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Flirting with new faiths: Christian pastor goes atheist for a year

by AirTalk

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Ryan Bell preaching at the Hollywood Adventist Church in Los Angeles. Ryan was Senior Pastor at the church from 2005 to 2013. Ansel Oliver via Flickr Creative Commons

For his 2014 new year’s resolution, former pastor Ryan Bell decided to give up the Christian faith for a year and “try on atheism,” a move that cost him teaching jobs at two Christian universities and has spurred conversation and debate among Christian and atheist communities.

For the next year, the former senior pastor at Hollywood Adventist Church says he will live as if there is no God, refraining from prayer, worship and his many roles in the Christian community. Instead, he’ll be reading texts by prominent atheist thinkers, communing with non-believers and blogging about his insights.

Bell’s project highlights a trend of Americans abandoning their religious affiliations or switching to new belief systems. A 2009 Pew Research report found that half of American adults have changed their religious affiliation at least once during their lives. The fastest growing religious group in recent decades is those unaffiliated with any particular religion.

What do you make of Bell’s project? Can someone really “try on” a belief system for a year? Have you left one religious tradition to dabble in another? How do these sorts of faith transformations  impact your life?  


Ryan Bell, former pastor, Hollywood Adventist Church, blogging at

Brie Loskota, Managing Director, USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture

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