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Unitarian Universalism

December 21, 2011

Photo Credit: http://www.uucmc.org

With the holidays coming up, and my previous post about the secular way in which I look at them, I thought it was about time to come clean.  So here it is, we go to church.  Well…not traditional church, the one we attend doesn’t even call itself that, it calls itself a “meeting house”.  It’s just easier to say church in my book, but whatever floats your boat.

The “religion” we practice is called Unitarian Universalism and it TAKES ALL KINDS!  It’s guided by seven principles:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Anywho…a little over a year ago I was searching for something.  It’s really difficult to find a group of like-minded INSPIRING people to interact with on a regular basis.  It’s especially hard to find that for your whole family.  Sure, both Peter and I have our own likes and hobbies, ones that have group meetups should we be so inclined, but it’s not the same. While I’m not a believer in organized religion, hell…I don’t even call myself “spiritual”,  I do understand the comfort it brings some. I also cherish the community it builds and often felt like that was missing from my life.

You see, Peter was raised Catholic and I’m an atheist/humanist. He sees the synergy between physics and a “higher power” while I have a more academic curiosity about the idea of faith and cultural beliefs. He studies hard sciences and I study the soft ones. Together we both have interest in the idea of religion, but don’t care to belong to a traditional one.  Aside for our own desire to learn, we also want to expose our daughter to various belief systems. I don’t care that she decides to join one faith or another…I just want her to understand the differences and similarities between different cultures and people. I want her to be tolerate of others, and compassion for their beliefs is a good place to start.

That brings me to today, this month, this holiday season.  You’ve all heard me talk about rejecting religion from my own life, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not tolerant of other peoples’ beliefs (not to say that I’m at all OK with them being thrust upon me).  During this time of the year you HAVE to be tolerant and accepting or you’ll drive yourself nuts.  In a UU congregation they teach ALL faiths and celebrate all of the holidays.  Some may find fault with picking and choosing, but really they’re paying respect to everyone’s belief system.  It’s refreshing to go somewhere where my secular view on life is just as well regarded as someone’s religious take on things.

Earth Window - Photo Credit: http://www.uucmc.org

The UU Congregation of Monmouth County has welcomed us with open arms. We haven’t been to many Sunday services, though we have spent a few holidays with the congregation. I think the Christmas Day service will be a good reentry point after a few months away.  The meeting-house is such a warm and beautiful place. We’re considering a “path to membership” at some point in the future, but are moving slow. For now we are considered “guests”, though we try to donate and support their outreach programs.  One reason may be because we have yet to come out to our families (though I guess that’s what I’m doing here).   We don’t even know where we’ll live in a year or two from now,  I just know that going to these Sunday Services makes me feel good.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2011 4:33 pm

    Interesting…

    What if my beliefs are that bad things happen in this world because we aren’t sacrificing our monthly quota of tolerant and inclusive church goers? Would they be tolerant and inclusive enough to volunteer? If so we can end this silliness right now.

    Other then that it seems like someone, who was opposed to some form(s) of organized religion and/or religious doctrine, decided one day to organize a group of people of like minds and beliefs (i.e., the belief that everyone is allowed their own opinion I guess), and establish a similar rule structure as what they want to provide an alternative to, only they removed the magic parts and replaced it with the notion that it’s up to you to decide what you think is plausible magic and what isn’t (which is what you’ve already done, …else why are you looking to go to church anyway).

    The notion of religion or religious belief comes from humanities fear of the unknown. Most commonly, ‘What happens to us when we die?’ Once you’ve decided on an answer to that question, the next step is to decide if you believe that what we do in our daily lives can effect the outcome of… what happens when we die…, and if so, what behaviors/actions improve or maintain the best possible outcome, and which will negatively effect the outcome. Throughout this adventure one has 3 choices: A. Decide that someone else’s answer is the one you think is correct, B. Decide no one has it right and come up with your own answer, or C. Decide no one has it right, but you don’t have any answers either and it’s just not worth it to try and figure it out. Of course there is multiple and recursive iterations to define the fringe cases and moral nuances that one encounters in life, but when boiled down, that’s essentially it, right?

