Half a world away from my Oklahoma home, an experiment just concluded in Australia.
An atheist and a Christian who are friends agreed to trade places for a month and document the experience, with the summary promised later this week.
According to a brief in online news' The Blaze, believer Bentley Browning and non-believer Simon Capes gave up their respective belief systems for the other's in January, "in the hopes of coming to understand one another's views more fully." They're calling it Faith Swap.
To be specific, each adopted the other's daily rituals, or lack thereof, including prayer, Bible reading, worship, sacraments or any other related activities.
Color me intrigued.
So what am I critiquing exactly? The possibility. I'm still hopeful a GodBeat pro might latch onto it in and give us a proper feature.
Why? I'd like to see it go deeper. While Christians don't always walk the walk, so to speak, can one completely erase all contact with or dependence upon God for a month and adopt the lifestyle of an individual completely without faith? Conversely, can someone with no belief in God conform to the daily discipline of contact with Him and extract spiritual meaning in the rituals of worship?
The possibilities for a true piece of reporting vs. a quick publicity rehash keep popping into my head.
For starters, Capes' non-belief is categorized as that of an atheist without test or question. In a setting like this, why not educate readers about the differences between agnostics and atheists?
From there, how did Browning cope? Did he find a substitute for prayer? How did erasing God from his life affect his approach to money or reading?
For further background, the pair has been updating on Facebook, and some of Browning's posts are genuinely descriptive of what I would envision a day without prayer might feel like to me. It is tough to make out which man is which, however, because both post under one user name.
Interestingly, Browning is attending a service on Sundays. His treatment of the event is fair and open-minded:
Continuing on with my quest to live as an atheist I end up with the celebration which celebrates being alive. I have no objection to that whatsoever as most people don't take time to celebrate the gift of life.
And Capes' report from a traditional worship setting was complimentary:
As an atheist I thought I wouldn't find a lot to agree with in the sermon and the prayers, but it was surprisingly relevant.
So am I turning towards Jesus and coming to have faith? Not yet. Although I am beginning to understand what being a Christian can mean. A sense of community; a feeling of being loved; an idea of one's place in the world; the hope of a better life/afterlife; the space to reflect on the past week's events. I just can't buy into the supernatural miraculous nature of Christianity.
These quotes give me hope. In today's era of reality programming, why not take this and run with it, reporters?