Got news? Can Christian and atheist swap lives for a month?

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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.

Faith Swap also has been quasi written up in the Huffington Post after a brief PR piece appeared in the Christian Today Australia. So the concept is kind of out there, but without a good story.

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?

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About Tamie Ross

Tamie Ross is a wife, mom, writer and all-around crazy-about-life girl now battling autoimmune disease. Her 20-year journalism career included stints as religion editor for The Oklahoman, online editor for The Christian Chronicle and freelancer for clients ranging from The Associated Press to United Methodist News Service. She has won state and national awards for her personal columns and editorials.

  • Yasmine Hafiz

    The Blaze wrote up my original article in The Huffington Post, not the other way around.

  • Gene Dooley

    We don’t know if the two participants had ever called themselves the opposite of what they truly are BEFORE the Faith Swap. Could the author have even found anyone to participate if they had previously had a change of belief?

  • James Scott

    I can imagine myself an Atheist in the abstract(I do it all the time as an intellectual exercise when doing analysis of a particular Atheist polemic) but at the end of the day I believe in God.

    I don’t see how one can play Atheist or morally give up one’s obligation to pray & live according to the divine law.

    I cannot refuse to obey the Church’s lawful command to attend Mass every Sunday or stop following the commandments.

    I find this problematic.

    • PaulKLittlefield

      I’d like to point out that nothing about being an atheist compels you to violate the ten commandments.

      1. No other gods? Great. I don’t worship them, either.
      2. No graven images? Again, I don’t worship those.
      3. Name in vain? I avoid even mentioning gods.
      4. Rest on Sunday? Well… does laundry count?
      5. Honour my parents? I love them dearly.
      6. Don’t kill? Never felt the urge.
      7. No adultery? I love my wife, so no problem.
      8. Don’t steal? That’s easy.
      9. No false witness? Hey, my neighbours are nice.
      10. Don’t covet? I’m content with what I have.

      So what’s the problem? I’m atheist, and you could say I’ve never violated the commandments at all.

      • James Scott

        As a Catholic and a Thomist I absolutely believe you can act good within your natural powers and follow the natural law.

        But that doesn’t really change the fact that subjectively you either don’t believe in God or lack god belief.

        I can violate any one of those commands(& have at one point in my heart or literally) so acting good or evil is not relavent to my objection.

        Peace.

      • James Scott

        Additionally it’s not really a burden on you to follow the divine or natural law externally. But it is a burden on me to violate the divine and natural law & refuse God prayer and worship when I believe in him.

  • James

    As am atheist who formerly attended church 2-3 times per week for over a decade, it’s certainly possible to enjoy conversations & fellowship with believers and to find relevant ethical teachings in a sermon; it’s quite impossible to actually believe any of the supernatural claims, however. Acting like a Christian; worshiping, praying, fellowshiping etc, does not make doubts go away. If one’s epistemological system requires evidence, then the only thing that’s going to satisfy this need is evidence; at least that’s been my experience.

    • James

      Wow, that’s cute – one vote down for sharing my own experience. Some of you theists are a bit sensitive over the whole “evidence” thing, huh?

  • CynthiaGreens98

    …guys If you make less than $5000 a month you need to
    read this B­­?­­s­t­­9­­6­­­.­­­c­­­?­­­m…Interestingly, Browning is attending a service on Sundays. His treatment of the event is fair and open-minded:

  • Pofarmer

    At least in the U.S. the vast majority of Atheists, including this one, were once beleivers, so I’m really not sure how valid this experience could be. Yes, the togetherness is noce, I miss that. The messages can be good, love thy neighbor, the golden rule, etc,etc. But, as the other poster noted, at the end of the day, the non-historical supernatual, authoritarian, brain dead nonsense kills it.

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