10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Unitarian Universalism

What UUs believe, why we’ve come to those beliefs, and how they impact our lives.

The Rev. Galen Guengerich, Ph.D., is senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and author of God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age (2013). We asked Rev. Guengerich what he wishes everyone knew about Unitarian Universalism.

1. Unitarians played a pivotal role in founding the United States.

If you look at our Principles and Purposes as a denomination, you’d think we had founded a nation rather than a religion. In a sense, we did: three of the first five U.S presidents were Unitarian, including Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly thought the U.S. would soon become a majority-Unitarian nation.

A leading historian has suggested that, just as the theological underpinning of the Vatican’s architecture is Catholic, the theological underpinning of the Library of Congress building in Washington is Unitarian. Be that as it may, we’ve been at the center of the American experiment from the very beginning.

2. Religiously speaking, we’re in our adolescence.

If you visit a typical Unitarian Universalist congregation, you may walk away thinking we know more about what we don’t believe than what we do. That’s because we’ve only recently left home, theologically speaking. Both the Unitarians and the Universalists left the Christian fold more than a century ago; the two denominations merged in 1961.

Like teenagers who have just left home, we’re relieved to not be under mom and dad’s thumb, but we haven’t fully decided on a home of our own — either where it stands or how it’s furnished. No worries: it took the Christian tradition several hundred years to cobble together its tradition from then-contemporary sources, so we have plenty of time.

3. We focus on what we know by experience.

Over the past 500 years or so, human beings have come to rely more and more on reason and science as the basis of human knowledge. As a result, religion and its defenders have been engaged in an often-brutal tug-of-war with science and its defenders over what we most truly know.

Unitarian Universalists have ended this test of strength between reason and revelation by letting go of the rope. For us, it’s no contest: if what we know from our experience contradicts what we’re told by an ancient wisdom text, reason trumps revelation every time.

4. Our name refers to historic heresies that matter today.

Among other catalysts, religion develops in response to two persistent questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going? Our theological lineage extends back to people who believed that an omnipotent God sent his fully human yet fully divine son to save humanity from eternity in hell. The Unitarians rejected the Christian doctrine of the Trinity; Jesus was a great prophet and teacher, but not divine — not the Son of God. The Universalists rejected the Christian doctrine of predestination; a good God wouldn’t damn anyone to hell, especially not before the world was even created.

Put in contemporary terms, we believe that we all emerge from the same source, whatever that may be. And we all share the same destiny, whatever that may be. Taken together, these beliefs point to our often-unsatisfying conviction that any reward for good deeds and any punishment for bad deeds must happen in this life, if they are to happen at all.

5. We don’t believe in the God many others don’t believe in either.

When you look at the systematic injustice — structural violence is probably a better term — in the world today, especially toward women and gays, people of color, and other disadvantaged peoples, the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is hard to accept, much less believe in. But it’s not hard to understand where the idea came from.

Our most distant predecessors survived because they came to understand the concept of agency. If the reeds rustled at the water’s edge, it’s best to see what’s causing it, or you may become dinner. Writ cosmically large, this tendency led people to think that if the world was set in motion, someone or something must have caused that as well.

Not surprisingly, this primordial prime mover ended up looking a lot like the most powerful people on earth — always male, usually straight, and typically white — only infinitely more so. This view of God has had catastrophic consequences, which is why we don’t believe in such a God.

6. We’ve revised our view of God — and of everything else.

The ancient Greek physician Galen, the so-called father of medicine, lived nearly 2,000 years ago, when the ideas in the Nicene Creed (the main creed of Christianity) took shape. Galen made advances in physiology and surgery, but I’m glad my own physicians no longer consult his recommendations. He championed bloodletting, among other archaic practices.

In the same way, we need to revise our understanding of ultimate reality so it conforms to everything else we know. We understand our experience of God (though not all of us would use that term: see #2 above) as an experience of belonging — not just to a family, or a nation, or even a galaxy, but to everything: the experience of ultimate belonging. The experience of God intimately and extensively connects us to everything — all that is present in our lives and our world, as well as all that is past and all that is possible.

In a word, God is the experience of possibility.

7. We believe that freedom is a consequence of belonging, not its antithesis.

Americans — especially American men — have a longstanding belief that heroism is the ability to go it alone. We celebrate the spiritual heroism of Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond, the justice-seeking heroism of the Lone Ranger, and the elegiac heroism voiced by Kris Kristofferson, who insists that “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

In fact, you can’t be free until you belong. You’re not free to be alive until you belong to this macrocosm known as Earth. You’re not free to enjoy the benefits of being American until you belong as a citizen. You’re not free to play in the World Series unless you belong to one of the teams. And so on. Freedom comes when we find ourselves in a place that sustains us and among people who nurture us. Life is first and foremost a collaborative endeavor.

