Thoughts on Unitarian Universalism

Readers will perhaps remember the account of my first visit to a Unitarian Universalist service at the end of January. Now that I have attended a total of five services, I would like to share my thoughts and explain why it no longer interests me.

The second service I attended was the following week. I found the sermon by a different speaker far less interesting and engaging than the first week. After that, I spent the next couple of weekends with a woman I was dating and so I didn't go. The third service I attended was at the beginning of April. I found the sermon boring and rather self-congratulatory. I didn't intend to return after that and didn't give it much more thought. A couple of weeks ago, however, I decided to attend again in hopes of meeting some new friends, despite my failing to have done so on the previous occasions, not because people weren't friendly and welcoming, but because they were generally older and married. Last week's sermon was somewhat interesting, but I didn't really enjoy it. Today I returned because there was a guest speaker who spoke about “positive atheism.” The sermon was mostly uninteresting, however, because I already knew all about everything he said, including the jokes and quotes. I don't intend to return again and I would like to explain why.

Essentially, it's still too “churchy” for my tastes, but there are several other issues:

  • The general focus has been on liberal faith, not reason.
  • The sermons have been mostly uninteresting.
  • The music has been rather boring.
  • The hymns and readings too often mention God or faith or simply make no sense.
  • The sharing of joys and concerns is too similar to actual prayer.
  • The tone is too self-congratulatory.
  • It costs time and money.
  • I doubt I would make any friends by continuing to go.
After leaving a service, I generally feel that my mind has been clouded with vague concepts and notions which make clear, rational thinking more difficult. It's not easy to explain. I just don't know what they're talking about half of the time and it hurts my brain. That is a common reaction for me to religion, especially liberal religion.

I am not seeking to criticize Unitarian Universalism. The society I visited was very warm, friendly and welcoming. They are not at all dogmatic. They do not proselytize. They are strong political allies on issues which atheists generally support. They provide a good home for liberal believers and even for some unbelievers. They are certainly the only religious group which invites an atheist speaker to give a sermon about atheism! I have concluded, however, that it's just not the place for me, which is really a shame since I would love to make some more friends.


A Failure of Imagination

The alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the primary focal point of Christian apologetics. Excepting various discredited relics which would provide only very indirect support at best, the only type of evidence regularly claimed by Christian apologists is the supposed eyewitness accounts of the event. Yet the arguments presented in support of these accounts rely completely on a failure of the imagination.

There are many lengthy books which go into great detail explaining why the accounts are credible and trustworthy. The authors argue that the disciples could not possibly have lied, that they could not possibly have been mistaken, and that the later storytellers and scribes could not possibly have done either. Can they simply not fathom any possible scenario in which a false story came to be believed? Can they not remember their justification for dismissing every other religion's alleged miracles? No, they insist that in this particular case, the witnesses are completely and totally reliable, despite scientific studies having proven that eyewitnesses are not absolutely reliable even in their individual, basic, short-term memories, much less highly controversial and politically charged group claims of the miraculous in times of severe stress and anxiety.

It is patently absurd to argue in favor of a seemingly impossible occurrence that we never, ever witness by claiming that other occurrences which we witness on a daily basis just could not possibly have occurred.



Religious Exemption to City Ordinance

Early last week I watched a news story on the local news about American Atheists suing the City of Jacksonville again. I haven't been able to find any more information, despite visiting the website of the station and even writing to the webmaster about the story, so I will have to summarize it from memory.

At some point in the past, the city passed an ordinance which made it illegal to give food to the homeless without a permit, to ensure that they were not given anything unsanitary. Either last year or earlier this year, a religious group complained that this ordinance interfered with their right to practice their religion which commanded them to help the poor. The city then revised this ordinance by granting exceptions for anyone motivated by “bona fide religious faith.” American Atheists subsequently sued the city for violation of the separation of church and state by granting this religious exemption. The story didn't say what happened because the case was not yet closed.

I have several complaints about the exemption. First, it gives preference to religion by waiving the application fee for the permit for religious groups. Second, it provides no basis for distinguishing “bona fide” faith from any other variety of faith. Third, it's impossible to determine motivation for charitable acts at all. The city should either revoke the exemption or repeal the ordinance altogether.



Humanist On Board

Last week I became a slightly more visible Humanist when I attached a Happy Human emblem to the back of my car which I had ordered from EvolveFISH.com. I generally prefer that symbol over other secular symbols because it's positive: it doesn't attack religion, it represents what I do believe, and it's actually rather cheerful. With respect to this purchase, I also prefer it because religious bigots are unlikely to recognize it and are therefore less likely to vandalize my personal property. I have heard about someone whose Happy Human had its arms and legs broken off, but I'm sure it's far less common than vandalism to Darwin fish. I haven't received any reaction from it so far and I really don't expect any.