Religion

Bridging Faiths

Gustav Niebuhr's search for interfaith understanding in America

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The thesis of Gustav Niebuhr's book could fit on an index card: In order to build a more peaceful world, humans need to move beyond mere tolerance of one another's differences and engage in direct, open-minded acts of interfaith dialogue and understanding. Extending that simple insight over 218 pages is challenge enough. But doing so without lapsing into either ecumenical banality or religious favoritism proves too daunting a task, even for a writer of Niebuhr's talents.

A former religion reporter for the New York Times and The Washington Post, now an associate professor of religion and media at Syracuse University, Niebuhr experienced something of a slow-motion revelation a few months after Sept. 11. Sent to cover what he and many others feared might become a wave of "backlash attacks" against Muslims and brown-skinned people, he slowly realized that something closer to the opposite was taking place.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.

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  1. A local paper recently ran a headline “A Bridge Between Faiths,” then proceded to tell how an Episcopal minister had spoken to a Lutheran congregation.
    Because nothing says polar opposites like those two…

  2. Religion takes root in a fertile ground of naivete, ignorance, fear, and loneliness.

    Please don’t encourage this dysfunctional time and energy sink.

    Please don’t offer “respect” to a mode of thinking that is not worthy of it.

    Contribute to responsible secular charities, or at least, refrain from contributing to religious ones, and you’ll be doing your part to starve the various religious infections that are debilitating our society.

  3. Church of the Latter Day Dude
    http://dudespaper.com/

  4. But he has no room in this discussion for another group of people who decry militant fundamentalism: atheists and agnostics… In failing to appreciate the full expression of religious freedom, Niebuhr ignores key participants in the project he so champions.

    Well said. In discussions of belief, those who don’t fit neatly into an established team tend to be marginalized and ignored. I doubt most reviewers would have called attention to that omission.

  5. Contribute to responsible secular charities, or at least, refrain from contributing to religious ones, and you’ll be doing your part to starve the various religious infections that are debilitating our society.

    As many here are aware, I’m an atheist with a grudging tolerance for the religious/superstitious at best.

    That said, could you please direct me to the nearest atheist funded children’s hospital. It seems all of the private sector one’s I encounter are run by Catholics, Jews, and Protestants.

    It’s pretty much the same with the soup
    kitchens and youth sports programs for the poor.

    In advance, thanks for your assistance.

  6. Haven’t read it yet, but I support tolerance of everyone.

    Except for those damn scientologists.

  7. please direct me to the nearest atheist funded children’s hospital … soup
    kitchens and youth sports programs for the poor

    Here ya go. (It’s the whole thing – all in one.) ;-]

  8. anarch,

    Thanks for the smile.

  9. Religion takes root in a fertile ground of naivete, ignorance, fear, and loneliness.

    You forgot bitter clinginess!

  10. Contribute to responsible secular charities, or at least, refrain from contributing to religious ones, and you’ll be doing your part to starve the various religious infections that are debilitating our society.

    While I reject mysticism, I do not condition my charity or altruism on moral or idealogical purity. We all have faults and can use a little redemption now and then.

    p.s., Merry Christmas

  11. please direct me to the nearest atheist funded children’s hospital

    Scottish Rite and Shriners are both secular organizations with very well-regarded charity hospitals for children. In fact, as Masonic organizations, they have (arguably) anti-religious roots.

  12. “In fact, as Masonic organizations, they have (arguably) anti-religious roots.”

    Last time I checked, atheists were forbidden to become Freemasons. Any theism is allowed, but theism is required.

  13. please direct me to the nearest atheist funded children’s hospital

    Most hospitals are funded at least in part by taxes (both directly and by credits), Children’s hospitals especially so.

    assertion
    Most atheists are left leaning. Most left leaning voters vote for hospital and medical care tax measures.
    /assertion

    Close enough? 🙂

    Of course, expecting a tiny minority of the population who until quite recently were stigmatized and discriminated against (and still are in many states) to have robust social constructs funded on par with the dominant majority is a wee bit unfair.

  14. Stevo: I live with Jennifer.

    I know all about bitter clinginess.

  15. Jennifer is taken? 🙁
    Next you guys will be telling me that Kerry’s off the market too.


  16. That said, could you please direct me to the nearest atheist funded children’s hospital. It seems all of the private sector one’s I encounter are run by Catholics, Jews, and Protestants.

    Kids, eh?

    Here you go.

    …now just spend a few minutes on the phone. It’s not all that difficult, really.


  17. We all have faults and can use a little redemption now and then.

    Yes, well unfortunately, religious thinking isn’t in a position to provide any – just the illusion of same. It’s like giving a hungry person on hallucinogens a picture of some food. It’s just cruel, really.

  18. I’ve talked to people of lots of different faiths about their religious beliefs. I’ve been to their places of worship. I’ve been to Muslim services, Catholic, Protestant. I’ve attended Orthodox services, I’ve spent a lot of time at Jewish temples. I’ve been to Krishna temples. I studied Zoroastrianism with Zoroastrians at UCLA–those people practically invented religious tolerance.

    But I have never in my life met a group of people more intolerant than Atheists–it’s so embarrassing.

  19. Of course, expecting a tiny minority of the population who until quite recently were stigmatized and discriminated against (and still are in many states) to have robust social constructs funded on par with the dominant majority is a wee bit unfair.

    You mean like Catholics in the South? They still manage to set up a few hospitals down there too, though. 🙂

  20. Jeff P: Well, you’re envied by many. Lots of people like sweet-n-sour. 🙂

  21. Ken Shultz: “I have never in my life met a group of people more intolerant than Atheists…”

    Oh, please. Name another group who manages to get along so well in a society where they are so outwardly despised, and all on the basis of a refusal to believe, indulge or be ruled by irrational (and widely disparate) magical claims. Even homosexuals have it better.

    I think we atheists are incredibly tolerant, if only because we have to be; unless, of course, you redefine the word “tolerance” to include pretending to respect superstitious nonsense.

  22. Shine on, Bright star!


  23. But I have never in my life met a group of people more intolerant than Atheists–it’s so embarrassing.

    What is embarassing is people who are so clue-free as to promote the idea that modes of thinking that are actively destructive deserve tolerance.

    Tolerance isn’t a magic brush that makes things ok when they aren’t, you know; tolerance is a “get-along” tool to be used when people aren’t screwing with your life, your political system, your schools, your morals, your ethics, your children and your laws – but still aren’t people you’d choose to emulate.

    People who *do* screw with things on the basis of superstitious nonsense [waves hands at Hindus, Christians and Muslims in no particular order and in a non-exclusive fashion] aren’t people I want to “get along” with. I want them to cease and desist trying to wrap reality with superstition and all the muddled behaviors they think should go along with that.

    Religious people have my tolerance when they keep it to themselves. Really. If they would quit trying to infect everything around them, I’d be perfectly willing to be tolerant of them.

  24. You mean like Catholics in the South?

    Stevo, dude, Louisiana is like 33% Catholic, Texas, 21 percent. What are you smoking?

  25. Incense, of course!

    Actually, I was thinking more of states like the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia. The Southy Southy.

  26. I meant, “the Southy South.”

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