An Atheist/Christian Forest Restoration Project

The last time I mentioned the UGAtheists (University of Georgia), they were celebrating “Stone a Heathen Day.”

This time, they’re making news for doing something that even Christians can appreciate:

Uprooting shrubs to make space for healthier plants.

Uprooting stereotypes to make space for healthier relationships.

Christian and atheist students are aiming to do both during their joint community service project at Sandy Creek Nature Center Saturday.

“It’s important for us to put differences aside to make a difference,” said Holly Aversano, the Presbyterian Student Center’s student minister for service.

Aversano and Jason Seidman, community service chairman of the UGAtheists, decided together on the forest restoration project at Sandy Creek.

“We definitely wanted to do an interfaith project,” Seidman said.

“We just wanted to get together and say we’re not so bad.”

What a fantastic project — it’s good publicity for both groups and hopefully it’s one of many future collaborations between them. If they can work together, the future discussions/debates will be far more personal and interesting.

On a side note, I *love* that the UGAtheists have an officer position for Community Service :)

  • Orson

    …not really liking how the story speaks about bridging ‘two faiths’. But then again, I’ve been pretty pissy today.

  • ATL-Apostate

    How ’bout them Dawgs!

  • http://Www.godless.biz Andrew Skegg

    Echoing Orson’s concerns:

    Atheists involved in an “interfaith” project? Huh?

    Perhaps I am being overly pedantic and picky, but as you well know atheists do not “have faith god does not exist”, rather we reject the outlandish claims of the faithful.

    I guess I am simply not an accomodationist. One many issues there is no middle ground. Some people are just plain wrong and the world would be a better place if everyone faced reality.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    From the article:

    One stereotype Seidman said he hopes to dispel? That atheists are devil worshipers because they do not believe in God.

    Yikes. Are things really that bad in Georgia?

  • Nikki Bluue

    I love this! I love this! I love this!

    This cooperation between two groups of people, who are both human, gives me a lot of hope for humanity in all.

    Nikki

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    it’s true. a “do good-a-thon” between different believer groups and some freethinkers and atheists would be a lot of fun, if all involved took it seriously. we’d win, mostly, but still. it would be nice pasting them, morally. heh.

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    Bizarre.

  • Richard Wade

    I’m glad to see this kind of thing.

    I agree with Orson and Andrew, the terms “bridging faiths” and “interfaith” are unfortunately awkward and incorrect terms when you’re describing a joint effort between theists/believers and atheists/non-believers.

    Just as Mike asked if there’s a less condescending word than “tolerance,” over on Jesse’s post about Cathy Grossman’s reaction to the AHA “Consider Humanism” ads, I’m asking if anyone can come up with a sensible term to describe this kind of collaboration? I suppose it doesn’t have to be a single word, just clear and not implying that atheism is a faith.
    Any ideas?

  • http://Q Kevin S.

    How about showing that doing good isn’t about what you do or don’t believe in, but that the potential for basic decency exists in everyone? Maybe doing this will show Christians that atheists aren’t all amoral monsters, while showing atheists that all Christians aren’t two-faced hypocrits who refuse to practice the good deeds that they preach.

    And worst-case scenario, none of that comes about but a worthwhile service project still gets done. It’s a no-lose scenario with a lot of upside.

  • Dan W

    It’s nice to see that atheists and Christians can do good things together. Like others above, I don’t like that the title of the article is “Project bridges two faiths” and that it calls this an “interfaith project.” Atheism is a lack of religious faith, not faith that gods don’t exist.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I’m not sure that “interfaith” is the appropriate term but the general idea is good and reasonable. It is good to see Christians getting involved in community projects that don’t involve proselytizing.

  • pansies4me

    Off the top of my head, how about calling them “common cause projects” with “cooperation between theists and atheists” as a way of further explanation. They could also be described as “community building”, or “shared values”, or even just “cooperative”. I’m sleepy so that’s all I’ve got.

  • http://camoo.freeshell.org Laura

    atheists do not “have faith god does not exist”, rather we reject the outlandish claims of the faithful.

    Just like zero is a number, atheism can be a faith. I guess :)
    Like the sound of one hand clapping

  • http://camoo.freeshell.org Laura

    Seriously, there would be sort of a faith involved in atheism. The faith that truth is a good thing.
    A lot of us believe this, don’t we? At least act as if it were true.
    I do, sort of. Actually there are many different kinds of irrationality around, not just religion, and they all seem to get in the way of our ultimate happiness and survival. Just like Thomas Jefferson (?) said “I tremble for my nation when I reflect that God is just”, I’m scared for our human future when I reflect that the universe has an existence independent of what goes on in people’s minds.
    Fantasy and inner-ness are wonderful but they are also a kind of reality; inner reality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    I also don’t like calling it an interfaith effort. The headline seems the fault of the reporter but why is the Atheist organization saying we want to do more interfaith projects instead of just we want to join all our neighbors in more community efforts to improve the community for all of us who live in it?

    I like Pansie4me’s suggestions. Laura, I wouldn’t call that faith and, frankly, I want the truth for better or worst. It’s not faith. It’s knowledge and acting on reality instead of wishful thinking. I do resent the term faith but then again I’m one of those “hard” Atheists who has no problem stating unequivocally there is no god.

    I think this is a good thing, sort of. It shouldn’t have just been open to the Atheists and Christians but to the whole community and should have been advertised as come out and be part of your community by helping foster its growth and regrowth. Let’s do this together whoever you are and no matter what you believe or don’t believe. I don’t like that this was limited to Christians and Atheists. In fact, I really, really don’t like that. Too fucking exclusionary.

  • http://camoo.freeshell.org Laura

    Muggle says:

    I want the truth for better or worst. It’s not faith. It’s knowledge and acting on reality instead of wishful thinking.

    I think there is a kind of faith involved in that – faith that even though the truth might be unpleasant, it’s better than illusion.
    There’s research showing that religion makes people happy. And when people talk about their religion, they aren’t usually talking about the truth of the religion. What they say is “it makes me feel better, my life works better with this religion”. What they’re saying is “how I feel about it is too important to give it a really critical look”.
    For me, when I hear some claim, I want to turn it over, look at all sides of it as if it were an interesting rock, before accepting it. Religious people don’t do that.
    I understand why the claim from religious people, that “atheists have just as much faith”, bothers people. Because it’s accusing atheists of being as irrational as religious people, and that isn’t true. In that sense, it’s an irrational claim.
    But in a sense there is a faith involved in atheism; that is that truth is ultimately better for human beings. At least some atheists believe this, though I can’t claim that all do. I think Richard Dawkins believes this.
    Such a faith takes people at a very high estimation. It says “people are capable of living well and happily in the face of the cruel human condition, without protective illusions; and this is the best hope of the human race. Our rational problem-solving abilities are capable of great things, even coping with people’s irrationality”.
    I do kind of have this faith. Or hope. But I don’t claim it’s a particularly rational belief. It might be flatout wrong.


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