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52 Weeks, 52 Religions
October 18, 2009 2:54 PM   Subscribe

"For 35 years, I attended the same religion. When I left, I realized I didn't know the first thing about what other faiths believe. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask. For 52 weeks, I'm setting out to visit 52 different religions. Christian to Muslim, Buddhist to atheist, I'm going to attend their services, discuss faith with their leaders, and bring it all back to you." (via)
posted by sabira (85 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
spoiler : they're all the same, just with different hats
posted by mannequito at 3:01 PM on October 18, 2009 [29 favorites]


Just to be clear, atheism isn't really a religion it's a belief that there is no god or gods.
posted by hector horace at 3:01 PM on October 18, 2009 [9 favorites]


Atheist services?
posted by dilettante at 3:02 PM on October 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was all set to be all "WTF atheism isn't a religion" but he pretty much addresses this in the atheist section. Plus I like this entry.
posted by jessamyn at 3:04 PM on October 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think you've gone kinda overboard if your visiting an atheist groups, those will mostly be ex-Christians, rather than ordinary atheists. Even Richard Dawkins expresses resentment for his Christian upbringing. I'd say just read Breaking the Spell.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:06 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


My wife and I attended the "Introduction to Judaism" class offered by Temple Beth Israel here in Houston about a year and a half ago. I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable, educational things I've ever done in a religious context. It was very refreshing to encounter a belief system that didn't use guilt, shame, and fear to get things done. We were ALWAYS welcomed with wide-open arms, even as people who had not converted and were just there to learn.
posted by mrbill at 3:07 PM on October 18, 2009


It was very refreshing to encounter a belief system that didn't use guilt, shame, and fear to get things done.

I've always said that the difference between Judaism and Catholicism is that in Catholicism when you sin you're disappointing God while in Judaism when you sin, you're disappointing your parents.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 3:14 PM on October 18, 2009 [38 favorites]


Mr Bill, you'd find that with most moderate congregations. I'm an atheist, yet having grown up in a very moderate Anglican environment at a private school, typical of a lot of people of English heritage, I can say that most moderates are in it for tradition and lifestyle and not a search for any sort of truth. These sorts are generally very warm, tolerant, welcoming and non-judgemental. I'm very much supportive of this sort of religion.

Absolute truths are made for more extremist/orthodox/evangelicals which, in my mind, are as much cult as religion and have no place in civil, enlightened society.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:15 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I was single I went to an Atheist Meetup once, hoping to meet a nice atheist man to date. The people there talked more about God, religion, and Christianity than any Christians I'd ever known!
posted by Jacqueline at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


It was very refreshing to encounter a belief system that didn't use guilt, shame, and fear to get things done. We were ALWAYS welcomed with wide-open arms, even as people who had not converted and were just there to learn.

Yeah, as someone who was brought up Catholic, I'm sure thats what you're comparing it to.

But if you want a belief system that doesnt "use guilt, shame, and fear to get things done" you really dont have to abandon Christianity. Most forms of Protestantism fit the bill.
posted by vacapinta at 3:20 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


A good book which illuminates the sort of "spirituality" that an atheist/agnostic can feel about the universe and their placement in it is Carl Sagan's The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God.
posted by MysteriousMan at 3:21 PM on October 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


At what point is the do something for a year/everyday for a year thing going to play out? It's like people are running out of ideas.

That said, religion doesn't seem like a good idea for the weeklong tourist option. Aside from the fact that, during your extremely limited window, you'd likely miss out on certain special holidays that give more insight into that particular faith, religions are just that: faiths. To really understand a faith, it takes time, committment, and willingness to stick with it. Even as an apathetic agnostic, I find the "I'll just try this one for a week. Next week, I think I'll go with mint chocolate chip" idea kind of offensive. It's like a tourist spending a week in a new country, thinking they've got enough data to say they'll be an authority on a place, even though they've only been to one city.

Random case in point: My conservative Jewish upbringing in a small midwestern congregation in no way prepared me for attending services at a conservative congregation in NYC. Radically different, and my nine-year-old mind couldn't process the differences, and I needed to leave. One week as a conservative Jew won't even scratch the surface.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:29 PM on October 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was raised in a sort of organized experiment like this called Creative Initiative. We had to celebrate a lot of holidays. I remember many different colored candles and being hungry a lot.
posted by queensissy at 3:29 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


For 52 weeks, I'm setting out to visit 52 different religions.

