As an atheist who works with religious persons, I am honored to be a part of these “Emerging Voices.” By way of introduction, I first met Holly Roach and Steve Knight at a conference they coordinated at Mission Gathering Church in San Diego. Ryan Bell, Adele Sakler, and myself were invited to lead a panel on Skeptimergent—a group of skeptics and non-believers interested in discussing the role that liberal and Emergent forms of Christianity took in their lives. I first came in contact with Emergent and post-modern Christianity when I attended a church called “The Gathering” in Salem, MA. I worked on various creative endeavors (“The Dead Philosophers Society”) with the pastor, Phil Wyman, who, in many ways, introduced me to these various incarnations of the Christian faith. I was also invited on pastor Doug Pagitt’s radio show to discuss “Interview an Atheist at Church Day,” a project I run, and to discuss the role of “civil religion” in the inauguration of President Obama. And finally, I have studied under Philip Clayton, and have interviewed Brian McLaren, both of whom I found interesting and captivating in their own right.
These different encounters got me thinking about ways in which progressive religious persons can work together with non-believers. For instance, both of these groups share many of the same opinions on, say, the doctrinal rigidity of Reformed Baptists. We also vote in similar ways, share certain values, and employ many of the same criticisms of evangelicals (my personal favorite). Certainly the possibilities of collaboration are larger between my comrades and Emergent folks than with conservative Christians. And I hope to encourage these possibilities to become actualities with this blog.
Skeptimergent represents a somewhat novel demographic of people—people who came out of Christianity and various religious beliefs via Emergent, progressive, and liberal forms of faith traditions. These non-believers are familiar with hermeneutics, liberal exegesis, theistic evolution, higher criticism, and the plethora of manners in which religious persons (attempt to?) find compatibility with modern science. Most of us have read Rudolph Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Marcus Borg, and John Shelby Spong. And while we find many of their reiterations of the Christian faith a more positive force in the world, we have a hard time retaining ideas like faith, spirituality, and mysticism. We are proof that not all non-believers are like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris (who would probably dismiss our interest in theology and philosophy of religion), and we are still interested in the “Emergent Conversation.”
So in the manner of being proactive I hereby offer up this Skeptimergent Challenge:
PROGRESSIVE BELIEVERS OF ALL STRIPES: Befriend one new non-believer on Facebook and see where you two have common ground.
NON-BELIEVERS OF ALL STRIPES: Befriend one new progressive believer on Facebook and see where you two have common ground.
For non-believers I suggest looking at the Progressive Christian Alliance on Facebook. Please share your discussions and encounters with us. I will share some of them on my next post. If you need help finding someone, let the Skeptimergent gang know, and we will sort you out. In the spirit of congeniality, let us unite!