One of our humanist movement's quite prolific contemporary writers, Ed Doerr, has been articulate and passionate about his view that as freethinkers working to improve society we might best regard those of liberal faith traditions to be potentially excellent allies in working toward specific shared social change goals. He challenged liberal thinkers of every stripe to spend less of our energies squabbling amongst ourselves over philosophical differences, and to invest more of our energies in building practical working relationships with people "of faith," so that, together, we can achieve more of the important social changes we do envision. Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, has shared with all of us in print that he makes an effort to be present at interfaith gatherings in the Washington, D.C. area, expressing humanist values, and exploring common ground. Furthermore, I was pleased with Doug Haddon's suggestion that Humanists of Minnesota begin our program year examining white privilege.
Each of these contributed to my motivation to attend an interfaith series held recently in St. Paul, entitled "Eyes Wide Open; A Conversation about Racism, Discrimination, Prejudice, and meeting The Other." The series was held on four consecutive Monday evenings, October 3-24. I participated in the three evenings entitled, "Invisible Wounds: Experiencing Everyday Dehumanization," "Religion: Building Walls, Building Bridges," and "New Possibilities: Creating Something Better." I was deeply impressed with the quality of the speakers each evening, and with the carefully planned formats that allowed the hundreds of participants to speak with one another constructively and openly on these themes. Fifty-two sponsoring organizations were involved, bringing together an assembly of people perhaps more diverse than any other that I have experienced in years.
Naturally I contributed to that diversity, as well, enabling my neighbors to confront "the other" also in me, as an atheist and humanist. I share their desire to create something better than the oppressions and the racism with which we struggle. As part of the video-documented closing, participants were invited to talk about the organizations we represented. I was able to make the assembly aware of Humanists of Minnesota, our local chapter of the American Humanist Association, inviting them to visit our websites, and to learn about our organizations' commitment to protecting and maintaining separation of church and state. I was not the only non-theistic person present. For information about the series see www.spinterfaith.org.