Didn't Bob Dylan already do this?
posted by dhartung at 3:30 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Atheist services!
posted by geekyguy at 3:52 PM on October 18, 2009


The Atheist Community of Austin might be a good choice for hanging out with organized atheists.

When I was about 12-13, in my church's Sunday school we did a unit called "Church Across the Street" where every week we went to a different church service (we also went to a synagogue) and then talked about what we learned and what we thought about it. It was very illuminating. Perhaps not surprising that my church was a Unitarian Universalist one.
posted by marble at 3:53 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, for (slightly less than) 35 years, I've been a white guy. But I never realized I didn't know the first thing about what other races believed. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask. So for 52 weeks, I'm setting out to visit 52 different races. Irish to Italian, Chinese to Australian, I'm going to eat their food, talk their language, discuss faith with their leaders, and bring it all back to you.

A whole week each!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:54 PM on October 18, 2009 [11 favorites]


Not sure, but John Safran did.
posted by pompomtom at 3:54 PM on October 18, 2009


When I was single I went to an Atheist Meetup once, hoping to meet a nice atheist man to date. The people there talked more about God, religion, and Christianity than any Christians I'd ever known!

Those types of atheists are so annoying.
posted by delmoi at 4:07 PM on October 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel compelled to say that as an atheist, the idea of hanging out with an organization of atheists sounds like about the worst thing imaginable. I think I'd rather go to church.
posted by xmutex at 4:15 PM on October 18, 2009 [13 favorites]


Are there 52 religions? Seems to me it's more like there's at most a dozen or so, and the rest are subsets of those.
posted by orange swan at 4:30 PM on October 18, 2009


Yeah, I am an atheist and have been since middle school, but my SO is Jewish. Not religious, for sure, but she stills observes some holy days and attends temple at certain times with her folks.

One of the things that strikes me as so authentic and happy about the Jewish faith is that, to an extent, the aspects of faith and tradition are separated more than those of my Christian upbringing. I miss the traditions and rituals, devoid of any true "deeper meaning" or understanding of the Christian deity for me, as just comforting rituals and traditions. However, there's really no way for me to participate in them without being preached at or feeling as though I'm cheating.

With her family and at the temple, everyone just gets to enjoy the rituals and traditions that make them feel good as a community of people. I stand out pretty obviously, and her family knows both us don't believe in a god, but it's never mentioned or even hinted at. They are always just delighted we are there, and that we enjoy sharing their traditions. It's great fun.

It's strikingly similar to a lot of the black southern churches I went to growing up as well. I think it may have something to do with a shared cultural identity of the congregation (opressed blacks and jews) that transcends, to some degree, the teachings of the holy book of choice. There's a whole host of reasons for them to be welcoming and celebrating of inclusion and tolerance and life. The white christian churches just always felt so damn guilty.


Looking forward to reading this blog. Thanks for the post.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:43 PM on October 18, 2009


Are there 52 religions? Seems to me it's more like there's at most a dozen or so, and the rest are subsets of those.

Denomination vs religion is a tricky and touchy subject; I know Christians who wouldn't classify Mormons as Christians, though the latter would emphatically disagree, for example. The experience you'd get at an Orthodox Jewish service vs a Reform one is pretty extreme. Take Christianity's diversity - I'd personally call it a family of religions rather than a single one, though of course many Christians would disagree; there are tremendous differences of tone, attitude, philosophy, and demographics between various Christian faiths, even ignoring outright theological differences like transubstantiation vs consubstantiation. Catholics, Lutherans, Unitarians, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Quakers, and Jehovah's Witnesses are all "Christian" but I can't imagine just looking at one of them and saying "Ah, yes, now I know Christianity."
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:54 PM on October 18, 2009 [6 favorites]


I did this when I was 15, for three years, traveling around and participating in a different religion for at least two weeks consecutively before switching again. I also took the time to visit different churches or equivalent within the community of each religion to get an idea about how they really turn out. I can it was an enjoyable, rewarding, enriching experience, but be prepared for people to look at you really strange if you explain what you are doing.

And, at 35, to have time to do this? Good lord man, I wish I had that time!
posted by Maztec at 5:02 PM on October 18, 2009


I would be a lot more impressed with this idea if the various media weren't already crammed with lifestyle stunts - a year without this, a year only doing that. Morgan Spurlock has a lot to answer for.
posted by WPW at 5:03 PM on October 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


51 weeks with people who are wrong...
posted by evilgenius at 5:05 PM on October 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


51 weeks with people who are wrong...

