Episode 50: Just Say No To Interfaith
We look at why Humanism doesn’t belong in Interfaith spaces and we hear a letter to the editor about addressing violent crime in Toledo. We also take time out to acknowledge a show milestone.
00:46 Episode 50!
05:13 Say No To Interfaith
25:31 Letter to the Editor
To Be More Inclusive Stop Using Interfaith (Doug’s Original 2014 essay)
Interfaith Dialogue Must Include Atheists
Interfaith Jujitsu: When we should engage (this article has been archived)
B.R.E.A.D Columbus Ohio
Click Here to Read Full Transcript
[0:02] This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values by a humanist. Here is your host, Douglas Berger. We look at why humanism doesn’t belong in interfaith spaces, and we hear a letter to the editor about addressing violent crime in Toledo. We also take time out to acknowledge a show milestone. Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the secular humanists of Western Lake Erie building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.
[0:46] Welcome to another episode of The Glass City Humanists. And this is our 50th episode. I cannot believe this is the 50th episode. I do appreciate the people that have downloaded this show and listen to this show online, and I really enjoy doing this show for people that may not know much about humanism. And I also appreciate the people that probably know a lot about humanism that might get something out of this show. We’ve had over 3000 downloads since the first episode, which just boggles my mind from, I believe, 48 different countries at one point or another. And I do appreciate that and I appreciate the support that our local group, surely the secular humanists of Western like Gary, has given to the show. I know a couple of people listen to it, which is which I like. And so. What are we going to be doing going forward? Well, I have some irons in the fire fire, as it were, trying to get some more guests. And we’re always in need of guests. So if you are out there and you think you would make a good guest on a humanist podcast, visit our website.
[2:14] Glass City Humanist dot show and submit a contact form and I’ll get back with you. Or or if you know of somebody who would make you think would make a good guest, you can always suggest that. So I’m working on trying to get some more guests because I really enjoy doing interviews. I know a lot of people probably hate listening to me drone on about things. I’m also going to try to do more themed episodes and, we’re going to go through the ten commitments, the American Humanist Association’s to ten commitments, and we’ll also be discussing the humanist manifestos, the history of them and which ones are the one that humanist manifesto. Three the aspirations and get more into that I am also. Right now under consideration for having podcast episodes added to our local community low power radio station here in Toledo.
[3:20] Hopefully that that comes to fruition. And if so, then you’ll probably be hearing some of these episodes on regular radio, which would be great. And so I really do appreciate the listeners of this podcast. I really appreciate the the reaction I’ve received, the comments and and it’s really encouraging. And again, I really enjoy doing this.
[3:48] And of course, I have to put in the part about if you’d like to see this show get better, and include more bells and whistles and and really do what what the what I really wanted to do and be an outreach. Feel free to donate to the show. Go to Shirley’s page humanist, dot org click on donate and if there’s a note in the donate box put down for Glass City Humanists. Or send us an email and say that’s what you’ve donated for. And then those funds will be used exclusively for the podcast. And we did have a sponsorship from the H.A., a grant last just ended recently, and I really appreciate the H.A. For all their support in trying to get Guest and some of the staff people being guests on this show, and I really appreciate that. So I just want to take this moment just to signify and acknowledge that this is the 50th episode of Glass City Humanists. And like always, I hope you enjoy it.
[5:13] As we get into the holiday season of the Christmas holidays and New Year’s and Kwanzaa and Human Light and the Solstice, it brings up people talk about being interfaith or getting together as an interfaith group. We have a multi interfaith group here in northwest Ohio, and it’s called the Multi Faith Council of Northwest Ohio. And it’s been around since the early aughts started up in 2001. Usually what happens with these interfaith groups such as the Multi Faith Council, they have they have like a purpose and their purpose, for the multi-faith council is we seek mutual respect and understanding among all faith traditions through overlapping strands of education, fellowship and community service.
[6:13] And that sounds great because humanists, we’re all up about education, We’re all about fellowship. Well, I don’t like that term. And community service humanism should be able to fit in to an interfaith group. Unfortunately, we don’t.
