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The discussion between an Atheist, a Christian, and a Buddhist about different faiths and common ground.

In Durango, CO Andy Braner, a Christian and a writer for The Huffington Post, and a few friends set up a big meeting between people of different faiths. It brought Kathleen O’Connor, the head of the Atheist Association, along with Ted, who represented Western Buddhism. They planned everything, setting up the room at a local bar called the Irish Pub.

The night started with Andy’s friend, DJ, introducing himself. “We are here to learn about one another, and make friends.” The night transformed into a 3-hour discussion about God, meditation and the reason behind what they all do. Each took turns explaining their faith, their reasoning and how they reached the point they are at. When their stories were over, they answered questions for half an hour. The next two and a half hours is where things got intense and incredible. Everyone broke into groups, talking, eating and having conversations about belief, faith, meditation and the role it all plays in their lives.

Andy had a few realizations in the process and on his drive home that night. The first was that all that’s needed to discuss religious differences is a safe space. A place to talk, gather and enjoy each other’s company. That night, they created a safe environment and a safe conversation that “might turn into something more valuable for all involved.” He said he was sad “that we’ve been trained to think the only way to have a friendship in this world is if we ‘evangelize’ our neighbor and sell them a God they can’t live without.” The second realization was how important simply belonging is to everyone. What truly amazed him was an invitation extended by Kathleen, who invited him to her church along with a “we would love to have you there!”

Kathleen wrote about the experience on her blog. “Overall, I think the night was an enlightening and very valuable first step in better understanding other peoples’ perspectives that differ from our own.”

“Last night,” Andy said, “I think we lived a way Jesus lived. We ate. We shared. We disagreed. We smiled. And at the end of the evening we shook hands, hugged and reaffirmed how much value each person brings to the table of peace, not merely because of their belief system, but because they’re human.”

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