Chris Stedman: Faitheist

Having endured intolerance as a gay Christian and then as an atheist interfaith activist, Stedman now argues for respectful dialogue between atheists and believers and cooperation in social action between secular and interfaith communities.

Stedman will speak about his work as an atheist-interfaith activist and why he thinks atheists and the religious should work to find common ground, all themes he discusses in his recent book Faitheist.

This is a co-presentation by Center for Inquiry–Portland and the PSU Freethinkers.

Chris Stedman is the Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University and the Values in Action Coordinator for the Humanist Community at Harvard, where he was previously the inaugural Interfaith and Community Service Fellow. He is also the Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and founder of the first blog dedicated to exploring atheist-interfaith engagement, NonProphet Status.

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  • Sheila M.

    Sherry, I like your alternative name for interfaith, which I don't like. Multi-worldview is better.

    February 20, 2013

  • Lynne T.

    Excellent presentation and insights.

    February 20, 2013

  • sherry

    I value Stedman's emphasis on inter-faith (or multi-worldview) relationships -

    February 19, 2013

  • Gavin

    dahlia goodfellow:

    You made points but not all Christians have a distorted idea of science. Many Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) are liberal Christians and many of them are so liberal theologically that they consider most of the Old Testament Bible to consist of myths. Those Christians also believe in evolution including biological macroevolution and most of them also belive in liberal politics and liberal ethics. I learned this both from reading books written by such Christians and by having in-person conversations with such Christians locally.

    February 19, 2013

    • Gavin

      I agree with you about the NT having a poor factual basis (but the book of 1st Maccabees in the Apocrypha is considered to be the most historically reliable book from its time period about the Jewish people of its time period). Regarding NT versus OT I tried to convince liberal Christians that if they consider the OT to be mostly mythology they should consider the NT (especially the gospels) to be such also since they have the same kind of events (and even more extreme in some ways) and they quote from the OT as their authority and reason from the OT in a mostly literal manner.

      February 19, 2013

    • dahlia g.

      It would be hard to argue that Deistic people are in conflict with science and reason because Deism is founded on practicing what is essential for scientific method if I understand it correctly. Or certainly they don't want a belief in god to conflict with reason as much as possible. There have always been christians who are scientists or uphold scientific theory. Sometimes there were perversions of theories like the history of colonialism involving religious missionaries trying to use a kind of "social darwinism" to justify conquest and conversion of peoples. Faith can crop up where you least expect it. I found this out with buddhists as well. The ones who claim to have no intention of conversion. I still found at some point in meditation practice, a required leap of faith.

      February 19, 2013

  • Gretchen

    Will we be gathering at Rogue Hall afterward, as we did after the recent P.S.U. Pigliucci talk?

    1 · February 18, 2013

    • SylviaB

      Nothing much. Just tell people in the comments that you plan to go, and then tell Rogue Hall how many you are expecting. A guess is fine. I can include it in the announcement, if you want.

      February 19, 2013

    • SylviaB

      I should also mention this, Gretchen, so you can consider it: There will be some people who will like the idea of an inter-world-view community service project, which is what Chris will talk about mostly. Chris has agreed to meet with such people afterwards to discuss how to set one up. That does not stop the non-interested parties from going to Rogue Hall, of course.

      February 19, 2013

  • Dave D.

    The line between humoring/honoring someone's beliefs or traditions and mocking them is fine indeed, and one may easily be misinterpreted or reinterpreted for the other. If Stedman is trying to convince atheists that there is actually intrinsic value to observing such traditions, as opposed to just smoothing over differences with faithists, maybe he can appeal to critical thinking skills? I haven't seen it so far. But I don't hear much new relative to the philosophy of another Harvard Humanist Chaplain (Greg Epstein).

    February 14, 2013

    • Dave D.

      Sylvia, I think I agree with you. I should have made clear that my comments were directed mostly at Flynn's claim (cited in your post below) that Stedman was going so far as to ask atheists to observe Lenten self-denial traditions, as well as perhaps others.