    My thinking is that most people looking for an organized institution have already undertaken this journey, to some degree or another, and are looking for somewhere they can celebrate and securely practice the rituals and requirements that their chosen form of magic requests of them. Ancillary to that, they are seeking a play in which to refine and uncover more rituals and requirements, previously unknown to them, that they can add to the agenda and improve their postmortem outcome even further. In all of the widely recognized and established religions of our time that I know of, there seems to be a requirement by that religion to bring the message of your truth about magic to as many people as possible (prolly the first sign that ur religion has been corrupted if you ask me).

    So in the end, I’m curious to understand how the experience of this church isn’t just an hour or more of highly heated debate, lengthy times where you are doing nothing while waiting for the rituals of all the other religions represented that day to be enacted, and a real problem with paid time off from work not meeting the myriad of holy days you need to be observant of to truly consider yourself tolerant of other people’s beliefs?

    Seems like a highly organized way to waste your time if you really look at it. How could such a church facilitate Hindu rituals, Jewish rituals, Catholic rituals, and Muslim rituals required by those faiths all at the same time? If the answer is that they schedule them differently, then when someone professes that such a church is tolerant and inclusive, expect my reply to be, “You’re just a big fibber, right?” (smiley face)

    • December 21, 2011 9:52 pm

      Greg –
      “Other then that it seems like someone, who was opposed to some form(s) of organized religion and/or religious doctrine, decided one day to organize a group of people of like minds and beliefs (i.e., the belief that everyone is allowed their own opinion I guess), and establish a similar rule structure as what they want to provide an alternative to”

      I’m not really sure where you’re finding fault with this idea…or how it differs from any of the other deviations from, say, Christianity as a whole (ie: Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox…and then their subsects).

      Aside from that, this post was not about arguing which religion is right or wrong. This was about me describing a step my family took to enrich our lives. We attend services to listen to uplifting stories that make us feel good about humanity. I think many people could benefit from a little bit of positivity.

      I’m unconcerned with “where we go when we die” because I do not believe in a god, heaven, hell, afterlife, or otherwise. That said, I know many people do and I respect that. I see our “highly organized way to waste [your] time” not as a waste, but as an educational experience akin to taking a philosophy or religious studies class. (BTW, something I’ve taken many of in college…was even part of the Philosophy and Religion club in college….though my degree ended up in Psych, it started out in Phil).

      This “church” doesn’t concern itself with trying to meet all the needs of all religions because it’s not trying to tend to each and every aspect of every faith, it merely pays homage to different world religions and philosophies of life. It’s a place that many people (most “recovering” from childhood indoctrination into an ill-fitted religion) can be at peace with themselves. Think of it as group meditation if you need something to relate it to.

      In any case, I wasn’t trying to start a debate. I was merely chatting with my friends and family about something new we’ve tried and found success in. I’m not sure why you find such issue with it….or why you feel the need to put it down so. I was, in no way, trying to tear anyone else’s belief structures down while building mine up.

  2. December 21, 2011 4:49 pm

    Dirty hippie!! Just kidding! I really like the UU’s. We actually have a good sized UU church in our town, and I’ve really been thinking about going, because while I am verging on atheism, I’d like for my kids to choose for themselves what to believe, and to always be in touch with their spiritual side.

    • December 21, 2011 9:55 pm

      That’s just the thing Allison, I want Alexa to be familiar enough with all her religious, philosophical, and spiritual choices to make an informed decision to follow one or none. Or hell, a combo of whichever parts she likes from each 🙂

  3. December 21, 2011 5:00 pm

    Reading my comment, sounds a bit more brash then I intended. Really, if it works for you, then by all means engage in it however you see fit and don’t worry about what I say.

    Really, my personal opinion is that the worst thing that happens to a religion is the lack of encouragement for the intensely personal journey and relationship with whatever magic you decide is plausible that is derived from the ‘need’ to organize the answers your religion provides and the structured advice it gives on how to best accommodate the reality of those answers as they pertain to influencing outcomes to a desired result.

    How much of what you actually believe today was born from some message in a sermon or other religious speech you heard one day, and how much of it is derived from a small, more personal discussion you had between you and a few other people in some non-formal social setting? For me and everyone I’ve ever posed this question to, the answer is emphatically the latter.

    So if that IS the case, the commonly accepted notion of a ‘church’, or.. ‘meeting house where we talk about stuff we used to talk about in church’… is likely to be one of the biggest obstacles in the way of someone seeking these big truths (how did we get here, what are we here for, and what happens to us when we’re dead).

