Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

Cuz We Gotta Have Faith!

Filed By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz | June 29, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: faith and racial justice, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., religion

I am a secular Jew who was lisa-poster.jpegraised by a Jewish father and a Muslim Syrian, Lebanese mother. We were active in our temple and celebrated the high holidays. We were not the most religious family on the block, but we were observant Jews. Faith was something that was not discussed in my childhood household but it was certainly practiced. Growing up in a totally Semitic family meant that I was raised with a big dose of distrust for Christianity.

Over the years many of my personal and political experiences have countered the narrative that all Christianity is bad and that faith is always hurtful to LGBT people and other communities living on the margin of society. As I grew older and came to understand the powerful role faith can play in combating hate, I began to realize that I needed my progressive brothers and sisters of faith by my side. I also began to realize that progressive faith traditions and spiritual practices of all kinds are a powerful connecter of people, communities and issues.

For the LGBT community this is a particularly important point. At the heart of the religious right's agenda is a deep opposition to the way we live, love, build family and community. As we know, the religious right's "theology," which they actively spread, is rooted in the understanding that LGBT people are sinful and that we need to be saved through reparative therapy and religion. Yet the LGBT movement often disregards the voices, expertise, and moral authority progressive faith leaders bring to our political organizing.

In a report written by the Task Force's National Religious Leadership Roundtable entitled "A Time to Build Up: Analysis of the No On Proposition 8 Campaign and its Implications for Future Pro-LGBTQQIA Religious Organizing," it was found that LGBT faith leaders were not included in the pro-LGBT response to challenging the rabid homo/bi/transphobia espoused by the religious right in the No on Prop 8 campaign.The report powerfully states that:

It is naive to believe that rights-based arguments can trump the value-based arguments of conservative religious leaders. It is also naive to ignore the power and influence of moral authority given to religious leaders within communities of faith. The voices of conservative religious leaders must be responded to by the voices of progressive faith leaders whose religious beliefs and traditions allow them to speak to people of faith as moral equals, within the context of their faith traditions and racial/ethnic cultures.

For any LGBT secular political organizer out there trying to organize a campaign or engage in community organizing without the power of progressive faith leaders and institutions, I want you to listen up! Your campaign is doomed to fail if you fail to understand the important role faith plays in secular political organizing. Forge relationships with leaders of faith across communities and faith traditions. Undoubtedly your organizing will be stronger with progressive faith leaders by your side who are committed to a range of social justice issues including immigrant rights, reproductive justice and LGBT issues.

I too have had to interrogate my own assumptions about the role of progressive faith leaders in political organizing and I have come face-to-face with the truth of the matter: faith has historically been one of the critical factors in fueling the strategic direction and momentum of movements for social justice. More importantly, faith traditions of all kinds have anchored communities as they have creatively, courageously and uncompromisingly resisted oppression in all of its insidious forms. As a secular political organizer, it was not easy to come to this understanding until I started to take stock of what I know about the role of faith in social justice movements.

One of the clearest examples of the power of faith in movements for social justice lies in the Civil Rights Movement. The role of the church rooted the struggle for Black liberation in an ethic of love and justice that led to the mass mobilization of millions of African Americans and their allies against generations of racist oppression and slavery. In the following video Dr. Cornel West talks about the relationship between faith, the Civil Rights Movement, democracy and the Black community.

In this moving speech Dr. West states, "The Black Freedom Struggle is the best example of bringing together a quest for unarmed truth and unconditional love in the face of 400 years of terrorism." He goes on to say that rather than creating counter terrorists, the Black Freedom Struggle produced warriors of love and justice such as Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer and Frederick Douglass. Faith is what gave each and every one of these leaders, along with millions of Black folks across the country, the courage and wisdom to struggle from a place of love and nonviolence rooted in their faith tradition.

