Unitarian Universalism is a forward looking religion

Unitarian Universalists don’t have a creation story we cling to. Almost all of us hold to theories that have been created based on evidence and scientific research, though we may weave mythic elements into our personal theologies. We rely on science to tell us where we came from and how the universe spins and pulses without coming apart. That is what Science is good at: it tells us what has happened, and why things work.

UUs seek religion to help us shape the future. We seek a moral compass in fellowship and personal study. We seek truth and meaning in the physical world, as well as any spiritual realms we embrace. We seek truth, but more over, we seek to put that information to good use.

It is not an easy thing to give up the pretense of insight or absolute knowledge. In fact, a great many people count on religion to provide them with the sense that the Universe can be known, or at least that some supreme being knows all, and that there is a plan that can be traced through the ages, whether or not any such plan can be deduced from the holy texts. Many people rely on religious tradition and doctrine to lay out history for them, as if it were an unbreakable chain of events, predictable as clockwork from the point of view of the enlightened.

Ours is not an old religion, though it has deep roots . Certainly, we have traditions, some of our congregations having existed since pre-revolutionary America, but each congregation adopts those, or creates new traditions of its own. Ours is a young religion, devoted to evolving and committed to truth, even if it means admitting that we’ve been wrong in the past. Certainly we will make mistakes, but the only way to ensure a perfect record is through lack of any bold or courageous action.

It is important to realize this, because it is one thing that causes us to stand out amongst the mainstream in religious thought. We are not concerned with dictating the past or pretending at mystical insight. We are concerned with this time, and with our shared future. How we got here matters, but it is the work of science to give us the details, though we may search ancient texts for clues that science cannot deduce. It is how we move forward to a more just, compassionate, and equitable future that we dedicate our religious life to, and not just in some Summerland or Nirvana, but right here on Earth for ourselves and whatever we leave behind.

Ours in not a religion of the past. Science can sort out where we came from. Our religion is about guiding us to a future where peace, liberty and justice are seen as the birthright of every living thing. Ours is not just a religion for today. Unitarian Universalism is a religion for our future.

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8 Responses

  1. Is it ‘mystical insight’ you object to, seemingly without a clue as to what the referent might be?

    Or is it simply that some people use claims of superior insight as justification for ‘lording it over’ others?

    Insight and hearsay are opposites.

  2. I’m not really sure that I understand your meaning, as I never objected to “mystical insight” in any direct way. I only said that we do not pretend to have it. As a great many religions claim it, and many of them contradict each other in their claims, some of them are clearly just pretending.

    There are certainly a great many abuses, both by individuals and institutions, but that was not what I was intending to address as much as the fact that no one can honestly prove any creation story, as even hard science admits that the first crucial moments of existence happened, essentially, outside of time-space as we know it, and therefore cannot be explained or understood using any known technique, and this may never change.

    Insight and hearsay are not actually opposites, but I am completely missing the relevance to my post.

    • Yes, insight (as contrasted with specific formulations of different ‘insights’) is not something a church could have.

      Thich Nhat Hanh and Thomas Merton would certainly have contradicted each other if they’d merely quoted the respective doctrines of their traditions. But they were acquainted with the underlying insight and understood one another just fine.

      Insight is whatever you actually ‘see’, much as you’d see the answer to an arithmetic problem. Hearsay would be repeating what you’d been told the answer was.

      My comment was motivated by the fact that you seem not to understand the importance of finding mystical insight. (If you do not believe that there is any such thing, then you naturally wouldn’t see any reason for the search.)

      The way you use the word ‘claim’ in the phrase implies that you don’t see how any person could validly have any such experience; and I’m telling you that your experience, so far, is simply incomplete. Which is no good reason for bragging.

      It was a Unitarian who first convinced me that this silly stuff about “God” might actually mean something. Which I have found to be true, over the subsequent 50 years…

      • each individual comes to their own insight, and no one can hand it to them. Certainly not an impersonal institution. I am speaking about the whole of the Unitarian Universalist movement, and I specifically point out that many do include mystical elements in their personal philosophy.

        My experiences are incomplete, but such is the fate of the human being. We cannot be everywhere, see everything, or meet everyone. We must do our best with the experiences we have to find truth and meaning.

        Still, you presume much about me, while I am simply trying to express what I think of as a positive thing about my spiritual movement: it allows me to come to my own conclusions, and doesn’t pretend that there is a holyman with his ear to God.

        You are welcome to read some of my other posts, in which I speak of my personal theology, which includes a divine element and a few nearly supernatural features. In particular, you might try:
        http://materialsojourn.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/our-science-is-often-imperfect-why-we-shouldnt-rule-out-god/

  3. This is also a feature of modern ‘Liberal Quakerism’. And a good one, I agree.

    My argument is not with you, really, but with what I’ve observed about how this has worked out among us. The “juice” (as in electric power) that sustains a religious organization, that keeps it religious — rather than a nice-folks club — is spiritual.

    Some of us have been silently screaming, for years, that we’ve got ‘Jesus in the stable and the donkey in the house running the show’ as Rumi put it. Pressure to affirm somebody’s religious conclusions is oppression. Not recognizing a need for people to (eventually) get over the wounds of oppressive human institutions — and seek the truths those institutions were once intended to embody — leads to sterility.

    What needs to be found is a live presence in us — and will make itself heard, more effectively than I could do as a ‘separate’ being.

    Here there is a holyman with his ear to God, typing this — and there, there is a holyman reading this. “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” Isn’t that the state of affairs that will break all oppressions?

  4. Sorry. Delete the above post. I wrote a similar piece to yours called Knowing and Not Knowing God. It explores the differences between those who claim to know and those who claim not to. On a related post, I got more pointed about it and talked about fundamentalism, atheism and ideological assault. I think you’ll find a friend in those posts. All on the home page.

  5. [...] with me? Thomas on Unitarian Universalism is a fo…Jimmy B. on Unitarian Universalism is a fo…Thomas on I dreamed a dream, in times go…Ed [...]

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