Or perhaps 52.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:09 PM on October 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


Er.. and I hate to step on this but,
"Last time I checked, I'm allowed to do business with or without whomever I please - as long as I'm not doing it for religious/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation reasons."
from: http://blogthereligions.com/node/222

Sorry, but what? No. There is no law that says you, as an individual, cannot discriminate based on religious/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation reasons. In fact, you can refuse to do business for all those reasons and more. Don't like the hat they're wearing? No problem! Don't like the color of their skin? Who cares!

However, if you are a government entity or are in the act of representing a government entity, and you refuse to do business or whatever for religious/ethnic/nationality/gender reasons, then you are in trouble, bad you, strict scrutiny, end of story. However, if you do it for sexual orientation reasons? Well, as long as you can pass intermediate scrutiny you're golden! Which is why laws like Prop 8 continue to exist.

Difference here? You vs Government. You can discriminate, your government cannot.
posted by Maztec at 5:11 PM on October 18, 2009


At what point is the do something for a year/everyday for a year thing going to play out? It's like people are running out of ideas.

Yes, I am sick of these stunts. Does anyone ever do this sort of thing and NOT trumpet it to the world?

I can't really take a bozo seriously who would take on a project like this. Visiting fifty two places of worship in a year will inevitable result in a very shallow "perspective" on each. Boring.

If you care about religion --- go study it. A bloggeriffic little 52-week project adds nothing to the human knowledge base.
posted by jayder at 5:28 PM on October 18, 2009


after reading all the comments i feel sOooOooo much better.
i guess Metafiler is my church and snark my religion :)
posted by liza at 5:29 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Excuse me while I go to a community college, enroll in a religious studies course, and learn a hundred times more than this guy with his gimmicky blog (which will probably soon be a gimmicky book) will.
posted by Nomiconic at 5:39 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Visiting fifty two places of worship in a year will inevitable result in a very shallow "perspective" on each. Boring.

Quite. It kind of reminds me of Margaret's find-a-religion project in Are You There God, It's Me Margaret.
posted by orange swan at 5:42 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was cute when the kid did it in "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret".
posted by padraigin at 5:42 PM on October 18, 2009


I did this for 32 weeks. More or less. In Basic Training I attended a different religious services every weekend. I did double up some, since one 4 hour drive from Ft. Benning to attend Quaker services was enough. I'm not 100% sure how many I got in, since it's been over 20 years, but there were a lot. Some of these "services" amounted meeting with the appropriately trained chaplain that was willing to accommodate your requirement, but was still a neat way to get exposure to all kinds of religions.

I did this in college as well.

I live about 10 miles away from one of the largest Hindu temples in the midwest. It's still under construction. I stopped in about 2 years back and got a guided tour and explanation of each of the gods. It was quite interesting. I didn't attend a service, but it was decent to have a whole different world view explained to me. There was quite a language barrier, since the main thing I had in common with the youths showing me around was that we both barely speak English.

And yes, I count Catholic, Methodist, LDS, all to be individual religions.

In the end, I was struck more by how much each of these seems to be the same. I even managed to make it to some American Indian ceremonies. I became a religion minor in college.

I never found god.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:43 PM on October 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


Highly frustrating. He claims to offer a "podcast", but the RSS feed isn't actually a podcast - the MP3 files are included as hyperlinks rather than as enclosures - iTunes spits the dummy and won't load it, and I'm left feeling shitty.
posted by Jimbob at 5:45 PM on October 18, 2009


I never found god.

He's hiding behind the Higgs Boson particle.
posted by evilgenius at 5:47 PM on October 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like this approach. The blogger isn't attempting to be definitive. He's just visiting and seeing what he sees. I think you can glean a lot (particularly about similarities and differences) by just seeing the building and attending the service. I particularly like his description of the Society of Friends service. There is a significant Quaker population/influence where I live, so this resonated with me.

I'd love to do this sort of project, and marble's comment gives me another reason to get my daughter to the local UU church. Probably not enough to actually get my ass out of bed on Sunday morning, but one step closer!
posted by jeoc at 5:50 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Atheist services?
posted by dilettante at 3:02 PM on October 18


He's going to get an account on Metafilter!

just kidding



I love you Godless heathens!
posted by nanojath at 5:52 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


My brother did something similar but it was more related to which girl he liked than any time frame or desire for enlightenment.

