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Mar 24 2014

“Interpath” — An Alternative to “Interfaith”?

Would the word “interpath” work as an alternative to “interfaith”?

“Interfaith” is the word that commonly gets used to describe people and organizations of different religious affiliations working together and keeping lines of communication open. And a lot of godless people and godless organizations want to take part in this interfaith thing, and indeed already are. A lot of godless folks are willing, and indeed even eager, to open lines of communication with progressive religious groups, and to work with them on issues we have in common (church/ state separation, LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and more).

But a lot of godless folks are not comfortable doing this using the word “interfaith.” We don’t see ourselves as having “faith” — in fact, the idea that atheism is a “faith” just like religion is one of the more common myths and misunderstandings held about us. And the word “interfaith” often gets used against us, in a “damned if we do/ damned if we don’t” way. If religious groups want us to participate in “interfaith” efforts and we push back against the word, saying that it doesn’t really include us and puts us on the margins of an effort that’s supposedly about being inclusive, we get told, “It’s just a word, don’t take it so literally.” But if religious groups don’t want us to participate in “interfaith” efforts, the word gets used against us. “This is about people and organizations of faith — and you yourself say that you don’t have faith.” And unsurprisingly, it’s the religious groups who get to decide whether any given “interfaith” activity should or should not include us.

This has happened more than once. And it’s happened in important situations — most notably, in public and supposedly “interfaith” memorial services. In the supposedly “interfaith” memorial service for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, humanists had no representation — despite extensive attempts from secular groups to be included, and despite the fact that members of the Humanist Community at Harvard were severely injured in the bombing.

For the record, I do think religious groups have the right to have events and communication lines that are dedicated specifically to… well, to religious groups. If people want to get together and talk about how they all believe in the supernatural, and do coalition work with other people who believe in the supernatural — sure. Knock yourself out. But if they’re going to do that, I think they need to spell out that that’s what they’re doing. They shouldn’t get to hide behind the concept that “interfaith is about faith — except when we say it isn’t — so of course no atheists or humanists are allowed. That’s just not what this is about. Unless we say it is.” And if an event does not have a specifically religious focus — such as a public ritual that’s supposed to include all citizens — I think it needs to include non-believers. Not through the side door, and not as a “sure, you can be part of this too, even though the word we’re organizing around specifically excludes you and is even anathema to many of you” afterthought, but fully included.

Very few atheists object to the actual activity of godless people and groups getting involved in interfaith work (although some of us don’t want to take part in it ourselves). But a whole lot of us have real problems with the language — to the point where some atheists don’t want to participate in interfaith stuff, at all, if it’s going to be under that name. Assorted alternatives to the word have been floated, but none have stuck.

So when I was speaking at Boston University last week, and when we were going out to dinner afterwards, I was introduced to a possible alternative that I think has potential to stick:

Interpath.

The word was coined (as far as I know) by Derek Lewis Knox. He had this to say about in in a message to me on Facebook:

For me, the word “interfaith” is no longer acceptable, because it reinforces the privilege of “faith,” and it is not right to expect atheists/non-religious to participate under the label “faith,” as that ignores the real concerns many have about faith as “belief without evidence.” Secondly, “interpath” is more accurate about many world religions (Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, streams of Buddhism and Judaism) that are more like ways of life, and don’t emphasize faith the same way Christianity does. Third, “interpath” reflects that we are polarized not just by religious differences, but by culture, geography, politics, and economic/environmental perspective, and it is important to build understanding across all of these lines.

Thoughts? Do you like it? Would it work? EDIT: If you don’t like it, do you have an alternative word that you think would work better? Or do you just not like the entire idea of working in coalition with religious groups?

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  1. 1
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    “Path” reeks of neopagan/orientalist newage bullshit. No thanks.

  2. 2
    Sastra

    Yes, I like “interpath.” I think it avoids some of the worst baggage associated with the word “faith.”

    One reasonable objection is that it sounds a bit gooey and wooey (“we all travel along our own spiritual paths in the Journey of Life.”) Fortunately, the sort of folks who form and advocate interfaith alliances and activities are usually pretty gooey and wooey anyway. I suspect that the strongest objections to the term will come from people who also strongly object to “interfaith” itself. The trick is to capture the atheists and agnostics who are happy enough with the idea but wince at the implications of the word.

    Well, that’s one trick. The other one is to wean the moderate and liberal religious from their assumption that “faith” is so valuable that any compromise is a “politically correct” but deep insult to their beliefs.

