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CHALLENGE the GAP
different beliefs, common goals
It's often assumed that an unbridgeable gap exists between the religious and nonreligious. Challenge the Gap—Different Beliefs, Common Goals is an innovative humanist program that challenges this idea by finding and working the common ground between theists and nontheists.
It's rarely comfortable or easy to reach across dividing lines, so this project is not for the faint of heart or thin of skin. In addition to common ground, we are certain to encounter real differences of belief and approach. It will always be easy to find a statement or action or belief that "disqualifies" an organization from our support. The reverse is also true, of course. It would not be difficult for religious groups to "disqualify" us from cooperation by cherry-picking quotes or actions by Foundation members, board, or staff. Neither is productive.
Participating in this kind of effort does not mean that differences don't matter, only that the common ground is worth exploring despite the differences.
Not all nontheists agree with that approach, and that's fine. This project is designed for those who do. FBB exists to help nontheists of all stripes engage in charitable giving as an individual expression of their worldview. Many humanists consider outreach to other worldviews an essential part of their humanism. Others choose not to support religious charities. To satisfy both options, we created this separate donation category for religiously-based organizations.
The CTG Advisory Board
The design and direction of this unique effort will be assisted by two advisors, both active leaders in secular/religious cooperation:
Chris Stedman has seen the secular/religious divide from both sides and now devotes his energy to challenging the gap itself.
An atheist with advanced degrees in religion, Chris is outreach coordinator of the Common Ground Campaign and Managing Director of State of Formation, a new initiative of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions. He is also one of several secular humanists to have worked on the staff of Interfaith Youth Core and recently took the position of Interfaith and Community Service Fellow with the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University.
Lyz Liddell is the Director of Campus Organizing for the Secular Student Alliance.
As a primary contact point for SSA affiliate groups, Lyz has been charting the growth of secular participation in "interfaith" efforts on college campuses and recently attended a leadership institute for interfaith activism at the White House sponsored by IFYC. Her presentation on "Atheists in Interfaith" at the SSA's Columbia Leadership Summit in November was influential in shaping this initiative.
KEY READINGS: Challenging the Secular-Religious Gap
by Christopher Stedman
First appeared in The New Humanism, Sept 24, 2010
"It is clear when reading contemporary secular writing on religion that engagement with the religious in interfaith work is a highly contentious issue for many in our community. But a new brand of nonreligiosity is growing: one that prioritizes interfaith collaboration over inflammatory rhetoric...Many segments of the interfaith already explicitly welcome and highlight secular participation."
by Christopher Stedman
First appeared in The New Humanism, Sept 25, 2010
"As an individual who is an agnostic, atheist, humanist, or nonreligious, what does it mean for you to move into a religiously pluralistic perspective? What does it mean to live in a religiously diverse world if you are not religious?"
by Lyz Liddell
First presented at SSA Leadership Summit, University of South Carolina, Oct 2010
"When I bring up the idea of interfaith with my secular student groups, I often get some pushback. With a name like "interfaith," can nontheists really be welcome? Should we be getting involved? We aren't really religious, after all—so do we have a place in interfaith? The answer is pretty simple. Yes."
by Greg Epstein
First appeared in Good Without God -- What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg Epstein. ©2009 Greg Epstein. Used here by permission of HarperCollins.
"We know that interfaith is the model, if for no other reason than that one side destroying the other is not. And fortunately, the way to promote interfaith work is not by promoting belief in what Alan Ginsberg called 'Allee Samee,' the lowest common denominator bringing people together to spout platitudes back and forth. 'Humanists and Muslims are really the same because…' is never a good sentence, no matter how you choose to end it, no matter how decent and noble your intentions."
by Samuel Fleischacker, Ph.D.
From the South Jerusalem blog, July 20, 2008
"What can religious people gain from living in a secular world? Well, for one thing, the fact that we have a community around us that is not dominated by our co-religionists allows us, if we ever decide that our religion is wrong or confused, to change it or become secular. The existence of a realm to which we don’t need to bring our religious commitments allows us to examine those commitments freely, and alter them if we think necessary. The secular world provides a break from religion, a place in which one can, if only metaphorically, stop and catch one’s breath from one’s religious passions, and assess them in a cooler fashion."
by Eboo Patel
from the Washington Post "On Faith" blog, Sept 8, 2008
"One of the questions I get asked frequently as the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core is how nonreligious people fit into the interfaith movement. Looking at the press from the Yale and Madrid conferences, it's easy to think that they don't fit in at all….Those of us trying to bridge the faith divide would do well to welcome the nonreligious. Several of the most skilled practitioners of interfaith work that I know are not particularly religious. In fact, many of them are on staff at the IFYC."