He's currently a Thai Buddhist.
posted by gomichild at 6:07 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just can't get past the Drupal ugliness of that site. At least use a more attractive theme.
posted by mike3k at 6:09 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just can't get past the Drupal ugliness of that site. At least use a more attractive theme.

See my comment above. I don't think this guy knows how to use computaters and the internets very well. Not to hold that against him, but he could make a lot of improvements.
posted by Jimbob at 6:21 PM on October 18, 2009


For 5 years, I've been a Mefite. But I never realized I didn't know the first thing about what other websites believed. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask. So for 52 weeks, I'm setting out to visit 52 different websites. Digg to Reddit, 4Chan to BoingBoing, I'm going to eat their down votes, talk their memes, discuss being banned with their leaders, and bring it all back to you.

For which I'll probably get my post deleted and hit with the banhammer. I love Mefi.
posted by Bageena at 6:54 PM on October 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is getting a little predictable isn't it.

There was the dude who lived Biblically for a year.
There was the gal who cooked all the recipes from Julia Child's cookbook
There was the guy who visited all the Starbucks
There was the fellow who read all the volumes in the Encyclopedia Britannica.....

At the end, there's a publishing deal and out pops another "list-o-logical" bestseller.
posted by storybored at 7:07 PM on October 18, 2009


Denomination vs religion is a tricky and touchy subject

A religion is a denomination with an army and navy.
posted by codswallop at 7:10 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it's oddly fitting that he is wearing a fedora.

top left corner of page
posted by jayder at 7:15 PM on October 18, 2009


Yeah, this project reeks of rampant fedoraism.
posted by Neofelis at 7:37 PM on October 18, 2009 [4 favorites]



I never found god.

He's hiding behind the Higgs Boson particle.


Actually, he's in the Big Boy on the frontage road off Route 29 in Manitowoc, WI. Corner booth, can't miss him.
posted by milarepa at 7:40 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


as someone who was brought up Catholic, I'm sure thats what you're comparing it to.

Catholicism is the most blatant example of that, but then there's a lot of "Do THIS and do THIS and dont do THAT or you're going to BURN IN HELL!" in other denominations as well. "Fire and Brimstone" and so forth.
posted by mrbill at 7:42 PM on October 18, 2009


I think it's oddly fitting that he is wearing a fedora.

top left corner of page
posted by jayder at 11:15 AM on October 19 [+] [!]


Yeah, this project reeks of rampant fedoraism.
posted by Neofelis at 11:37 AM on October 19 [+] [!]


Hey!
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:06 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


"For 35 years, I attended the same religion. When I left, I realized I didn't know the first thing about what other faiths believe. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask.

Has this fedora-wearing jackass never heard of Wikipedia?
posted by jayder at 8:14 PM on October 18, 2009


Does anyone ever do this sort of thing and NOT trumpet it to the world?

No true Scotsman would. Yes, of course, there are many, many who do this thing without fanfare or self-promotion. I spent a few minutes of every day in 2003 on a year-long art project. Except for a half-dozen close friends whose reaction ranged from "Wow, that's an amazing idea," to "You're a loon," no one knew or knows about it.


There was the dude who lived Biblically for a year.
There was the fellow who read all the volumes in the Encyclopedia Britannica.....


Same dude.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:24 PM on October 18, 2009


I never found god.

He's hiding behind the Higgs Boson particle.

Actually, he's in the Big Boy on the frontage road off Route 29 in Manitowoc, WI. Corner booth, can't miss him.


No. Actually, God is playing skeeball in an arcade somewhere on the Jersey shore.
posted by dchrssyr at 8:27 PM on October 18, 2009


Terry Pratchett's take on Pascal's Wager:
When the philosopher died, "he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said, 'We're going to show you what we think of Mr Clever Dick in these parts...'"
posted by Pronoiac at 8:33 PM on October 18, 2009


I did this off and on for a year as a 21-yr. old college dropout in Richmond, Indiana. From the slain-in-the-spirit hillbilly church to the on-their-last-legs Christian Science church...well, it was pretty fascinating.

