(RNS) Man spends 12 months practicing 12 different religions, and finds peace at year’s end

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Andrew Bowen sat yoga-style in his armchair, absent-mindedly fingering a set of Muslim prayer beads in his left hand as he talked about 2011 -- his year of conversion.

But he's not Muslim. In fact, the 29-year-old Lumberton resident doesn't call himself by any of the 12 faiths he practiced for a month at a time last year.

Not Hindu (January). Not Baha'i (February). Not Zoroastrian (March). Not Jewish (April). Not Buddhist (May). Not agnostic (June). Not Mormon (July). Not Muslim (August). Not Sikh (September). Not Wiccan (October). Not Jain (November). And not Catholic (December)....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther Faiths

22 Comments
Posted April 17, 2012 at 11:08 am

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1. KevinBabb wrote:

“Catholic” is not a faith…it is a denomination of Christianity.  (Right up there with my pet peeve of a person saying that he or she was “baptized Presbyterian”, or Methodist, Catholic, etc….)  To be parallel in construction, the author should have specified whether Bowen practiced Judaism in accordance with the Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, etc., and whether he followed the Shi’ite or Sunni school of Islam.  Salt Lake City or Independence, Mo. Mormon?

April 17, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
2. Karen B. wrote:

Kevin, I totally agree with your #1.  But also isn’t it striking that “Catholic” made the list whereas “Protestant” did not.  I assume it’s because Catholicism is more obviously associated in the minds of non- believers with sacraments and external practices (Mass attendance, confession, fasting…) than Protestant denominations.  Protestant faith is more about a TRUTH claim of doctrine than outward externals, thus harder to “practice” for a month.

But that leads me to wonder, what on earth did he do the month he was an agnostic?  Sleep late every Sunday and read the NYT?

But really what an absurd story!

April 17, 12:49 pm | [comment link]
3. Richard A. Menees wrote:

Man’s search for God is like the mouse’s search for the cat.

April 17, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
4. KevinBabb wrote:

KarenB, I think that secular society is intrigued by Roman Catholicism, rather than other Christian denominations, because of many features that seem “alien” or “exotic”—the connection to foreign leadership, use of a foreign language (even now administratively, although not liturgically), an all-male, celibate priesthood, etc. This secular fascination with Rome is why “The DaVinci Code” was not about Presbyterians.

April 17, 1:05 pm | [comment link]
5. Ryan Danker wrote:

This is just a telltale sign of the American commercialization of religion. Perhaps a more radical form of “church shopping.” It really cheapens each religion that he supposedly took part in. I can’t imagine how he was authentically able to grasp the nuances of these ancient traditions in such a flippant and time-constrained manner. Regardless of their salvific value, these traditions are rich and have an immense heritage.

In terms of why Catholicism and not Protestantism, I would imagine that had more to do with the fact that he grew up a Protestant, is married to one, and is in a part of the country overwhelmingly Protestant.

April 17, 2:26 pm | [comment link]
6. KevinBabb wrote:

I’m not offended by the fact that he chose a catholic church rather than a Protestant one….I’m just annoyed by the fact that, in this list of various religions, “Catholicism” (presumably Roman Catholicism) is presented as a “religion” and a “faith”, rather than a denomination.  My gripe is more with the journalist than the subject of the article.

April 17, 2:35 pm | [comment link]
7. Ralph wrote:

Looking for something he’s not finding in the superficial, external practices of different religions.

One would guess he will gravitate to a vaguely non-fundamentalistic branch of Protestant Christianity that will allow him to pick and choose between different schools of thought.

Any of a number of TEC clergy we know would affirm him. What he needs is Anglican spiritual direction, long-term.

April 17, 2:39 pm | [comment link]
8. Formerly Marion R. wrote:

He did not “practice” these faiths, he experimented on them.  Did he really enter into communion with 12 separate spiritual families with the deliberate aforethought of breaking communion with each after 30 days? That’s disgusting.

I wonder how he’s going to react when men start experimenting on his daughters in the same way.

But then again, he only believed in Karma for four weeks.

April 17, 3:53 pm | [comment link]
9. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

Andrew Bowen’s quest puts me in mind of the story of Grand Duke Vladimir the Great who in the tenth century sent out emissaries from the largely pagan state of Kiev to bring back news of the religions of the surrounding countries.  Judaism and Islam were rejected and Vladimir settled eventually on Byzantine Christianity into which he, and with some encouragement his subjects were baptised - a critical moment for the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church.

I wish Andrew Bowen well with his search for God, a journey we all have to travel.  It would be good to pray for him; that he will open his heart wisely to find that for which he seeks and which seeks him.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

April 17, 4:07 pm | [comment link]
10. sophy0075 wrote:

This poor fellow is confusing belief with praxis. Going through the motions does not make one a Christian, Moslem, Jain, Jew, or Hindu. If all he is going to do is engage in various rituals, he could “practice” running and probably obtain a better benefit during his life on Earth. As for his life after life on Earth - he has a major problem. I feel sorry for his wife and children.

April 17, 5:24 pm | [comment link]
11. Stefano wrote:

I’m pretty sure the whole thing is an outline for a comedy sketch or a screenplay and not a real “news” item.