[6:33] For the very specific reason that humanism is not a faith tradition. So what do we mean by a faith tradition? A faith tradition, its religious traditions and denominations that are constellations of beliefs, practices and institutions used to describe a common type of religion, religion, common type of religion. Religious traditions are broad understandings of the supernatural produced in societies and practiced by groups and individuals.
[7:06] So humanism does not is not a faith tradition. It’s not a faith tradition because we do not seek broad understandings of the supernatural. We reject broad understandings of the supernatural. We reject the supernatural. All we care about is reason and concrete explanations of our world and things that based on the scientific method. You know, we don’t have faith. We aren’t a faith tradition. So we naturally do not fit an interfaith framework. Now, this kind of is a. Not a schism, but there is kind of a divide in the humanist community in general, in the freethought atheist community in general about participating in interfaith groups.
[8:03] You have people like me who I do not feel that humanist groups should be involved in interfaith groups because they’re interfaith, and not in a word you could put in place would be inter path because we have different paths of beliefs or not beliefs with values. We have different value paths and so we could be interfaith and that would be inclusive. But interfaith is not. But then we have another group of freethinkers, humanists and atheists who believe that we should latch on to interfaith groups.
[8:42] I wrote an article or essay about this on my personal blog about eight years ago or so, 2014, back in 2014. And so I’m going to read some of it and and some of it isn’t relevant to today in 2022, but I’ll try to work my way around it. But this is how I feel about interfaith.
[9:08] I hate the word interfaith. I’m not religious and I don’t have a faith. So anything labeled interfaith doesn’t include me, no matter what word spinning you try to do. You just can’t add non-belief to interfaith and be inclusive. Using the word reduces nonbelievers to the level of unwanted stepchildren. We need a new word to express cooperation between people who have faith and those who don’t. And I nominate interfaith.
[9:38] There has been a call in the non-believer community to participate in interfaith groups. One such group that we had in Columbus when I lived in Columbus is called Bread b r E, a D, which stands for building responsibility, equality and Dignity. That’s why, naturally this this essay had come up was that my Columbus? When I was involved with the humanist group in Columbus, there was a debate in our group about whether or not to participate in bread. And and what bread usually did was they had this big convention or conference where all these faith groups would get together, and then they would decide what particular social justice issue they would take on that year. And then all these groups then would focus on that and try to get political leaders to come and talk to them or listen to them. And then they would raise money to do a particular action, whatever it is. Like one year it was affordable housing. They really focused on another year. It was criminal justice. And I mean, they do good work. I mean, I have no problem with with the things that they were doing. Social justice is an important thing. That’s why our group really focuses on social justice when we can.
[11:01] But it was an interfaith group. And so we. Had contacts within the First Unitarian Church of Columbus down in Clintonville, the Clintonville area of Columbus, that they were part of bread. And they said that they had talked to bread about us, our humanist group. And there was some discussion and some of the religious people on breads board really did not like us. They didn’t like humanists because we were anti atheist, we were atheists, we didn’t like religion and things like that, so they didn’t want to have us in there. But they said if the Unitarians wanted to bring us along with them, they. As a tryout. So we did. We, we had five or six, maybe ten volunteers that worked with the Unitarians in Bread and I didn’t see any benefit for it. And in the end, I don’t think we ever went back. I don’t I don’t remember. We might have worked with them one more year, but there was a lot of the faith groups that were part of bread that really did not like us. They and they came right out and told the Unitarians that they didn’t like us. Some of our people were told that they weren’t appreciated and weren’t welcome.
[12:30] You know, and you know, like saying, Doug, this is 2014 and everything. And I’m like, great. I just have never felt welcome in a in an opportunity for interfaith. I’ve been ignored in an interfaith thing. There was some kind of event that the Multi Faith Council of Northwest Ohio was having where they are having faith leaders come together. I don’t know if it was about violence or or what the issue was. I never got a call.