Not so fascinating is a blog from someone who actually uses "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt." in his prose.
posted by kozad at 8:34 PM on October 18, 2009


Say what you will about his writing or persona, this is something that everyone should do. A lot of unpleasantness could be avoided if we could all check out each other's beliefs and acknowledge that we're all basically the same when you get down to the bottom of it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 8:45 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


This person was supposed to be eating every day for a year. I think the Steak Fries might have done them in on August 1 though because there are no more entries after that.
posted by tellurian at 9:04 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does this mean he'll smoke a giant spliff when investigating Rastafarianism?
posted by bwg at 9:22 PM on October 18, 2009


No. Actually, God is playing skeeball in an arcade somewhere on the Jersey shore.

Actually, God's in the hospital in a coma after being beaten down with hockey sticks.
posted by bwg at 9:23 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


... we're all basically the same when you get down to the bottom of it.

Blasphemy!

Sorry.
posted by bwg at 9:34 PM on October 18, 2009


I've never understood the idea of people shopping around for a religion by meeting the people, going to the church, etc., or converting for a significant other, or for reasons of that type. A religion is about what you believe in, isn't it? You don't get to just choose what you believe on based upon the fringe benefits! Do people who convert based on things like this just... reprogram themselves to believe what they want to believe? Or do they not really believe it and just go on lying their entire life about what religion they are?

Sadly, I suspect the truth most of the time they just don't think about it and didn't in the first place.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:18 PM on October 18, 2009


(furiously waving his raised hand) Oh! Oh! Oh! I really, really, really hope he visits this church!

The church with the incredibly horrible and twisted people who are still unaccountably vicars!!!

(from the BBC comedy 'That Mitchell and Webb Look')

Not really related to the topic, but another funny TMAWL skit A New Fuhrer.
posted by Davenhill at 12:04 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've never understood the idea of people shopping around for a religion by meeting the people, going to the church, etc., or converting for a significant other, or for reasons of that type.

I think the point of this project was interreligious understanding. Of course, as with all things "religious", he gets a very limited slice of a group of people through one specific perspective, in this case a visit and interview -- for Scientology, for example, he only gets the cover story for a giant Ponzi scheme, whereas for the Quakers he basically sees all there is to see. But I guess his intentions are good at least.
posted by shii at 12:15 AM on October 19, 2009


shii: I think the point of this project was interreligious understanding.

In this case, yes, but I have seen it the other way, too.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:16 AM on October 19, 2009


On the do-it-for-a-year thing: this might just be my MSTieism showing yet again, but I really liked Kevin Murphy's A Year At The Movies, and it was exactly this sort of thing.

Of course, he got to devote one of his 52 essays entirely to the hating of Corky Romano.
posted by JHarris at 2:31 AM on October 19, 2009


I've never understood the idea of people shopping around for a religion by meeting the people, going to the church, etc., or converting for a significant other, or for reasons of that type.

As opposed to...practicing a religion because that's how your parents raised you? (I mean, I'm a godless heathen, so I don't really understand any of it, but comparison shopping actually strikes me as more sensible.)
posted by little e at 2:56 AM on October 19, 2009


God is not in the Big Boy in the booth, he IS the Big Boy, reaching high into the air, holding aloft that mighty tray of sustenance so that we might know our reward, trailing down his other hand, so as to reach down to the faithful, to bring them up out of their hamburgerless misery.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:12 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


A week to learn what another religion is like? I'd say it's insulting, if it weren't so pitiable that someone seriously thinks they could glean any meaningful information from such a plan. Of course they're all going to seem similar, because one week really isn't enoug time even to let go of your own preconceptions and prejudices, much less learn what other people believe on any heart level..

Moreover, in my experience, the vast majority of people who spend 35 years following one religion still have huge gaps of knowledge and awareness of what their own religion entails. Especially if they've never served in a leadership role within that religion or ben forced to grapple with the theology in some structured way.

You want to find out just how ignorant your fellow flock members are about something that's supposed to be of ultimate eternal import to them, just get into a leadership position where you're required to train and supervise them.

It's astounding how someone can be 65 years old, have 50+ years as an adherent of their religion, have ostensibly been sitting in on church services every week for half a century, and still be blissfully ignorant about what they, themselves, believe. Much less, what their religion itself says about certain key issues.
posted by darkstar at 3:28 AM on October 19, 2009


Oh good grief, typos. That's what I get for commenting at 3:30 a.m.
posted by darkstar at 3:29 AM on October 19, 2009


A week to learn what another religion is like? I'd say it's insulting, if it weren't so pitiable that someone seriously thinks they could glean any meaningful information from such a plan.

