A call for intervalues dialogue

The term “interfaith dialog” (sometimes synonymous with “interreligious dialog”) is defined on Wikipedia, as of 5/31/2013, as:

“[…]cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions (i.e., “faiths”) and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels.”

However, by the explicit reference to “faith” or “religious”, the combination of the prefix “inter-” with either term invokes immediate reference to communities which are brought together by shared “faith” or “religion”, usually manifested in worship and promotion of belief to at least one deity. Functionally, either term excludes those “humanistic” beliefs; as hinted by writer Teo Bishop, the limitation to communities of faith doesn’t necessarily include communities of shared practice, including ritual and ceremony which may not necessarily involve belief (however public) or reverence for a deity.

My opinion is that the word “intervalues” should be promoted as a non-sectarian, secular description for gatherings which focus primarily on building a consensus, observance and application of values – things which people feel are most commonly important – for the population at large.

Staks Rosch, a blogger on Atheism for Examiner.com, elucidates what an intervalues gathering would entail for non-theistic communities of all stripes, particularly hard-humanistic communities:

An intervalues gathering would be more in the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness. Of course allowing atheists a seat at the table would be to acknowledge that the religious landscape is changing and that atheism is on the rise. Plus, it would be harder to accuse atheists of not caring when atheists are standing right next to the religious at intervalues gatherings.

For Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University who criticized the non-invitation of humanistic voices to the interfaith mass service for Boston Bombing victims, or Chris Stedman, the writer who happens to intersect his interfaith activism with his sexual orientation and his atheist life stance (much to the chagrin of other atheist writers who see his interfaith networking as a liability to the validity of non-belief), the word “intervalues” might be a better description of their personal desire to work for the “common good” of society at large with believers, practitioners and activists of all sorts.

Interfaith Councils, from that of San Francisco to that of Richmond to Ann Arbor to the tiny town of Spring, may benefit more of their local populations by rebranding as Intervalues Councils, building larger coalitions which welcome the temples, churches, mosques and atheist meetups into a common, secular umbrella effort to strengthen, review and develop values in their communities, as well as to challenge issues which disturb peace or violate rights.

If anything, the promotion of intervalues dialogue can improve upon the shortcomings in relevance and inclusion of interfaith dialogue.

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