In April 1963 in his Letter from A Birmingham Jail Dr. King wrote with such searing insight about how faith, love and justice were such a powerful combination that he was labeled an extremist:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God."..."[ So] the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"

Extremists for justice cannot only be found in the Black Freedom Struggle but they can also be found in other faith traditions. Mahatma Gandhi, a spiritual and political leader in the Indian Independence Movement, not only lead the struggle for justice in India using the principles of nonviolence, but he also lived and organized based on the principal that "ever step in liberation must have liberation in it."

Gandhi first employed non-violent civil disobedience during the Indian communities struggle for civil rights in South Africa. In 1915 he returned to India and organized protests with working class and poor people around land-tax and discrimination. In 1921 he rose to leadership in the Indian National Congress and lead nationwide campaigns on a wide range of social justice issues including ending poverty, the independence of India from colonial British rule and expanding women's rights.

In an article written by Fania E. Davis entitled Gandhi's Justice and Restorative Justice Davis articulates how Gandhi's principles as an organizer were rooted in his Hindu faith and she connects his principles of nonviolent civil disobedience to those espoused by Martin Luther King in this way:

What are the philosophical foundations of the Ghandian vision of justice? This do-no-harm approach to justice is rooted in the Hindu principle of ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence, doing no harm to anyone, even and especially not to those you consider enemies. Ghandi equates love with Ahimsa: If you express your love- Ahimsa-in such a manner that it impresses itself indelibly upon your so called enemy, he must return that love. ...And that requires far greater courage than delivering of blows. Like Dr. King's, Ghandi's vision is of a justice grounded in love. You will recall Dr. King's words: ... [J]ustice is really love in application. Justice is love correcting that which would work against love. Standing beside love is always justice. Ghandi's conception of justice as Ahimsa flows from Hinduism's fundamental principle affirming the interidentity and interconnectedness of all beings.

Interdependence of all human beings is a principal that cross cuts many, if not all, faith traditions. It's a principal of justice that is also deeply rooted in two faith traditions that are close to my heart: Judaism and Islam. In the Jewish faith Tzadik means justice. Justice is one of the major tenants of Jewish social, cultural and religious life. Although the Jewish diaspora's history around movements for social justice is very complicated and cannot be oversimplified, it is true that Jews have been active in all movements for social justice beginning with the Civil Rights Movement through to the current movement to end the occupation of Palestine. Tzadik, meaning a faithful commitment to justice, is what has led many Jews across generations to become "extremists of love" in the face of injustice. As with Judaism, justice and peace are core tenants of Islam and the Quran. In the face of deep and unjust Islamaphobia, Islam has always been a peaceful faith grounded in justice and community. Islamaphobia is what has created the mythology that Islam is not a peace loving and justice religion, not the principles of the religion itself. Muslims for Progressive Values, an organization dedicated to organizing Muslims across a wide range of social justice issues, is an excellent example of the progressive faith-based organizing happening in Muslim communities. Their mission states:

Muslims for Progresive Values (MPV) is an inclusive community rooted in the traditional Qur'anic ideals of human dignity and social justice. We welcome all who are interested in discussing, promoting and working for the implementation of progressive values -- human rights, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state* -- as well as inclusive and tolerant understandings of Islam.

As with all of the faith traditions, Islam is yet another example of how hate can distort the power of faith in our work towards justice. Although all of the faith traditions that I have touched on are not the same, they do shared a common vision of justice and a deep, abiding commitment to the interdependence of all human beings. The voices of progressive faith leaders are grounded in a clear moral imperative as they resist oppression and led millions across the country and across the globe to resist the injustice of their political, social, economic and daily living conditions.

Gandhi and King's legacies underscore the important role that progressive faith leaders and movements can play in lifting the conditions, consciousness and collective resistance strategies of whole communities and nations. Our work as secular political secular organizers is to reach out across faith traditions for those powerful voices of faith. We must create meaningful relationships of solidarity and communication with progressive leaders of faith because they bring to the work incredibly valuable insights, resources and constituencies that can not only make the difference between winning and loosing but they can transform hate into love.

