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This is my 184th article for OnFaith since I started writing for the publication back in November of 2008. OnFaith was founded by Sally Quinn and remained at the Washington Post until late 2013, when it moved to FaithStreet. What I liked about writing for OnFaith at the Post, aside from it being part of a prestigious newspaper, was that it featured contributors who covered the full spectrum of religious and nonreligious views. On the other hand, FaithStreet is not a street on which I live. Its work is primarily about connecting people to faith communities, but I’m more interested in disconnecting people from faith communities and connecting them with atheist and humanist communities.
Out of the approximately 150,000 words that I’ve written for OnFaith a few have involved positive comments about religious leaders and issues they’ve espoused, but I’ve not had one positive word about “faith.”
Initially, I didn’t think I’d be contributing very often — if at all — to the newest iteration of OnFaith, nor did I think the new editors would be interested in my contributions. The first piece I pitched for the new OnFaith, entitled “A Dangerously Incurious Pope,” was rejected, and later published here. I assumed my relationship with OnFaith was over, and so I published with Huffington Post and elsewhere. Then a “miracle” occurred when I was invited by OnFaith to give an atheist’s perspective of Lent.
What you’re reading now is my tenth piece for OnFaith at FaithStreet. I prefer “preaching” to religious believers on FaithStreet rather than to those whose views are similar to mine. Jesus purportedly went where the sinners are, and I like to go where the “faith-ers” are. I also think OnFaith’s Patton Dodd is an excellent editor. He improves my articles but doesn’t try to soften my criticisms of religion. (That’s what my spouse does).
Speaking of my wife Sharon, she is “unfaithful” like me — in the sense that she lacks faith in supernatural beings. We have a faithless, honest, and monogamous relationship. “Faith,” unfortunately, is usually thought to be a virtue. Why should we automatically show reverence to someone of great faith, which only indicates a conviction that can’t be shaken by contrary evidence? Respect for religious faith, whatever that faith might be, plays an important role in perpetuating human conflict.
Atheists and humanists are divided on whether to participate in interfaith coalitions and alliances on those rare occasions when we are invited or allowed to join. Mostly, the controversy is about the label “interfaith.” While atheists give no credibility to religious faith, we would like to be part of a wider community that works together on worthwhile projects, have a place at the table of public opinion, and have an opportunity to change stereotypes about people of no faith. Atheists often engage with progressive religious allies on important causes, which has the added bonus of showing that we can be good neighbors in a diverse country of religious and nonreligious individuals. Perhaps it is time for a more inclusive name, like “Interfaith and Faithless Alliance.”
Some atheists are comfortable with “faith,” at least in a restricted way. When our local secular humanist group discussed which specialized license tag to request from the state, one candidate was “Faith in Reason.” (We eventually decided on “In Reason We Trust” because South Carolina had already approved “In God We Trust” license tags.)
The 2006 word of the year was truthiness, defined by Stephen Colbert as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts that one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” With that in mind, I define “faithiness” as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts for which there is evidence, rather than concepts or facts that one wishes to believe on faith alone.”
I’m happy to write for OnFaith while living on Faithiness Street. I’d like to think that “faithiness” will become the 2014 word of the year, but I know that’s just “truthiness.”