Unitarian Universalism is a Strange Religion: Prt 1

Unitarian Universalists want everyone to think the way we do, of course. If we didn’t feel that way, we might not even be able to call ourselves a religion. The funny thing is that we don’t want you to think what we think, as we don’t all hold the same beliefs. It is how we think that matters.

We don’t want you to blindly follow dictates or dogma. We demand that UUs think for themselves; that they think about what they are doing and what effect it has on the rest of the world. We want them to consider the feelings of others and the health of communities and ecosystems. Ultimately, though,  they have to make their own choices about how to do that.

We don’t want to tell you what to think, but we demand that you do think.

One of our Principles is the “Free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. You are free to search high and low for meaning in your life and your place in the world. You have to do it in a way that is responsible, though, keeping in mind reality and scientific discovery. We talk about evolution, creation, and other big questions, because they all matter in the search. We never forget that science is always learning something new, always revealing things to us about the universe. We are fascinated by what each of those revelations might add to the conversation.

We long for the day when science and reason are given, if not preference then at least equal standing with superstition. We will not tell you that you must believe in the unbelievable. We will question your belief in the unprovable. No one is expected, much less required, to to believe something based on the personal perspective or revelation of another; not a layman or a minister or the President of the UUA.

We fight for the rights of all people to follow their conscience, without being oppressed by the opinions of any other person. Rights and freedoms must be restricted only by the dictates of facts, evidence, and decency. No one should limit your relationship with the God of your naming, but neither should your relationship be allowed to hinder the lives of others.

We care as much about who you are and what you accomplish as we do what you believe. We want every person to have the chance to be their best and to better their community. We believe that it is what we do for this world, and not a promise for worlds unseen, that provides the reasonable basis for a life well lived. The strangest thing about our religion may be that we care as much about how you make your choices as what those choices ultimately end up being.

As we Unitarian Universalists are fond of saying, “We need not think alike to love alike.”

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5 Responses

  1. Thank you for this. Faith has been on my mind a lot lately. My relationship with it and with “religion” has been fraught over the years. Raised a Baptist, faith and I broke up right around the start of my teenage years and quickly progressed to atheism. I read philosophy, history, theology, and came to the conclusion that any concept of a deity was ludicrous; what cruel god would allow the creation of someone for whom loving who he loved was an abomination?

    Yes, I grew up in downstate Illinois. I didn’t know anyone in high school who was out (I had my suspicions — since mostly proven true). I had never even heard of the Unitarian church until my senior year. A girl who I had a great deal of respect for and still do told me that I should check out the UU church in town, based on my valedictory comment. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I didn’t forget her saying that to me. For the first time I thought “wow, a community of people who won’t judge me, who are generally progressive and always open-minded.”

    I didn’t actually take her advice until four years later, living in Germany and taking as many flights to Knoxville, Tennessee as I could afford, to see a very significant other. We went to the Unitarian church in Knoxville — the very one at which the horrifically tragic shooting occurred a few years back. I remember walking out of there after the service and just feeling unburdened. I’d finally found a community where I was welcome.

    The relationship with that particular individual didn’t work out, but I have since renewed my sense of spirituality through Unitarian Universalism. It’s been a rock I’ve had to lean on through some trying times, but I’m welcome, my ideas are welcome, your ideas are welcome, and we are together. Thank you.

    • “Unburdened” is a great feeling. Even just the sharing of burdens with people who really care makes them lighter.

      And I am thrilled to hear about an ahteist-turned-seeker. We will never find God, but the looking still matters. Just like every scientific discovery leads us to deeper understanding, which only allows us to ask the next level of questions. I love to know that even those of us who have given up the search for the person of God can still search for the character and the intent.

      Thanks for the comment! I really do hope that by speaking out, I can lend my voice to those who haven’t found theirs and we can change our culture, our world, and empower our faith to be part of that change. It helps to have comments that encourage, challenge, and question my ideas.

  2. Important to note, too, that we are no longer (if we ever were) entirely alone in this position. I’ve just finished reading A New Kind of Christianity, by Brian McLaren, an Evangelical, who openly and strongly embraces a pluralistic view of religion in that book (after hinting at it in some earlier works). In the process, he has parted company with the traditional Evangelical emphasis on personal salvation as focused only or primarily on ensuring an afterlife in heaven for the individual.

    Mainline Protestants increasingly seem to be moving to a position of affirming pluralism as well, influenced by a variety of thinkers in their tradition (although McLaren is in many ways ahead of them, I think).

    • We are certainly less “out there” these days. We’ve had a long association with a few other religions, such as the Quakers and the United Church of Christ, who accept broad (if not universal) views on salvation.

      More importantly, more and more religions are trying to re-aline their views on science, so that they are more in step with modern findings. Even the Catholic Church has embraced evolution and biology.

      But I think that change has been slowed by the rise of “feel-good” religion, that teaches that God will make your life good if you just believe hard enough. Prosperity and Apocalyptic messages create a bubble around the believer, telling him that we are each on our own and that the only relationship that matters is the one with God (even when the church stands in for God). That’s no way to move forward.

      • The ‘feel-good’ and prosperity gospel folks are a very different group from the trend I’m thinking of. Indeed, some of the new progressive Evangelicalism / emergent Christianity is a reaction to the Prosperity Gospel as well as to the unholy alliance of some Christianity and Right wing politics…

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