[13:00] My colleague TK at Reverend TC Barger at the Unitarian Church in Toledo in Glendale. He was invited. He’s a member of that multi-faith council and but I never got invited because I would represent atheism or or non, the nonbelievers. I never got a call. Anyway. So one of the people who really promoted interfaith work, I don’t know if he does now, like I said, this is like six or seven years ago when I wrote this. It’s Chris Stedman. He’s an author. He’s written some books about atheism and non-belief. And he tends to have an accommodationist view on religion. He thinks that we should work with religious people. And he had an essay on on the Huffington Post. It’s still up. I checked it. It’s still there. And I’ll have a link in the show notes where he talks about interfaith work and he makes some good points that that.
[14:07] You know, atheists are frowned upon in interfaith work. They don’t they don’t want atheists there. The main reason is because atheists are mean to religious people, which isn’t always the case. But that’s the that’s the trope. And so in his essay on The Huffington Post, he wrote that Muslim Christian dialogue is an extraordinary start. But it should be just that a beginning. Interfaith proponents must build upon successful dialogues like the one Duquesne will soon host and expand their efforts to include people of other faiths. Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc., and those who fall outside traditional religious paradigms, including the non-religious, secular humanists, atheists, agnostics and the like, must be an integral part of such conversations.
[15:01] Earlier this month, I wrote a series of articles for The New Humanism on whether the non-religious should join an interfaith efforts. My answer to this question is a resounding yes. But as I acknowledged in my assessment of the issue, the atheist community is very divided on the subject. Much of this division stems from the fact that many atheists see themselves as de conversion missionaries opposed to any efforts that would promote religious identities. But I also wonder if there isn’t a least small bit of legitimate resentment over the lack of invitation atheists have sometimes received from interfaith communities.
[15:37] And that was from Chris Steadman’s essay. Interfaith dialogue must include atheists. That’s on Huffington Post. And like I said, it was written years ago, so I’m not sure what his viewpoint is now. I haven’t really looked checked into it because I’m not a fan of Chris Steadman. But it’s there. And then. Then there was an essay by Jesse Gale.
[16:02] Who also supported working with interfaith and interfaith groups. And they wrote in a nutshell, it’s worth engaging when we’re working toward a shared secular goal, when there’s a chance of gaining social capital through positive interaction, and when we’re not buying our place at the table with silence or dishonesty, how should we engage skillfully, loudly, proudly, and with a big smile on our faces? Is it a problem for atheists to be involved in a project whose name includes the word interfaith? I’m going to go against the grain and say, not only is it not a problem, we can use it to our advantage. To the extent that the word interfaith service has the connotation religious people doing charity. We can also do some mimetic jujitsu. Sorry for the pronunciations. And that was Jesse Gallo’s essay, Interfaith Jujitsu. When we should engage and the link goes to a friendly atheist article that is probably no longer there. So if I can find the link to it, if it’s still available online somewhere, I will post that also in the show notes.
[17:14] So in my essay that I wrote concerning Chris Stedman and Jesse’s article statements, I continued, I said, At least Jesse acknowledges the problem with participating in something labeled interfaith. However, he argues that words mean different things in different contexts. So we should ignore the faith part of interfaith and just convince ourselves it doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, but it does matter. A word can mean different things in different contexts, but it all depends on the audience where you use the word. If 90% of your audience knows faith means believing in a God or a belief not based on evidence, then it doesn’t matter if a few atheists wistfully think that it just means generic belief in quotation marks. We are still going to be treated like unwanted stepchildren if we ignore the God talk for the sake of being included. Then where is the line? How much more compromise will will be expected of us?
[18:15] No one I know today would accept participating in a humanist fellowship. And as I said, I have a problem with the word fellowship because the word fellowship isn’t inclusive of women. There. There would be severe pushback if we said to women, well, it doesn’t mean just men. We include you to just ignore the masculine context. That’s why I prefer prefer organized group humanist groups we call communities.
