The Oxford English Dictionary defines eschatology as “The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell’. If you know much at all about Unitarian Universalism, you know that we don’t have a unified view of an after-life, and certainly no concept of eternal damnation. In short, we have more of a view on Hell, being that we are against it, than we do Heaven, though the later sounds nice. I look at eschatology, then, as being more about a view of the goal of the religious philosophy. Most religions are selfish and focus on what happens to the ego after death. Our eschatology is about what we leave behind. The goal of our religious movement is one that requires continuous tending throughout the generations: We have a goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. Simply stated, but as impossible to achieve as the tests of Hercules or the trials of the Judges of Judea.
This is, again, rooted in our only quasi-mystical belief, which many of us look at as more of a hypothesis to be tested eternally, in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. If we all have worth waiting to be fostered and manifested in the world, then there is a moral imperative to seek a peaceful world where each person is free to learn and experiment with the limits and possibilities of human potential, secure in the knowledge that they will be treated fairly and that they will understand the responsibilities they have to their communities and the world.
It is a very humanist goal, but we are operating from the truth, as we know it. Though I have my own experiences, as do others, there is no clear sign of the hand of any god in the modern world, and if any can be seen in the artifacts of human history, they are far from universally convincing. We have a world that humanity has altered when possible and adapted to when we could. Our species may have done more to alter the shape and future of the planet than anything since it coalesced from the rocky belt of our infant solar system. It is up to us to decide how to use that power, and whether we will act in a way that honors our collective humanity and our reliance on each other to advance culture and science, or if we look at the future as a competition where we cling to our limits and deny others the dignity that we would each demand for ourselves.
We rarely speak of heaven from the pulpit, and many fellowship halls hear the word spoken somewhat less than monthly. What UUs have in the place of a glorious group afterlife is The Beloved Community. It is a little different in each imagination, and ultimately that makes it better in theory than it may ever be in actuality, but it is still so far away that there is no real room, yet, to argue other the window dressings and carpets. We seek a world where, ideally, everyone has the chance to build their own vision and direct their own lives. Beloved Community includes everyone who chooses to participate, and allows room enough for those who wish a bit of isolation, too. You cannot say that you have liberty for all unless you allow your critics room to voice opposition, after all. We seek a world where all of this can happen peacefully and with respect. That is UU heaven.
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