Sunday, July 03, 2011

Atheist For A Month

It’s good, sometimes, to see the world
Through someone else’s eyes;
To take another’s point of view
And try it on for size.

Be Muslim for a month,” perhaps,
Be Sufi, or be Sikh;
Try walking in their footsteps—
You could start for just a week.

You could try to be a Muslim
Or a Christian, or a Jew
But I’d like to see more people
Trying atheism, too.

Just try it for a month, or two,
Or maybe for a year—
Pretend there’s no use praying
Cos there’s no one there to hear

Pretend there is no god above
To save us from ourselves
Pretend there are no holy books—
Just leave them on the shelves

Pretend there is no heaven
And pretend there is no Hell;
Pretend we only get one life,
And try to live it well

And maybe, if you try it out,
You’ll like the you you find
Not member of a single tribe
But all of humankind

And maybe if enough of us
Can wear each other’s skins
We’ll understand our differences...
And everybody wins.

Via the Beeb (same link as above), an interesting piece on walking a mile (well, a month) in someone else's shoes. In this case, it's a bit like church camp, except that it is in Turkey, and the church is a mosque, and participants basically live life as temporary Muslims.

Given the ignorance about other faiths, and the animosity toward Muslims in particular, I think the "Muslim for a month" idea has some serious potential for good. Yes, it could be a worthless exercise, but it can't possibly be as futile as simply praying for peace.

Of course, after the 2006 University of Minnesota study, I personally think we could use this concept on a group that is distrusted even more than Muslims. Atheists are distrusted; atheists are misunderstood; atheists are demonized.

But it would be so easy to try to be an atheist for a month. You wouldn't even have to leave home. Wouldn't need to fly to Turkey, or to Israel, or Rome, or anywhere. I think (if memory serves) that Julia Sweeney's atheism began this way--just as a brief experiment, that proved successful.

It's actually easier than not being an atheist. No rituals, no hymns, no call-and-response, no nothing. Well, you do have to do one thing. You do have to think.

For yourself.


eddie said...

The temp/muslim camp is run by muslims so their visitors will be steered clear of any embarrassing faux pas. Any atheist equivalent would have to be similarly guided to avoid it becoming like a minstrel show.

Cuttlefish said...


Yes, and no, sorta. You are quite right, of course, that there are many misconceptions, and so if someone was just trying to be an atheist for a month, and tried to throw a baby barbecue, it might be very important to have an atheist guide to prevent them from, say, using the wrong spice rub.

In the Julia Sweeney sense, though, no guide is necessary (although one might help). Even if someone is sitting in church with his/her peers, there is nothing to prevent trying on "hey, all this is just make-believe; there really is no god" for size.

Pierce R. Butler said...

What, no avowal of independence from any and all deities?

Don't you realize this day/weekend and its tropes are SACRED to all red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans?

By choosing any other theme, you have committed blasphemy against our "civil religion"!!1!

latsot said...

"(although one might help)."

Tru dat. Julia experienced physical symptoms when she tried taking off the god goggles. I think her writing on "WHAT AM I FEELING?" is as good a guide as any I've seen. I certainly don't have the skills to guide anyone on that kind of journey and if ever there were a gap in the self-help market...

Pigbristles said...

The idea that one can try on religions like a change of clothes... how strange! But then, what does that make atheists? Spiritual nudists, maybe? That's kind of how I feel, if my recurring dreams are any indication...

Survive the Jive said...

the muslim for a month program is divisive, it implies that those who have not done so are lacking in cultural experience and are ignorant. The truth is that those who are raised by the laws of a religion are the ones who wallow in ignorance, It is they who create the divisions in society, not those who would criticise them. Atheist for a month would skilfully be written off as hatemongering by the media