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Dear Religious (And Sane) America

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Dear Religious (and sane) America,

Come out, come out where ever you are and welcome to HuffPost Religion -- your new home for opinions, news and wisdom from across the religious spectrum. HuffPost Religion is dedicated to providing a provocative, respectful, and hopefully productive forum for addressing the ways in which religion intersects our personal, communal, national and international life. HuffPost Religion will demonstrate the vibrant diversity of religious traditions, perspectives and experiences that exist alongside and inform one another in America and throughout the world.

For too long strident voices on the religious right have become synonymous with the influence of religion in the public sphere, and they have been countered by equally strident voices on the atheist side who denigrate religious people and their traditions. HuffPost Religion hopes to offer a sane middle way for people who wish to approach religion with both heart and mind, and who believe we can have disagreements without demonization. HuffPost Religion will provide a more accurate representation of the wide range of concerns held by religious people, and dispel the myth that religious people have only one stance on the controversial issues of the day such as health care, immigration, abortion and gay rights. Throughout history, religious people have been on the front lines of many civil rights issues; and even the separation of church and state was a principle insisted upon by Baptists to protect religious freedom (a blatant shout out to my own denomination).

Wherever you stand on the merits of religion, or whatever your personal religious practice -- there is no question that religion plays a crucial role in how humans make meaning, create community, act politically, and find mandates for how to live a good life. HuffPost Religion is dedicated to providing a provocative yet respectful forum for how religion is and should be functioning.

Now for some, the very fact that HuffPost has a religion section will be a source of surprise, or even dismay. A response from grumpyfarmer 33 to a post I wrote about moving your money says it well:

"Now I have seen it all, the Huff post asking what would be the correct thing to do from a religious standpoint. I absolutely agree with the author, but cannot believe I am seeing this on the Huff post."

Well, grumpy -- believe it. Religion is not new on the Huffington Post. There have been over 100 excellent writers, clergy and academics who have regularly covered religion over the past years on Huffington Post. The "religious standpoint" clearly has a lot to say about the world, and provides a unique, and often absent perspective to any conversation. Some HuffPost regulars will find all this talk about religion irrelevant, but according to recent census data 87 percent of Americans describe themselves as religious. To leave that many Americans out of the conversation is to have a narrow scope indeed, and is a fatal political calculation. I expect some of the most interesting conversations will be between people who are theists and atheists, and that will be great! But please, let's be civil. As a start, it would help if religious people acknowledge that non-religious people can be moral, and if atheist people would acknowledge that religious people can be intelligent. Hopefully these truisms will become evident as HuffPost Religion provides a way for people to hear from one another.

So consider yourself invited to participate by blogging, commenting, reflecting and acting upon what you see on HuffPost Religion. We are in a crucial time. As my friend Eboo Patel from the Interfaith Youth Core, and new blogger on HuffPost Religion, has said: "The 20th century was focused on the question of race; the 21st century must be focused on the question of religion." The question of religion requires that we increase our knowledge of people who are different than ourselves in terms of religious practice and belief. That includes interfaith relations as well as intra faith dialogue -- which can be even more difficult.

We must talk about religion, because to not talk about it leaves the conversation to those who only emphasize conflict between religions, or who use religion as a device to incite, divide or destroy. Yet religion, when at its best, can be a source of great strength, motivation and insight. I look forward to being a part of this conversation with you and welcome your thoughts and suggestions. You can reach me at praushenbush@huffingtonpost.com.

Peace,
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
Religion Editor
Huffington Post