  3. 3
    PZ Myers

    Change one letter. Inderpath.

  4. 4
    aziraphale

    I’m afraid my first reaction was that it has echoes of psychopath, sociopath and other such words. I know it’s a different derivation, and maybe we would get used to it. I agree some such word is needed.

    I don’t have a good alternative. Interway, perhaps?

  5. 5
    A Masked Avenger

    I like “interpath.” Your post is the first I’ve heard of it.

    As an aside, it may reek of “new age BS,” especially given that Taoism and Buddhism both conceive of themselves as a “path,” but I’d like to see this territory invaded by humanists. If you strip out the woo, then the various religions are of course gutted–I understand how annoying it is when California Buddhists present their woo-lite version as “true” Buddhism or something–but what you’re left with is not nothing. It may be as little as the lint in your dryer’s lint trap, but it’s not nothing.

    What’s left is that they’re making some sort of attempt to address not just ethics and interpersonal relations per se, but specifically the question why we often fall short of our aspirations and do shitty things, or act shitty to each other. And if we could make all religion disappear overnight, we’d still be left with that problem.

    It seems to me like we don’t yet have a secular framework for dealing with those issues. We sometimes assume the problem away: once we’ve discarded archaic sexual mores, and commandments that perpetuate privilege, a lot of “sin” disappears. Some of what’s left we can hand-wave away as a police problem. Then toss in a dash of assuming that religion is to blame for causing various kinds of shittiness, and maybe that the rest is an education problem, and we’ve defined human failures out of existence. Recent experience demonstrates how false that is, though: we’ve seen all manner of shittiness from Shermer to Elevatorgate (damn–couldn’t find an S to finish the alliteration).

    Therapy exists, but it doesn’t fill the same role. Therapy comes into play only when there’s a crisis, and is generally discontinued when the crisis is resolved. Per my own therapist, it’s a relatively new concept that therapy is worth paying for even after the crisis ends, to consolidate progress against simply repeating the cycle of crises. It’s still not seen as a way for well people to increase their happiness or improve as people.

    Unless there’s something out there that I’m unaware of, which is more than possible, it seems like we haven’t yet come up with a systematic secular approach to becoming less shitty, and working through the consequences of past shittiness. If we did, I’d expect it to include elements of group support, and some sort of framework or model for addressing shittiness. It would have a self-helpy aspect, a therapeutic aspect, and a social aspect. Woosters would crow that we were inventing a “secular religion for atheists,” of course.

    But, to wrestle this flaming burnout of a post back onto topic, I sort of envision that this thing, if we ever come up with it, will be conceptualized as a path. You know–the sort of thing that has a goal, involves slow and steady progress, and has its share of setbacks and rough patches.

  6. 6
    David Hart

    Or ‘interethos’?

  7. 7
    cartesiandaemon

    It seems many inter-faith events could better be described as inter-cultural, but for that which is specifically about following a belief system, inter-path is an interesting — I rather like it, but I acknowledge the potential downsides.

  8. 8
    ShowMetheData

    Multi-viewpoint?

  9. 9
    Greta Christina

    dysomniak @ #1 and PZ Myers @ #3: If you don’t like the word “interpath,” do you have an alternative word that you think would work better? Or do you just not like the entire idea of working in coalition with religious groups?

  10. 10
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    How about “charity”? Why bring religion into it at all?

  11. 11
    ludicrous

    I like it. Yeah one of the connotations of “path” is a bit wooey but, not nearly as wooey as “faith”, so it’s an improvement, as in don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.

  12. 12
    Greta Christina

    How about “charity”? Why bring religion into it at all?

    dysomniak @ #10: “Charity” is not a synonym for “interfaith.” “Interfaith” is a somewhat specific thing. It refers to people and groups of different affiliations working together: in some cases to do charity work, in other cases to to other kinds of activities (such as political work, social justice work, or memorial services); in other cases simply to foster mutual understanding and keep lines of communication open. “Charity” and “interfaith” are overlapping Venn diagrams.

    As for “why bring religion into it at all”: Religion exists. Like it or not, it exists. There’s a whole lot of hostility between people and groups of different religious affiliations, and some people think that’s worth working against. Also, a whole lot of social and political organization is done through religion. And a whole lot of that is done under the word “interfaith.” While that’s true, many people think it makes sense for humanists to get in on the action: partly because they see the work as worth doing: partly to overturn negative ideas about atheists and humanists; and partly because they think it will spread the word about atheism and humanism and draw more people into it.