    As far as atheism is concerned (imho), I still haven’t figured out how it’s not just the faithful practice of avoiding the big questions all together.

    Really religion, science, prophecy, whatever… the thing they all have in common is that at some point they all fail one question: “OK, so where did THAT come from then?” …and it’s true, the more you delve into science and try to trace and prove causation moving backwards, is the more a magical and all knowing entity seems to be a likely answer.

    • December 21, 2011 5:25 pm

      Greg, as someone who was raised in very strict religion and has chosen to lean towards atheism as an adult, I can answer you. Avoiding the big questions all together is simply not it. In fact, most atheists I know have had to ask more questions and try to understand all belief systems more than any other group, simply because they’re asking the big questions, not avoiding them.

      And as for the desire to go to church, I can tell you why I would be interested. The sense of community. By far, the thing I miss most about going to a church regularly is the community it provided. I got to see a group of people on a regular basis, and it was really nice having that in my life. Going to a church that accepts all faiths doesn’t lessen that in any way. If anything, those people are much more open minded and tolerant because they acknowledge all faiths and aren’t threatened by them and don’t feel the need to put them down simply because they don’t embrace them as their own.

      • December 21, 2011 5:56 pm

        This conversation is nostalgic for me. As a person who was raised by both a strictly Catholic mother, and an agnostic (more on that later) father, philosophical conversations about religion were not an uncommon occurrence in our household. My mother fought her way to be “responsible” for our spiritual educations, which mean that we went to catechism classes and completed our sacraments. Ironically we were allowed to make our own spiritual decisions only after we’d complete our confirmation, which is the sacrament where you pledge yourself as a Catholic before God and the entire congregation. My eldest brother chose not to continue and is also agnostic like my father. My middle brother, as his birth order would suggest, fell in between the two extremes, and while I was a devout Catholic for most of my adolescence, I’ve chosen not to declare my belief in accordance with any organized religion. I do see the value in understanding religion, and my culture parallels closely with the rituals of the Catholic church, which is why I engage my daughter in this religions rituals, but I’m sure I would have done the same were I a Jew, Buddhist or Hindu. Godparents play an active role in my culture, and the sacraments also provide for important milestones. I also intend to enroll my own child in catechism classes in order to provide a background for the same philosophical conversations I enjoyed when I was young. The only reason I will encourage the completion of sacraments is so that my children will also be able to become godparents themselves, but I intend to emphasize the beauty of the ritual as opposed to the promises that they are being asked to make. I find those promises to be just as symbolic as the wine which doesn’t actually turn into blood (ew) for us to drink.

        Now, my issue with atheism isn’t as much as that it avoids big questions, but that the very nature of being an atheist insists that an individual doesn’t believe in God, which in fact suggests that there may a God to believe in. My father explained this to me in a much more complete way when I was a child (he has a degree in philosphy so he is a master of discovering fallacies in arguments that mask themselves as logic) and told me that it is incredibly extreme and illogical to declare that there is no God, because no one can actually prove the existence of God as much as there is no way to prove that one does not exist. He suggested that people who claimed to be atheists are most likely agnostics, who simply haven’t seen any proof that God does exist, but are open-minded enough to consider the possibility. His problem, in general, is with organized religion, which I think is what is actually being discussed here.

        One of the real draws of organized religion IS the community. Especially in very rural areas, church can be the only place where groups of people get together. So removing oneself from organized religion is essentially removing oneself from community. I’ve been reading the UU website, and while I do think that it is nice that there is a place for people who don’t believe, I am struggling with the idea that this is still an organized religion, however inclusive.

        The very idea that this organization is “all-inclusive” troubles me, because there are so many religions that are incredibly contradictory. What happens to a devout Muslim who believes that women are to sit in the back of the church enters this meeting house? Or a Hindu at the potluck dinner where they serve beef? I don’t think Greg’s comments are intended to be inflammatory. In fact, I can’t find something (except for the link posted in jest) that could be found to be so. I think that he is merely pointing out the interesting logical holes in their mission statement.

        That being said, I second his comment that if this works for you (not you the person, but the general universal you) by all means engage in it. I think it’s important for everyone to find their own spiritual (I had no other word for this) path and find community within like minded individuals.

