Dear Interfaith, it’s over.

This is a guest post by Ed Clint. He is a senior at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a member of the Illini Secular Student Alliance (ISSA).

A letter to Interfaith, from ISSA (Illini Secular Student Alliance)

Dear Interfaith,

It’s over between us.

Here’s the thing, Interfaith: I tried. I really tried. Two years ago I knew nothing at all about you, but I felt obligated to at least get to know you. I went to your dinner with Eboo Patel. I not only attended an Interfaith potluck, but I baked for you! (Banana bread, because you asked that we bring food representing our “faith tradition” and bananas well-describe the atheist’s lot of abject confusion and bewilderment). We had a fine time at the potluck; had some great food, played some Apples-to-Apples. I invited you to come over and talk about service projects, and you did. We had some laughs, talked some turkey. Things seemed to be going so well between us.

But then some guys were using fear to silence people they didn’t like. I couldn’t do nothing. I knew you wouldn’t like my standing up against them, maybe I even suspected you wouldn’t understand. Since we were friends and all, I thought maybe we’d talk it over. You’re always so careful to emphasize the need for dialog, and trying to see it from the other person’s perspective- I assumed you’d at least hear me out. It really hurt when you didn’t even try. You had my number, but you didn’t call. Worse than that, your only response was to belittle me in front of everyone. You told our friends I was a jerk and a bigot. You implied I was thoughtless and rash, even though I had agonized over those choices and discussed them exhaustively with everyone I knew.

That’s when you lost me, Inty. Not before. You pushed me away. I had never said a word against you. I had no interest whatsoever in fighting. It wasn’t about disagreement. It was about the lies of mutual respect and tolerance. It was that you proved how little our friendship meant to you, after all your promises to the contrary. Even after your hurtful words,  I did not seek retribution. I moved on, made new friends, and focused on trying to do good work. That was fine, but I started to realize you were hurting others, too, some of them friends of mine. You were even getting in the way of the work we’re trying to do, the cause we believe in. That was the last straw. It’s over. And just so you don’t hear about it from someone else, I’ve found something new, Transfaith.

Transfaith understands me and my needs; especially my need not to be ridiculed for honest disagreement. Transfaith doesn’t tell me who to like or how to work. I feel so free now, I can finally focus on everything wonderful while letting go of all the friction and guilt you so needlessly heaped on my life.

I want you to know, in spite of everything, I’m not bitter. I wish the best for you and your new partners. Really. I know you’re capable of doing great good and will never deny it. But you can’t be a part of my life anymore. Please don’t call.

Sincerely,

~ISSA

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • blarg a pirate

    “I couldn’t do nothing.”

    ಠ_ಠ

    • viridianeyes

      This was intended to be written that way. Put “nothing” in italics. I couldn’t do NOTHING.

    • Secular Planet

      It means, “I had to do something” not “I couldn’t do anything.”

      • Edward Clint

        yes. The format is a personal letter, not an essay submission to the grammar rodeo. thanks, SP.

        • blarg a pirate

          So, you’re saying you have something against grammar rodeos?

          Interesting…

    • Rabid

      It would appear you have failed at interpreting basic English.
      “I couldn’t do nothing” literally, doing “nothing” was not an option, doing “something” was required.

  • Karen

    Keep fighting the good fight!
    It is ALWAYS worth it and I appreciate your actions!

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanfigdor Jonathan Figdor

    Hey Ed.  From what I see, transfaith and interfaith (at least the way we engage in interfaith at Harvard) are identical.  We do things like summer reading projects with Christian groups, reading The God Delusion, and The Atheist Delusions, and we work together with Christians to clean up parks, do light-bulb exchanges, and feed the needy.  It turns out that when you do interfaith properly, you don’t have to compromise your values.  Just ask the Humanist president of the Harvard Interfaith Council, or ask Greg (my Humanist boss) who is on the Exec. Committee of the Harvard Chaplains.  We all engage in interfaith that is both respectful of difference, and challenging of bigotry/lazy-thinking.

    Whatever you call it, engaging with religious believers, whether through service together, or just having dialogues/debates to get to better understand the differences and similarities is a good thing.  Thanks for being a great ambassador for interfaith/transfaith.

    • Edward Clint

      Hey Jon.

      Yes, in this type of writing I am (necessarily) painting with too broad a brush.. but this was about conveying our experience. Interfaith is a large collection of groups and people- some are awesome. Unfortunately, those aren’t any I have ever personally encountered. And like it or not.. interfaith’s loudest voices are also some of its most belligerent. 

      Your group out there sounds terrific and I hope more follow your lead, whatever they wish to call themselves.

      • http://twitter.com/jonathanfigdor Jonathan Figdor

        Thanks Ed.  Would you be interested in coming up to Harvard to talk about your experiences with interfaith? Give me a shout and maybe we can work something out.

    • cipher

      Hi Jonathan,

      I was supposed to email you something last fall after a meeting, then I went onto the Harvard Humanist website and couldn’t find your email (it isn’t the Harvard directory, either)

      Greg’s email is easy to find, but the rest of you should consider putting yours on the site as well.

  • Robyn

    Exactly…the English is completely  correct.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Oh well, if Eboo won’t be your Indian friend, Hemant will.

    • Mexigay

      Eboo isn’t Indian. #racism?

      • Anonymous

        Over sensitive?

        Since it was paired with “Patel” it is reasonable to assume Indian ancestry (Gujarat, specifically IIRC) .  Just like “Kowalski” implies Polish and “Ishihara” implies Japanese.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Wikipedia says: “Eboo Patel is .. an American Muslim of Gujarati Indian heritage”

  • http://twitter.com/gordongoblin Gordon

    Inter wasn’t the bad part of interfaith, faith was…

  • Tinanseoul

    The writing not so good.  The message just fine.