Artwork by Ricardo Levins Morales


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Thank you. In fact, bless you.

Lots of Christians feel confused about how some voices have managed to redefine Christianity as being against people instead of for them.

The temptation is to just wash my hands of them, declaring that I'm a real Christian and they're not... which is, of course, precisely what they say about me. That alone shows that it's the wrong response.

No, I need to acknowledge my spiritual ties to the nasty voices, however much they embarrass me. That embarrassment should goad me to keep struggling to make a change within Christianity. I need to help fix the problem, not disavow it.

Somehow people like me need to become effective voices. We're out here. As you've noticed, we're at work. Yet somehow, division and fear have a near-monopoly over the public voice of Christianity. That's got to end. I don't yet know how.

I don't think it is fair or even accurate to simply suggest that anti-gay beliefs are simply "at the heart of the Religious Right's agenda." It's a religious problem, not simply those crazies on the right.

The NAACP does not formally support LGBT equality because of the "religious objections of its members." The NAACP is NOT part of the Religious Right."

The belief that homosexuality is "wrong, sinful and deviant" is a traditional Christian belief. Not a single Christian denomination has formally renounced that belief.

I appreciate your suggestion to get "leaders" from the "Faith community" to help us, but which ones? The ones that hang a rainbow flag and say they "accept" us or "tolerate" us? Or the ones that formally end the belief (and teaching) that we're "wrong, sinful and deviant?"

Religion has branded homosexuality. Until Christians stop the teaching, people will continue to believe it. Which denominations have actually changed that belief and stopped that teaching? We should work with them.

Andrew

Here's a pretty cool contradiction to yr statement that "not a single Christian denomination" has rejected homophobia.

http://www.ucc.org/news/spongebob-receives.html

The UCC is a legit mainstream Protestant denomination; there are other smaller ones that stand with them, and of course there are the Unitarian Universalists, who really aren't a Christian denomination any more.

I also think it's important not to give the homophobes the satisfaction of believing this stuff is Christian. Jesus clearly knew about same-sex relations, and never said a word about them. He also pardoned the woman caught in adultery, a violation of one of the Ten Commandments and thus by any standard more serious than same-sex sex.

The current upsurge of homophobia is a cultural reaction, much of it based in 50s psychiatric homophobia. It isn't Christian, even though so many Christian churches have bought it.

Lisa -- I think it may be helpful to explore a little more in the spirit of John Boswell why so many Christians have gotten hung up in this thing.

UCC has an optional program called "Open and Affirming," but they have NOT renounced the traditional belief and teaching that homosexuality is "wring, sinful and deviant." Only 7% of UCC's churches have adopted this "statement" that simply "accepts" and "tolerates" LGB (and sometimes T) members. That's a lot different than ending the teaching or formally rejecting the belief.

There isn't a single Christian denomination that has rejected that belief. A few hang up a Rainbow Flag and "welcome" gays and lesbians," but that's more marketing than correcting the problem.

Children are still taught that homosexuality is wrong. During his Father's Day speech, President Obama said that two homosexual men can be "fathers" in the normal sense of the word and it set off a Christian firestorm. (SEE: http://www.blackchristiannews.com/news/2010/06/a-fathers-day-proclamation-by-president-barack-obama.html)

The only institution or organization or profession that has ever taught homosexuality is wrong is religion. That's the source and it continues to be a problem. Christian denominations that simply "welcome" us are not going far enough - they need to reject the belief and stop teaching it.

Thankfully, young people are becoming less religious and therefore the belief that we are wrong doesn't exist in the majority of those under the age of 25.

Renee Thomas | June 29, 2010 6:02 PM

And sadly, so long as a significant percentage of Christendom regards the biblical injunction against Homosexuality as part of the answer to the age old question; "how then shall we (as Christians) live" it will not change.

In too much of this world (for far too much of its history) “love the sinner and hate the sin” invariably and quickly devolves into “hate the sinner.”