        • December 21, 2011 10:22 pm

          Ty – I take some issue with this “incredibly extreme and illogical to declare that there is no God, because no one can actually prove the existence of God as much as there is no way to prove that one does not exist”

          The burden of proof is on the person declaring the existence of anything. I actually don’t declare that there is no god, I declare that I do not believe in a god. I guess I could be wrong, there might be one, but I still don’t believe in one any more than I believe that Santa lives at the North Pole or that the Easter Bunny really leaves eggs to be found and chocolate to be eaten. I know, I know….everyone says that, but still I don’t believe. And no, I’m not agnostic because I’m not “up in the air” or “on the fence”. I cannot fathom the possibility nor do I have any understanding of “faith” in something I cannot see.

          “I’ve been reading the UU website, and while I do think that it is nice that there is a place for people who don’t believe…”

          UU isn’t a place for those who “don’t believe”, it’s a place for people who may or many not believe in different things. It’s all-inclusiveness isn’t the same as tending to every aspect of every religion, and really, anyone that strictly adheres to the dogma of their particular brand of faith isn’t going to seek out UU.

          I’m going to disagree, Greg’s comments were meant to inflame or he would have kept them much lighter and brief. Telling me that my idea of a warm and fuzzy way to spend a Sunday is a “waste of time” certainly inflamed me. I wasn’t trying to declare UU the best of the best for everyone everywhere….I was just being open about something we found that we liked. It works for us, for our family.

          • December 22, 2011 12:29 am

            I know you’re not trying to debate, and that wasn’t the point of this post. It’s just that I found this to be incredibly interesting. So interesting that I sent the link to Greg and it spawned a discussion between us. You know the way my upbringing was in regards to the dichotomy between my parents’ religious outlooks, and we spent many a Sunday afternoon discussing the merits of various outlooks. I guess I found it so interesting because I too am looking for a place where my questions aren’t demonized as blasphemy. I don’t get the whole “atheists = baby killers” thing at all, but I’m not sure I can agree the burden of proof falls on the person declaring that something exists. I think the burden falls on whomever makes a declaration. Should a person tell me that “there is no spoon” I would require some kind of proof that this was the case and I would dismiss this same person who told me, “well you think it exists, you prove that it does.”

            My calling UU a place for people who don’t believe, I can see, is not an accurate representation of what this place is, I understand now. And while I do understand that the concept of inclusivity doesn’t mean tending to every religious aspect, I find it difficult to imagine an organization that can claim to be inclusive to the acknowledgement of different faiths without being directly confronted by the contradictions of these faiths. I mean, wars have been fought over just this, no? I am even more concerned by the fact that the leaders of this organization have taken the titles of “minister” and “reverand” both of which are heavily mired in religion. A “minister” is taking the abbreviate title of “minster of faith” and a “reverand” is taking a title which implies reverence both of which involve an acknowledgement of a higher power, or a kind of magic, if you will. For those who don’t believe in a higher deity or in any kind of magic, it would seem like this would be hard to swallow.

            I think there is absolute merit in being exposed to different perspectives and belief structures. I crave such a thing myself, but the closest I’ve ever come to a place where these perspectives were explored constructively has been a classroom. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt the spirit of active learning without judgement, and if UU (or any other place really) were to provide such an environment without charging me insane tuition costs, I’d be really interested in seeing. In fact, despite all of this, I’m really interested in seeing what a service at UU would be like. I’m deeply fascinated in an honest and sincere way. And while Greg’s delivery seems dismissive, he is in fact discussing how the concept strikes him. I can assure you that while it’s effect might have been otherwise, his intent was surely not to inflame anything more to ignite a discussion where he can gather more information on the topic. And the truth is when Greg finds something worth exploration neither brevity nor lightness is a virtue of his. He, more than anyone I’ve ever met, seeks truth above all things. And why else would we blog about our ideas if not to engage in some virtual conversation?

