emergent welcoming skeptics

From an article last year in the LA Times by Philip Clayton:

Although a recent bumper crop of pundits likes to proclaim that we’d all be better off with no religion, I suspect that the majority of us believe that religion, in spite of its flaws, offers individuals the inspiration to be better people and to create a better nation…

I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church. It’s a movement based on understanding the reasons for mainstream religion’s dramatic decline: improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, an increasingly pluralistic religious culture and more freedom to doubt and question — a freedom that until the last three centuries was mostly absent or suppressed and that is still resisted, sometimes violently, in much of the world today.

In my experience, the nones are not rejecting God. They are rejecting doctrinal requirements that they no longer find believable, along with the rigid structures of many organized religions. For that reason, the rise of the nones may well be a new kind of spiritual awakening, one in which doubters are welcome.

In the Christian tradition, for example, the Emerging Church invites participation from all who find themselves attracted to the teachings, actions and person of Jesus. It isn’t crucial that members call themselves Christians, or that they believe Bible stories literally (rather than metaphorically), or even that they are believers rather than agnostics and atheists. As long as people want to sincerely engage with the teachings of Jesus and with the communities that seek to live by those values — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Love your neighbor,” “Blessed are the peacemakers” — they are welcome…

(via Tony Jones)


how to start a #SKEPTIMERGENT group

  1. Tell some friends.
  2. Tell them to tell some friends.
  3. Use the internet.
  4. Set up a date and a location.
  5. Get together.
  6. Repeat at will.

(Yes, it really is that simple.)

Finally, tell us about it!



Welcome to the beginning of a collaboration between various people called “SKEPTIMERGENT.”  This dialogue began as a chat between myself, Rob Davis (who coined the title), Jeff Straka, Doug Pagitt, Victoria Peterson-Hilleque, and Chris Hill, and ended up as a Patheos blog.  I have long been interested in building bridges between those in the unbelieving community (atheists, agnostics, humanists, skeptics, naturalists, etc.) and liberal religious persons, and as such, I jumped at the chance to be involved in a conversation with those in the “Emergent” milieu and those at the Emergent Village blog.

I recently was hosted on the Doug Pagitt radio show a couple of times (see here and here), and the discussions I had with Doug and Victoria aided in my desire to participate in this project.  I found both of them (along with Brian McLaren who I met a couple months back, see picture) to be welcoming and cordial to their new “token atheist.”  I have also been influenced by seeing my advisor, Philip Clayton, involved in conversations surrounding the “Emergent Church” and the ways in which contemporary forms of Christianity relate to the broader cultural shifts taking place in the West.

So without further ado, here are some of the “purposes” of SKEPTIMERGENT that Rob and I came up with:


  • Is a collaborative blog that focuses on the relationships between atheism/skepticism/agnosticism/humanism and the “emergent conversation.”
  • Exists to encourage critical, open dialogue between the religious and the non-religious.
  • Is a small part of a much larger conversation happening in homes, coffee shops, bars, at conferences, and via social media.
  • Is about exploring the new ways in which unbelievers and progressive religious persons orient themselves.
  • Is ultimately about building friendships and deepening dialogue amongst a diverse group of people.
  • Seeks to better the world by enlivening and re-enchanting discourse between unbelievers and religious persons.

Are you all ready to help us build a robust dialogue between those in the “Emergent Movement” and those in the unbelieving community?