April 17, 11:27 pm | [comment link]
12. Yebonoma wrote:

Reminds me of the theme song from Urban Cowboy - “Lookin’ for Love - in All the Wrong Places.”

April 17, 11:44 pm | [comment link]
13. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

~2 Karen what an amusingly inaccurate observation you make! Dare I suggest that Catholicism - with its clear catechism and magesterium- is the Church that proclaims ONE TRUTH and stands by it. Whereas Protestantism with its thousands of schisms and factions allows each individual to be their own Pope hence the dissaray within Anglicanism at large?
Harder to practice Protestantism because nobody can categorically state what it is

April 18, 3:25 am | [comment link]
14. Br. Michael wrote:

13, maybe, but what about Orthodoxy?  But it’s doubtful that Bowen considered the underlying world-views encompassed by these different religions and philosophies.  It’s hard to conceive of this other than as a stunt without any meaning.

April 18, 7:11 am | [comment link]
15. Valais wrote:

Catholics talk about “the Catholic faith” all the time. At very least, it reflects the way Catholics talk about themselves. The Athanasian creed does the same; although the context of that creed was obviously different, the term “Catholic faith” was used to distinguish between types of Christians then, too.

April 18, 8:01 am | [comment link]
16. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

The usage of ‘catholic’ was then [including in the creeds] descriptive of an attribute of the Christian church rather than definitive of a denomination or sect as it is now used by the Roman Catholic Church and a few other groups of Christians; that is notwithstanding some of their partizan and one-sided attempts to claim that it is their trademark or property.

Of course if you join such a denomination or sect then you will have to subscribe to that usurped claim, but there is no reason why the rest of us should accept or repeat it without challenge, particularly the 70 million Anglicans and the readers of this ‘Anglican’ weblog.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

April 18, 8:15 am | [comment link]
17. Valais wrote:

Of course it was not, then, descriptive of all Christians, since the Arians against whom the creed’s reference to the “Catholic Faith” was directed WERE considered to be Christians, both by Athanasius and by the succeeding centuries of Catholics who interacted with the Arian Goths.

April 18, 8:27 am | [comment link]
18. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

#17 The Arians were considered to be heretics, Valais.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

April 18, 9:01 am | [comment link]
19. Valais wrote:

Yes, Christian heretics; heretics are by definition Christians. So we return to the function of the language “Catholic faith” as demarcating a type of Christianity.

April 18, 3:17 pm | [comment link]
20. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

#19 Firstly Valais, you have confused what I said in #16 which was that ‘catholic’ is “descriptive of an attribute of the Christian church” with a specific meaning derived from its etymology, with a definition of those who erred from the Roman Catholic Church as still being claimed to be within that Roman Catholic Church and from there you extrapolate to say that that shows that since the Roman Catholic Church may have considered them heretical Christians that that shows that the word catholic is definitive of that church, rather than the attribute of catholicity which the creeds address.

Secondly, while some heretics may have been considered to be christians albeit errant by the Roman Catholic Church, in particular so that they could have jurisdiction over their trial and punishment, that stretches the definition of those who are heretical and there comes a point where belief strays so far from Christianity that their inclusion within that definition becomes pointless.  Gnosticism, unitarianism, Mormonism, the Branch Davidian among others are so far outside that it is not helpful to try to define them as Christian, much less having the attribute of the Church of catholicity.

You make the basic error of conflating different concepts: an attribute of the Church as a whole of ‘catholicity’ meaning all or universal, with the Roman Catholics definition of others in relation to Christianity, and also in relation to themselves.

But I expect that is because you may be Roman Catholic and essentially entertaining a circular argument and proof.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

April 18, 4:08 pm | [comment link]
21. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

#19 Also your use of the term “Catholic faith” is a red herring.  The creeds talk about the ‘church’ rather than ‘faith’ and that is what we were talking about.  Thus we believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church so catholicity is a term used in relation to the church, the Body of Christ as an attribute we believe about it.  That is different from the doctrine and belief of the Roman Catholic Church to which you may be referring loosely when you talk about ‘Catholic faith’.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

April 18, 4:15 pm | [comment link]
22. Valais wrote:

Pagent,
(1) When the Athanasian creed ends its description of Trinitarian Christian doctrine, it concludes: “This is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.” I assume you are not going to assert that when it says “Catholic faith” in this context, it really meant “Catholic church.”
(2) The Athanasian creed was written in opposition to Arian Christian doctrine. It opposes “Catholic faith” to Arian doctrine.
(3) The Athanasian creed therefore represents an ancient example of using the phrase “Catholic faith” to refer specifically to what Catholics believed, as opposed to what other groups of Christians believed.

The usage of “Catholic faith” to demarcate Catholic and non-Catholic Christians, which the first commenter remarked about, at least has long historical precedent.

I am not saying that Christians of the Reformation would or would not fit into “the Catholic faith” used in the ancient sense; in fact, the “Reformed Catholics” would want to say that they do fit Athanasius’ sense of the term “Catholic faith.” My only point was to show the fact of its usage for this purpose centuries ago as a way to better understand its usage for this purpose today.

April 18, 5:31 pm | [comment link]


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