            Really, I’d like to hear more. I’d like to know what they talk about at the services, and am intrigued by the concept that the service is more of a discussion (I think I read this in the description, but I may be mistaken that this does happen) than a sermon or a lecture. What does their educational curriculum look like…this fascinates me most of all. It excites me to the idea that I can find a way to give Grace an foundation in religious education without having to deal with the rigamarole and constraints of a church who doesn’t recognize my marriage at all. Although there’s still the whole “godparent” issue to deal with, but I’m not sure I wouldn’t be willing to give that up. I mean, she could choose to take the year long course to get her certificate to do that, if she wanted to. What does the “Path to Membership” involve? I’m not going to lie, the phrasing of this is also concerning and I’m not trying to be insulting when I say it echoes of Scientologist phrasing. I read that it means taking these courses, but is that it? Do they have their own rituals or holidays? Like, say I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas anymore, do they have some kind of winter holiday?

            Really I’m sorry for the hijacking of this post, but seriously, it is really interesting and I hope you post more about it.

      • December 21, 2011 6:16 pm

        Thanks for your reply Allison,

        It’s my understanding that the very definition of atheism is not an actual belief structure, but instead a declaration that you’ve confidently ruled out an answer. That answer being that the universe, world, you, whatever… was created by any being that can be categorized as a ‘deity’ (the discussion of what falls within that definition can fill pages I’m sure). If this is not you, I’d be very interested in whatever you could tell me about what lead you to a place where you are saying you are leaning towards atheism.

        There was a period of quite a few years in my life where I was actively and enthusiastically on a journey to explore religion, science, and whoever else suggested they had an answer to the big questions. I had been raised a strict Catholic including all the trimmings (alter boy, CCD, sacraments… and no I wasn’t abused, must have been too ugly or something), but there were a lot of things that just didn’t sit well with me.

        So I really explored. I joined the communities. Hindu, Buddhism, Jewish, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, Greek Orthodox, and others. The ones I didn’t have the opportunity to join, I read anything I could find and listened to anyone I could find within that religion about what they were all about.

        So I think I understand where you are right now. You have hunches, or strong feelings one way or another, but aren’t entirely convinced. The one thing I can say about UU is “Where the hell was it when I needed it?” lol, I would have loved to have access to a place where everyone I wanted to talk to was IN THE SAME PLACE! Moreover, you can pit the ideas and philosophies against one another without working at all! Everyone is right there, ready to listen and explain… awesome!

        Sounds like they made this organization for people who weren’t sure, and filled it up with people who are. But how can someone from say, a catholic religion actually really be tolerant? If they are a true catholic, then they believe that those who have not received their sacraments are doomed to hell. So if they don’t try to convert the non catholics, aren’t they actually committing a sinful act of hubris by actively sitting back and allowing someone to journey towards an eternity of hell without trying to at least intervene the best way they can?

        Most of the world’s organized religions (especially christian based) see tolerance of other beliefs as a bad thing to be avoided. If this is the case, even if it was only one faith, how can one have an institution that tolerant of intolerance, without being intolerant?

        Here’s what I learned from my journey:

        1. Going to Hindu temple was by far the most fun.

        2. There’s really 2 schools of thought among the varying faiths:
        A. We were created by some sentient force.
        B. We are just a representation of a collection of energy. (science really falls into this category as well).

        3. Most religions could use a good sanity check on what they are asserting is truth.

        4. The catholic religion is almost nothing like what it started as, more so then any other religion as far as I can see (ironic huh).

        In the end, the thing that rings most true to me is Deepak Chopra.

        One thing Im glad about, is I’ve managed to escape the modern day cult that is Facebook 🙂

      • December 21, 2011 10:08 pm

        Allison – exactly this: “acknowledge all faiths and aren’t threatened by them and don’t feel the need to put them down simply because they don’t embrace them as their own”
        This is why I like UU. Because when someone asked me why we came….I told them I don’t believe in anything but I want my daughter to be exposed to many different view points, I didn’t get the evil “atheist = baby killer” dagger stares. What I did get was total and complete understanding, something very hard to come by if you don’t preselect the people you’re interacting with.

    • December 21, 2011 8:26 pm

      Greg: You said, “As far as atheism is concerned (imho), I still haven’t figured out how it’s not just the faithful practice of avoiding the big questions all together.
      …and it’s true, the more you delve into science and try to trace and prove causation moving backwards, is the more a magical and all knowing entity seems to be a likely answer.”

      There was an article written this summer that might interest you, because not only does it completely disprove your theory that atheists/agnostics/humanists are “avoiding the big question”, but the studies prove just the opposite: that non-believers are actually more educated, more inquisitive, and more ethical than believers.