Day 1: Skim Wikipedia article
Day 2: Google local branches / congregations, phone to check schedule
Day 3: Go to service, and also have 15-30 min chat with the head dude (optional / when possible)
Day 4: Blog
Day 5: Email publishers for book deals, answer fan email, etc.
Day 6: Hey, this is a job, man. Chill, there is a bust week ahead.
Day 7: Ditto.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:10 AM on October 19, 2009


I've never understood the idea of people shopping around for a religion by meeting the people, going to the church, etc., or converting for a significant other, or for reasons of that type. A religion is about what you believe in, isn't it? You don't get to just choose what you believe on based upon the fringe benefits!

Well, no. But I think you're looking at it backwards - in my experience with converting friends (caveat: all are pretty laid back, low-dogma types) it's not about shopping for beliefs so much as shopping for a community/ritual set that best matches what you already believe. This may not mean sharing in every one of that religion's formal beliefs - but then again, even people raised in a faith don't necessarily agree 100% on every single thing their religion formally says.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:09 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Forbidden Drinks ... I also hadn't taken up drinking out of respect for my lovely wife. She's still Mormon, still faithfully attends meetings, and the last thing I want to do is hurt her feelings about religion.

... mind boggles ... I think she'd be more upset that, ya know, she'll be hanging out in one of God's houses while you'll be burning in hell.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:46 AM on October 19, 2009


Does anyone ever do this sort of thing and NOT trumpet it to the world?

I did. In my late teens and throughout my 20's, I spent time in various classes and at different houses of worship for services. I took them one at a time, and tried to get far more than a week's worth of learning in, for a comprehensive feel of each.

It was fascinating and very educational. (Although in hindsight I do wish I'd spent more time learning about the deeper meaning behind many Catholic rituals.) I've never blogged about it, except perhaps to mention the experience in passing. Don't see much of a point in doing so. Studying certainly didn't make me an expert.

The text entries on the blog are very thin on content. I'm looking forward to hearing the mp3's. Hopefully they'll be meatier.
posted by zarq at 9:48 AM on October 19, 2009


I'm going to posit that the result of this guy's year-long odyssey is that he becomes 51 times more confused than he is now.
posted by Aquaman at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2009


The athiest chapter/episode seems to be this one. Like jessamyn and others, I was ready to be off-put by his inclusion of "atheism" as a religion, since it isn't, but he handles it well.

Really what he's doing isn't trying out religions as much as he's trying out churches or religious groups. There's a big difference. I don't think that you can "try out" a religion; you either believe what they believe or you don't. But you can certainly experiment with going to various religious meetings and participating in different organizations/churches/meetups.

So it's really more like "52 Weeks, 52 [Sometimes] Religious Groups", but I guess that wouldn't have had the same ring to it. He's basically trying out social organizations, some — but not all — of which have a religious or spiritual component to them.

When put that way, it makes sense that atheist thought groups or discussion forums are included. They're very much not religions, but they compete in the same space as religious groups do, and serve many of the same secular functions.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:47 AM on October 19, 2009


When I left, I realized I didn't know the first thing about what other faiths believe. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask.

It's the golly-gee, aw-shucks tone that grates on me.

And also the fact that going to fifty-two places of worship to ask questions is not, by any stretch, the best way to learn about beliefs. If he's really interested in what a religion's beliefs are, the best way is to read about it --- not to ask people who may not know, or people who don't have much time to speak to you, or people who are insulted that they're just one stop on your 52-week whirlwind tour of the world's religions. The idea that you can do this all in 52 weeks and get a meaningful result is to misunderstand the depth and complexity of these belief systems. Not everything is reducible to a cutesy internet project with an aw-shucks fedora-wearing Forrest Gump at the helm.

It MIGHT be interesting if it were undertaken by someone who was an interesting thinker --- someone who had demonstrated, by prior writings, that they were worth listening to. But some fedora-wearing show-off with too much time on his hands? No thanks.
posted by jayder at 12:43 PM on October 19, 2009


This reminded me to see how Mike Nelson's month of bacon went. Pretty well, apparently despite what we all thought at the time.
posted by ErikaB at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2009



"For 35 years, I attended the same religion. When I left, I realized I didn't know the first thing about what other faiths believe. So I decided to find out the only way I know how: Go ask.

Has this fedora-wearing jackass never heard of Wikipedia?
posted by jayder at 8:14 PM on October 18 [+] [!]


