There was a speaker at an AA meeting several months ago who shared about making amends to people he had harmed in his drinking days. He believed in God but came from an atheist/agnostic family. When he sought to make financial restitution to his father, his dad would not take the money. When the son asked, " Why? " His father replied, "Because I never lost faith in you."
Like that father, why can't we lay claim to the word faith? It has many meanings. Why abandon it without a fight? Most people use it in everday parlance without any religious meaning. It also refers to trust, hope and belief in a person, entity or thing. That is, it has a secular meaning too.
Why invent funny sounding words or tongue twisters when the answer may be just taking the words faith and belief back?
The Full Faith and Credit Clause is not a chapter from the Bible, but Article IV, Section 1 from the Constitution. It's not about faith in a god or the supernatural but the very earthbound and realworld duties that states have to respect the public acts, judicial proceedings and records of other states.
The debate about faith often mirrors our abandonment of the word belief to the religious.
I've been an atheist since a kid, before I even knew what the word atheist meant. Family and friends would ask, "How can you not believe in anything?" Several decades later I still get that question. Many in the organized secular community approach belief from that same theistic standpoint. We have surrendered that word. For example, David Niose 's excellent book is called Nonbeliever Nation. But we do believe! And Noise's book is prolific with values and other beliefs we share with other Americans.
Faith like belief can have many meanings. I have faith like that atheist father in his son and I have beliefs too. Personally I do not concede either word to the religious or anyone else. It is often an eyeopener when I discuss the broader meanings of faith and beliefs with the nonsecular. We find there is overlap, the DNA of common ground.
I may not believe in any supernatural entities, but I do believe that civil rights should not be determined based upon belief. I also believe I do not have to share a religious belief to have a stake in how a religious group is treated. Nor do they have to share my atheism to believe I should be treated no differently than them.
I have faith that if we seek what we have in common as human beings the differences around religion or its absence don't seem that important. Part of those commonalities involve faith in values such as acceptance and tolerance and belief in our friends, families and communities.
Faith has different meanings theologically to Christians versus Buddhists. But that does not stop them from working together in the larger meaning of interfaith work.
Personally I believe that coalition building with fair minded religious folks around specific issues, including interfaith work will help advance the atheist community. That does not exclude the need for separate atheist organizations with their own agendas. For some, that means being antireligious and not working with the religious. That's not about the word faith, it's about goals and objections. While I disagree with that perspective strongly, I respect the choices individuals and organizations make.
But if it's an honest discussion about faith and belief, why should atheists not bring their understanding of faith and belief to the table instead of inventing a new word for table? Let us claim a seat at that table by not surrendering those two words.
From: Zachary Bos <[address removed]>
To: bostonatheists-list <[address removed]>
Sent: Mon, Jan 7,[masked]:45 pm
Subject: [bostonatheists] Contribute to my list of words to replace "interfaith"
Friends and colleagues:
Prompted by a presentation yesterday, I roused myself to compile a list of words which might serve as alternatives to the problematic term "interfaith". I'd like to ask you to take a look and suggest your own alternatives, and to circulate the URL so as to get as many people as are interested in the topic to take a look and make their own suggestions.
Yours in lexical strategy,
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