Promoting CFI Indiana as a Respectable, Cooperating Member of the Local Community

October 22, 2009

On October 8 and 9, I attended a conference at the Indiana War Memorial titled, "The Confluence of Religion and Politics ."  This was sponsored by International Interfaith Initiative .  Local sponsors were The Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis , Jewish Community Relations Council , and the Muslim Alliance of Indiana .  Wouldn't it be great if Center for Inquiry Indiana could be added to that list next year?   Yes, I know that secular humanists do not identify with the word "faith" or at least not with the religious connotation of it.    However, I think the voice of the nonreligious needs to be heard in these conversations. I intend to do what I can to get our chair at the table. 

I have gotten well acquainted with many of these people through coalitions with which I work here in Indianapolis.  The night before this event, I had gone to a seminar on health care at the Jewish Community Center where the panelists included professionals who are very knowledgeable in various aspects of the health care industry.   I was especially impressed with the factual and statistical information given by Dr. Aaron Carroll , Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine who has developed a solid reputation in policy research.   The questions and comments from the audience included those from doctors and others who have first hand knowledge of the issues facing people in the area of health care.  It was a civil, reasoned, and intellectual exchange of opinions and ideas--a world away from the vitriolic, unreasoned, innuendo of the opponents of health care reform who seem to dominate the media and town hall meetings.

I have come to know David Sklar, the lobbyist for Jewish Community Relations Council , through serving on the Health Access and Privacy Alliance(HAPA) with him for 3-4 years.  When we met in the rain as we headed into the War Memorial for the meeting, I joked with him about seeing him two nights in a row.  As I went into the room for the banquet that evening, I said hello to Rev. Kevin Armstrong who as a younger man was the associate minister at a Methodist church I attended for a while and is now the senior pastor of North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis.  He told me he enjoyed reading the recent article in the Indianapolis Star about CFI Indiana and that he jogs by our center on the canal walk nearly every day and wants to stop in sometime when I am there. However, it appears that he does his fitness runs very early in the morning before we are open and before he starts his busy days. 

The banquet was set with place cards which assigned seats at the tables.  As I took my place, there were David and Kevin at my table along with two young ladies from the Muslim Alliance seated beside me, between David and me.  As I struck up a conversation with the two young ladies who were Muslim (no head scarves or burqas), they asked me about CFI and one asked about our stand on evolution vs intelligent design.  It was obvious that she was on our page on that issue.   They both work at the Julian Center which is a shelter for victims of domestic abuse in Indianapolis and one of them serves as a legal counsel there. They both asked to be on our mailing list before the evening was over.  It was an inspiring experience to be at a table, having a conversation with a Christian, a Jew, two Muslims, and me, a secular humanist

Along the path into the banquet, I had talked with Rabbi Lewis Weiss who serves as a chaplain with Clarian Hospitals .  He was already familiar with Center for Inquiry Indiana and wanted to be on our mailing list.  We discussed my desire to get on the list of people to be called when a nonreligious person is requesting a person to talk with. He was receptive and told me to get back with him on that.  I talked with Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin ,  Executive Director of the Indiana War Memorial, who joined our CFI Indiana mailing list, took my business card, and told me he may contact me to be on a committee of local leaders that he plans to consult concerning what could be a controversial exhibit coming to the War Memorial.

This was all before the actual sessions of the conference started.   This blog is long enough for today.  I will write about the actual sessions and speakers next week.  I want to continue my efforts to promote CFI Indiana as a respectable organization which cooperates with people of other viewpoints in an attempt to raise our profile and visibility in the community and edge our chair closer to the table at gatherings such as this. 


#1 Joe Oliver (Guest) on Saturday October 24, 2009 at 9:10am

Reba has worked very hard and succeeded in maintaining positive communication that can be constructive and cooperative as opposed to destructive and divisive.  Her work, along with the work of other members at CFI Indiana, has helped to get Secular Humanists to be taken seriously by others who disagree with our views.  She is a true inspiration.

#2 PAUL kURTZ (Guest) on Sunday October 25, 2009 at 6:01pm

I agree fully with Reba Wooden about the need of the Center for Inquiry—secular humanists and scientific rationalists—to engage in reasoned dialogue and cooperate with other people in our democratic society, and this includes religious folk. Living in an open pluralistic society it is essenital that we be willing to inerract with people of differing viewpoints. The Center for Inquiry in Amherst is adjacent to a University Campus; it would be in bad form and poor taste to attack them personally for their religious beliefs. Criticism of religious claims is our right, but I have always said that it should be done in a responsible way. That is why I said that I thought that “blasphemy day” was ill-advised and that it is important that unbelievers should not behave like fundamentalists. This position has be caricatured with a photo of Senator McCarthy—which is most unfair.indeed insulting and denigrating. The University community has representatives of all points of view, it is uncivil it seems to me to try to ridicule them—as I think was the denigrattion of the views that I set forth—by a photo of McCarthy. Of course we are appealing to a wider public, but perhaps this is why it is all the more important that we attempt to persuade others of the reasonableness of our point of view, not denigrate them—or me—unfairly.

I am shocked that views that I expressed should be classified as a form of McCarthyism, especially when I was defendcing the civic virtue of tolerance, which McCarthy opposed.

#3 Joe Oliver (Guest) on Sunday October 25, 2009 at 8:45pm

Paul, we haven’t met.  I admire your work.  We are using portions of your “Affirmations” book in our morality series in the kids group November - January.  I want you to know that I confirmed today that all of the families present at the kids program are on the same page as you in regard to sticking with respectful means of communication with those that hold different views.  So were all but one of those present at the young adults meeting.  They all seem to agree that just because you have the right to say something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right to say it.  Thank you for everything you’ve done so far.

#4 Leticia (Guest) on Monday October 26, 2009 at 10:43am

Great job Reba! I really enjoy reading your blogs on the works you are doing in the community!

#5 gray1 on Monday October 26, 2009 at 7:42pm

Living in the “Bible Belt”, I can appreciate the described efforts for CFI to normalize relations with the various mainstream faith based organizations elsewhere but highly suspect that as word of it’s support of anything resembling “blasphemy day” just might create some problems, at least in these parts.

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