Faith Swap: Christian and atheist exchange lives for one month
Ever wondered how the other half live? Premier Christian Radio has organised a unique experiment that allows two friends to find out just that; an atheist and a Christian have swapped their religious daily commitments for a month.
This January, comedians Simon Capes and Bentley Browning have given up their respective belief systems in favour of the other's, in the hopes of coming to understand one another's views more fully. Browning, a committed Christian, has abstained from prayer and stopped going to church, while Capes, a self-confessed single-minded atheist, has been taking part in what he calls "the rituals of Christianity".
Presenter of the 'Unbelievable?' show on Premier, Justin Brierley, came up with the initial idea for the experiment, citing interest in "how they view each other's beliefs at the end of the experiment".
"We are not expecting either of their lives to change dramatically as a result," he explained. "It will clearly be something of a challenge for both of them."
Capes, however, said at the beginning of the test that it may well "completely change my life".
"I've got nothing to lose," he said. "Bentley's taking a bigger leap than me because he's negating something in which he believes, but we both have a lot to gain from this."
Browning wasn't so sure that his beliefs would change by the end of the month. "I've no great desire to go off the rails. I'm swapping lives with a very moral, rational person, not a mind-bent rock star," he said of his friend.
During the experiment, both men have been updating Facebook page 'Faith Swap' with details of their experiences. Though as an atheist he has free reign to do as he wishes, Browning has found letting go of his daily Christian practices a challenge. "The prayer thing is very difficult to get out of because it's habitual," he notes.
"The self imposed restriction is beginning to feel like a tight costume," he wrote on 21 January.
"I'll tell you how easy it is not to pray when you see a small child dragged from rubble in Syria...Impossible," was yesterday's contribution.
Capes has been sharing his experience of going to church for the first time in years. After a traditional Choral Matins service at Bath Abbey, he wrote: "I didn't feel as alienated as I thought I would. I just followed the lead of the person next to me. As an atheist I thought that 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."
The experiment will be reviewed on 8 February during 'Unbelievable?'. Until then, follow the updates on www.facebook.com/faithswap