Sunday, 13 April 2014

Why I support Chris Stedman

(Chris doesn't know I'm writing this - I hope he doesn't mind, and that I get facts right).

I have read something recently criticising Chris Stedman's work, and suggesting it's some sort of giving in to religion.  I really value what Chris does, and I certainly don't see it as giving in.

Chris Stedman is an out gay atheist who works as a humanist chaplain, and on various 'interfaith' projects, which involve people of different faiths (and none) combining their efforts to help mutual understanding and encourage respectful dialogue.

Some see Chris' stance as 'accommodationist': implying that he is conceding factual or moral ground to religious beliefs.  At least according to my understanding, this is not only wrong, but would be counter-productive to Chris' efforts, because what he is trying to do is to help acceptable and understanding of atheists, not the dilution of atheist beliefs.  There is a parallel situation that might help explain this: Chris' efforts also help acceptance of homosexuality, because he is an out gay man, and that acceptance would not be helped at all if Chris said that he "wasn't really very gay".

Talking to and co-operating and befriending religious people doesn't have to be about giving up beliefs or even pretending you have.  It's about not judging others based on labels.  It's about allowing humanity to be more important that doctrine.  In the end, it's about what we want society to be like.  Do we want anger and hate, or do we want civilized argument between people who will actually listen to each other?

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