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Interfaith Cooperation & Collaboration

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Many observers of religion in America have reported on the recent rise of the “nones” as well as those who identify themselves as spiritual but not religious. But did you know that more than three in ten (31%) of Americans are neither spiritual nor religious, according to these definitions:

Spiritual = self-reported experiences of being connected to something larger than oneself.
Religious = frequency of religious attendance and the personal importance of religion.

A new PPRI study Searching for Spirituality in the U.S.: A New Look at the Spiritual but Not Religious finds that the relationship between spirituality and religiosity among Americans today is complex, but Americans fall into the following four categories:

  • 29% are both spiritual and religious
  • 18% are spiritual but not religious
  • 22% are not spiritual but religious
  • 31% are neither spiritual nor religious

The majority of 18% of Americans who are “spiritual but not religious” still identify with a specific religious tradition. Only (30%) are “spiritual but not religious” Americans have no formal religious affiliation. Roughly one in five (18%) identify as white mainline Protestant, and an equal number (18%) are Catholic. 10% belong to a non-Christian religious tradition, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, or Judaism. Only 10% are nonwhite Protestants, and five (5%) percent are white evangelical Protestant.

31% of Americans are neither spiritual nor religious. To be clear, this also does not mean that nearly one third or Americans are atheists. While 39% of this group have no religious affiliation, 24% are white, mainline Protestants and 15% identify as Catholics.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that many non-religious individuals may still believe in a supernatural force or deity, and some non-theists may still identify as religious.

Despite the diversity all probably agree on compassion, kindness, caring and fairness.

Religious Pluralism

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University traces how America has become a religiously pluralist society – the most religiously diverse nation in the world. Harvard scholar Diana Eck, who wrote A New Religious America: How a “Christian” Country Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation noted that there are more American Muslims than there are American Episcopalians, Jews, or Presbyterians!

“Pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. Pluralism is based on dialogue.”

Interfaith Cooperation

In a world of interfaith cooperation and collaboration, religious and nonreligious people can live together in equal dignity and mutual loyalty, inspired by their various traditions and convictions to work together for the common good.

Drawing from Diana Eck, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) articulates interfaith cooperation as the active engagement of religious diversity to a constructive end.. Interfaith cooperation has three essential components:

  1. Respect for individual religious or nonreligious identity – Respect for identity means that everyone can bring their full identities to this work. There’s space for people to believe that they are right and others are wrong, and that their beliefs are true and others’ are not. Interfaith cooperation is not syncretistic or relativistic; no one has to concede exclusive truth claims to be part of it – whether you are an Orthodox Jew, a conservative Christian, or an atheist, you are welcome to the table of interfaith cooperation.
  2. Mutually inspiring relationships – Interfaith cooperation builds relationships across religious and nonreligious boundaries, while creating space for real conversations about disagreements and difference and a sense that each person gains from the relationship.
  3. Common action for the common good – Interfaith cooperation is based on the conviction that people of different religious and nonreligious backgrounds have shared values that call them to make the world a better place. By working together on local and global projects based on these shared values, individuals learn to connect to those who are different from them while strengthening their communities.

Oh yes, religion is big business in the United States so it isn’t going away soon.

We need to celebrate our commonality and work toward greater cooperation and collaboration.

An example of interfaith cooperation and collaboration is Shasta County Interfaith Forum’s (SCIF) Thanksgiving Interfaith Service for Sunday, November 19, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Mark Zuckerberg says he’s no longer an atheist and believes “religion is very important.”