As you probably now, I am now a summer intern with an organization called Foundation Beyond Belief (here's their website: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/). Our mission is:
To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life, and to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility.
We have some really exciting things coming up; including a disaster relief program, affiliate volunteer groups who serve their communities and a contest where any $20 or greater donation in the month of July will enter you to win an iPad2.
If you're thinking about joining (which you should be!) or donating to Foundation Beyond Belief, here is another great link for you: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/whyjoin. This is a link to our "why join" page, and will do a pretty good job of convincing you, let me tell ya ;)
Alright, now that that's out of the way, on to the good stuff. I'm kind of wondering why I started a blog in the first place, given that I am horrible at a) remembering my passwords to the other social media I maintain and b) remembering to post new blogs. If I had more readers I might be a bit concerned that they would feel cheated that my second blog update was all about asking for money, so here's something else:
I recently co-wrote an article with on of my supervisors at Central, Melissa Childs and a friend/colleague, Kelly Patton, who is the current executive director of another great (Des Moines-based) organization, Iowa Refugee Support Project (link here: http://www.compact.org/news/americorps-working-together-to-get-things-done-2/16113/) which has me thinking a lot about service, tolerance and interfaith dialog/connections. As an AmeriCorps member in Central Iowa, essentially every volunteer action I have is an interfaith dialog-- I'm one of the few atheists that I know here, and I'm not sure if I know any who are currently involved in the Iowa Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program with me at Central (I guess I don't technically know the religious leanings of my fellow members, but it is probably safe to assume that they are Christian, given Central's persuasion). Every time I visit my conversation partner through Iowa Refugee Support Project, I participate in an interfaith dialog-- even if I were a Christian (God forbid!) my partner is a Muslim. Sometimes this is awkward, because I can't tell her things about my life that I consider to be very important, for fear of offending her and that kind of thing. Once, she offered me a picture of Jesus, and I said that I wasn't a Christian, so I didn't want it, her face lit up-- an odd reaction, I wonder if it was spurred by the fact that she has experienced quite a few preachy people here in a Iowa, but that is a whole different topic-- but then she asked what I was, and I, thankful that she has a limited knowledge of English and probably wouldn't understand what I meant, mumbled something about being an atheist. When she asked what it was I told a half truth and said that it meant "I didn't believe in a Christian God". And then she launched into a rather lengthy discussion of Islam. And then it hit me, not for the first time and not for the last either, but it hit me: Christians and Muslims are so damn similar. Seriously, I understand they are separate religions with separate teachings, however, a lot of those teachings overlap, a lot of the behavior of their fundamentalist members overlap. Hell, even the behaviors of their less cuckoo bananas members/followers overlap. For instance, moderate to liberal Muslims will tell you that fundamentalist Muslims who happen to be terrorists distort the Qur’an, which, to an extent, they do and moderate to liberal Christians will tell you that fundamentalist Christians who happen to bomb abortion clinics or protest the funerals of soldiers because as we all know by now-- "God Hates F@$s" are distorting the Bible, which, to an extent, they are. They will also be very quick to deny any shortcomings of their religion, and sometimes (I have seen this too often recently) they will deny evolution together. However, there are many people who will still get defensive and angry if you point out these friendly comparisons. How ridiculous is that?? This is where interfaith dialog and service come in. I may dislike pretty much all religious inclinations, but I still have to respect the people who follow them as just that-- people, and I think it is pretty great that religious groups (and non-religious groups) can come together and work through their tiny differences by underlining their vaulted similarities. Yes, there is a danger of proselytizing here, but if you can find a group of truly enlightened people, this shouldn't happen, and there shouldn't be anything wrong with growing and serving side-by-side with people who have different beliefs and value systems.
Those are my rants for today, I promise in the future to keep better track of updating this damn thing.