[18:43] I don’t oppose working with theists on issues where we have common ground like social justice issues. But if atheists want to cooperate with faith based groups, then we should demand it be on a more equal playing field. We should ask them to ditch interfaith and use interfaith instead. And then I have a quote here from Wikipedia about interfaith dialogue.
[19:08] The term interfaith dialogue refers to cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions, faiths, and or spiritual or humanistic beliefs at both the individual and institutional levels. It is distinct from criticism. I’ve never heard that word before. I wrote this years ago, or alternative religion in that dialogue often involves promoting understanding between different religions to increase acceptance of others rather than to synthesize new beliefs. Some also use the term interfaith dialogue to be more inclusive of atheists, agnostics, humanists and other non-religious people and to be more accurate concerning many world religions that do not place the same emphasis on faith as some Western religions. And then I conclude here. I said I’m willing to come to them part of the way by adopting and by adopting interfaith for the word defining that cooperation, the theist would be coming partway towards us. Isn’t that what working together really means? And so I have a side note on this essay, and again, I’ll have the link up in the show notes.
[20:19] We had a presentation about working on interfaith groups at my humanist meeting on Saturday. This is in 2014, in April of 2014, hence my inspiration for this post and one of the presenters decided to bring up the old complaint that in order to work with interfaith groups, we need to stop being mean to believers. The new atheists were brought up and how it isn’t nice to mock or ridicule religion.
[20:44] I reject that complaint. I believe all ideas and and humanists should believe all ideas are open to question. And that includes possibility, the possibility of mocking or ridiculing religion. As long as it’s focused on the idea and the religion and not the person holding the idea or religion. There shouldn’t there shouldn’t be an issue. There are many believers who mock and ridicule us, the non-believer. Some even believe we are going to hell, and they’re gleeful about saying it. Also, there is not one single perfect version of atheism, nor should we accept someone telling us how to act or behave. We aren’t a church.
[21:29] I also reject the complaint about mean atheists screwing up interfaith work because those mean atheists would never participate. Atheists who are interested in working with theists wouldn’t walk into a room on the first day and say, Your religion sucks, you morons. Well over the years since I wrote this essay, I think there probably would be some that would do that. But it’s not common. It’s it’s how it’s basically what’s the old adage? It’s how you were brought up, whether or not somebody would do that. It’s been my experience that the mean people refused to cooperate on principle so they would never try to join an interfaith group or an interfaith group.
[22:10] It should also be noted that in our meeting we were told about the interfaith group bred here in Columbus, Ohio. Some of the religious people who participate in bread were against an actively campaign to prevent the City of Columbus from providing benefits for city employees and same sex marriages. If I were participating in bread and one of the theists tried to degrade LGBTQ+ or same sex marriage, I would have to call them on it. That would be considered being mean. But I couldn’t in good conscience remain silent for the sake of interfaith cooperation. And that’s really like one of the main points I have that I really the reasons I really do not like, anything with a connotation about interfaith, working, interfaith, or because usually, like I said, what it means is if we’re working with, people with different religious traditions, then it’s always on us. The onus is always on the non-believer to stay silent.
[23:11] About your personal beliefs. The believers will all say praise Jesus or. Or have a blessed day. Or. Or. Or they’ll gather in prayer before they start doing something. And. The non-believer is not allowed to say anything or question anything about that person’s religious beliefs, which is fine because, I mean, that’s basically how interfaith works. But, you know, they don’t it’s not to where It’s not to where we’re included in the interfaith workings or the interfaith things. If they wanted to have a prayer, they can have a prayer and include the non-believer in their prayer, but they never do. You know, they could have a prayer that isn’t overly religious. You know, they could just say, you know, we’re here. We want to do a good job of whatever activity this is, and let’s all do a good job.
