I’ve been in an email conversation with Nathan regarding the Secular Cafe and our need to make some changes in what we do, when, etc. Nathan has indicated that a minister that he knows in town has expressed interest in having a public discussion with a panel made up of both religious and non-religious members. The panel would be moderated in some fashion and would be held at the minister’s church rather than in a more secular location like the library. At least this is the plan as I understand it based on feedback from Nathan. I’ve have suggested that I meet with the minister before we go any further so I can better assess what outcome would be expected from this activity and whether it would be consistent with our mission.
My hope is that the minister would not try to turn it into a debate and Nathan is of the same mind. He says the pastor isn’t planning on a debate either. However, it’s not clear what the role of the moderator would be or who would act as the moderator. That is something to be clarified. At this point it sounds like members of the panel might make prepared remarks on some topic that could be very general or rather specific; nothing has been decided or discussed on that as yet. The moderator might then entertain questions from the audience and direct those to who ever seems appropriate on the panel and might also seek to limit the length of comments or replies or make sure that the speaker stays on topic. It would also be necessary to keep audience members from making speeches or preaching rather than being specific.
If this can be organized, it would be a very visible step into the light for GRAF and put us more squarely on the “radar” for the religious community. If it went well, I would hope that we could arrange similar events at other churches and make a stronger case that we can share in goals with the religious community.
Based on my reading of current blogs and viewing recent videos, a shared interest ought to exist in maintaining a secular society and acting to reinforce the separation of church and state. While that may seem in opposition to the religious agenda, it shouldn’t be that way. We need to remember that the separation goal is for the protection of the churches as well as the non-believers. We both have a vested interest in keeping any particular faith from gaining an upper hand in setting government policy or in gaining permission to advance their particular beliefs against those of all the others. I think some churches lose perspective on this as they get caught up in the certainty that their’s is the only true faith and the only real christianity or whatever. Enlisting them as partners in advancing the separation issue would be a significant step and interesting if we can win any of them over to our side in this argument not because they have to give up their faith, but because they have to defend their right to have it as we have to defend our right to have none. Maybe we lose track of the importance of this for the faithful as well.
At any rate, I will post any updates on this effort as they become available. I haven’t met with the pastor yet, but will keep trying to make that connection until I hear that the deal is off. Post your thoughts and comments on this.