This piece reminds me yet again that the binary of religious vs. non-religious isn’t as sound as it’s made out to be.
After years of evading discussions about other people’s religious identities or challenging religious dogma in my academic studies of religion, I faltered when it came to discerning how to identify myself. I used “atheist,” “agnostic,” “nonreligious,” and “secular” interchangeably, but none of them really felt right; while each was accurate, they all seemed a bit inadequate — more like descriptors than identities. None encapsulated how I saw the world; none felt like an affirmation of the values I held. So I just went about doing interfaith work without an affiliation, content to create opportunities for people of varying worldviews to engage with one another constructively. Still, I wasn’t completely sure how to articulate my own perspective. I knew I didn’t believe in God, but found the idea of declaring positive values much more daunting.
This binary parallels with most social constructs, of course.
I keep talking and writing and listening and acting and asking about my and other people’s Humanism because the idea of a nonreligious identity based in positive values gives me hope for our future — a future in which everyone, nonreligious and religious alike, cares much more about the “good” than the “without (or with) God.” Such a vision may sound overly optimistic to some, but if a devout Muslim can introduce an atheist like me to Humanism, then I believe anything is possible.