    So again, I ask: Do you have an alternative word for “interfaith” that you think would work better? Or do you just not like the entire idea of any atheists and humanists working in coalition with religious groups?

  13. 13
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    I’m sorry you don’t like my answer, but I don’t really think your pedantry affects my point. If an “interfaith” group is engaged in worthwhile work, then call it what it is. If it’s just a mutual admiration society for god botherers then why would any atheist want to bother?

  14. 14
    jd142

    Community Coalition – I’m iffy because of recent uses of coalition that are anything but benevolent

    Caring Community or Compassionate Community – I know not all events may have a caring/compassion aspect, but it emphasizes that you don’t need a god to give a good god damn about other people. Could also be Community Caring or Community Compassion. A little too cloying perhaps?

    Community Partners – loses the alliteration, but sounds like it could also include local businesses and other little groups like Kiwanis, Elks, VFW, or the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes. A little too business-like?

    I was going to use Fellowship, but that has specific religious connotations as well. Normally it wouldn’t matter if you were starting a group from scratch, but since it’s coming from a religious background it thought the better of it.

    The advantages of these suggestions are that they are groups that sound like groups that already exist or should exist. Interpath reminds me too much of the way Brights was introduced and quickly abandoned(for good reason).

  15. 15
    Wendy Webber

    I use the term interbelief. We are all believers. We just believe in different things. http://interbelief.com/interbelief/

  16. 16
    Greta Christina

    If an “interfaith” group is engaged in worthwhile work, then call it what it is.

    This entire post is an answer to this question. If an “interfaith” coalition is engaged in worthwhile work, many humanists and humanist groups want to work with them — but the word “interfaith” is a stumbling block. At best, it’s not “calling it what it is,” since humanism is not a faith. At worst, it’s a marginalizing term that gets used against atheists and humanists.

    If it’s just a mutual admiration society for god botherers then why would any atheist want to bother?

    Based on your tone, it sounds like you think the entire idea of atheists and humanists engaging with “interfaith” coalitions is a waste of time. If so, please say so, and I’ll know how to proceed.

  17. 17
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    I think I was pretty clear. It depends on what the specific group does. Why so insistent on a blanket answer?

  18. 18
    Greta Christina

    Why so insistent on a blanket answer?

    dysomniak @ #17 :Because “interfaith” is a word/ concept/ structure that already exists, and is already recognized, and that has some use. Are you arguing that it shouldn’t? Are you arguing that there should be no word/ concept/ structure for people and groups of different religious affiliations — including the religious affiliation “none” — working together for a wide assortment of activities?

  19. 19
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    I suppose I don’t see a use for a blanket term for that, no. Like I said, whatever your group does, call it that. But by your own definition “Interfaith” is so broad that it tells me nothing and replacing it with some new age euphemism isn’t going to fix that.

  20. 20
    Morgan

    It sounds technical to me. Maybe it’s because I work with computers, but I think “path” as in “pathname” and it sounds like a standard for operating system compatibility or something. Maybe it’s just the vowel sounds making it resemble INTERCAL.

    “Interethos”, as suggested by David Hart above, sounds better to me. Although if I had to type it repeatedly, it might start to look like a fantasy deity’s name…

  21. 21
    Morgan

    I missed Wendy Webber’s suggestion of “interbelief”. That’s good too, a little less odd-looking than “interethos”. It may be a little too close to “interfaith”, though, and subject to the same problems – “is non-belief covered under ‘interbelief’?”, etc.

  22. 22
    Cornelioid

    Back in 2011 Ed Clint began campaigning for the alternative term “transfaith”, for more or less the same reasons, though it doesn’t seem to have caught on outside his student group. The idea was that the prefix “trans-” can connote both “spanning the range of” (for traditional interfaith participants) and “beyond” (for the faithless). I liked it at the time, partly, and, i admit, arrogantly, because it lends itself to a further connotation: “above”. I haven’t heard anyone complain on that basis, but it does seem like it would be less appealing than “interfaith”—or “interpath”—to the faithful. So, if someone asks, i’ll now suggest “interpath”.

  23. 23
    cuervocuero

    Perhaps too nerdy for my own good but Interpath almost sounds like someone who has the psychic power to translate things.