Having been raised a Catholic and having converted to Judaism upon becoming an adult, in the main I view Christianity with the skepticism and mistrust conditioned by a close association. “Enlightened” Christians may claim to be different but your numbers are far from significant. A visitor from another world would have no choice but to conclude that viewed across the scope of history, on balance Christianity has not served as a force for good. Much of that is due to its dogma being rooted in the notion of an afterlife. What motivation exists to pursue real and enduring social justice when your faith tradition instructs you that “you’re just passing through” and that your salvation is not based on good works “lest you be tempted to boast.”

The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam “rebuilding the world” seems better suited to the mission of social justice. As goes the famous middrash, “better you should defer greeting the Messiah until you’ve finished planting the sapling” . . . which was after all your original charge.

To Andrew I offer the following site -->
http://whosoever.org/index.shtml

Lisa I couldn't agree more. Condemning those who are spiritual yet mislead in their walk in faith by blindly accepting homosexuality as sin is simply repeating the error they have made. That approach results in a lose/lose situation as evidenced by the many failures we have seen in the quest for true equality in civil and spiritual affairs.

That's a magazine for LGBT Christians," not a Christian denomination that has rejected the belief that we are "wrong, sinful or deviant."

Plus, it's not a question of "Condemning those who are spiritual yet mislead in their walk in faith by blindly accepting homosexuality as sin is simply repeating the error they have made."

They didn't "blindly accept homosexuality as a sin" they were TAUGHT that. Most likely before they could think and reason.

It seems many Christians want to suggest that "some Christians have it wrong" about homosexuality, but they never formally reject the teaching that we are wrong. It would be a miracle (in the Christian sense of the word) if some Christians would do something very Christlike and formally reject the belief and teaching that we are wrong. Pray about that.

There is room in the world for some "new Christians" that make equality part of their beliefs and core values. That takes courage, hanging a rainbow flag and hugging homosexuals on Sundays doesn't.

Christians need to take a stand to help end the continued teaching and resulting belief that we are "wrong." Don't you think Jesus would expect that much of his followers?

Silly boy. Don't you think I knew what the site is? If you would spend some time there you would find links to many Christian churches that reject the teaching that homosexuality is a sin or an abomination. I offered it to you as a starting point in your stated quest for knowledge and information. I can serve you a glass of wine but you have to choose whether to drink it or leave it on the coaster.

Andrew I doubt that you can identify a single civilization where atheism was the predominant philosophy. To deny the validity of the force and power of spirituality in the lives of people and within any society is an ignorant position I would be shocked if you subscribed to. Even to a ditz like me it is apparent that the position taken in the OP has merit.

Yes Andrew I pray often and I include you in them. I pray that the Christ spirit of loving others will take hold in peoples' hearts no matter what "formal" religion they subscribe to. I even pray for those who detest me. Imagine that.

Deena, it is just a Magazine. It isn't a Christian "denomination" that has rejected the belief and teach that homosexuality is "wrong," and that statement (or position) is not even on their website. This is their "mission:"

Whosoever Ministries, Inc. exists to create safe and sacred space for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians by working to build welcoming and inclusive communities of faith both online and in local regions. Understanding that many GLBT people of faith have been spiritually scarred by mainstream church teachings, Whosoever's ministries provide resources to help GLBT people reclaim their faith, rekindle their relationship to God through Christ, and grow in their spiritual relationship to God. Whosoever is dedicated to emboldening GLBT people and their straight allies to work for justice and equality within the church and society at large. Whosoever strives to assure GLBT people that they are included in God's unconditional love and are already justified by their faith and sanctified by grace alone.

Nothing in this magazine's statement rejects the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is "wrong, sinful or deviant." Again, that would take some courage.

Too many "gay-friendly" churches are willing to "welcome" and even "embrace" homosexuals, but they won't reject that part of Christian doctrine that has defined us. Not a single Christian denomination has ever said "homosexuality in NOT wrong, sinful or deviant." Not one. Even gay-friendly superstar church MCC has not.

