Living the godless life
by: John Tyrrell
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For a year, Ryan Bell, a former Seventh Day Adventist minister has been living "without God." He's been keeping a blog and if you wish you can follow his journey from the beginning back in December 2013 to his decision after a year to continue as a "weak" atheist.
Now other than a couple of quick looks, I have not followed Bell's blog. But he's made me wonder what it really means to live without God. After all, it's something I do automatically without really thinking about it. And at least superficially, I don't seem to be doing anything very different than my friends and neighbours, at least some of whom are religious.
But I don't think I know any really, really religious people anymore - certainly not anyone who feels it necessary to bring their religion into everyday routine conversation.
But as he was a minister, I'd expect that Bell was at one time, before he questioned his faith, quite religious. For him, there could be some major changes. What do I think might have been significant? (Again - without reading his blog.)
He was Seventh Day Adventist - and "Seventh Day" points to the way they celebrate the Sabbath - in accordance with the Old Testament, and thus a major doctrinal difference with most other Christian denominations. As a minister, celebrating the Friday night / Saturday Sabbath would have been particularly important.
Live without God - and which day to take off (or not) is no longer important. Nor are the activities you choose to undertake on your day off critical. The day belongs to you.
Seventh Day Adventism grew out of the 19thC Millerite movement which taught the second coming would occur in 1843. In spite of Christ's failure to show up (which the Adventists reinterpreted as the beginning of Christ's judgement of everyone who ever lived), the Seventh Day Adventists, along with many other Christians, believe the end is indeed still coming soon
Live without God - and being killed thanks to a vengeful "loving" God's End Times is one less thing to worry about.
Seventh Day Adventists recommend vegetarianism. Regardless of whether that diet is rigorously followed, the "unclean" foods mentioned in Leviticus are totally off the menu. Even if you cheat on your veggies with an occasional burger, no bacon and no lobster for you. And of course, Seventh Day Adventism is not alone with dietary restrictions.
Live without God - and you can make your own decisions on what to eat.
Seventh Day Adventists are one of the evangelical denominations. It's not just the various churches that seek out new members, individuals themselves have a personal responsibility to proselytize - to encourage their friends, neighbours, co-workers, and casual acquaintances to come to Jesus.
Live without God - and you are free to keep your religious opinions to yourself. You don't have to share them with anyone else. But you can if you want.
Believers in general are called upon to financially support their church / temple mosque and their clergy. Depending on the particular religious tradition, these calls on finances can be quite heavy.
Live without God - and you make your own decisions as to where your money goes. Without tithing, you are more likely to be able to afford to donate to charities that actually perform a charitable function - or spend your money on yourself.
Many believers ask their God for things through prayer. I don't know how they manage to live with the continued disappointment, but they continue to ask.
Live without God - and you recognize that no mystical being is going to give you stuff. You can, to the degree you are prepared to, take responsibility for those things you can control, and recognize that other things are outside your control.
Ryan Bell is a single parent with two daughters. I can't say how he approached giving them moral guidance either before or after his decision to live without God. But if he was like many Christian parents, he may very well have used the Bible and God as the basis for teaching them moral values. And God makes a great absolute authority - His say cannot be questioned.
Live without God - Morality seems to me to be an area where it might be more difficult for non-believers. For very young children, we can say "Because Daddy (or Mommy) says so" and get away with it. But we need some firmer ground when children reach the point of challenging parental authority. We have to be ready to impart a firm moral philosophy along with encouragement that each child think for herself when encountering new situations for which there are no "rules."
Living without God - it's really not all that difficult unless you have previously focused your life on living with God.
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