[24:15] You know, kind of like like football teams when they gather right before the game. And and the coach is like, we’re all going to do a great game and we’re going to win. And on three. One, two, three, go, team. Why can’t they do that in an interfaith group? You know, hey, we’re going to feed the these people that need food and give them clothes and supply these school supplies. So let’s do a good job out there on three. One, two, three. Go, team. See how that works, and that doesn’t exclude anybody at all. And that’s how Interface should work. If you’re going to do interfaith. You have to include the non-religious and changing the name to enter path is just the first step.
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[25:31] One of the activities that I like to do in order to be active in my community in general is and I recommend this for all non believers or anybody who is political or wants to be political, or active in political realms is write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Yeah. Know, in our internet days, newspapers aren’t.
[26:02] Primary ways people get news nowadays, but it really feels good to me to write a letter to the editor for a couple of reasons. It’s the same reason why I started writing a blog at the beginning 20 years ago and why I do podcasts, and it’s basically to get things off my chest. And I’ve been very, very lucky in that many of the letters to the editor that I submit get published, and I have quite a few bits and tips. I’m not this is not this particular segment. It’s not going to be about hints and tips, but basically what you want to do when you write a letter to the editor is you want to formulate a point that you want to make and then, build to that point. You don’t and you want to do it in as few as words as possible. Usually it’s 300 words or less. It depends on the publication. And so you want to check out what their policies are. Some some newspapers don’t go over 250 words.
[27:17] But I usually I, I aim for 300. And I’ll take a letter to that area I’m working on. And I’ll just really go over it with a fine tooth comb and cut everything I can possibly cut and still get my point across. And so the other day we here in Toledo, like many urban areas, have seen an uptick in violent crime.
[27:49] The social scientists are not really. They’re not really coalescing about why it is that that is happening. Some believe it was due to the pandemic and the desperation and helplessness from the pandemic. Other social scientists think that it’s because of poor people or things like that. And so a lot of places have seen a lot of urban areas have seen an uptick in violent crime. And Toledo’s no different. And people are upset about it because you want to live in a safe, safe area. You don’t want to have to worry about your personal safety when you’re going to the store or driving through town. And and there’s been quite a few gun crimes, violent crimes involving guns. And we all know one of the reasons why there’s a lot of violent crime involving guns, it’s because of the fetish about the Second Amendment and the lax, gun control laws that exist in this in this country and and here in Ohio in particular. That it’s easy for everybody. I mean, it’s easier for somebody to get a gun. In the state of Ohio than it is to vote. I mean, that’s telling. That is a very telling.
[29:12] Anyway. So there’s been these different community groups that have gotten together trying to address the violent crime issue, in the city and the homicide rate, which for a city is rather small. I mean, I lived in Columbus for almost 30 years and and you could have 60, 70 homicides a year. Well, some place like Toledo, which has probably half, is half the size of Columbus. There, there, there have 50 or 60 homicides. And so that’s a problem. I acknowledge that it’s a problem.
[29:56] And so we have these various community groups that get together every few months and have this big to do about what they’re going to do about it. So there’s a there is this group formed by the minister of the Epworth United Methodist Church, Reverend Dr. Stephen Switzer, and he got four former Toledo city mayors involved.
[30:26] Including Cardi Finkbeiner, Mike Bell, Donna Owens, and Paula Hicks Hudson. And they and they formed this group called the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods. And they decided to have some community events and try to try to work on what they want to do to try to address the rising crime in the city. And one of the one of the suggestions or one of the things that these four mayors are really pushing is the return and funding of block watches.
[31:04] The city used to have a lot of block watch groups and it kind of went away. Not sure really why it kind of faded away. I think a lot of it had to do with the Internet because a lot of the reason why you do block watch is because you’re all together and you report things and then they report it to the police. But with the Internet, you can do it in social media and it’s a lot quicker. And you don’t have to go to meetings and things like that. That’s what I’m thinking. But anyway, so they form this group and pushing these block watches. And to me, that’s almost as helpful as religious groups getting together and having a prayer vigil. To stop violent crime, you know, because religion, religious people are so ubiquitous in the community and churches. There’s so many churches around that you would think that. If you have all this religion around that, that that would do something. And it doesn’t because religion does not help in community efforts like that. You can have as many prayer vigils as you want against something or force something. And unless you actually take action to stop that thing or promote that thing. All of the thoughts and prayers that you can muster are not going to help.