Why is it so hard to reject that part of Christian doctrine? Certain denominations formally renounced slavery and the Episcopalians actually apologized. Catholics said "the world has changed" and kinda admitted slavery was a bad practice. The Bible supports slavery, religion no longer does. So, there is precedent for Christians to (kinda) change their Doctrine. They need to change the belief that has caused most of our harm and discrimination - otherwise, they still believe it is true. hugs don't make that go away - a formal rejection of that teaching/belief would.

I am not an atheist. I think that takes a "leap of faith," too. I can't prove the existence or non-existence of a God. So, I admit to "not knowing." I understand that nobody else "knows," so it doesn't bother me. Many (religious) people accept a "story" about God and they make it true by using "faith." That's their choice (well, not for the toddlers dragged to church), but it still doesn't make it "true." It is a story. Good story, but still just a story.

If you are curious, there are 23,174 "gay friendly" churches in the US - that's about 0.7% of all churches. But, there isn't a single professed Christian denomination that has renounced the Christian and Biblical teaching that homosexuals are wrong.

I don't want "friendly," I want some Christians to stand up for us and STOP the teaching. Christians defined us, they can apologize and then re-define us - as equal. They owe us that much.

Andrew you keep trying to lecture me on things I already know. I'll admit that I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier but that doesn't mean I need you to interpret a web site for me. I have to head off to Wednesday evening services at my church so I'll address the rest of your concerns later tonight or in the morning.

Bless you.
Deena

Wednesday evening church? I watched "So You Think You Can Dance." I am prepared for questions and/or lecturing.

Andrew I wouldn't aspire to lecturing you. I would like to suggest that you explore some of the pages on that web site including those that reject the "clobber verses". I know I don't need to teach you how to navigate all the pages on a site.

Church services were wonderful tonight. You would have enjoyed the praise music. I doubt the pastor's message on the last 3 chapters of Revelation would have interested you much. It wasn't one of his better lessons in my humble opinion. Did you enjoy your TV show? I have never watched that one. I seldom watch TV. It bores me except for a few shows. The ones I like always seem to get canceled.

Of course I checked out the section on those "clobber verses." This is the theme:

"It is my sincere hope that GLBT Christians and our critics alike will approach this material with open hearts and minds. Not everyone will come away convinced, but I've discovered it takes time to unlearn all the misinterpretations of scripture we've been taught through the years."

It's the same old "interpretation" argument. I don't hear that excuse about slavery, or Blacks or (to a lesser extent) women. Religion changed it's doctrine about slavery. Changed it. They can do the same about homosexuality.

Why can't Christians be more like the Jews/Judaism? There are four separate groups of - Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and Secular (non-religious) and it makes it easier for us to know where they stand regarding LGBT. Orthodox Jews believe we are very wrong. Conservative Jews think we are a little wrong. Reformed Jews don't think we're wrong. Secular Jews embrace their heritage, but think the Bible is wrong (or at least outdated.)

I remain hopeful that a Christian denomination will condemn (not just try to explain away) those "clobber verses." "New Christians" would be progress. Acceptance and hugging isn't enough - formally reject the doctrine that has defined us and is the primary source of all of our harm and discrimination.

I think Revelations is at the very end of the Bible. I never made it that far. Maybe they'll make it into a movie or Broadway show. That would help.

Andrew I know you always like to have the last word. That's OK. You are, of course, wrong about the slavery issue. The Bible was not changed. All the verses that were used to legitimize slavery are still there. The interpretation of those verses is what changed. Imagine that. The Bible will not be changed regarding homosexuality either. Count on it. What will change is the interpretation of those verses which have been used to condemn homosexuals. That has already happened in many churches and a partial list was provided to you up above.

Now Andrew you can continue in denial of fact but I doubt that is the approach an intelligent man such as you will choose.

I wish you all the best in life.

