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Atheist-interfaith activism: An interview with Chris Stedman

January 8, 2012
Chris Stedman

“Coexistence is merely the first step.  What comes next?”

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Click above to listen.

This week we interview Chris D. Stedman, who was recently named among the top ten peacemakers in the science-religion wars.  He’s an atheist-interfaith activist, and takes considerable heat from the atheist community for his work.  While many atheists see little or no need to engage religions in dialogue, Chris reaches out.  And his goal goes beyond tolerance between stances on religion.  He says:

“I don’t want to be tolerated.  I want to be embraced.  I want to be challenged.  I want to be understood, and I want to understand other people.  Coexistence is merely the first step.  Then what’s next?  Are we able to empathize?  Share values?  Work together?”

In this interview, Chris shares stories of his experiences as a person who grew up irreligious, became Born Again, then realized it was not the theology but the ethics and community offered by religion that he was really after.  Ever since, he’s been actively seeking greater understanding and commonality between atheists and the religious.  In particular, he shares a poignant conversation with a Muslim woman in which the two empathize with each other over their shared experiences of fear as minorities in America.

There was an issue with the sound quality – we tried recording in a library space that ended up having a nasty echo.  But our voices come through clear, as does Chris’ affable personality.

Here’s what’s in store:

  1. We tell a little about our paths.
  2. We share stories of what makes interfaith a burning need for us, both in atheist and Pagan contexts.
  3. Chris reveals his upcoming book Faitheist.  Look for it in late 2012!

Faithest, by Chris Stedman

The author

Chris Stedman

Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University, the Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and the Founder of the first blog dedicated to exploring atheist-interfaith engagement, NonProphet Status. Chris received an MA in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement.

A graduate of Augsburg College with a summa cum laude B.A. in Religion, Chris writes for The Huffington Post Gay Voices and The Huffington Post Religion, where his work is among the most commented upon in the site’s history, and he is the youngest panelist for The Washington Post On Faith. He is at work on a memoir for Beacon Press (2012), and his writing has also appeared in venues such as Religion DispatchesThe Journal of College and CharacterTikkun Daily, AltMuslimah, The New Gay, and The New Humanism.

Previously a Content Developer and Adjunct Trainer for the Interfaith Youth Core, Chris is an atheist and secular humanist working to foster positive and productive dialogue between faith communities and the nonreligious. He has spoken and lead workshops on this topic at college and university campuses all across the United States; in 2011, the University of Oregon Alliance of Happy Atheists recognized Chris’ work with their first annual Happy Heathen! Award, and The Huffington Post named him one of the top interfaith activists on Twitter.

Chris was raised in a secular home but converted to evangelical Christianity after being invited to church by friends at 11 years old. After years of wrestling with theology and his sexual orientation, Chris left the Christian tradition and spent some time exploring. Eventually he recognized that he was an atheist and secular humanist, and today he works to advocate for the mutual respect of religious and non-religious individuals.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 9:10 am

    Chris, I’m wondering what kind of heat you sometimes take from other atheists for doing interfaith work, and how you deal with it?

  2. January 10, 2012 10:10 pm

    Mighty good talk. I totally dig everything that was covered. Especially the relating to each other with stories bit. Which was fairly thought provoking. Thank you for taking the time to make this interview, and thank you Chris for sharing your perspective and experiences :)

  3. January 10, 2012 10:11 pm

    Oh, I just remembered that I wanted to ask Chris what he would of answered that woman now if asked the same question about dealing with fear?

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