Eps: 83 Ryan J. Bell and Life After God

Eps: 83 Ryan J. Bell and Life After God

Welcome to Spark My Muse!

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Today, my guest is a follow podcaster and blogger Ryan J. Bell. Ryan came into some notoriety when he, as a Seventh Day Adventist Pastor, decided to blog about living a year without God and he gained a large following as a columnist on Huffington Press as well. What happened next and what he’s up to now makes for an interesting story. Listen in.


MIN 1:00
Ryan’s blog: yearwithoutgod.com (The Blog)

A year without God at patheos.com

The PODCASTlifeaftergod.org

About Ryan’s religious background, education, and pastoral experience.

humanities studies

7th Day Adventist explained in brief

Restorationist movement mid 19th Century

some Methodist and Deist roots.

• Stone Campbell 

• Churches of Christ (similar off shoot)

prophetic interpretation and end times predictions

lost truths that mainstream Christianity left behind.

MIN 6:00

He started reading theology that differed from the framework he came from. It was less restrictive and exclusive toward others.


Atheism and the blog “A Year Without God” started in January 2013

9 month break,

Spiritual but not religious, American, individualism version of spiritual experience:  “Everybody is having their own private isolated experience of wonder.”

Religion for Atheists – Alain de Botton

He submitted his idea of “middle space–between belief and non belief” for the Huffington Post Religion Page and it was very popular.


People approached him because they didn’t have anyone to talk to about their doubts and questions.

Space for dark spots of doubt.


Do you hang on to any spiritual practices or vestiges of your old life?

Coming to a centered place in the now and in focused and non judgmental way and noticing feelings.


What have you done with “The Big Other” and the baggage from your upbringing?

Do you have gratitude toward the Big Other, or how is it expressed?

Not locating a destination for his gratitude.


Morality of an atheist. Being good for goodness sake.

A bottom up thinker


Draw to Judaism because it had created a theology around a community not a community out of a theology.

Judaism: Built around love, work, sex, food–the whole life lived.

Norms and wrong & right


Why he started the Life After God podcast

The response to the question:

“How do we community, both online and in person, in both groups and one-on-one, ….to help people around their changing viewpoints.”

Dealing with the challenges and life issues after a life where people stop believing in God.


A community of revolt coheres poorly. -Lisa

Atheists that move into Humanism (a secular moral philosophy to guide life)


• Jennifer Michael Hecht – A LOVE FEST SEGMENT-

Jennifer’s episode on Spark My Muse:

Poetic Atheism (as opposed to what Ryan called “Vulcan Atheism” -a logical-focused (MR. SPOCK from Star Trek) approach to the world)

Denying our humanity by letting beauty shape our decisions at times.

When we deny those things that give us beauty and awe, we are repressing, fighting or resisting the idea that we are deeply emotional creatures.

DOUBT (the book)


Aeon.com What is “soul” – emotional seat in our brains.

Religious words and language. Words can hold larger meanings.

Tad DeLay (Our conversation)

Outside of religious contexts:
• Soul – can mean awareness

• Spiritual – can mean aliveness -Lisa

Part of the human experience is beyond words so we have to use what we have available in bigger ways. -Lisa

Jennifer gives permission to have a deeper (and more artistic) appreciation and ways for living.


Life After God- the Ex-files

We are storytelling creatures and isolation is dangerous for people.

Post religious and post-theistic communities and progressive communities have a exciting times ahead.

Greta Vesper (episode link)

Sunday Assembly and Oasis meet up.

We need to be challenged and comforted regularly.


Curiosity about life and learning


Asking questions

Power systems (or any one who’s trying to sell something) have something to lose if you ask questions because threats to disturb the status quo.



Brian Peck

My Life After God – Insta-journalism


Trying to understand why atheism is attractive to people and why people lose their faith/belief

I have a slew of diverse voices on Spark My Muse. Hear more below!

Pick the best option below!

Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

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Shownotes for Episode 13  Wine lovers have God to thank + guest Doug Jackson

First, I want to feature the book Doug and I wrote …

entitled Dog in the Gap because of a C.S. Lewis quote “Man and his dog close a gap in the universe”.


And there’s a BONUS EDITION with lots of goodies!
Read a sample here!

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Thank you! Enjoy the show!

With love,



Who do we have to thank for wine?

God and the Church, actually.

Wine lovers in Western civilization have the Church in Europe (and the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire–which was neither holy nor Roman ) to thank for the large-scale production, the prevalence and the excellence of wine!


Because liturgy involving wine for communion was central to Christian religious practice. Wine was ingested as the saving holy blood of Christ (and bread as the holy body of Christ), usually each and every day. The sacraments of Communion served as saving grace afforded to the Church.

As Roman Empire became officially a Christian Empire (circa 313 CE) many vineyards had to be planted, properly cultivated, and harvested. Grapes had to be made into a lot of to support the daily practice of communion throughout the Empire.

Communion served as wine was the norm among Christians world-wide until recently–in the era of pasteurization. To keep juice from grapes in a state were they would not ferment meant it had to be sufficiently boiled so the natural yeast would die. 

Vehemently opposed to alcohol, Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician, dentist, and Methodist pastor from Vineyard, New Jersey, figured out the process in 1869 with Concord grapes. Most churches did not accept the switch as proper and stayed with wine.

The juice later became more popular during Victorian era because of prominent values of abstinence. A shift then began in the U.S. that made grape juice the main communion beverage (at least among certain Protestants sects).

Several hundred vineyards operating in Europe today can trace their history to monastic origins.

