The cover image for a former-Adventist Facebook group in which Ryan Bell is a participant.
We received the following statements from former Seventh-day Adventist Church members in response to the conclusion of former Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Ryan Bell's Year Without God.
Sergio S. Martínez - Student, University of Puerto Rico I had my own fallout with faith and I found I was happier outside of the church. I was a pastoral theology student in Puerto Rico's Adventist University, church elder, ADRA volunteer, teacher...I obviously preached. I dedicated my life to the gospel, but at some point the pressures of maintaining a certain lifestyle, maintaining a pristine image, tired me.
I realized pastoral work was not for me. I quit. Changed concentrations. I started to approach God from a non-Adventist theological point of view. Soon, it all fell through for me. By having a fallout of sorts with Adventist theology, my image of God also morphed. Eventually I left the church for good, and it's made me happier. I made my spiritual peace. Not unlike what he did, not unlike what he's going through. I simply decided spirituality, at least, Adventism wasn’t for me.
LouAnne Sluiter White - Registered Nurse, Aurora, Colorado To be honest I did not trust Ryan's motives in the beginning. Adventists are known for their dishonest approaches to get people to come to their prophecy seminars etc. and they are known for their "experimental churches" and other tactics to reach the "unchurched" so I was leary until after reading more of what he had to say and as time went on I began to feel that he was sincere because I could relate to many of his struggles. I will be interested to read his final decision. My guess is that he identifies strongly with Humanism.
For me, leaving my faith behind was like a Christian’s “born again” experience except it was based in facts and reality rather than faith in mythical fairy tales. The truth will set you free is what I have always been told. It's true. When I first realized I was an atheist I felt liberated and joyful. It is a complete release like coming out of a jail cell after a 50 year life sentence and seeing the world in a totally different perspective. I actually had tears of gratitude flood my eyes as if I had just found a cure for my own cancer.
At first it made me sad to have lost a part of me that consumed so many years of my life. Later, I realized I had only lost something that never existed in the first place. In fact, I was now free to discover what really did exist. Knowledge was opened up to me. I felt that I had maximum freedom to think for myself and come up with a morality that makes the most sense to me. This is freedom of thought and to me it is highly positive and desirable.
Peter Veitch - nurse at Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia and moderator of the 980-member “X-SDA’s” Facebook group Intense - this window into Ryan's year. Usually we hear about a person's coming to belief or leaving a belief after the fact. This was as it happened, documenting the process as it occurred. It was an amazing journey, asking big questions and then pursuing them. No hint of " conclusion first" - then trying to back it up. Confirmation bias cast aside, safety lines cast off, the journey started. I noticed along the way that many were trying to direct his journey, some announcing there was a god and others announcing the opposite. Some from both sides (theists and atheists) made hostile comments.
My five years without God has me at a place where I am more concerned that people are ok. I wanted to cheer Ryan on for team atheism but I was more interested that he make an honest conclusion himself. I wanted him to be ... OK. His voice, for example supporting LGBTQ people, opposing bigotry was valuable even before the now-famous year.
I don't think there are gods. My journey out of Adventism started with the Des Ford / Walter Rea insights. I stayed a generic christian for many years after '82. My time with theists and atheists has shown me that there are good people and bad people in both camps. The people who are good to people - I'm with them.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6540