    Is intersectionality inapplicable? I have always liked the idea of the crossroads/meet you at the intersection imagery.

  24. 24
    Rieux

    Yeah, count me as a non-fan of “interpath.” I don’t agree with much else that zie has posted here, but I concur with dysomniak’s original comment that it has irritating newage overtones. (If not Peruvian Communist ones.)

    Ed Clint’s “transfaith” is indeed a relevant and interesting citation in this context. Like (if I remember correctly) PZ in that episode, I think the problem with “transfaith” is that it changed the wrong part of “interfaith”; the problem with the latter is the root word, not the prefix. Whoever came up with “interpath” may well have recognized that.

    I believe someone in one of the several comment threads, back then, discussing “transfaith” suggested “interaction” as an alternative. (I suppose it could also be “InterAction” if that doesn’t look too silly-tech-ish.) If a single banner word is necessary, I guess I like the sound of that one.

    One other good news/bad news point is that if an “interaction” effort/program/entity/whatever exists in the same space as an “interfaith” one, the term “interaction” arguably carries a negative implication about the value of faith—which is music to my ears, but presumably wouldn’t be to believers’.

  25. 25
    Rieux

    To stump a little more directly for “interaction”: first, obviously that word is literally descriptive of what program participants (nonbelievers and believers in differing religious systems) are doing with one another. But second, it removes emphasis from what (according to me) shouldn’t matter in inter-whatever efforts—what we believe—and places that emphasis on what should—what we do.

    In less wordy terms: what’s going on the group in question is interaction, and it’s action. That’s a far superior posture (from the perspective of what these groups purport to be about) than is anything about faith, belief, ethos, etc…. right?

  26. 26
    Kevin Kehres

    The problem with made-up words is that when they come from different derivations the kludged together word can seem clunky at best.

    Inter is … what… Latin. Path seems to be Olde English.

    Just mashing the two together like it’s a scene from Pitch Perfect doesn’t quite make it. Interpath takes my etymological ear toward “sociopath” and “psychopath”. Plus…quite honestly, atheism isn’t really a “path”, is it? I’ve never made a decision in my life about a “path” that had anything to do with my lack of belief in gods — except to not attend church on Sunday. Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite enough to call atheism a “path”, or a “way”.

    What’s the Latin for path? … does a little Google-fu … semita. Intersemita…no. Probably get confused with anti-Semite. Can’t have that.

    So I got nothing. Interfaithandnofaith if you’re going to do a word mash-up. Might as well be clear as a bell. Though I suppose interbelief might be inclusive enough of “no belief” to be useful, though some will probably disagree.

  27. 27
    aziraphale

    Latin “via” can mean path, way or road. So how about “intervia”?

  28. 28
    Greta Christina

    I suppose I don’t see a use for a blanket term for that, no.

    dysomniak @ #19: That’s what I figured. In that case: That could be an interesting and valuable conversation — but it’s not this conversation.

  29. 29
    Greta Christina

    Rieux: I like “interaction,” except for the part where it already means something else. That isn’t necessarily an insurmountable obstacle, words can mean two things or even more, but it might make it tougher sledding for a neologism. (Ditto with “intersectionality,” cuervocuero — it already means something else.)

    Kevin Kehres @ #26: Oh, piffle. We use words composed of roots from different languages all the time.

    Whether it sounds awkward to our ears or not: That’s obviously a subjective question that will vary from person to person. I will say that neologisms often do sound awkward at first, and then sound fine once we’re used to them. But then again, the ones that sound too awkward to too many people are the ones that don’t take hold.

    I do see the objection to the New Ageyness of “path.” It’s too bad — I see no reason why we should cede the idea of “choosing a direction and pursuing it” to the woo-meisters. (As for Kevin Kehres @ #26, atheism per se may not be a path, but humanism certainly is.) But if too many non-believers find the word ooky, it won’t take hold.

    I don’t have any particular attachment to “interpath,” btw. I just have an attachment to finding some other word for “interfaith” that doesn’t use the word “faith.”

  30. 30
    Alex Gabriel

    InterView?

  31. 31
    A Masked Avenger

    Dysomniak wonders why the blanket term. As a recovered (recovering?) fundie, I can comment that to religious people, “interfaith” specifically connotes cooperation with people you disagree with, because the thing you’re cooperating on is common ground between you. That’s why fundies hate interfaith activities: it means cooperating respectfully with hell-bound unbelievers (in your particular brand of salvation), and the very insinuation that one has common ground with such Satan-spawn is intolerable.

