Friday, January 29, 2010

Should Humanists Become UUs?

I want to call your attention to an article I just wrote for "The New Humanism." It's called "A Church That Would Have You as a Member" and it discusses how a Unitarian Universalist congregation might or might not be a good choice for a Humanist who is looking for a community.

Lately I've gotten interested in the more general question of the role Humanism has in UUism. So I'd appreciate hearing any comments UU-Humanists might have about how they are or are not fitting in with their congregations, comments non-Humanists might have about how well they're getting along with the Humanists in their congregation, if the New Atheism (the more aggressive kind, like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens) is making any ripples in your church, and so on.


MichaelH said...

Before I committed to become UU, the presence of atheists was one of my biggest stumbling blocks. While I had no disrespect for non-believers, and had considered myself one for a long while, I figured if a church is a spiritual community, people who don't acknowledge the spiritual side of existence would not be a good fit. Most of my experience with organized groups of humanists had consisted of meetings or online forums that were largely devoted to talking about how stupid people who believe in any sort of God are, and even when I was an agnostic-near-atheist, that seemed unnecessary, mean and smug to me.

Now that I've had some time with the UUs, including UU humanists, I've developed an appreciation for the spiritual values they do contribute. But it's largely because they seem to be a different breed of humanist than I'd encountered before -- UU humanists respect and can worship alongside theists and pantheists and polytheists and panentheists without a need to berate. I think one underlying common thread for UUs, implied if not stated in our sources and principles, is that we don't claim certain knowledge of spiritual truths. Whatever we believe, even if we believe in no deity, we recognize the value of other perspectives.

Although I will say that if the stridency of the 'New Atheists' ever took root in my congregation, I would find a new congregation.

Robin Edgar said...

@ MichaelH correction - *Some* UU humanists respect and can worship alongside theists and pantheists and polytheists and panentheists without a need to berate.

Perhaps even *most* UU humanists can do so, but the sad reality is that there are no shortage of the kind of intolerant and strident "New Atheists" aka "fundamentalists atheists" who belong to UU churches throughout continental North America and who go out of their way to make any number of UU "Welcoming Congregations" anything but genuinely welcoming to God believing people. Indeed, as you make clear in your comment, even moderate atheists and agnostics are sometimes not all that comfortable with the anti-religious "bad attitude" of such "fundamentalist atheist" UUs. Did I forget to mention that *some* of these intolerant atheists are ordained UU ministers?

Quite frankly Doug Muder is quite aware of this readily verifiable fact so I am rather disappointed in his failure to acknowledge this unpleasant reality of the UU World in his New Humanist article.

kimc said...

I think it's pretty much human nature to think, or say, that anyone with a different idea is stupid to not agree with me.
Mostly people don't really believe what they think they believe anyway: If someone really had faith in God, a god who judges people, then he would feel no need to judge too, because he'd know God could take care of it. So it looks like all of those who feel they have to legislate the "Word of God" clearly have no faith in God's competence at all. But that was off topic. I just think it's so easy to think "those other people are so stupid" that you kindof have to forgive them for falling into that trap...

Donald R. S. Wilton said...

I have found that the humanists that refuse to admit to the theological tendencies of the members also tend to leave. There are intolerant people in the church. I have seen it in attitudes towards veterans. That doesn't mean that because some people have attitudes that I have to take it personally. I have found atheists to be tedious at times. I have a personal belief in life after death as defined by the current knowledge of ghosts that I have experienced, and there are atheists who claim that the church doesn't believe in this. I recognize that the church is a place where we can disagree. Its true that anybody, atheists included, can be a pain. I put it on the individual to decide for themselves how to behave to others, rude or not.