May 10th, 2010 | Posted by: Chris Stedman
Only five days remain to submit an entry to our Share Your Secular Story contest! Below, two exclusive statements from some of our collaborators:
Marketing and PR Director, Jettison Quarterly
Jettison Quarterly is an arts and culture magazine who’s mission is to provide a platform for the further development and progress of contemporary culture in Chicago. Though we primarly focus on Visual Arts, Music, and Fashion, it is our overall interest to explore an interdisciplinary practice that encounters all fields. It is our belief that true progress can only come from being informed. This is why we are ecstatic to support and be involved with NonProphet Status’ Share Your Secular Story contest. Jettison is composed of a family with various religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and that is why we think it is important to not only support but also give a voice to all groups. Jettison is optimistic for the future, and the future is NOW.
Writer / Share Your Secular Story Panel of Judges
On my garnering a degree in Religious Studies and my ongoing experience as a writer of religion, I began to see a great void in the literature – where were the examples of true personal narratives about Secular Humanism? There are plenty of anti-religious and counter-religious stories – one simply needs to look at the massive canon of “ex-cult” literature to see that there’s no shortage of one-time converts who are compelled to share their personal truths. However, what are not present in the discussion are religious narratives of the non-religious – secular stories.
Why is it important that secular stories get shared? Part of the real importance of religious narrative is to provide examples of what it means to live out spiritual or moral truths in the world. In this way, the stories serve a didactic purpose – they take abstract moral values and demonstrate them in a way that makes them real. Remember The Book of Virtues? Almost twenty years ago, conservative pundit-slash-former Secretary of Education-slash-Catholic activist William Bennett ripped off the title of the Tao Te Ching to provide a set of stories to orient the moral compass of a new generation. Why was it vastly influential? For all of the right-wing hamfistedness of the anthology, it insisted primarily upon showing and not telling – demonstrating what ethics and morals are, rather than detailing them.
What we’re looking to do with the Share Your Secular Story contest is not to create The Atheist’s Book of Virtues. We’re not even looking to make The Agnostic’s Book of Human Folly. What we are looking to do is to make the world split open. We are looking to give a growing presence in the landscape of spirituality – Secular Humanism – a place within our society’s narrative of virtues. The stories we’re looking for are stories that illustrate Secular Humanism’s heart, yes – but they’re also stories that give Humanism a body, hands to move in society, a face. We’re looking for stories of people exploring a world made meaningful, not by tradition or dogma or mysticism, but by the stark and elegant poignancy of just being human. We’re looking for you to share your secular story.
April 1st, 2010 | Posted by: Chris Stedman
Today we’re thrilled to share with you statements from two high profile folks. Speaking exclusively to NonProphet Status, Eboo Patel and August Brunsman explained why they think our ongoing Share Your Secular Story contest is so necessary as an avenue for secular folks to give voice to their experiences.
Founder / Executive Director
At the Interfaith Youth Core, we are building a world where people live together in equal dignity and mutual loyalty: this world includes people of every religion and no religion at all. It is my firm belief that non-religious communities — Agnostic / Atheist / Humanist / Non-Religious / Non-Theistic / Philosophical / Secular — have important stories to tell, and this story contest provides an important place for these communities to contribute to the world we are building.
We are so lucky to be living at a time when so many people see pluralism as an important value. However, when it comes to religious pluralism many people’s approach is to try to shoehorn everyone into the religion box. About a year ago I was invited to participate in a cable access show about religious diversity in Columbus, OH. One of the other panelists suggested that all of us can be considered religious inasmuch as we all have a source of our highest values. I thanked him for trying to be pluralist, but also explained atheists and other secularists feel excluded by such language and that the city’s efforts at pluralism were falling short if they expected everyone to fit inside of the religion box. By telling our secular stories, we let more people understand that their notion of pluralism isn’t big enough if it doesn’t include people who have a secular source for their values.
Stay tuned to NonProphet Status for more exclusive statements on the significance of sharing secular stories, follow us on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and don’t forget to make your secular story heard with our Share Your Secular Story contest!
Eboo Patel is the Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core. Named one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009 by US News & World Report, he is the author of the award-winning book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (available for purchase in our Amazon store). Eboo is a member of the Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and holds a doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar.
