Abigail Clauhs, an M. Div. student at Claremont School of Theology, has written a sharp and eloquent blog post earlier this week that deserves a look. In “Interfaitheism”, she suggests the need for greater inclusion of atheists in interfaith gatherings:
In a pluralistic world, we have to realize that we must co-exist not only with people who adhere to a label that can be found in a World Religions textbook, but also those who fit no label. The group I invited to the interfaith event was the secular humanists. I know many secular humanists, and if we are looking for faith, these are people who have faith in the human spirit. They run the gamut in terms of their cosmology—some believe in a higher spirit, some are agnostic, some are just plain atheist. As a Unitarian Universalist, I know many humanist UUs. Does that mean that my religion is invalid for participating in “interfaith” work?
We have to push our boundaries of acceptance, and not be bound by semantics. After this email, I found myself tempted to change the name of the event entirely. “Interfaith” apparently just wasn’t enough. Yet I determined that I would keep it.
I was reading Forrest Church, one of my favorite Unitarian Universalist theologians, the other day. He wrote about why he chooses to use the word “God,” even though many UUs prefer to use terms like “the divine” or “Spirit of Life.” Church (yes, it’s a fitting last name, isn’t it?) says that instead of abandoning the word “God” as something too limited and fleeing to something more open like “the divine,” he chooses to use “God” as a way to expand the boundaries of what the word can mean. If people see God as an old guy in the sky, he wants to open the possibilities of how much bigger and more infinite “God” can be, and can mean.
I think the same needs to be done with the word “interfaith.” Yes, right now it’s problematic. And limiting. But that doesn’t mean we should run away and leave this word that has already helped to effect to so much change. No, we need to push the boundaries. Widen the tent. Accept the great and beautiful diversity of human experience and the way it creates meaning and community and structure in this world.
We need to have interfaith gatherings where every single person is welcome, and where they actually want to come. We need—perhaps—interfaitheism.
Read the whole article by Clauhs.