Belief, as I’ve come to view it, is a projection which obscures faith.
I value tradition. A lot of people like to mix and match their spirituality—a little bit of this thing, a little bit of that thing. I understand why that’s alluring, especially if you aren’t sure what you believe. But I’ve experienced the reward that comes with committing to one tradition and studying it deeply: the depths of understanding you never discover when casually checking out different paths. I considered that a much deeper payoff.
So at first I was resistant to the work of Andrew Bowen.
His tagline reads, “One man, twelve faiths.” He’s the designer and test subject of Project Conversion: a year in which he completely immersed himself in a different faith every month.
When I began to read Andrew’s work I was touched by the fact that he really did immerse himself: he didn’t tour or sample. Nothing was written with an outsider’s perspective. Each month, usually with a mentor, he dove in and truly committed himself, and experienced the rich insights that his new chosen faith would offer.
I think this was possible because he began with a purpose. “I realized… with the help of teachings by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, that the only way to end religious strife was to explore the world of faith from the inside out.”
His was not aimless wandering, it was dedication to peace.
The twelve months are finished now. What I’ve discovered in speaking with Andrew is that the intense year of faith was only the beginning. It turned into a spiritual practice in its own right, and has changed his views on faith and religion forever. It brought him from a vehement anti-theism to a new level of empathy. More important, it gave him a new purpose in life. He has a tool for peace that no one else has.
Interfaith work, effective as it can be, starts with a meeting between outsiders. They work together despite their differences. Project Conversion produced a man who has dropped all assumptions about religion, eschewed all beliefs. He remains immersed in his connection with the divine, yet gives it no form.
This view of no-assumptions and total empathy makes him, I believe, a remarkable individual.
More and more I’ve suspected that creeds harm our ability to speak about the transcendent. Andrew’s practice has allowed him to go past that.
He told me:
Belief feels like a specific view of what we might have faith in, while faith in and of itself simply leaves open the possibility of a thing.
I can have faith in the divine’s existence, but no specific beliefs regarding its details.
Therefore, I simply live and participate in life—in the moment—instead of miring myself in the details.
You can read more here.
Through May 3, 2012 I’m running a contest to give away a seat at the World Domination Summit. Enter now.