    So what Greta is looking for is a word that captures this, but more inclusively. That not only different believers, but non-believers as well, have this common ground and are willing to cooperate respectfully despite our differences. It’s almost “diversity,” but with the extra element of working for some common goal.

    It’s nothing to do with mutual admiration between woo-meisters. The opposite: it explicitly acknowledges differences. You’re thinking something closer to ecumenism–some sort of assertion that we’re all following different paths to the same god. That’s not interfaith, even though ecumenists would of course embrace interfaith activities.

  32. 32
    Rieux

    Rieux: I like “interaction,” except for the part where it already means something else.

    Sure. That’s the main reason I suggested a possible mid-word capital “A” (that, and the hopes of appealing to KidsTheseDays with their SmartPhones and their EMails and GetOffMyLawn).

    Certainly making “interaction” (or “InterAction”) work in the way I’m suggesting would require some concerted effort in visibility/P.R. But that’s true for any of these neologisms, right? “Interfaith” has a fair level of name recognition at the moment, but none of these other suggestions do. It’ll take meaningful work to achieve liftoff for any of these.

    And I guess one upside to “interaction” I’d assert is that, though it does formally “mean something else,” what it means isn’t actually all that “else.” Interaction-a-la-Rieux* is really just a contextually specific kind of interaction-as-ordinarily-defined.

    (* Again, this wasn’t actually my idea, though I think I’m pushing it harder here than anyone ever has.)

  33. 33
    Rieux

    Aw, crap. The end-italics tag was supposed to go after “all that.” Must’ve mistyped it; sorry.

  34. 34
    Lea

    I don’t like “interpath”. I’m not sure I would like anything else starting with “inter” either. I like jd142′s suggestion of “Community” (#14). Alternatively: Cooperative, Collaborative, Inclusive.

    It’s better to transcend the whole concept of “interfaith” because that concept keeps the focus on what divides us, when the reason for the event is to come together as a community. [cue inspirational background music]
    A Community charity event, a Community memorial service. We, in spite of our differences, are coming together with a common goal to do this thing.

  35. 35
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    I rather like the idea or concept of it being a crossroads of sorts. “Interpath”, though nice, just doesn’t roll off the tongue — a meeting place, a place where travellers of all kinds come together, like an inn or tavern. Crossroads… Crossroads Committee? Convention? Council?

  36. 36
    cuervocuero

    Keeping with ‘inter’ and adding to the theme.

    interempathy
    interethics (which is apparently a thing already)
    intercommunities

    Or veering off from that, what’s ‘shared ground’ or ‘shared thought’ or ‘shared ideas’ or ‘shared acts’ in latin or greek? (or is that too nerdy?)

  37. 37
    doublereed

    Personally, I would just push for interfaith to become more degraded and nonliteral. I mean I think it’s fine to take it nonliterally as long as everyone understands that. Or even say that interfaith also means between different amounts of faith (so not just a spectrum of religions but also a spectrum of religiosity).

    But I generally don’t like rebranding for such pedantic reasons. If you insist, I like both interpath and interbelief.

  38. 38
    Andrew T.

    “Intercommunity” might work. Might be a little too vague for the purposes at hand, though.
    “Inter-idea” sounds clumsy; though it’s accurate. “Inter-view” makes me chuckle.

    As a side note, “interfaith” rankles my nerves. It’s always had a stench of “disparate theists uniting against atheism” to me.

  39. 39
    John Horstman

    I like “secular”: this describes the practice of people of different faiths coming together to engage in activity to a specific end. I’m unclear on why we need “interfaith” operations in the first place. If religion isn’t important, then make the effort secular; if it is, then atheists are definitionally excluded. I’m unsure how you would make an event that is explicitly “interfaith” – in my understanding, openly attempting to reconcile differences between various faiths – work for atheists, as we reject gods, and that rejection is irreconcilable with a god-centered worldview.

  40. 40
    John Horstman

    Or, to put it another way, in all cases I’ve seen where “interfaith” events/projects can include atheists, “secular” is an appropriate label for the event/project, and the use of “interfaith” is simply an attempt to reinforce religious privilege. In cases where “interfaith” is not being used to describe something that could just as well be called “secular”, it’s always something that’s intrinsically exclusionary to atheists (e.g memorials focused on “non-sectarian” prayers). My experience is limited to me, of course – it’s entirely possible my own understanding of how “interfaith” is frequently used is WAY off.