  • Drew M.

    Who the fuck is Eboo Patel?

  • Anonymous

    Too bad Patel got away with saying things like calling you an “aggressive atheist” or whatever biased pap theists like to spout, but I still think the whole thing’s one giant whine from adults acting like children over a stupid cartoon episode that *Paramount/Viacom* banned, not the crackpots or their supposed supporters in Islam, and I say this as an anime fan.

  • randall.morrison90

    Ah…I’m just gonna admit it.  Every atheist I have met is a bigot about religion.

    Now, I am not saying all atheists are bigots.

    Just the ones I have met.

    I hope I haven’t offended anyone, but I just want you to know that there is no way in hell believers are ever going to submit to rule by atheists.

    My grandparents escaped from such a country.

    It ain’t gonna happen here.

    • Junk_junk69

      There’s so much wrong with this comment. Bigotry does not equal reasonably pointing out serious flaws and terrible atrocities. I don’t know the atheist you’ve met, but I live in AR (so I haven’t met a whole lot of them) and I’ve met enough to realize that the tone is sometimes vitriolic, but almost always for damn good reasons. Also, rule by atheists does not equal a society that must be escaped from. That’s ridiculous to imply.

    • Rb6k

      Seriously?! Must be a wind up comment surely?

      Hitler and the Nazis promoted a Christian nationalism, anti-communism,
      anti-Semitism, and return to traditional values which most Christians
      appreciated. The Nazi party platform specifically endorsed ‘positive’
      Christianity.

      See the crusades and plenty of other examples where “Believers” forced their rule on others against their will. You really are mistaken if you believe for a second that any war or act of oppression was carried out under the banner of atheism.

      It is very sad that so many people are born into families that have been raised believing the wicked evil ways of many religions and that you feel the need to come here and defend them. Hopefully one day you will see the truth about what you support and free yourself from it.

      • Michael

        In fairness, the Nazis did crack down on non-Catholic Christianity.  Part of Hitler’s view on order was to unite everyone behind one church, not let them divide among different churches and disagree with one another.

        Plus I doubt it hurt that he then only had to buy off one church’s leadership.

        • GregFromCos

          And in fairness he also had Atheists killed…

      • Randall Morrison90

        Lenin and Trotsky, as even Christopher Hithcns states in GING, were committed atheists determined to establish a system which would eliminate religion.

        Yes, because they were atheists and wanted religion wiped out.

        Fact it.  It really happened.  You are just practicing you own form of Atrocity Denial.

        My familiy suffered greatly at the hands of such people.  You can’t hide it.

        • http://disienai.tumblr.com/ Semipermeable

          Atheism is just the lack of belief in a religion. That’s it, it says nothing about what views that person does have, what their politics are, and what morality system they believe in. There are conservative atheists, pro choice atheists, anarchist atheists, hippie atheists, etc etc. 

          “Not all atheists are bigots, and I don’t want to offend you, but any atheist in power would try to wipe all religion away without regard to values of free speech or anything. But not all atheists, just every single one I’ve met, it totally happened in another country [citation needed].”

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Andreas-Miller/1193275073 Ian Andreas Miller

          Yeeeeeeees, and my people, the American Indians, suffered greatly in the hands of those who did not believe in the Great Spirit.  After all, the greatest atrocities of the previous twenty centuries were committed in the name of a-Great-Spirit-ism.  That means we atheists and the Christians have the same blood on our hands.  We can’t hide it!

          But seriously, if atheism is going to be made guilty of atrocities on account of what atheists don’t believe in, we might as well have Christianity (or another kind of theism) made guilty of atrocities on account of what Christians (and other theists) don’t believe in.

    • Anonymous

      Dunno what any of this has to do with “Draw Muhammad Day” but whatevs.  And it might be argued that Draw Muhammad Day wasn’t a good day for anyone who participated or was affected except maybe non-Muslim right-wingers who were out to bash Islam.  They are the only ones who benefit or have ever benefited from the whinging over South Park.

      Molly Norris certainly didn’t benefit, and she started the damned thing.  That’s for sure.

      • Edward Clint

        We didn’t chalk Muhammad on EDMD. It wasn’t related to that, nor to Molly Norris. 

    • cipher

      Yeah, ’cause rule by evangelicals is working out SO well.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always been wary of interfaith involvement because atheists are not a faith and because the only thing interfaith has ever accomplished is creating a big sterile hug circle where criticism and freedom of speech is not allowed.

  • gsw

    Re:
     Interfaith in Action –> Letter to the Students of the UI

    Perhaps the IinA would be kind enough to explain the exact meaning of  “sociological religious pluralism on campus”,  because it certainly sounds very Orwellian.

    Is “religious pluralism” the same as “All feelings are equal but our feelings are more equal than your feelings?”   and is “sociological” the same as socialist?

    • Stephanie Van Dyk

      No, it isn’t. Religious pluralism is the idea that no one religion (or lack of) holds the complete truth about the nature of the universe, etc.

      Sociological does not mean socialist, not even close. Sociological is related to the words sociology and society.

      In short, sociological religious pluralism means a *society* where it is understood and accepted that no religion holds the monopoly on truth, but where the common ideas and values of various religions and worldviews are the focus. It also means a society where religions and the non-religious can co-exist and work together.

      I’m not sure why big words sound Orwellian to you. :P

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miles-McCullough/1026691196 Miles McCullough

        Pluralism can instead mean peaceful coexistence, no? I happily support that kind of pluralism, but the pluralism that says every opinion is equally right can go throw itself in a fire, thank you ma’am.


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