Late last year we heard about the pastor who was taking a break from god, trying out atheism for 365 days to see what it has to offer. Ryan J. Bell’s decision sparked a few controversies: From his church (who fired him), his university (who fired him), and some in the atheist community (who thought that you can’t “try” atheism if you still believe in god). All of these minor dissensions aside, the act itself has provoked questions in my head.
Is it more admirable for a believer to put their immortal soul at risk by questioning faith and seeking truth, regardless of what they find? Or to never risk anything and simply accept what they’ve been told?
It seems to me that the answer is rather simple; everyone of faith should leave their religion to explore other ideas, especially a life without god. If their faith is strong, the understanding of varying world views should not shake their faith, allowing them to return to their religion with a better understanding of how their faith shapes their lives.
But furthermore, leaving behind their religion and exploring other world views is a cosmopolitan approach to life, one that bridges the “us/them” divide and, as we’ve seen, generally leads to tolerance and acceptance of different cultures and religions.
On the other hand, this carries social and professional risks. Bell lost two jobs just for conducting this experiment. To be shunned by your leaders and peers might be devastating, especially for teenagers and young adults.
But with secularism growing more and more accepted everyday, we should find that experiments, such as Bell’s, become more and more the mainstream.
So believers, cast off god for a while. Explore. See what the world has to offer. Maybe you’ll leave your religion forever. The worst that can happen is that you find that your religion is the best model for you, and you’ll return to your religion with more conviction.