or a plastic bag or a satellite or Venus or something. Let’s say it was a bag in the wind; that means you believe in UFOs. You saw something in the air and you didn’t know what it was. THEREFORE, you have to accept that whatever you saw has been secretly manipulating politics and mind controlling sheep and is armed with laser cannons on the Moon!”

    I get hit with that kind of argument all the time. For instance, people have tried to convince me that I am going to Hell and need to hate gay people and become a missionary because I “believe in something greater than myself”* (as defined by me accepting that I am not as tall as a mountain). It is, obviously, a really horrible argument.

    On the same thread, can you look up a list of logical fallacies and start discussing them? I am not seeing a lot of those reflections yet.

  21. Ryan, I am dismayed by your doubt. The Bible calls us to search ourselves and see if we are really in the faith. Because it also says the wheat and the tares will sit side by side. And sorted out later. God does not need our affirmations. We need his forgiveness. Our centuries of rebellion, disbelief and chaos is coming to a climax at the end of this age. Satan is on the throne. And his religion of transhumanism is exploding. Man can be god is his promise. The book of revelation is opening and you are going to take a year off? Please check out the video: evolutionvsGod.com

    • Terber, if Ryan is a wheat he is a wheat, if he is a tare, he is a tare. Having doubts or questions about who or what he is or who or what he believes won’t change him from a wheat to a tare or vice versa. Relax,Terber. if Ryan is a wheat, he will always be a wheat. He doesn’t need your dismayedness or your affirmation to be who he is. 🙂

  22. Jonathan Berhow said:

    Dear Ryan Bell,

    The one unforgivable sin in Christianity is unbelief, which is to say doubt. If you are not afraid of damnation, and putting that at risk for at least a year seems to indicate this, perhaps part of your answer to what difference god makes lies in this fearlessness. You are a brave man, Bell, and the god of monotheism needs fear. Best wishes to you!

  23. Alexander said:

    I must applaud your search for truth, but I think you are basing your assumptions about “living as an atheist” off of pure stereotypes. Being an atheist simply means you don’t believe in a god, everything else is fair game. There are even atheist who believe in souls and reincarnation, just not gods.

    I also think your choice not to read the bible is a grave mistake. The majority of atheist I know came to the conclusion from reading the bible, not from avoiding it. If you truly want to question your belief, you should start with the bible. Read it with a skeptical mind, study it, and question it. If the bible is true, it will withstand all scrutiny, if it is false then surely it will falter. You should not have made the bible off limits, especially when it is what you should be paying the most attention too.

    Finally, here is a good quote that I think you might enjoy:

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    -Stephen Roberts.

  24. I applaud at least your attempt. I questioned my faith as a teenager. The church’s view of homosexuality had a lot to do with the initial questioning. At the time the question was whether or not God exists but eventually the question morphed into what it should have been from the being ‘Do I believe God, as taught within Christianity, is worthy of my worship?’. Once I got to the real question it did not matter if God existed or not. If he did exist then the horrors done by him (as presented in the Bible) or in his name (‘Holy’ Wars) are inexcusable. I could not and will not worship that God. Once I got there nonexistence was not as hard a pill to swallow. So now I feel that I am freed from the chains of religion. I am free to form my own opinions and decide what is right for me without the fear of hell that was more like a gun to my head. So I hope you find what gives you peace no matter what that ends up being.

  25. Dear Ryan,

    Many parishioners do not actually believe in God, rather they attend church for social reasons: good music, good food, intellectually stimulating sermons, field trips, good friendships.

    Many formerly did believe as a sequel to their childhood fantasies of fairy godmothers, elves, and Santa. They were very troubled when their parents informed them 1) it had all been an illusion, 2) they should henceforth substitute Christ who is real. Except some children suspected that if their parents had lied to them once, they were lying again. Despite this the children having grown do not want to hear from doubters that God does not exist. After all, life is tough and then you die. Many desperately seek comfort that the Savior will rectify the horrible things done on earth when one enters Heaven through blindly obeying the purported will of that Savior.

    Of course, one begins to question why a loving God allows rampant evil to exist, indeed, why He allowed his Son to agonize on the cross, his Son whose last words were to his Father, “Why have thou forsaken me?” On a Good Friday service I counted a pastor recite seventeen reasons why Christ had to die in order for the faithful to be saved. I could only reason that God could merely snap his fingers and all could be spared undeserved suffering.

    As a practicing pastor, I’m certain you gradually began to feel this. But as a non practicing layman, you may now begin to feel as empty and hopeless as do many atheists. (Theism and atheism are two sides of the same coin – a desolate reaction to the “reality” of Darwinian evolution.) So I bet you will eventually compromise and return to church for the social benefits. And if you resume being a pastor, that is, an employee of the church, you may feel a conflict of interest not really believing in God, but there are many employees in many professions who do not believe in their boss (pun intended).

    As a public figure, your public thoughts are inspiring to people of mixed faith. Keep up the good work, and all the best. Where there is life, there is hope. We can do the best we can in this short stay, and there is nothing wrong in still believing in elves, or even the possibility of a benign God.

    Yours,

    Alan S. Kaufman

  26. Dear Ryan,
    I decided 1982 to “live without God”, when I was 18 years old and after living as a Christian for six years. My last 31 years were very rich, without doubts or fear like before. And yes, I lost most of my christian “friends” and I felt alone sometimes. But I found many other friends, religious ones and non-believers, I learn to read many different books and to discover what is “holy” in them instead of reading only one “holy book”. So I wish you an interesting year or more 😉
    Werner, Stuttgart, Germany

  27. Harrison Bailey said:

    Hi

    Greetings of the day,

    What would a huge increase in relevant traffic mean for your business? If I could greatly increase the number of customers who are interested in your products and services, wouldn’t you be interested?

    Thank you

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