Pete Rollins thinks it’s a good idea. I first heard about Pete’s proposal to go Atheist for Lent a few years ago and it really intrigued me. Although he’s criticized for this idea (and I agree that it has limitations), I think there’s something to be said for it:
Lent is a time that is traditionally reserved for a type of psychological purging that leads up to the Crucifixion. In light of this, Atheism for Lent seeks to use some of the most potent critiques of Christianity as a type of purifying fire that might help us appreciate and understand Christ’s cry of dereliction on the Cross in a new way.
Just as Christ experienced the loss of God on the Cross, so Atheism for Lent invites participants into that desert space traditionally called the dark night of the soul.
Atheism for Lent is not for the faint of heart. It is a call to give up what we hold most dear in order to become stronger disciples of Jesus. I can almost be likened to a love relationship. When my parents had been married for 25 years, my mother was offered a job that required her to move about a year before my father was set to retire. Feeling as though their marriage was strong enough to handle the distance, they lived 500km apart from each other for this time–and it made their relationship stronger. Their marriage probably wouldn’t have survived this separation when it was young and blossoming. But it had grown and matured and could do more than withstand the distance–it could grow from it.
I’m not advocating Atheism for Lent as something that we should encourage kids and youth to do–it requires a sincere commitment to discipleship and a faith that is already strong. But I think it has a lot of merit as a spiritual practice for adults who love God so much that they are willing to wave goodbye for 40 days. As disciples of Jesus, we owe it to him to listen to critics of Christianity and become better disciples because of it.