The Unitarian-Universalists Get it Right


I have a great admiration for the Unitarian-Universalists.   First of all, the Universalist aspect of it seems a prerequisite to any deserving approach to spirituality. If you don’t accept the idea that different religions could lead to God and salvation (whatever you mean by that), then that would mean God doomed untold millions—billions—of people to hell (whatever you mean by that), people who never had a chance to hear about Jesus, or Mohammed, or whoever you’re betting on. The idea of the Chosen People or the Elect is infuriating. Why would the Deity embrace John Calvin at the time of his death in 1564 but doom a South Sea Islander who died that same year but never had a chance to hear about Jesus, the Trinity, heaven and hell?

I also like the way they put it on their website: “personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion.”   This is what the Seven Universal Sacraments are all about. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, we should look for the sacred in what we know, or recognize around us, not in some other-dimensional beings that may just be the hallucinations of a disturbed mind.   Why should we believe that an angel came to Mary or that shepherds heard a heavenly host singing “alleluia”? What we can believe in unequivocally is the awesome power in the birth of a child, and the need that child will have for nurture, support, and guidance throughout its life, and that we, the parents are meant to supply it.   Human experience points us in the direction of these seven aspects of life that are truly sacred, universal aspects that anyone of any culture can accept as bringing us closer to our higher selves, or “the divine” if you like that term better.

But as the Unitarians say, we need reason as well, so that if someone tells us that God has come to them with a message to go into the neighboring city and enslave all the women, behead all the men who refuse to acknowledge the truth of the message, and enforce draconian laws to ensure everyone follows that message, then, it is to be hoped, that logical arguments would dissuade anyone who still lays claim to any sort of ability to think. Unfortunately, the ability to think is precisely what is lacking too often in the world today.

How do we teach people to think? How do we foster reason? How do we break the bonds of tradition that brooks no dissent, or of groupthink that encourages silence in the face of powerful voices? Clearly this is a job for the schools. The ability to question goes hand in hand with reason, dissent is indispensible to a just society, or a search for the sacred. Lets add “Reason 101” to every college freshman’s required curriculum and “Skepticism” to every high school.


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