Thursday, August 28, 2008

When Will We See Humanist Religious Leaders at the Conventions?

This week's On Faith (Newsweek/Washtington Post) features an article by Humanist Harvard chaplain Greg M. Epstein on "Don't Exclude Humanists, Atheists from the Melting Pot." In it, he writes:


I've seen several signs that an Obama administration might recognize the single most essential truth of American religion and politics in the 21st century. That is, not only is the U.S. not merely a "Christian Nation," we have become something new entirely: the world's first truly "Interfaith Nation." As my Harvard colleague Diana Eck has eloquently described, the U.S. is now the world's most religiously diverse nation. If we embrace the values of religious pluralism, our diversity will be a rich resource, rather than a source of division.

However, this historic opportunity would become an historic tragedy of prejudice and discrimination if we fail to recognize that an Interfaith Nation must make room for Humanists, atheists, and the non-religious as equal partners alongside Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and many others.

Hear, hear! One of my struggles in this primary season has been that we're coming so close to understanding and expressing this country as an interfaith nation, yet we're still so far. Anti-Islam sentiments are still strong and have not been loudly enough decried from the leaders on either side. And, as we move towards an interfaith understanding, there's often a "Well, all faiths believe in the same God" kind of many-paths-one-mountain expression of inclusivity that's expressed. Umm... no. We don't all believe in the same God. Many paths.... whole different mountain ranges? There is a commonality to all faiths, perhaps that could be expressed, but it's not the common belief in one God. When you look at Barack Obama's statements, he expresses inclusivity, but I'm still waiting for the "we don't all worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we have atheists in the red states." My guess: I'll be waiting a long time.

Epstein restricts his comments to the Democrats, because, as he says, "I have no basis for believing the McCain campaign would be interested in my opinions, so you'll forgive me if I don't waste your time with advice for the Republicans." I, for one, would like to hear what he might say to the Republicans, as well. Well-known UU blogger Philocrites had an interesting article about Romney back in December--"Romney's Pluralism Tolerates All Conservative Religions"--which, I suspect, could be applied to the Republican party as a whole. In it he quotes Romney as saying, "I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God." Umm... no. Apparently Romney has never encountered Buddhism, Humanism, many expressions of Unitarian Universalism, etc. Has McCain? It remains to be seen. My guess is we'll hear plenty of God blessing America at the Republican convention, as well.

Yes, there is a new openness towards religious inclusivity being expressed. From both Republican and Democrat, however, there is a long way to go. Neither is yet expressing anything close to the diversity of faith that you get in one little country UU church like ours.

2 comments:

Bill Baar said...

McCain could easily pick a Mormon for his VP. A religion that more than a few Christians will tell you is a non-Christian cult.

Some UU's will find a Mormon tough to take too...

Jay said...

Thanks for the link to Greg Epstein's piece. He is absolutely one of my heroes!