Slavery was rejected along with it's Biblical reference because it was from a different time, a time with "less knowledge." That's why a few denominations simply rejected the whole idea of slavery and ALL Biblical references to it. they didn't make up some magical story about how we've been "misinterpreting it" but how it no longer is acceptable to Christians.

The "interpretation" argument has been going on for Centuries. Just find some Christians that will reject the belief and teaching that we are wrong.

Most Christians no longer support slavery. We're waiting for them to make bigotry unjust, too.

Caught in your error you are now waffling. The churches you seek do exist Andrew. The list has been given to you. Are you going to start attending one or will you simply do a study to be released at some future unspecified date?

The original OP was about the force and power of spirituality in our civilization and how that can move society. Standing outside of churches ranting about how they are wrong is counterproductive. Go inside and show through your love and walk that the love of God for all has not vanished. Hearts and minds change through experience not through stomping and hand cuffing yourself to the fence on the front lawn. Don't you agree?

Haha, I had an image of some "radicals" handcuffing them to the entrance of a "church." Thanks for that.

Minds and hearts are changed by education, experience and courage. I have no quarrel of the promoted benefits of "spirituality" and i understand there are a few churches that "embrace" the LGBT Community.

I asked when is a Christian "denomination" (an organized group, not a non-conforming individual church) going to reject the lie about homosexuality being wrong? Most Jews have. When will some groups of Christians officially or formally reject that belief/teaching? I think that would be a courageous decision and good for their marketing?

There are some Lutherans and some Episcopalians that have created a lot of controversy just "accepting" homosexuals - and sure that's a step, but when will a Christian denomination END that belief? We don't need to be accepted or tolerated - we need to be un-wronged by the same group that wronged us, Christians. I get your point that some of them are not "true" Christians or the poor things can interpret the Bible "right," but can't we find some Christians willing to proudly end the teaching/belief that we are wrong? Please?

Put those questions in your prayers and in your Church. Even put them on poster board and march around the church. Handcuffs, optional.

Stewart T | July 5, 2010 9:39 AM

There is a Christian denomination that accepts and denounces the mainstream teachings on homosexuality. It is the Metropolitan Community Church and it is worldwide.

I wish that was true Stewart, but it hasn't happened yet. MCC has a few articles written about "interpreting the Bible" differently, but they have never formally declared that homosexuality is not "wrong, sinful or deviant."

There are a few pastors that are advocating for a formal statement, but it hasn't happened yet. I think they may end up being the first Christian denomination willing to part with that traditional belief. Maybe it will become a turning point for all Christians.

Growing up in a totally Semitic family meant that I was raised with a big dose of distrust for Christianity.

I hope you'll talk more about this. It's funny. I hear other people talk about how they were taught to distrust Jews or Catholics or whatever, and the idea is entirely foreign to me. My parents were more on the racist scale than the religious bigotry one... What did they teach you?

You know, atheists can be commited to justice and take part in politic justice works as well. We don't 'got to have faith'. I don't, nor do I want it. I especially don't want or need to have a set of religious beliefs to justify my opinions, I take responsibility for my own opinions, political views, etc. 'God loves gays' legitimizes the 'God hates gays' crowd by giving in to their flimsy appeal to authority of a deity.

Also, why don't we discuss people like Frederick Douglas who were explicitly anti-church, oh, yeah, right, because that doesn't fit into our 'religion is the root of all good and atheists are bad' meme.

What we gotta have is a sturdier wall of seperation between church and state so religious fanatics can't force their religious opinions on the rest of us.

cathy I wish no ill will to atheists. Fact is they have never been the prevailing segment in any recorded civilization. You can build the sturdiest wall you want between church and state but that will not separate mankind from God. The point of the OP is the practical acceptance of that reality.

I'm curious, do you believe Christianity is the "prevailing segment" in America in 2010?

You are in fact wrong that no country has ever been majority atheist. In fact, many current nations are, including developed western nations such as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark as well as Japan (here's a study of percentages done in 2005 http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.html). Denying that atheists can and do act as stable members of societies is hateful towards atheists.

