By Herb Silverman
I went to church on Sunday evening, August 7. This is something an atheist like me rarely does. However, I was eager to attend because Rev. Jeremy Rutledge of Circular Congregational Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where I live, invited me to a special “interfaith and philosophy” service in honor of Pride Week in Charleston. He also asked me to promote the event to other members of my local Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry group.
Some atheists and humanists don’t participate in interfaith ceremonies because of the word “interfaith.” They have no faith in deities and don’t want to give the impression that they do. Many conservative religious groups also refuse to participate in interfaith ceremonies because they don’t want to give the impression that they condone the “false” theology or religious practice of those who worship or behave differently.
I was pleasantly surprised to see humanists explicitly included and publicly acknowledged in the Circular Church ceremony. Participants included liberal religionists who favor LGBTQ rights, as well as humanists. Rev. Rutledge began, “We gather here, as people of many different faiths and philosophies, to say clearly and unapologetically that our message is love, not hate.” I normally wince when a preacher talks about the one “true” religion. However, I silently applauded when Rev. Rutledge said, “The true religion is love,” adding, “religion has so often been used, and continues to be used, as an instrument of intolerance, division and outright hate.”
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