Saturday, March 12, 2016

My "interfaith" journey and next steps

My Evangelical Lutheran foster-grandmother lived with us when I was growing up, but my immediate family were members of the United Church of Christ. I spent summers on my Methodist aunt and uncle's farm, and we had a lot of friends and relatives who were Baptists or Pentecostals. But growing up in rural North Carolina in the 1960s and 70s, I don't think I ever personally met a Jew or a Muslim - much less a Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, or a secular humanist.

During the 1980s I worked in a local hospital emergency room (ER) while attending community college part-time, and there I met and worked with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and an ER physician who was into homeopathy, Taoism, and tai chi. I started studying world religions, the New Testament, and philosophy, and eventually learned kung fu and tai chi from a Catholic sifu. My wife and I were married by my foster-grandmother's Lutheran minister, but I wrote the entire service leveraging primarily Taoist literature (although the minister insisted on saying the Lords Prayer at the end).

I got swept up in the idea that quantum physics confirmed Eastern mysticism and was somehow useful in understanding human consciousness - until I finally discovered Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Vic Stenger. As I finished my degree in mathematics, studied more science and philosophy (including the philosophy of science and mathematics and existentialism), and started a career in software engineering and support, I switched from identifying as a "non-theist" (heavily influenced by Taoism) to being an "agnostic" and a "skeptic." Today I'm still fundamentally a run-of-the mill skeptic, but I also identify as a secular humanist and an atheist - as well as an occasional Pastafarian who agrees that the Satanic Temple's seven tenants are far more ethical than the Ten Commandments.

As an advisor to the Board of the Hickory Humanist Alliance I became involved in "interfaith" work somewhat serendipitously in May of 2015 after a County Commissioner in a neighboring county made some inflammatory comments about Muslims and atheists participating in invocations at their meetings - they now have a moment of silence instead of an invocation. Today I am on the interim Board of Advisors for a new "interfaith and humanist" council in my county, and I have been asked to co-present an "Interfaith 101" webinar with some of my local interfaith partners for a major national secular organization. I'll post about both in a future post, but in the meantime here are some interfaith resources you might find interesting. And you can read more about my own recent interfaith journey here.

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