  41. 41
    Rieux

    I think you’re right about the use of “interfaith,” John—but I think you’re failing to recognize the (almost mirror-image) concerns that a very large proportion of religious believers and religious organizations would have with calling umbrella groups/efforts/programs/whatever that they participate in “secular.” That word, for better or for worse, has fairly clear atheistic overtones (witness the Secular Student Alliance, Secular Coalition for America, and the like); if I were a conventionally religious person, I’d be extremely uncomfortable with my religious group participating in any effort in which “secular” was a prominent adjective.

  42. 42
    Greta Christina

    John Horstman @ #39 and #40: I think Rieux @ #41 is right. “Secular,” to a great extent, has come to mean, has come to mean “atheist.” And even when it doesn’t, it definitely means “without religion.” A secular memorial service would not be the same thing, or even a similar thing, as an interfaith one. An interfaith memorial service would have religious expression from many different religions– and ideally, from a humanist perspective as well. A secular memorial service would not.

  43. 43
    Al Dente

    The first thing that came to my mind for interpath was the Shining Path Maoist guerrillas. Then I had a mental picture of the Appalachian Trail being the interstatepath. When interpath leads me to silliness then I’m definitely against it for a serious endeavor.

    I never cared for interfaith because I don’t have faith, at least not as the religious consider it. I don’t see interbelief as any improvement over interfaith.

    I could live with interaction. InterAction might be better.

  44. 44
    allencdexter

    I do wedding ceremonies which have nothing religious in them unless the bride and groom put it in and then I just read what they write, but if it were too extreme for me to conscientiously do so, I’d simply decline to do the ceremony. I can’t remember the last time anything like that happened. I describe my ceremonies as “faith neutral” and people are usually very impressed with them and don’t seem to notice or mind the absence of faith based nonsense.

  45. 45
    John Morales

    From Derek Lewis Knox’s quotation:

    Secondly, “interpath” is more accurate about many world religions (Taoism, Confucianism, Jainism, streams of Buddhism and Judaism) that are more like ways of life, and don’t emphasize faith the same way Christianity does.

    Yes, it’s accurate about that, and that’s the problem; it’s redolent of religiosity and of its tolerance.

    If I were to choose a word, it would be ‘pragmatic’ — after all, it essentially refers to a collaboration with the enemy of one’s enemy.

  46. 46
    Pierce R. Butler

    jd142 @ # 14 has what strikes me as an optimal approach, but apparently nobody else here thinks so.

    Why not (yes, I know it already gets abused a lot, but still) build on the word “community”?

  47. 47
    dalehusband

    Considering that the Unitarian Universalist Association is a religious organization that also welcomes atheist and agnostics, I have no objection to the term “interfaith” being used for events that includes non-theist groups. Atheists who have a problem with that are being more intolerant that most of the religious people who take part in the interfaith events.

    http://www.uua.org/beliefs/welcome/atheism/index.shtml

    People with atheist and agnostic beliefs are welcome in Unitarian Universalism and find a supportive community in our congregations. Although both groups are often defined by what they do not believe, agnostics and atheists can be at home in Unitarian Universalism because of what we do believe. Rev. Dr. William F. Schulz, human rights activist and President-CEO of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Service Committee, writes of these beliefs we share:

    We believe that human beings are responsible for the future; that history is in our hands, not those of an angry God or inexorable fate.

    We believe that life’s blessings are available to everyone, not just those who can recite a certain catechism,

    And we believe that those blessings are made manifest to us not just in the “miraculous” or extraordinary but in the simple pleasures of the everyday.

    Since the early 20th century, Humanism has been an influential part of our continually evolving religious tradition. Many Unitarian Universalists who are atheist or agnostic also identify as Humanist.

    As a non-creedal faith, Unitarian Universalism honors the differing spiritual paths we each travel. Our congregations are places where we celebrate, support, and challenge one another as we continue on these journeys.

    Some of you atheist bigots may now throw stones at me; I could not care less.

  48. 48
    gbjames

    Ugh.

    What is the purpose of the group that needs this label?

    Name the group according to the purpose, not according to the membership. “Civil Rights Coalition”, “Committee to Feed Hungry People”, etc.

    If the only purpose is for people to talk across religiously-defined boundaries, call it “People who get together and Ignore Religious Boundaries” or something.

