Nonbelievers don’t necessarily go into the world seeking out interfaith relationships. When I first left my religion, the last thing I wanted to do was start new relationships with believers. But if done with good intentions, these connections can be fulfilling and advantageous, especially if they are rooted in mutual respect and values.
This is reflected in the work of some of the American Humanist Association’s Chapter and Affiliate groups.
For example, Chicago Ethical Humanist Circle is a member of Interfaith Action of Evanston, Illinois. This group “bring[s] together communities of faith and spirit to serve people who are hungry and homeless.” They have worked on the committee’s “Producemobile”—a monthly event where fresh fruits and vegetables are distributed to those in need. They also contribute to the winter warming shelter, which provides a safe place to escape the cold temperatures.
Concord Area Humanists (CAH), an AHA chapter in Concord, Massachusetts, is recognized by First Parish, the local Unitarian Universalist congregation in the area. As a humanist group, they serve as a form of outreach for the UU church and hold regular meetings there. Patrick Everett, president of CAH and a member of First Parish since 1969, sees this relationship as one that could be replicated and used to grow humanist groups across the country. It’s an opportunity for groups to share useful information on science, evidence-based policies, and more. One of CAH’s objectives is to help initiate more humanist groups out of existing UU congregations.
David Williamson, co-founder of Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), has worked closely with Danny de Armas, a pastor at First Baptist Orlando. They are both a part of Central Florida’s Commission on Religious Freedom. Their common ground is based on religious freedom—the right to practice or not practice a religious belief. They strive to ensure that their belief or lack thereof does not infringe on another person’s rights. Religious freedom involves advocating for those who believe differently than you. For example, both Williamson and de Armas are opposed to House Bill 195, which proposes Bible study as a mandatory elective in Florida public schools. They are also both supportive of secular invocations being included at city council meetings and stress the importance of creating a place where all are free to practice.
Interfaith relationships don’t have to stop solely at religious matters. Interested humanist groups can also collaborate with religious groups on social justice issues, such as advocating for reproductive rights, the fair treatment of Muslim women and girls, speaking out against child marriage, and more. The counterpoints on these issues are fueled by conservative, orthodox religious groups. But there are progressive religious organizations that recognize these injustices and welcome allies of different worldviews. Think of groups such as Catholics for Choice, America Indivisible, and Muslims for Progressive Values. These are just some of the ways in which we can create spaces for people of all religions and none to express their beliefs through both word and action. If you have questions about how your group can get more involved in interfaith activism, don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.