      As far as I'm concerned, there's room for all sorts of approaches -- soft peddling, hard selling, being a good example, exercising logic, citing philosophy, attacking religion, illuminating history, fortifying walls between church and state, etc. Let each adopt the one that works best for them. I, personally, like to consider what we would want in a post-religious world to make things run at least as smoothly as now -- and hopefully much smoother. Then, I'd prefer to head straight for that goal, rather than try to appease or coerce or humor the religious into joining us in that direction: If they don't want to earn the benefits of a Humanistic approach, Leave Them Behind (pun intended).

      1 · February 14, 2013

    • Marsha

      I hope to come tonight (Mitch is working during tax season and this complicates our evening schedules). I wish we *could* just discuss over wine (most of the religious would *not,* of course) and then go our separate but peaceful ways. For those of us who have been/are being brow beaten by the Bible and its thumpers, we know the path to peace is paved with dead atheist bodies! Dave, your last statement, idealistic though it was, is *truly* the best approach. If only...

      February 19, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry but I cannot attend because I host a radio talk show on Tuesday evenings at BlogTalkRado. I want to interview an atheist / humanist in future. Jon, are you open to being my guest?

    Tom Madison
    [masked][masked]

    February 14, 2013

    • Jon P.

      Yes. We should be able to work out a time.

      February 17, 2013

  • Sheila M.

    Tom Flynn's comments about Lent were about someone else, not Stedman.

    February 15, 2013

    • Sheila M.

      I missed that, Sylvia, so I went to the blog in question. Here's the link, I hope http://nonprophetstat...­

      February 15, 2013

    • Sheila M.

      I've been reading Tom Flynn's stuff for years, and I've always thought he was rather puritanical in his readiness to judge people. It comes of being raised Irish Catholic. (Takes one to know one.)

      February 15, 2013

  • Sheila M.

    I read Stedman's book, and I saw nothing in it about observing Lent or any other ritual. He works together with religious groups on joint community projects, and is open about his atheism with them. Incidentally, someone we've been invited to go and listen to next onth, Barry Lynn, an ordained minster, has probably done more than anyone to promote the separation of church and state. Stedman says that the people he works with aren't fundamentalists, because they won't work with him.

    February 15, 2013

  • Sheila M.

    I'm calling everyone's attention to the time. The talk starts at 6. I hope working people can make it.

    February 14, 2013

  • Gavin

    I might be there.

    February 14, 2013

  • Sheila M.

    Dahlia, I certainly support your wish to put your energy where yoou feel it will do the most good, but for those who are interested, Stedman addresses the very concerns that you mention.

    February 14, 2013

    • dahlia g.

      Right, and I may find it worth while to attend. Like I said, I could be wrong in writing this off. I may very well go to this. However I'll wait a little longer before I commit.

      February 14, 2013

  • SylviaB

    Aha, I see by the comments that we have a diversity of opinion here. This could be a very interesting conversation. And weighing in is Tom Flynn: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/religious_humanism_or_something_gone_wild/

    February 14, 2013

  • Sheila M.

    I've read Stedman's book, and can strongly recommend attending this meetup and listening to his message. It could provoke a lively discussion.

    February 14, 2013

  • dahlia g.

    I could be absolutely wrong and in fact find this enlightening and interesting, however I see no need to find common ground with the religious. I speak from having years of experience in approaching this stuff from what Chris Stedman is promoting. I find it doesn't work and wastes time. For me, there are bigger fish to fry. There is a great deal of ignorance about what science is or what constitutes scientific method in a field of study being labeled a "science". This is a serious problem and it's where I would prefer to dedicate my energy. At least the time and energy I can afford to give aside from the usual work to survive business.

    February 14, 2013

  • Sheila M.

    If I can get a ride home.

    February 9, 2013

  • Gayle M.

    Sounds interesting...but having mobility problems and might be too long a walk from any parking for me right now.

    February 2, 2013

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