      “The most surprising insight revealed by the new wave of secular research so far is that atheists know more about the God they don’t believe in than the believers themselves. This is the conclusion suggested by a 2010 Pew Research Center survey of US citizens. Even when the higher education levels of the unreligious were factored out, they proved to be better informed in matters of faith, followed by Jewish and Mormon believers.”

      Worth noting just for kicks: Catholics are not in the top 3.

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,777281,00.html

    • December 21, 2011 10:03 pm

      “How much of what you actually believe today was born from some message in a sermon or other religious speech you heard one day, and how much of it is derived from a small, more personal discussion you had between you and a few other people in some non-formal social setting? ”

      To be honest – most of what I believe (or don’t believe) today didn’t come from listening to sermons or talking to friends….it came from reading. Even now, when we do attend a service…and there’s something that strikes me…I make note and look it up later. I’m just more inclined to research a topic that interests me, even if I don’t agree with it.

      “As far as atheism is concerned (imho), I still haven’t figured out how it’s not just the faithful practice of avoiding the big questions all together. ”

      You’ll have to trust me on this, but I have in NO way ever avoided these “big questions”. I no longer concern myself with them because I don’t believe in a higher power. I will research as much as my non-physics studying brain can comprehend about the science of it all. Atheism isn’t about avoidance. And it certainly isn’t agnosticism. I mean, sure…I could be wrong, we all could be…but if I am right, we won’t know will we, because we’ll just cease to exist when it’s all said and done.

  4. December 21, 2011 5:11 pm

    http://www.goddess.org/religious_sex.html

    yeah, tolerate that!!! lol

    nothing says Im going to heaven like voyeuristic sex rituals set to poetry.

  5. Peter permalink
    December 22, 2011 2:06 am

    First off. Greg, you are wrong in bring this discussion here. This is a family blog and not a proper forum for religious debate. Basically, if the word “church” was replaced with “community center”, would you still have an issue with a place to meet people, make connections, have activities, and listen to other people’s point of view?

    “What if my beliefs are that bad things happen in this world because we aren’t sacrificing our monthly quota of tolerant and inclusive church goers? Would they be tolerant and inclusive enough to volunteer? If so we can end this silliness right now.”
    volunteer what? If your belief was that, the simple response would be “Why?”. This would then lead to discussion. Either you have reason or you are just crazy. If the latter, reasoning with you is out of the question and what’s the point?

    “Other then that it seems like someone, who was opposed to some form(s) of organized religion and/or religious doctrine, decided one day to organize a group of people of like minds and beliefs”
    Ahhh… You forget that ALL religions, communities, and governments do this. So what is the point of this entire paragraph? People choose to organize with like minded people is self evident.

    “The notion of religion or religious belief comes from humanities fear of the unknown.”
    Or… the humanities questioning of the unknown. The lack of knowledge and search for an answer is not necessarily rooted in fear. Not all religions are fixated on the afterlife.

    “In all of the widely recognized and established religions of our time that I know of, there seems to be a requirement by that religion to bring the message of your truth about magic to as many people as possible (prolly the first sign that ur religion has been corrupted if you ask me). ”
    Replace religion with “democracy”, “socialism”, “capitalism”, or “technology”. This argument is not a strong because it seems human nature to spread beliefs even non-religious ones.

    “So in the end, I’m curious to understand how the experience of this church isn’t just an hour or more of highly heated debate, lengthy times where you are doing nothing while waiting for the rituals of all the other religions represented that day to be enacted, and a real problem with paid time off from work not meeting the myriad of holy days you need to be observant of to truly consider yourself tolerant of other people’s beliefs? ”
    What’s wrong with knowledge or listening to different perspectives? This is what we do in school and in life. The only difference here is that this place primary focus is on spirtual knowledge/perspective. Why did you mention days off as is has no relevance and only obfuscates your point.

    “Seems like a highly organized way to waste your time if you really look at it. How could such a church facilitate Hindu rituals, Jewish rituals, Catholic rituals, and Muslim rituals required by those faiths all at the same time? If the answer is that they schedule them differently, then when someone professes that such a church is tolerant and inclusive, expect my reply to be, “You’re just a big fibber, right?” ”
    The issue here is that your believe that your point of view is the only point of view. “Waste of time” is subjective (I have a degree in Economics and work in finance so I very understand individual valuation). A religion is not based solely on fulfillment of rituals. UU does not claim to be a Hindu+Jewish+Catholic+Muslim faith nor attempts to be.

