We live in an age of growing xenophobia and polarisation. In all corners of the Earth suspicion, segregation, racism and resentment are on the rise. Economic strife, fear-mongering media and dehumanizing politics fuel the attitudes that make us either fearful or apathetic to people from cultures different to our own. History teaches us that to counter these emotions we need empathy, fraternity and kindness.
Pilgrimage of the Faithless will document my unique journey, as an atheist, through the six major religions. The journey’s main goal is to promote understanding and empathy between people of different faiths and people without faith. I will travel through some of the most devoutly religious communities in the world, immersing myself as fully and deeply in the belief systems as a non-spiritual person is able. I will strictly live as each of the religions teaches; from everyday behaviour like prayers, dietary and moral conduct, to special events such as festivals and pilgrimages. I will do everything in my power to get close to the heart of each religion. The lessons, wisdom, encounters and adventures will be documented in both a book and a running blog.
The book will be an account of the journey, exploring the positives in each religious culture and the lessons they can offer to outsiders. The accompanying blog will take a more personal approach, it will focus on promoting empathy-stirring stories and photographs of the people met along the way.
The aims of the project can be summarised into four main goals:
- To promote empathy across borders. Pilgrimage of the Faithless will promote understanding, empathy and tolerance between people of vastly different cultures and beliefs. The project will be aimed at a broad audience of people from different cultural backgrounds, beliefs and religions. It will raise awareness and support for persecuted religious minorities and against blasphemy and apostasy laws.
- To highlight the wisdom in every religion. Pilgrimage of the Faithless will aim to reduce misconceptions and increase understanding between members of different faiths and also to the non-religious like myself. The focus won’t be on laying out pages of scripture but on the virtues and values that are held to be most crucial by the members of that faith.
- To express to religious readers a more positive view of the non-religious. The growing reputation of atheists as arrogant and dismissive does little to dispel religious people’s concerns about how atheists find motivation for ethical behaviour. I hope that through the project I will be able to show a more optimistic, respectful alternative.
- To provide an entertaining, enjoyable account of the journey. In order to be done properly, the project will require two years living in some of the most fascinating, exciting and challenging places on Earth. It will share the stories of wisdom, adventure and beauty discovered in a personal, accessible way in order to create an online community dedicated to the project aims.
The schedule will be subject to change but a preliminary plan is as follows:
Hinduism: India, Nepal.
Judaism: Israel, U.S.A.
Buddhism: Myanmar, Japan.
Christianity: Italy, Latin America.
Islam: Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia.
“A fabulous, fabulous project”
Reverend Dr Michael Lloyd, Principal of the University of Oxford Theology Department
“It’s fantastic, it’s going to be fascinating and unique”
Dr Alhagi Drammeh, The London Central Mosque & Islamic Cultural Center
“It’s fascinating – a great idea, really original and maybe well needed in the days and years ahead”
Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism, U.K. Representative of the World Union for Liberal Judaism, Justice of the Peace
“An absolutely amazing journey”
Mogdala Duguid, Executive Committee Member of the Interfaith Network UK, Interfaith Officer at the National Buddhist Organisation, Member of Amida Trust for Socially Engaged Buddhism.
“A really good idea”
Anil Bhanot, Director of Hindu Council U.K.
“A marvelous project and an enlightening journey”
Jayde Russell, Interfaith coordinator, London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre.
“A really interesting idea”
Harjot Singh, President, Warwick Sikh Society.
“Pilgrimage of the Faithless has the potential to make a real difference – to combat intolerance, build bridges between cultures, and remind us all of our shared humanity”
Simran Jeet Singh, PhD. Assistant Professor of Religion, Trinity University. Senior Religion Fellow, Sikh Coalition.
“A really great idea!”
Boris van der Ham, Chairman of Dutch Humanist Association, former Member of Parliament.
“A fascinating and useful endeavor”
Dr Christopher Bennett, University of Sheffield, Philosophy Department.
For more detail about the trip’s aims, objectives, and methodology – Click here.