Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Atheists and Mosques

I have a friend named Chris who writes a fantastic blog called Nonprophet Status. He self-identifies as a queer secular person working in an interfaith context to unite religious and non-religious communities together around issues affecting humanity. As someone who openly doesn’t believe in God, Chris still discusses frequently how he sees and respects the value religion has for billions of people. Even though he does not agree with them (or me, I guess I could say), he doesn’t consider himself to be “more evolved;” just someone who has chosen something different. We were on a radio interview together a few months back, and I flinched when the DJ identified me as an evangelical Christian. Chris asked me why, and I explained that the evangelical Christian community is so often known for what they are against, and I want to talk about things I am, and I think Jesus would be, for instead of against. He told me that he thinks that is even more of a reason to identify myself as a Christian who follows the teachings of Jesus. He talked about how his voice is needed in the atheist community—the voice that says “I am not anti-religion, and I think we can work together instead of throwing rocks at each other.” In the same way, voices like mine (and my Jewish friend Rebecca’s and my Muslim friend Nadeem’s) are needed within religious communities to challenge the status quo, build relationships with people who disagree with us, and just generally represent a different version of faith in action. A version that unashamedly believes what they are following is true, but values things like love, tolerance, and service, and uses religion as a bridge to work with all sorts of people, not a wall to keep people out.

Also, do any of you have feedback on what is happening with the mosque at Ground Zero? On Eboo Patel's Washington Post blog yesterday, an evangelical pastor from Texas was the guest writer and he shared his thoughts about it. I like when the media portrays stories like his that reflect a positive view of the religious. Even if you don't agree, it is encouraging for me to hear someone who is a conservative Christian leader, unashamed and open about his faith, still discussing the value of religious freedom for everyone; and not feeling threatened by Muslims. I hope to see more stories like that in the weeks and months to come. You can find the article I am referring to here.

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