Out of the Box dialogue group
‘Out of the Box’ is an autonomous group run by Humanists and Christians to facilitate dialogue between those identifying with different worldviews and religions (or none) and make a positive contribution to mutual understanding and social cohesion in Dorset.
Out of the Box is, in part, a response to the 2015 ‘Living With Difference’ report (“Living With Difference: community, diversity and the common good”: Report of the Commission on religion and belief in British public life. Published by The Woolf Institute, Cambridge 7 December 2015). The commission was convened in response to the transformation of the religious landscape in this country in the last few decades which now includes a large proportion of people who identify as not religious as well as growth in religions other than Christianity, and in branches of Christianity such as the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. It recognised that the changes have had a number of negative consequences such as fanaticism, the perception amongst many that ‘religion is a significant source of the world’s ills’, the ‘blanket denial by others of the legitimacy of non-religious approaches to life’, forms of hatred such as Islamophobia and antisemitism, and anxieties about immigration and ‘fear of the other’. A central focus of the report is ‘learning to understand and live with difference’ and promoting ‘the common good’. The commission’s vision is of a society at ease with itself in which all individuals, groups and communities feel at home, and in whose flourishing all wish to take part. It claimed that ‘in a rapidly changing diverse society everyone is affected, whatever their private views on religion and belief.’
Out of the Box has contributed at a local level to the ‘national conversation’ called for by the report. It has contributed to greater religion and belief literacy and a corresponding decrease in misunderstanding, stereotyping and oversimplification. It has promoted opportunities for interreligious and inter-worldview encounter and dialogue. It has involved Christians and Humanists primarily but also to a lesser extent Jews and Muslims and those who consider themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’. We have noticed a maturing of dialogue skills and the development of friendships. One of our regular Christian participants told us that she has been pleasantly surprised to find that atheists and Humanists are ‘very nice people when you get to know them’.
Since 2016, there has been an increasing polarisation of views about our national destiny. We believe that dialogue skills and ‘learning to understand and live with difference’ are even more important in the current climate.
1. To increase our knowledge and understanding of religions, beliefs, and values through regular monthly talks, debates, and discussions
2. To acknowledge and learn from differences
3. To identify and promote common values and the common good
Out of the Box Meetup https://www.meetup.com/Out-of-the-Box-Dialogue-Group/