"You can build the sturdiest wall you want between church and state but that will not separate mankind from God." As an atheist, I don't belive your god exists. This statement reads as absurd to anyone that does not believe in your deity. "You can build the sturdiest wall you want between church and state but that will not separate mankind from Zeus."

Your argument is also fallacious even if the premise that every society in history was majority theist were true. Every society in history has had murders, it does not follow that we should not try to eliminate murder from society. You have a hidden premise here, that religion is good, which I reject. Being an effective form of social control doesn't make something good, just like the economic productivity of slavery doesn't make it good.

cathy the link you tried to provide is broken. As I said, I hold no ill will towards atheists. The statistics you quote are, however, grossly incorrect. Here is a link that sets out many countries including those you cite. It also contains a rather adequate discussion of the difficulties in measuring actual religious beliefs or lack thereof.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

You might note in particular the discussion of Sweden which follows the chart. One sentence seems to agree with you but the next refutes that position.

Perhaps I stated the essence of the matter in a way that was not sufficiently clear. Let me try to broaden it because I am not denigrating atheists. Let me put it this way...
You can build the sturdiest wall you want between church and state but that will not separate mankind from the beliefs each person holds whether those beliefs are deist or atheist or anything else. The point of the OP is the practical acceptance of that reality and specifically the reality in the United States where even many government established holidays are based in religious beliefs.

Deena, I think you are trying to inflate the number of atheists in Sweden and other countries. Non-religious is not necessarily atheist. Neither is "spiritual." Sweden used to be very religious - Lutheran was the "official" church. As of 2009 70% of the population are "members" of the Lutheran Church (because they are "registered" at birth), but only 2% regularly attend church. About 23% of Sweden are atheists.

Sweden is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the World - the result of very low religious intensity. They simply don't take religion very seriously (a trend around most of the world), but that doesn't make them atheists. Information and access to information (television, internet, etc.) is doing that, not atheists.

Without evidence religious people use "faith" to believe a "story." That's fine. People can choose to do that. Much in the same manner atheist people believe their isn't a God and they also have no evidence.

Mankind continues to evolve and the new majority will eventually become those who admit - honestly - that they don't know, neither do you and that's okay.

Andrew are you claiming psychic abilities when you state what I know or don't know? Most of what you stated is reasonable IMHO until the final clause in your final sentence. I would be remiss if I failed to point out your hypocrisy. Brunch?

Explain the "hypocrisy" in my final sentence or no Brunch.

Oh dear now we are into education? I'm such a ditz at that. To claim that you accurately understand what I know or do not know is a claim of psychic ability. Claiming psychic ability is an assertion that you have paranormal powers and hence that the human experience is one beyond simple blood, guts and carnal existence. I would assume you can see where that claim takes you because you are certainly no dummy. Were you offended by my choice of the word "hypocrisy"? I certainly did not intend offense. How about Outback for Brunch or would you prefer something more upscale?

Deena, we "don't know" with any certainty. None of us do. That isn't psychic or paranormal - it is objective. You "know" because you use "faith." Faith is the ability to believe something you cannot prove. Faith enables your "knowing."

Outback? I don't know. We need an elegant buffet Brunch with lots of "choices."

Andrew I could tell you what I know but you can then believe it or reject it. You, however can not tell me what I know without claiming paranormal capabilities. Let me assure you, however, that my knowledge of God is experiential and has nothing to do with faith if I understand how you are using the term. I have also learned through experience that it is a waste of time engaging is spiritual discussions. The simple fact is that you "know" some things and I "know" some things. I have no need to defend what I know and no compulsion to change what you know. I accept you just as you are. I do, however, think it is fair to point out your over reaching presumption to state what I know.

Now as to Brunch. I am open to any suggestions you might have. If the menu is huge I will probably have difficulty deciding and simply leave it up to you.

I am using the word "know" as being factual.

You are using the word "know" as being convinced.

Spiritual discussions are great. Religious ones are a waste of time.

I will email about Brunch.