August Brunsman is the Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. The winner of the 2006 Apex Award for Distinguished Service, August is also the Director of Camp Quest Ohio and is a Humanist Celebrant.
Today brings a very exciting announcement regarding the Share Your Secular Story contest that we’ve been biting our tongues all weekend long to keep secret — we are thrilled to announce that we are now partnering with Killing the Buddha! Along with the already announced Jettison Quarterly and Washington Post’s “On Faith,” winning (and perhaps even losing) entries will now also be eligible for publication in KtB.
I’ve long been a fan of KtB. If you’re not familiar with KtB, it’s a highly regarded magazine and website on religion. Their website is full of stellar content and they’re responsible for a couple truly excellent books, “Believer, Beware: First-Person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith” and “Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible,” that make my library (a pile of books that have set up camp in my living room) look a bit fuller. Check them out in our new Amazon link on the right side of the page (if you order through us, a small cut will go to help support NPS’ work). Below is a description pulled from their manifesto:
Killing the Buddha is a religion magazine for people made anxious by churches, people embarrassed to be caught in the “spirituality” section of a bookstore, people both hostile and drawn to talk of God. It is for people who somehow want to be religious, who want to know what it means to know the divine, but for good reasons are not and do not. If the religious have come to own religious discourse it is because they alone have had places where religious language could be spoken and understood. Now there is a forum for the supposedly non-religious to think and talk about what religion is, is not and might be. Killing the Buddha is it.
Sounds right up our alley, eh? Thanks to the folks at KtB – it’s an honor to be working with you. Stay tuned to the site, our twitter, and our Facebook page for more exciting announcements and information on the contest.
On a slightly related note, I’d like to share part of an email we received from an young woman in Arkansas in response to my post last Friday:
It seems that when you’re a secular person, you constantly feel like you’re balled in with Richard Dawkins’ belief system. I don’t think most people want to live that way. Condescension and cynicism are beyond passe but our bad habits of making light of religion, making a mockery of it even, are hard to shake. It’s kind of interesting watching how the most open minded people behave when you bring up the topic of religion at all. I sometimes feel like when people mention Jesus down here that my brain slams shut like a bear trap. I don’t mean to, it’s just a habit. Religion is really something I haven’t questioned or thought about in such a long time. It’s one of the reasons I was leery about writing a story for your contest. There was this feeling of “I am what I am, you are what you are, let’s not mention it”. But after reading your post, I realize how dismissive I’ve been. You made me see how very wrong I’ve been to treat people who hold those beliefs as if they can only be dealt with using a really long pole. It makes me wonder how many encounters I’ve squandered and lessons I’ve dismissed.
Thank you for your important message — it inspired me, and I hope that it will inspire others who read it here.
We’re seeking previously unpublished personal stories written from a secular (Secular Humanist, Atheist, Agnostic, et al.) perspective. The stories of secular people are scattered because we as a people are scattered. Because there is little cohesion among us, our voice is often not loud enough to be heard in the modern religious marketplace. The secular stories that do get broadcast are most often volatile – secular people taking swipes at religious people – and reflect a divisive “us versus them” mentality. What gets told less often are the stories of people, secular and religious alike, living alongside one another peacefully and secular people expressing their own values within a diverse society. We want to hear more of these stories. We want to hear your story.
PRIZES: We are thrilled to offer a wealth of exciting prizes, including a ton of signed gear (DVDs, CDs, and books) from Harvard University Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein, Interfaith Youth Core founder Eboo Patel, filmmaker Ky Dickens and musician Ben Lundquist. On top of that, a couple of the winning selections will be eligible for publication in the Washington Post’s “The Faith Divide” and Jettison Quarterly. Visit the contest page to hear more about our awesome giveaways!
PANEL OF JUDGES: We are also so very enthusiastic about our esteemed panel of judges featuring Dr. William Schulz, former director of Amnesty International USA and 2000 “Humanist of the Year,” academic Dr. Sharon Welch, superstar slam poet Alvin Lau, Interfaith Youth Core’s Mary Ellen Giess, writer Nick Mattos and DJ Erik Roldan. Check out the contest page to learn more about this all-star line up!
You can access the full details of the contest here. Click here to download a PDF of contest details; you can download it as a Word Document here. The submission period opens in one week on March 1, 2010. Spread the word, and don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you may have.