  49. 49
    Greta Christina

    Atheists who have a problem with that are being more intolerant that most of the religious people who take part in the interfaith events… Some of you atheist bigots may now throw stones at me; I could not care less.

    dalehusband @ #47: ????? Because some atheists don’t want our atheism or humanism referred to as a “faith” — and because the word “interfaith” has frequently been used an an excuse to exclude us — that makes us intolerant bigots? And how are the Unitarian Universalists relevant to this discussion?

  50. 50
    Greta Christina

    If the only purpose is for people to talk across religiously-defined boundaries, call it “People who get together and Ignore Religious Boundaries” or something.

    gbjames @ #48: Well, that’s not the only purpose. The purpose is for people, and already existing groups, to talk and organize across religiously-defined boundaries. But yes, “People and Groups Who Get Together Across Religious Boundaries” is more or less what we’re trying to find a term for. That’s too long, though. We’re trying to find a single word. Not too long or clumsy of a word, ideally — three or four syllables would be my goal — but I’ll personally let that go if the word is accurate, inclusive, and takes hold. After all, LGBT is awkward as hell, but it works, and people use it.

  51. 51
    gbjames

    That’s why I advocate naming it based on purpose. I’m assuming there is some purpose or goal for these meetings. Use the purpose to provide the name. “InterFaith” is considered to be inclusive, but it isn’t. Something more inclusive is meaningless, IMO, since it doesn’t exclude anyone. You might as well call it “People Group”. Fine, I suppose, but what’s the point?

  52. 52
    Greta Christina

    That’s why I advocate naming it based on purpose. I’m assuming there is some purpose or goal for these meetings. Use the purpose to provide the name.

    gbjames @ #51: The purpose is different depending on the event. There are interfaith memorial services, conference panels, political action coalitions, bowling leagues, etc. It is useful, for all these things, to have a simple adjective saying “This is an event at which people and organizations of different religious affiliations are working together.”

  53. 53
    gbjames

    OK. So why not call them things like “Memorial for Fred Jones”, “The WooHoo Bowling League”, “Support Mary Littlelamb for Congress”, and “The Niceville Civic Support Council”? Why does religion need to enter into it? These activities have nothing to do with religion, presumably.

  54. 54
    Greta Christina

    gbjames @ #53: It sounds like you’re opposed to the very idea of having a word that specifically says, “This is an event at which people and groups of different religious affiliations are working together. So I’ll say what I said to dysomniak @ #28: That could be an interesting and valuable conversation — but it’s not this conversation. This is a discussion for people who are okay with the basic concept of “interfaith,” and are just trying to find a better word that includes atheists and humanists. If you want to debate whether an equivalent for the word “interfaith” should even exist, this is not the place for that debate. Thanks.

  55. 55
    gbjames

    Sorry. I hadn’t realized I was violating the roolz. Usually when you have a restriction like that you put it at the bottom of the post. This one specifically invited comment from people who didn’t think working with religions people at all was a good thing. So I thought it was more open-ended.

  56. 56
    Greta Christina

    Sorry. I hadn’t realized I was violating the roolz. Usually when you have a restriction like that you put it at the bottom of the post. This one specifically invited comment from people who didn’t think working with religions people at all was a good thing. So I thought it was more open-ended.

    gbjames @ #55: You’re right — I should have been clearer. I don’t have a problem with people saying “I object to the whole idea of interfaith” in this thread. What I do have a problem with is people who object to the whole idea of interfaith nevertheless getting into the discussion of what it should be called, and without clearly saying up front that they object to the whole idea in the first place.

  57. 57
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    If the point of coming up with a new name is to attract people who aren’t currently turned off, it seems like listening to what they have to say and engaging with them might be a good idea. But if you just want to have a private debate among those who are already in the club then by all means, proceed..

  58. 58
    Jeff

    Ick ick ick. “Interpath” seems to imply destination, which implies teleology, which is antithetical to a naturalist worldview. It’s also very new-age sounding.

    How about interweltanschauung?

    (Okay, so that’s not actually a serious suggestion. Too bad “Interview” is already a word.)

