I’ve been following an on-line discussion about the way Unitarian Universalist humanists should relate to their UU congregations. Some want to form local UU congregations that are explicitly humanistic, while others like the diversity of groups that include theists, atheists, and agnostics, and focus on common values.
After I posted about this topic recently, one person commented that a theologically homogeneous group “too easily falls into nasty habits, sneering at those not there to hear it, making ‘jokes’ that are little short of hate speech, not quite realizing how far down that path they’ve gone in the absence of anyone present to call them on it.”
I couldn’t agree more. I have seen this sort of thing happen many times – even among good people. We humans find it so difficult to respect those who disagree with us about religion (or politics, or morality).
I also have another concern about setting up explicitly humanistic Unitarian Universalist congregations. Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion. In the past few decades few if any of our churches have taken a formal stand in favor of some theological position. If we start setting up humanistic congregations, we’ll soon see congregations that formally privilege liberal theism, neo-Paganism, etc. That sort of theological fragmentation sounds very destructive.
On the other hand, forming more humanistic groups within UU churches could be quite positive. Within Unitarian Universalism, theism is now more commonly affirmed than it was 30 years ago. As a result, some atheists and agnostics have felt marginalized. They need to feel the supportive community of their fellow humanists. And having different theological groups doesn’t need to be divisive. If one congregation contains local chapters of groups such as HUUmanists, the UU Christian Fellowship, and the Covenant of UU Pagans, that could actually encourage respectful conversations across theological boundary-lines.
Roger Christan Schriner
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