Inter-Belief Coalition at Glide

Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist has been collaborating with one of the pastors of Glide Memorial Methodist Church to create an inter-belief working group within the congregation. This is the initial proposal; I’m posting it so that folks can give some suggestions about where to take it. Thanks in advance for your help.

“It is my observation that many issues of social justice are placed in a polarizing religious context by the popular media, and as such we often forfeit the opportunity to collaborate with other activists who are working toward the same goals merely because their belief system differs from our own. Glide’s commitment to radical inclusion presents a unique opportunity to bridge this gap to increase our understanding of one another, our strength as activists and our beloved community of compassionate advocates for change.

As an atheist member of the Glide community I have been moved and inspired by the radical activism of people of faith(s) there, and equally dismayed by the occasional negativity with which my involvement has been received by my fellow non-believers. The widespread representation of right-wing conservative religiosity in opposition to human rights, progressive politics and economic justice has produced a climate in which many feel that in order to oppose oppression one must oppose religious and spiritual belief. This division contributes to the obstacles facing those working tirelessly for justice and liberation and must be bridged.

To this end I propose a coalition between believers and non-believers, theists and non-theists, people of any religious or spiritual faith together with people who identify as non-religious or spiritual. We will seek ways of making visible the alliance between faith and non-faith, in order to encourage others to reach across the faith divide. This may take the form of printed literature, art, acts of protest or support, web presence, media representation, and anything else the group creates. It will be a forum for questions and conversations, collaboration and cooperation. We will develop methods of communication and conflict management that can be used to overcome situations in which differences of belief might lead to rupture of partnership. We will visibly and accountably stand together for change rather than allow our differences to divide us.”

Please feel free to leave suggestions and feedback. This is a work in progress.

9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dorian Leslie on May 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Wow. I would think that there is some “belief” if you are walking into a church, if you are singing the songs of praise and worship.

    Are you trying to convert folks to atheism? What’s that about? You are in a church.
    If you really are non-religious, then you are a fan of the social work aspect of Glide. But that too is based in spirituality.

    Hhmmm. Are you secretly dismissing our acts of worship, praise and prayer as “that religious stuff?”



    • oh my gosh, no!!! that is exactly the opposite of what i’m trying to do! i’m wanting to start a collaboration, a coalition, a combined effort, not a conflict! i’m glad you wrote because it’s apparent that i haven’t made myself clear at all if this is what you took from it. can you give me some ideas of how to communicate this better? i have every respect for the beliefs of every member of glide, and i want to invite other atheists to challenge their biases and work together with people of faith rather than propagate the false divide between us. please help me communicate this better!!!!


  2. Posted by Joyce on May 15, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Not sure that there is a need for an atheist vs. non-atheist group at Glide. We are about breaking down “isms”, not encouraging yet more focus on divisions. Perhaps the work you need to do is with your aethist community? If you feel so welcome at Glide that you sing in the church choir, you don’t need to start a group here – preaching to the choir, as it would be. Perhaps you should investigate what your basic issues are with the non-believing (or whatever phrase fits) that makes you want to involve them in church activities? I have plenty of friends who are absolute non-believers, and I am happy to do non-church related things with them and accept them as they are. Of course, it would be nice if everyone thought the same, felt the same, etc., but it is a bit of arrogance and ethnocentrism to think that it is important to clump two groups together to focus on something that one group has no interest in focusing on. Your work is needed outside the church, not in it.


    • the idea is the OPPOSITE of an “atheist vs. non-atheist” group at glide! i will say again that i am very grateful that you wrote your thoughts because i clearly need some help making my ideas understandable. my hope is to break down divisions and invite a working collaboration to challenge biases, not encourage them! can you please help me by pointing out the language that made this sound like an attempt to cement divisions rather than work to cross them? it would be extremely helpful to me! thanks!


  3. Three things:

    1) I would not use “right-wing conservative religiosity in opposition to human rights, progressive politics and economic justice.” It singles out a group that some identify with, but maybe individually people you can work with.

    2) Instead of presenting this as novel, I would reference the substantial history of multiple religions and antsiest working together in a common communal good. (i.e. opposing the Zar, Hitler and Stalin. The progressive movement in the early part of the 20th Century, The ant-war and civil rights movement in the 60’s and 70’s. The current movement to reform our government institutions in order to more accurately serve the will of the people {we just disagree on what the will of the people is]).

    3) We need more of this…so good job.


  4. Posted by Hypatia on May 17, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I think it’s pretty clear, although perhaps the language could be simplified further to clarify the basic mission – this is what I think you’re saying;

    There are serious humanitarian issues that need compassionate, focused energy and work in order to reach a more progressive and peaceful society. The divide between those of faith, and those without faith (or of a different faith) is weakening a group of people that could be working together (and stronger) towards things like equality, education, environmental awareness and facing down the innumerabe injustices all around us. Ultimately, I think that love/compassion are the force of change, and that too often faith is being used as a judgement tool – crippling the movement of forward-thinking humanitarians, simply by segregation.

    I’m annoyed, frankly, to see that the responses to this seem to challenge your place in church/intentions, which in turn would apply to me – I didn’t feel out of place at Glide one bit until reading those responses. Why does walking into church mean you must ‘believe’? Or are wanting to believe? I want to believe in the basic goodness of people, and that there are churches following the actual tenets of Christianity, putting love into the world rather than exclusivism, judgement and hatred. I felt a progressive rush of hope at Glide, because I didn’t feel judged. I felt like the combined efforts of all kinds of different people could bring real change to this world, and I wanted to be a part of it.

    There is so much power to that, and any progression toward a more compassionate and kind world needs the help of everyone that’s willing to step up and be a part of it.


  5. Posted by DanO on May 30, 2010 at 6:38 am

    worship is worship, and glide is glide.

    to attend glide is to worship.

    we don’t discriminate.


  6. Posted by Pam on June 4, 2010 at 2:49 am

    i think if your interest is in discussion, exploration, connecting thru seeing the similarities between seemingly disparate positions/beliefs/ways of knowing, then go for it. that can be a powerful avenue. being able to hold opposing viewpoints at once is a skill, even though those at the ends of that spectrum might try to make you wrong.


    • Thank you, this is an excellent way of putting it. One of my great psychoanalytic mentors early in my training spoke often of the “both/and” as opposed to the “either/or” and the implications of both on mental health. The healthy psyche is able to sit with uncomfortable both/ands without splitting into either/or, and the ability or inability to do this is often used as a measure of wellness/pathology. If that is true then the current discourse on the topic of religion/spirituality is sick indeed, as it tends to split almost immediately into factions, right/wrongs, truth/lies, left/right. As you astutely point out, this happens on BOTH ends of the belief/nonbelief spectrum. I am hoping that there might be a way in which we can tolerate each other’s differing viewpoints in conversation, exploration, connection (I really like your use of that word), without devolving into the neurotic need to prove we’re right and the other guy is wrong.
      Thanks again!


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