  59. 59
    Greta Christina

    If the point of coming up with a new name is to attract people who aren’t currently turned off, it seems like listening to what they have to say and engaging with them might be a good idea.

    dysomniak @ #57: I’m not opposed to a debate between atheists who think “interfaith” is a good idea and people who don’t. It’s just not this conversation. If someone is adamantly opposed to the entire idea of what is currently referred to as “interfaith,” it seems unlikely that a name change will change their minds. That would have to be a more substantial conversation — and while that might well be a valuable conversation, it is not this one. The point of this conversation is to try to brainstorm among people who do think “interfaith” is a good idea, but have problems with the word (or who don’t personally have problems with the word, but recognize that other people do).

    I should have been clearer about that from the outset. My apologies.

  60. 60
    gbjames

    At the risk of crossing a line, Greta, I think you miss my point. I have no problem with working with religious people on shared goals. Nothing is more admirable. My objection is to anything that recognizes special status for faith-based entities when this happens. And I can’t help but think that names like “interpath” are patently obvious attempts to avoid the obvious. Anything that sounds like a variation of “interfaith” will be doomed to ridicule as “PC” or hyper-accomodating silliness because once you broaden “faith groups” by adding “non-believers” you end up with everybody. So the qualifier becomes meaningless.

    I make one exception for my principle of “call it by what it does”. If “what it does” is intended to be a conversation about religion between people of many faiths and none, then that’s different. Call it a Meeting of Believers and Non-Believers To Talk About Religion.

    Apologies if I have violated a rule.

  61. 61
    Lea

    If this new term is required to convey the idea that people of different faiths (or no faith) are coming together, then you are still just defining people in terms of faith or religion. You can’t just invent some new term to convey that same idea unless you want to also convey the idea that atheists are just followers of another faith/belief/religion, and that is what I think is rankling some of us.

    That’s the reason I said earlier (#34) that I liked the suggestion of “Community” or something similar, something that does not refer to faith, belief, religion, or “path”. The term should NOT define us in terms of faith or religion. Another post (#44) mentioned “faith neutral”, which is probably the best that can be done if defining people in terms of faith is insisted upon.

  62. 62
    Lea

    Oh, it looks like while I was composing my post, others were posting basically the same idea, and it is not considered on-topic. Sorry about that.

  63. 63
    malta

    I realize I’m a little late to the discussion, but I wanted to add my two cents. I don’t like Interpath because I don’t really identify as having a “path”, so it turns me off as much as Interfaith.

    I think a good word to use would be Nonsectarian. I realize “sect” often means a smaller part of a bigger religious group, but I think the meaning of nonsectarian has broadened to include multiple groups coming together for something they can agree on. And I’m happy to identify as someone who isn’t a member of a particular sect :)

  64. 64
    dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!"

    For the record, this grouch likes “nonsectarian” and the various “community” variants.

  65. 65
    triple3a

    CoCoPro?

    Combined Communities Project

    It avoids CCP, which could refer to the Chinese Communist Party, and has a nice, informal tone, with repeating long “o” vowel sounds.

    He shoots, he scores!

  66. 66
    Frank Burton

    On the advice of our society for “pluralistic rationalism” (plurationalists are theists, atheists, conservatives and liberals who share only the belief in publicly committing to more consistently practice everyday reasoning regardless of our worldviews, and who in Minneapolis/St. Paul have been sponsoring reasoning “transbelief” dialogues between groups with disparate worldviews since 2009), the St. Paul Interfaith Network’s (SPIN’s) dialogue group, “Interfaith Conversation Cafe,” will be voting next week to concretize its +1 year of welcoming members of the atheist and humanist secular communities to join its interfaith dialogue, by broadening its name to “Interbelief Conversation Cafe.”

    Interfaith Conversation Cafe hopes that by changing its name to Interbelief Conversation Cafe, it will begin to institutionally welcome those whose moral, cultural, & political beliefs aren’t accompanied by religious faith.

    We believe ICC’s vote will make it the first former “interfaith” group in the nation to change its name to “interbelief,” and hence the first to take this important step toward inclusiveness.

    Having been a child in a small Mississippi town during the civil rights era, I’ve seen the power to exclude and shame of a lone word: “White.” As a adult, I’m now able to argue (one hopes cogently) that a lone word, even one coined to convey intended nobility of purpose, can still harm and shame those it implicitly excludes.

    Dr. Frank H. Burton, Executive Director
    The Circle of Reason

  1. 67
    The Reading List, 3/30/2014 » Almost Diamonds

    […] “Interpath” — An Alternative to “Interfaith”?–”And the word ‘interfaith’ often gets used against us, in a ‘damned if we do/ damned if we don’t’ way.” […]

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