Yes, because there is absolutely no difference between written descriptions of religions and experiencing a religious service or community. Geez!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:25 PM on October 19, 2009


pompomtom already mentioned it, but yes, John Safran did something similar. I think my favourite is episode 3, when he tries to join the Ku Klux Clan in LA - he's Jewish.
posted by Diag at 2:44 PM on October 19, 2009


In the Buddhist write-up, he subsituted 'medication' for 'meditation'.

Twice.

He must have had it on his mind.
posted by Quonab at 3:20 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"There are atheistic religions out there. "- from the website in the FPP

Wrong. Religions are a set of dogmatic beliefs. Atheism is merely the absence of such belief.

hector horace: Just to be clear, atheism isn't really a religion it's a belief that there is no god or gods.

Also wrong. Atheism is not a belief, it's absence of belief (see above).

I find the idea of organizing atheists a bit silly. Atheists are united only by their absence of belief in deities. Similarly, I don't feel a burning desire to hang out with other a-astrologers, a-homeopaths, or a-9/11 Truthers because of our common lack of support for one particular dogma.

The problem is that religions can almost never just keep to themselves, they inevitably attempt to influence (usually hinder) social discourse, scientific progress, political and cultural institutions, etc. Sometimes I wish there was a powerful atheist lobby in Washington just to counteract the disproportionate influence that the people with imaginary friends have there. Sam Harris gave an excellent speech at the Atheist Alliance International conference two years ago that touches on some of this and, of course, he's far more knowledgeable and eloquent than I. You can check it out here (and while you're at it check out the rest of his website because he's a very interesting, thoughtful guy.
posted by inoculatedcities at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


inoculatedcities sez: I find the idea of organizing atheists a bit silly.

Then, in the next paragraph:

Sometimes I wish there was a powerful atheist lobby in Washington just to counteract the disproportionate influence that the people with imaginary friends have there.

Dude, make up your mind. I agree with your second sentiment. The shared imaginary friends are the scariest. The religious leaders have always been willing to commandeer the machinery of government to further their own ends. There is value in organizing to resist such undue influence (i.e., double-dipping influence). Perhaps we could call it the Atheist Alliance International and have conferences.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:12 AM on October 20, 2009


Perhaps we could call it the Atheist Alliance International and have conferences.

No, no, no! It's the Unified Atheist League!!

The problem is that religions can almost never just keep to themselves, they inevitably attempt to influence (usually hinder) social discourse, scientific progress, political and cultural institutions, etc.

I call shenanigans.

Particularly in regard to poverty, I think religious organizations do plenty of good work.

I don't like politicians who think we all believe in God either, but as far as organizations go, the religious ones aren't any worse/better by default than any other organizations,
posted by mrgrimm at 11:41 AM on October 20, 2009


I'm with the Atheist League Unified. Those guys in the Unified Atheist League are assholes.

I call shenanigans.

It's good to remember that religion was used to justify slavery in the first place. It's in the BIBLE!

Particularly in regard to poverty, I think religious organizations do plenty of good work.

Are there figures on secular (private & governmental) vs. religious efforts ($$) in combatting poverty and assisting the poor? I don't believe I've run across any data sources, but I'm sure they exist.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:57 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


inoculatedcities sez: I find the idea of organizing atheists a bit silly. Then, in the next paragraph: Sometimes I wish there was a powerful atheist lobby in Washington just to counteract the disproportionate influence that the people with imaginary friends have there.

Dude, make up your mind.


Right...I'll work on that (very complex matter). Did you watch that Sam Harris talk?

I call shenanigans. Particularly in regard to poverty, I think religious organizations do plenty of good work.


Nobody on earth
alleges that (some) religious organizations do "plenty of good work." The problem is that many also recruit suicide bombers and soldiers and even the moderate ones work to promote intolerance in every faith. I'm not sure we can tally up the charitable acts of religious folks throughout history and compare them to the figures relating to intolerance, torture, and slaughter, but I suspect the latter has been more dominant and remains so to this day. You're also disregarding the fact that the vast majority of such aid work is done by NGOs and governments, not religious charities.

Also how noble is a charitable act motivated by a fear of eternal guilt and punishment? How noble is such an act not done for its own sake but done to indoctrinate others with your dogma? And what does such an act say about the person committing it?
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:19 AM on October 21, 2009


Sorry, "alleges" in that first sentence was obviously meant to be "denies".
posted by inoculatedcities at 9:00 AM on October 23, 2009


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