Ryan Bell

Seventh-day Adventist college fracas proves that local coverage is often better

Seventh-day Adventist college fracas proves that local coverage is often better

Every week, yet another Christian college is in an uproar over clashes between doctrine and 21st century culture.

Thus, it’s no great surprise that one of North America’s 13 Seventh-day Adventist schools should be on stage now. The focus is on Pacific Union College, a Napa Valley institution ranked as America’s most beautiful college in 2012 by the Daily Beast and Newsweek. That is pretty amazing when you consider it was up against the University of California-Santa Barbara and Pepperdine.

However, its psychology department is in much disarray, according to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education that tells of the department’s decision to invite Ryan Bell to speak. GR’s own Bobby Ross has written quite a bit about the publicity-seeking Mr. Bell who has gotten lots of favorable coverage for his recent decision to dump his Christian faith and become an atheist.

Even though Bell is a PUC alum, it’s not hard to imagine how inviting him onto campus would set the collective teeth of college administrators on edge.

 After forcing a psychology professor to disinvite a controversial speaker, Pacific Union College is, for the second time in less than three years, facing turmoil within and departures from its department of psychology and social work, along with renewed questions about its commitment to academic freedom.
The latest uproar at the institution, a small Seventh-day Adventist liberal-arts college in California, began when Aubyn S. Fulton, a professor of psychology, invited Ryan Bell, a former pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church who had become an atheist, to speak at a colloquium.

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He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

He's baaaaack! Los Angeles Times features former pastor who decided to 'live without God' for a year

Back in January, former Seventh-day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell made national headlines with his New Year's resolution to "live without God" for a year.

Now, with Bell's publicity-grabbing experiment nearly over, he's back in the news — courtesy of an in-depth, front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.

The Times piece opens with this scene:

"Uh, I'm not exactly sure about all this," Ryan Bell said as he scanned the scene inside a darkened Las Vegas convention hall.
A stripper whirled her hips. A rock band pumped out a song about cannibalism. A man's shouting hung briefly over the packed crowd: "God is dead!"
For nearly two decades, Bell had pastored congregations of Seventh-day Adventists, among the most conservative denominations in Christianity. How had he ended up at a gathering of atheists and skeptics in Sin City?
It had been a long time coming. For years now, it felt as if his prayers weren't being answered. He secretly wondered whether a higher power existed at all.
So, last Dec. 31, he published a blog post that went viral.
"For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God," he typed. "I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else's circumstances. (I trust that if there really is a God that God will not be too flummoxed by my foolish experiment and allow others to suffer as a result)."
Now it was July, just over midway in his journey. Bell had spent as much time as he could reading about science and philosophy, interviewing agnostics and atheists, working to decide what he would believe when the year was done.

Keep reading, and the writer explores Bell's faith journey — journey away from faith, that is — primarily from Bell's own perspective.

As for what the article means when it describes Seventh-day Adventists as "among the most conservative denominations in Christianity," readers are left to wonder.

 

 

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CNN finds missing voices in 'atheist' pastor's media blitz

Earlier this week, I posted on Ryan Bell, the Seventh-day Adventist pastor who gave up his faith to focus on granting media interviews. What I meant to say is that Bell has decided to “live without God” for a year so that he can flirt with atheism. The free national headlines are, apparently, just a bonus.

In my previous post, I raised concerns about missing voices in a Religion News Service story:

RNS quotes a few sources besides Bell, including the author of a book on clergy who lost their faith and an atheist who considers the experiment flawed.

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An 'atheist' Adventist's alienation: any missing voices?

The most popular story on Religion News Service’s website right now involves a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who has decided to flirt with atheism for a year: (RNS) California pastor Ryan Bell has a novel New Year’s resolution. For one year, he proclaimed, he will “live without God.”

It’s an odd resolution for an ordained minister, former church pastor, teacher at two highly regarded Christian universities and church consultant. Yet for the next 12 months, Bell, 42, plans to refrain from praying, reading the Bible and thinking about God at all.

Instead, he will read atheist authors, attend atheist gatherings and seek out conversation and companionship with unbelievers. He wants to “do whatever I can to enter the world of atheism and live, for a year, as an atheist.”

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