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Conversation With David Hayward (aka Naked Pastor)
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed by Becky Garrison and David Hayward do not necessarily reflect the views of American Atheists. This guest blog is posted solely to promote discussion and show alternate viewpoints.
A Conversation with David Hayward (aka Naked Pastor)
By Becky Garrison
After my buddy David Hayward (aka Naked Pastor) posted on his blog a T-shirt idea titled "Atheish," I decided to contact this Canuck via Skype for a chat about the genesis behind this logo and why so many atheists and freethinkers are becoming drawn to a website led by a former pastor.
Why did you draw the "Atheish" logo?
What I'm finding is happening is a polarizing of ideologies where people become militant in whatever their ideology is. The problem isn't necessarily belief versus unbelief but the fundamentalist mindset where someone believes the way they believe is right and everybody else is wrong. So my T-shirt "Atheish" is an attempt to modify or moderate the playing field where it's not necessarily atheists versus believers. It's fundamentalism that's the problem, not the content of the belief or ideology of the thinker. If we can all come into the conversation with a humble awareness that we really don't know and any assertions we do make tend to border on hypocrisy, I think we'd be far more open to having a genuine conversation.
When people ask me to define myself, on a good day I say I'm agnostic/apophatic Anglican. Given my late father was an Episcopal priest/professor; one could say I am a pre-natal Episcopalian. It's just a part of who I am.
If someone asks me if I'm a Christian, I say I'm a Christian in the same way I'm a Canadian. It's so much a part of my DNA that I can't reject it. I recognize that my roots are deep in the Christian tradition. My two degrees are in theology and I was a pastor for over 25 years. But I am not a Christian in a way that would suit most people's definition. But I'm comfortable with that.
We've had this conversation before about how we have more in common these days with spiritual atheists than evangelicals and emergents. Why do you think this is so in your case?
I think there are a lot of people out there who recognize that the problem is not belief. There's millions of gods and millions of religions. People are becoming more and more skeptical signing on to any certain belief system. They want to open the debate and have a genuine discussion. That means coming into the forum with a willingness to hold on to your beliefs, thoughts and ideologies loosely in order to be able to converse with other people. Maybe the best debate is when you allow doubt or mystery to be a greater component of your ideology or belief system.
I find myself getting very uncomfortable when people offer prayers on my behalf as I no longer have this childlike notion that Jesus watches over me personally or that God as my Father will take care of all my problems.
I struggle with the whole religious language because I've come to the conclusion that we use language to control our worlds and realities. When people ask me questions about who I am and what I believe, it's their attempt to comprehend and grasp me intellectually and then plug me into some kind of a hole that makes them feel comfortable.
As we both have proven, when you start talking like this, you find yourself off the author/speaker list and out of a job as a Christian minister or leader.
I watch my blog traffic every day so I'm very aware of who follows and unfollows me. This has very much to do with how you're labeled. If people don't recognize your label as something in line with their beliefs, then you're going to lose that reader. But I'm finding that more and more people who are signing on to the discussion are people who aren't willing to subscribe to any certain solidified belief system. I also need to submit the very real fact that we might be creating another label and it's sort of this nebulous fluid kind of ideology.
Even though I knew I had to leave the institutional church, this decision incurred some losses in terms of finances and friends.
While it was traumatic for me to leave, my family and the few friends that I have left say that I am much happier and easy going than I have been in a long, long time. I just feel like a free agent and I'm really happy about that.
In a piece I did reflecting on Kelly Carlin's show "A Carlin Home Companion" for the forthcoming issue of American Atheist Magazine, I talk about "nones," meaning those who don't come from a religious tradition but they still have a rich spiritual life. They may still participate in rituals, say light a candle for a deceased family member or participate in the mysteries of the Eucharist because they feel drawn to the community formed around the table. But they would never consider themselves to be "Christian."
My views on this have changed a great deal. I don't go to church but if you find a church or a community where you can follow your own spiritual path with integrity without sacrificing your conscience or intellect: go for it. I have a lot of affinity with atheists because in many ways I believe I'm an atheist in Christian clothes. Many of my cartoons have been shared on atheist blogs.
One of my cartoons shows an atheist and a believer standing on two different sides of an iceberg that emerges out of the water. On the surface, it looks like they're on two different islands. But deep, deep down, I think there's a unifying connection that joins us, but most of us are unaware of it and don't detect it. For example, I find it very difficult to converse with fundamentalist Christians, but I have to believe that somewhere deep down beyond my detection is a unity that binds us together. I admit there's s challenge to make these deep connections given the loud and rambunctious arguments one finds at the surface.
Finally, anything you might want to say about your relationship with Asbo Jesus, a British based cartoonist?
We're very much on the same page in that we both poke fun at the status quo of Christianity and the Church in particular while trying to open up a space for dialogue and debate. Our mutual goals are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.