[32:31] And that’s just that’s just a fact. So I wrote a letter to the editor. They did a blade Toledo Blade did an article about this group. And I wrote a letter at the beginning of the month. And so I kind of want to read the letter. I’m going to read you the letter that I sent in, and then I’ll tell you the one that that they published was cut. They claim it was cut for length, but the fact that they they notified me and said that they wanted to use it, but they needed to cut it and then they. Showed me what the edited version would be. I was very appreciative of that because a lot of times they don’t have to do that because if you write a letter to the editor and it’s too long, usually it’s just not going to get used.
[33:17] Anyway, so here’s my letter to the editor that I wrote at the beginning of the month. It was published on December the 15th, and I’ll have links in the show notes to the actual letter, and it’s behind a paywall. So I also have an alternative link so that you can read it, read the whole thing or look at it, whatever you want to do. I’m writing in regards to the article City Violence discussed at Council Committee Hearing published on December seven, 27, 2022. I am concerned about violence in the city, but I don’t think the suggestions by the four previous mayors are the only solution. We have been having these discussions for decades. There is a Lucas County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division report published in 1995, that offered clips from various blade articles of the time that complained about violent crime in the city. One clip talked about getting tough on crime with tougher penalties, and Representative Kaptur forming a blue ribbon panel of local, elected officials to carry out the recommendations about alcohol and drug abuse causing crime.
[34:31] Larry Murphy, then the retiring director of the Lucas County Child Study Institute, blamed the increase in juvenile crime on the change from believing in obligations and responsibilities to believing in rights and privileges.
[34:46] Does that sound familiar? One reason it seems we can’t solve the violent crime issue in Toledo is we aren’t using the right solutions. Getting tough on crime and spending $200,000 on a bunch of volunteers reporting every shifty teenager in a hoodie walking down the street isn’t the only solution or even the right one. The neighborhoods seeing violent crime today are the same areas seeing crime in 1995 and probably before that. And more police or block watches is not the solution because those areas are overpoliced as it is. And if police officers won’t live in the neighborhoods they police, how will the neighborhood ever trust the cops? Toledo has not invested in all parts of the city. It spent millions to wine and dine a bunch of rich people who visited for the Solheim Cup. While the city Council clamped down on dollar stores in the inner city needing affordable food options. Most violent crime is the result of desperation and hopelessness. And one would say they need to go to church. Yet that isn’t the answer. Look at a map and see how many churches there are in the impoverished areas of the city. Yet the problems of violent crime continues.
[36:00] If a kid can make more money selling drugs than working at McDonald’s, then we have a problem. We need to help the whole person and alleviate the desperation and hopelessness by investing in those areas that are struggling. By removing the blight, incentivize businesses and food stores to locate there and encouraging affordable housing.
[36:22] We can form all kinds of committees with names that include forms of the word peace. But until we actually address the root causes of violent crime, like poverty and the desperation of people and lax regulations on carrying and getting guns, we will still be talking about this in another committee meeting with an elderly mayor, Kappa Cabbage. Now on the former mayor squad.
[36:47] And I sent that in as president of the secular humanists of western Lake Erie.
[36:53] So as I said, you know, in the letter and how I feel about this issue for sure is that violent crime is a problem and it needs to be addressed. But more policing and block watches is not the answer.
[37:10] Thank you for listening.
[37:14] For more information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at Glass City Humanist Show.
[37:25] Glass City Humanist is an outreach of the secular humanists of western Lake Erie. Scholey can be reached at Humanists W-League. Org Glass City Humanists is hosted, written and produced by Douglas Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content.
[37:46] Our theme music is Glass City Jam, composed using the Amplify Studio. See you next time.
Transcript is machine generated, lightly edited, and approximate to what was recorded. If you would like perfect transcripts, please donate to the show.
Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.