Chris Stedman (perma-linked in the Smart People blogroll) is the Managing Director of State of Formation, an initiative of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions — and he’s an atheist. His blog is dedicated to the entirely reasonable proposition that atheists and people of faith can find a place of mutual respect, and work together toward shared goals. We found each other through Twitter (all hail the Tweet!), and he asked if I might like to rework an old piece for posting over at his place — to which I could only say: Yes, please!
Here’s the top of that post — for the rest, please click through!
Lately Americans have been talking a lot about faith – the Muslim faith. As we grapple with the understanding of just how diverse we are as a people, Americans of good will – Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims – have been striving to help their countrymen learn that we have nothing to fear from Islam. As a believing Jew, I’ve been right there in the thick of it.
But as I struggle with the fact that so many of my fellow citizens fear a belief system dear to the hearts of 1.5 billion people, I struggle also with another, far less acknowledged, fact: Even more of them fear my husband.
Because he doesn’t believe in God at all.
I urge you to also check out the important work that Chris just did for The New Humanist (published the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University), an “attempt to offer an introductory but comprehensive consideration of the issues surrounding nonreligious involvement in the interfaith movement.”
The idea that interfaith cooperation is necessary to advance social progress was not a conclusion I came to overnight. In fact, after I stopped believing in God, I spent some time walking about decrying the “evils of religion” to anyone who would listen. I wanted nothing to do with the religious, and was sure they wanted nothing to do with me.
…Now I see interfaith cooperation as the key to resolving the world’s great religious problems. All the more, I want my secular community to join me, to share their stories and learn from those of the religious. And, more importantly, I want us to join with the religious in working to resolve the problems that afflict our world. Together, we will accomplish so much more.
And speaking of religion!
Tonight (in, like, half an hour) yet another Jewish holiday begins! I would explain, but honestly, it’s kind of complicated — it’s two holidays smooshed into one, unless you live in the Diaspora, where it’s still two, unless you come from Israel, which we do, so it’s still one for you, unless you’ve officially moved to the Diaspora, which we have, so then it’s supposed to be two, unless you’re like us and holding on to your Israeli-Jewishness by your very teeth and thus only ever celebrate them smooshed together as one…. Who has time to explain all that!
I will say this though: Among our celebrations over the next day/two days will be Simhat Torah, a celebration of our Torah, the very thing that makes us a people. We finish the annual cycle of reading the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) — and then we start all over again. There will be dancing, and parading about with our Scriptures in our arms, and children running around like wild things, and it will once again remind me of how much I love the homey reverence with which we hold our faith and our holy books, awed and yet also literally carrying it all in our all-too-human hands. It’s a good thing.
It’s a good thing — and, as per usual, it means I won’t be here again until there are three stars in the sky on Thursday night. (Or possibly later, as these Diaspora Jews, they think the whole dancing with the Torah thing is tomorrow night, so I’ll be in services! I told you it was complicated).
So, the usual reminder: All first comments require my approval — if you get stuck in moderation, I’ll fish you out as soon as I can.
In the meantime, chag sameach, happy holiday! (And go read NonProphet Status!).