    “Really, my personal opinion is that the worst thing that happens to a religion is the lack of encouragement for the intensely personal journey and relationship with whatever magic you decide is plausible that is derived from the ‘need’ to organize the answers your religion provides and the structured advice it gives on how to best accommodate the reality of those answers as they pertain to influencing outcomes to a desired result.”
    Breakdown of wordiness: My subjective view is that religion does not encourage self-discovery.
    Answer: Virtually, all religions do offer and assist members in self-discovery and education. Sometimes, you must make the effort to seek these opportunities out. If you did not, then of course your opinion would be limited.

    “How much of what you actually believe today was born from some message in a sermon or other religious speech you heard one day, and how much of it is derived from a small, more personal discussion you had between you and a few other people in some non-formal social setting? For me and everyone I’ve ever posed this question to, the answer is emphatically the latter. ”
    Counter-point…. If you and the few people in the non-formal social setting are ignorant or have limited knowledge of topic, how can one be so sure that enlightment or true knowledge has been discovered?

    “So if that IS the case, the commonly accepted notion of a ‘church’, or.. ‘meeting house where we talk about stuff we used to talk about in church’… is likely to be one of the biggest obstacles in the way of someone seeking these big truths (how did we get here, what are we here for, and what happens to us when we’re dead).”
    However, if one has no knowledge to begin the journey where does one begin?

    “As far as atheism is concerned (imho), I still haven’t figured out how it’s not just the faithful practice of avoiding the big questions all together.”
    Again, your opinion is just your subjective view of reality. One set of possible answers to your big three questions:
    1) How did we get here? We are a result of Law of Large Numbers. There are infinite branes with infinite variations (according the M-Theory). Therefore, our existence is just one of the possible permutations of the infinite.
    2) What are we here for? What is the star Proxima Centauri here for? Does it matter if is there because it just is? Is there a need for reason of existence?
    3) And what happens to us when we’re dead? We rot.
    This is just an example of answers that might just be good enough for someone to worry about the present and not require supernatural belief. The “big questions” may just be human constructs. The universe may simply not care or notice
    us.

    “Really religion, science, prophecy, whatever… the thing they all have in common is that at some point they all fail one question: “OK, so where did THAT come from then?” …and it’s true, the more you delve into science and try to trace and prove causation moving backwards, is the more a magical and all knowing entity seems to be a likely answer.”
    That is a logical fallacy. You just said: “Because we do not currently know the answer, it must be supernatural explanation.” That is absolutely NOT the concept of science. Currently, the most popular understanding of the observable universe is that we are on a brane of a superstring in a 11-dimensional universe. Before you try to dismiss that as a religion in itself, the differences is that scientist have the ability to validate with observations and have the capability to modify/change their understanding as new evidence arises. BTW, this is why the Higgs Boson (‘God Particle’) is so important to discover. It would validate our current understanding of the universe as science predicts its existence. However, if it is not found, science can re-examine itself and change since nothing is truly dogma.

    “As a person who was raised by both a strictly Catholic mother, and an agnostic (more on that later) father, philosophical conversations about religion were not an uncommon occurrence in our household.”
    I have had 12 years of religion classes (including Comparative religion), been on dozens of retreats, my parents have lead a large Vietnamese Catholic Church for the last 20+ years, and personally know a few dozen priests/nuns…. I consider myself very well versed in religion.

    “Godparents play an active role in my culture”
    I do not understand why a label of “”Godparents” is required to play an active role. I know your family is close and nothing would change if the label of “godparents” did not exist, right?

    “Now, my issue with atheism isn’t as much as that it avoids big questions, but that the very nature of being an atheist insists that an individual doesn’t believe in God, which in fact suggests that there may a God to believe in. My father explained this to me in a much more complete way when I was a child (he has a degree in philosphy so he is a master of discovering fallacies in arguments that mask themselves as logic) and told me that it is incredibly extreme and illogical to declare that there is no God, because no one can actually prove the existence of God as much as there is no way to prove that one does not exist. He suggested that people who claimed to be atheists are most likely agnostics, who simply haven’t seen any proof that God does exist, but are open-minded enough to consider the possibility. ”
    The weakness in that argument is you assume that the point of view is that the person is questioning if a God could exist. Say a person believes that only the observable/verifiable/perception is reality and there is nothing beyond this. How could you ask them to even consider anything supernatural? Another example, a person is given a small box and is told that there is a planet inside this box. If that person believes the statement to be a complete lie and absurd, is that person not justified in doing so? You might label the person as just a doubter as you believe you know the truth and the person is just misguided. However, that does not change the fact that that other person absolutely does not believe you.