In the 9th-15th centuries almost 1,000 monasteries dotted Europe. They were centers of education, stability, and technical innovation. Monks and nuns could read and write–this was quite uncommon then.

Monasteries cared for the sick, helped the poor, created places of education, and invented Universities. They could not fund all this through donations. Surplus wine was sold to finance ministry work (and also beer, fruit brandies, and cheese, among many other things..even prayers and Salvation ..which–in hindsight–appears to have been a mistake ) .

So, basically, thank God (and many monks) for wine!


Sparking your muse

 Enjoy the fantastic chat with Doug Jackson!


Douglas Jackson, D.Min.
Director of the Logsdon Seminary Graduate Program

Doug Jackson came to SCS in 2006, after serving as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, since 1993. In addition to teaching courses, Dr. Jackson functions as a liaison between Logsdon Seminary and local churches in Corpus Christi. His areas of specialization include spiritual formation and pastoral ministry. Dr. Jackson has published and presented several articles and essays in religious and literary venues, including articles and lectures on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.
• D.Min. – Truett Seminary (2006)
• M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985)
• B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)

His blog is here.


Interview / chat notes:


MIN 8:00
on Doug preparing for a his Fall class.

A resource he is using by NT Wright – “The new perspective on Paul”
The covenant people God has saved.

Reformers and the necessary correction in contemporary times.

Confronting individualism
and thoughts on human flourishing.

on the idea of being “spiritual but not religious”

on his work about CS Lewis

Mere Christianity

The importance of imagination for understanding that isn’t covered by rationalism.

on his Oxford lecture
Owen Barfield an influential life-long friend of CS Lewis

Another lecture on Walter Miller – A Canticle for Leibowitz
Apologetic self-proclaimed validity on the rational scheme of knowing.

“Scholarship is about knowing more and more about less and less so that eventually you know everything about nothing.”

James Sire

Malcolm Guite https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.guite
Chaplain of Gerton college and Cambridge
“Faith Hope and Poetry”

He covers the imagination as a way of knowing (an epistemology).

Holly Ordway
Houston Baptist University
“Not God’s Type”

Her 2-track movement toward conversion

Brainpickings.com Maria Popova (an admitted secular atheist on a continual spiritual search)

on Spiritual atheism

….if we come up with a system that covers everything (Christians and Atheists alike)…

“Humans are sensitive and emotionally vulnerable to a wasteful degree evolutionarily speaking…highly valuing the arts.” (Lisa)

Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monk and Abbot
Philip Lawrence, New Mexico
…slipping in and out of atheism….

HG Wells, and the fundamentalist reaction to him and others of his ilk.

on how science and religious circles have had an absolute unwillingness to be in one another presence and (have not wanted) to admit any weaknesses and (instead) just shout louder.


“The best apologetics can do is make Christianity credible and I don’t think it can make it inevitable.”


22:30 “Any belief in any ideal is still a leap of faith for anyone… like Justice, Love, Hope…” (Lisa)

on How people appeal to a standard outside themselves. (CS Lewis)

Theories of “survival behavior value” for Morality and Justice kicks the can. or it lands on simple absurdity and meaninglessness where suicide becomes a valid option.


Doug answering the question….”Is fundamentalism evolving”?

Richard Foster’s classic over 50 years old “Celebration of Discipline”

A story of a crucial pivot point for Doug.

How the psalmists had to cry out to God when the answers didn’t suffice any longer. For us, this is a return more than a departure.”

“I have gained the gift of being able to respect other traditions and admire things they bring us, but I talk to people across that spectrum that have that experience.”


“We go from trusting our denominational address or theology address to trusting Christ but it doesn’t mean an abandonment of it. Choosing a room in the same house to live in.”

Spiritual disciplines most meaningful to him:
On solitude and privacy (the difference). Henri Nouwen explains the difference.
 Henri Nouwen explains in “Out of Solitude” 

Doug: Solitude is for battle. Privacy is to be alone.

Demons come in our solitude (Desert Fathers). The outcome is awareness and purification.

Wanting “the listening heart” (what Solomon really asked God for).
on the importance of listening to God…

My Stockholm syndrome at parties. (Lisa)


“(My) Inability to be with people was driven by a failure to have a real self.”

“you are nearer to me than my own self.” Augustine

Doug realized:

“My real Self can’t be with people because it’s threatened by them, because they’re going to colonize my Self and going to make me into something I’m not. As opposed to having a real Self that can listen because God is protecting that Self.”

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck wrote
The way of Spiritual Direction (his director)
…Doug and I discuss Detachment and Holy Indifference…

St John of the Cross
(Exploring the spiritually obscured times and darker emotions.)

“the nada” (God is “no thing” the silence before God

…on staying in the problems and not panicking.

…on the crucial lesson from his mom that revealed his theology

(unknowing) Apophetic theology

“John of the Cross didn’t want that we should abandon the metaphors but move through them.”


“We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology.”

(which is terrifying but life-giving)

Further exploration in a future episode of John of the Cross with Doug coming soon!


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Watch for new episodes each Hump Day (Wednesday).

Motives of Goodness


charity workers

Take a moment and think about your last choice to do the right thing. It have been an internal motivation, but dig a bit deeper. What is behind that? What worldview?

Oswald Chambers describes how our view of authority, obedience, and the human spirit work together.


There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person’s disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, “You must do this,” and, “You will do that,” he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

Oswald Chambers (click here for his full article)

Perhaps you can take just a moment to think of God’s holiness. And think of why you obey. What supports that? And what can improve your practical ethics.

I’d love to hear your ideas.

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