What’s a ‘Faitheist’?

Chris Stedman is the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University; he went from a closeted gay evangelical Christian to an “out” atheist, and, eventually, a Humanist

On the blog NonProphet Status, and now in the book, Stedman calls for atheists and the religious to come together around interfaith work. It is a position that has earned him both strident — even violent — condemnation and high praise. Stedman talked with RNS about how and why the religious and atheists should work together.

 

 

As the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, Chris Stedman coordinates its “Values in Action” program. In his recent book, “Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious,” he tells how he went from a closeted gay evangelical Christian to an “out” atheist, and, eventually, a Humanist.

On the blog NonProphet Status, and now in the book, Stedman calls for atheists and the religious to come together around interfaith work. It is a position that has earned him both strident — even violent — condemnation and high praise. Stedman talked with RNS about how and why the religious and atheists should work together.

Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What does the term “faitheist” mean? Is it a positive label or a derisive one?

A: It’s one of several words used by some atheists to describe other atheists who are seen as too accommodating of religion. But to me, being a faitheist means that I prioritize the pursuit of common ground, and that I’m willing to put “faith” in the idea that religious believers and atheists can and should focus on areas of agreement and work in broad coalitions to advance social justice.

Some people have suggested I think atheists shouldn’t critique harmful religious beliefs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I do, however, think that atheists should be responsible, fair, accurate, and specific when offering robust criticisms of religious dogmas — and that we should focus more energy on working with the religious on identifying shared values and acting to advance common goals than we currently do.

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