    “The very idea that this organization is “all-inclusive” troubles me, because there are so many religions that are incredibly contradictory. ”
    All-inclusive does not mean literally “all-inclusive” much like how a store’s “satisfaction guaranteed” sign does not mean you can sue them for $67M for a pair of lost pants. (True case: Pearson v. Chung) What is implied is that they accepting of other’s beliefs as willingness to listen and discuss. This does not mean they must believe all beliefs nor does it mean they will force one’s belief on another. They believe that religion/spirituality is a self journey (much like what Greg wished religions emphasized). However, most cannot make the journey in a vacuum so thisa place of knowledge sharing, support, and community.

    “It’s my understanding that the very definition of atheism is not an actual belief structure, but instead a declaration that you’ve confidently ruled out an answer. That answer being that the universe, world, you, whatever… was created by any being that can be categorized as a ‘deity’ (the discussion of what falls within that definition can fill pages I’m sure). If this is not you, I’d be very interested in whatever you could tell me about what lead you to a place where you are saying you are leaning towards atheism.”
    It is not an answer if you do not believe it could even be answer. If there were superior beings out there, does that necessarily make them deities? No. Some ants make see humans as deities but that does not make us so as we go about completely ignoring their existence. An atheist can simply believe that their existences was an eventuality of an infinite universe with infinite permutations.

    “Sounds like they made this organization for people who weren’t sure, and filled it up with people who are. But how can someone from say, a catholic religion actually really be tolerant? If they are a true catholic, then they believe that those who have not received their sacraments are doomed to hell. So if they don’t try to convert the non catholics, aren’t they actually committing a sinful act of hubris by actively sitting back and allowing someone to journey towards an eternity of hell without trying to at least intervene the best way they can?”
    All religions are organizations for people who weren’t sure of another religion or belief; else… they would be in the other organization. Can a one be tolerant of others without understanding the perspective of others? Can one say I’m not a racist without ever interacting with another race?
    Counter-point: If a person is adamant on their beliefs and expressly stated “Please respect my wishes and no longer talk to me”, would a Catholic be a good person by violating the other request?

    • December 22, 2011 12:18 pm

      It seems that I’ve offended you. For that I am truly sorry to you and your family. It really was not my intention.

      I actually didn’t realize that this was a family blog. I saw the articles on top right and didn’t realize they were another blog all together. Not that I see it happening again, but if you DO get offended by anything I’ve written, do me a favor and just delete it. I know I have a blunt and rough way of communicating, and for some people that’s not acceptable, which is perfectly fine. It’s totally fine with me if you decide it’s best to delete the things I say, I’m kinda used to it. 🙂

      As far as the topic under discussion, it’s really hard for me to resist engaging further, but I’m kind of getting a mixed message about whether you actually want to engage in a debate or not, so I’ll leave it alone out of respect for you, your family, and the intentions of the blog. But should you find one day that you would like to discuss this topic with me, you’ll find me an eager participant. This is the topic I love debating above all others. I would absolutely LOVE to talk about this all day if possible. Your post has actually piqued my interest more then it may seem. I am actually planning to go to the UU meeting house and see what’s what for myself.

      Again, I’m sorry for any problems I caused. I hope you can see that nothing I wrote was a result of any bad intentions, but instead came from a lust for truth. 🙂

      _greg

  6. December 29, 2011 9:27 am

    The UU organization came out of a merger between the Universalist Church in America and the Unitarian Church. Hosea Ballou was the Universalist theologian who advocated Unitarianism and set the ground work for the later merger and assimilation.

    Earlier Universalists, like the denominations founding father, John Murray were not only not unitarian, they were quite evangelical in their theology. I really feel like the Universalist church was hijacked by the Unitarians thanls to Ballou and would love to see a new denomination form out of the ashes of the old.

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