Will Ryan Bell be Able to Live as a Consistent Atheist?

Before a show like Extreme Makeover, there was Queen for a Day that first ran as a radio show and was later picked up for television from 1956 to 1964. Four pitiful and woeful women would tell their story to a studio audience. After hearing tortuous tales of discomfort, the audience would vote on who would be crowned “Queen for a Day,” giving one of them at least one good day in a life of misery.

I was thinking about this show when I read a story about former Seventh-day Adventist Pastor Ryan Bell who said he was going to live without God for a year. Bell writes:

“I will ‘try on’ atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. 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).”

Ryan Bell is not really going to live as an atheist for a year. He won’t even be able to do it for a day. No one has or ever will live as a consistent atheist. It cannot be done. There is nothing inherently moral in atoms stimulated by electricity.

There is no moral foundation for altruism given materialist assumptions about the nature of reality. As Richard Dawkins has written, “DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”1

If DNA neither knows nor cares, then how is it that the chemicals that make up you and me should care about anything? But we do. Atheists borrow their moral worldview from the worldview that they despise and say does not exist.

An atheist is an “interloper on God’s territory. Everything he uses to construct his system has been stolen from God’s ‘construction site.’ The unbeliever is like the little girl who must climb on her father’s lap to slap his face. . . . [T]he unbeliever must use the world as it has been created by God to try to throw God off His throne.”2

Ryan Bell may not read his Bible or pray for a year, but he won’t be able to give up his Christian morality. But as a true atheist, he should if he wants to be a full-fledged, honest to goodness, consistent atheist. But wait, there is no goodness or badness in a world without a Personal moral Judge. Our nation’s early founders appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the world” for their intentions. It wasn’t good enough only to appeal to the “Authority of the good People of” the colonies.

Gerhard Uhlhorn wrote the following in his book Christian Charity in the Ancient Church:

“If the individual man be only a passing shadow, without any everlasting significance, then reflection quickly makes us decide: Since it is of no importance whether he exist or not, why should I deprive myself of anything in order to give it to him? For the rule of life soon becomes this, that everyone makes himself as comfortable in this life as possible; and this implies that he need not trouble himself about the poor and needy, whose existence or non-existence is at bottom a matter of no importance.”3

It will be interesting to see if Ryan Bell really lives as an atheist for a year. I’ll wager he’ll be a very inconsistent atheist.

  1. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins/BasicBooks, 1995), 133. []
  2. John A. Fielding III, “The Brute Facts: An Introduction of the Theology and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til,” The Christian Statesman 146:2 (March-April 2003), 30. []
  3. Gerhard Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883), 38. []