My November Cafe Inquiry: Humanism and Interfaith

In December I’m going to be doing a sermon for a Unitarian Church in Surrey on Humanism as part of their interfaith series. In preparation for that, I agreed to do a Cafe Inquiry for CFI Vancouver on Humanism.

Realizing that we all (generally) agree that humanism is good, I decided to mix it up a bit and my topic is now more focussed on the continuing spat between Greg Epstein and PZ Myers. Here’s the abstract I threw together this afternoon.

Humanism and Interfaith

Humanism can be described as atheism with a heart. Yet some New Atheists and Humanists have sparred recently over a number of issues. Some of these key issues are how we structure of our communities; the legitimacy of humanist chaplains; and whether secularists should engage in interfaith dialogues with the religious. Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard, calls humanism a faith in his 2009 bestseller Good Without God. He has recently announced plans for a new book to serve as a how-to manual to establish groups similar to his Harvard community. On the other side of the debate, many atheists recoil in disgust at terms like interfaith and chaplains. They argue that the unquestionable hierarchy of religion is antithetical to free inquiry. Such structures are to be demolished, not simply rebranded. Amidst the debates on Twitter and the blogosphere, humanist communities are thriving in cities and on campuses around the world. Progressive theists are also actively starting to seek out humanist representatives for interfaith panels.

In this discussion, I will attempt to weave our way through the arguments and concerns raised by both camps. What does a humanist community look like? Are humanists trying to create church for the unchurched? Is there a need for humanist chaplains and officiants? Is humanism a faith? And can, or should, atheists participate in interfaith events?

Some related reading and viewing:

Do Atheists Belong in the Interfaith Movement? Christ Stedman, 15 June 2011

Transfaith, The New Atheist Interfaith, Ed Clint – Secular Student Alliance, 18 August 2011

Nonbelievers striving for humanist connection, Boston Globe, 17 October 2011

Atheist church? NO THANK YOU. Pharyngula, 17 October 2011

Just don’t call it church then, Canadian Atheist, 17 October 2011

A Successful Humanist Community in Boston, Friendly Atheist, 18 October 2011

Just call me a Quaker, I guess, Pharyngula, 18 October 2011

What #HumanistComunity? Pharyngula, 19 October 2011

#HumanistCommunity, Twitter, ongoing

The event is scheduled for Saturday, November 19th at 11:00 am at SFU Harbour Centre and there should be coffee and donuts.

I haven’t written the talk yet (that has to wait for the 18th of course), so I’m open to any and all suggestions.

And I’ll post something about the Unitarian event closer to that date.

One thought on “My November Cafe Inquiry: Humanism and Interfaith”

  1. Hey there! This looks like a fantastic event. If, while preparing your talk, you’d like to speak with me about the new Project at the Chaplaincy I’d loveto provide accurate information, because the Globe article is somewhat misleading. You can contact me through my website or by email if you like and we can talk!

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