8. We’re the gratitude people.

While Unitarian Universalist theological identity hasn’t yet cohered (again, see #2 above), here’s my sense of what we can make our own. Each religious tradition has a defining discipline of faith. For example, Jews emphasize obedience to the commandments, Christians emphasize love of God and neighbor, and Muslims emphasize submission to the will of Allah. For us, our defining discipline could be gratitude, which emphasizes all we have been given and all we owe back in return.

This is not about feeling warm fuzzies when someone holds the door open as you approach with a load of groceries any more than the Christian concept of divine love is about making what Aerosmith calls “Love in the Elevator.” Gratitude is how we respond upon recognizing that we are made up of our relationships to everyone and everything else, from trees (try living without oxygen) to teachers (try getting a job without knowing anything) and even to tyrannosaurus rex (without them, there probably wouldn’t be us).

9. The discipline of gratitude calls us to worship together.

The experience of worship is what distinguishes religious communities from other kinds of communities. It’s a time when we gather to remind ourselves and each other of what we should never forget: our utter dependence on the people and world around us for everything.

We depend upon the natural world for air, water, and sustenance; we depend on the institutions of human civilization to make our lives livable; and we depend on the people around us to make our lives wonderful. The reason it’s a discipline (the root is the same as the word “disciple”) is that we’re forgetful — and we’re inclined to think that we’re self-made and self-reliant, which we’re not. In worship, we remind ourselves that we’re utterly dependent.

10. The ethic of gratitude calls us to serve a broken and needy world.  

We need to nurture in return the people, the institutions, and the natural world that make our lives possible, livable, and wonderful. Because we personally take what we need from the people and world around us, we need to take personally what the people and world around us need.

For this reason, you’ll find Unitarian Universalists at the very forefront of movements to make the world a better place for everyone: women, people of color, LGBT people, and people imprisoned by unfair laws or impoverished circumstances. We want the world to be fair for everyone. For us, a commitment to justice seeking is a leading indicator that we understand where we belong and for what we are free.

The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Galen Guengerich
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  • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

    “We don’t believe in the God many others don’t believe in either” puts Unitarianism on a par with atheism.

    • jdriesen

      If that quote is all they provided, then that would be an acceptable statement. However, when you don’t take that quote out of the entire context of this post, you can see that is not true. Their view of God is not the same as the traditional Christian view of God. Christians don’t think God looks the way Muslims portray God, and Muslims don’t think God looks the way Christians portray God, that doesn’t make either of them Atheists either.

      • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

        Well he has explicitly denied that Jesus is the Son of God, so as per 1 John 2:23 (and the New Testament as a whole), UUs who believe this are functional atheists.

        • jdriesen

          That might make UU’s non-Christian, that does not make them Atheists. Atheism is a disbelief in the existence of deity. Many UU’s believe in a deity, though not all. That would then make all non-Christians Atheist, which is simply not true by the very definition of the word.

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            By Biblical definitions, there is no “theos” other than Yahweh, but yes, I know in most discourse, non-Christians are considered to be believing in a legitimate “god”.

          • Stay Loose

            Interestingly enough, Unitarians in the past considered themselves to be Unitarian Christians. Some still practice a Unitarian Communion service.

          • Elizabeth Dale

            I’ve been to one at UUA General Assembly, and it was a good way to make amends with my Christian past. I like that I don’t have to worship Jesus to learn from his teachings. Jesus has many good teachings, but that doesn’t make me a Christian. If I wasn’t a UU, I’d probably still be ignoring Jesus.

        • Donna Fox

          So all non Christians are atheists?

          • George Girman

            I’ve always considered it to be both offensive and misleading the way some Christians label those of us who follow other traditions as “Non-believers”! Just because we aren’t Christians does not mean that we are atheist!

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            They believe in false gods, so technically, yes. I know we don’t all speak in technical terms, though, so we can say anyone who claims a “god” is a theist.

        • Anne Wilson

          Only if you believe that trinitarian Christianity is the only theism.

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            Trinitarian Christians do believe theirs is the only God, yes.

        • penzance

          Your assessment is nonsense — according to your definition, all Jews are atheists. Nonsense.

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            Within Christian theology, there is only one true God, and all else are not gods, but idols/demons/etc. So technically, all non-Christians are atheists. But I know that’s not how the terms are popularly used.

          • Molly McCall

            I was annoyed by your misuse of the word “atheist,” but now I’m more annoyed by your misuse of the word “technically.”

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            I have only one worldview, within which the technical meaning of “theist” includes only Christianity. I am willing to concede that in our discourse, perhaps the more popular meaning of the terms are preferable, in which theism encompasses both the true God as well as all false ones.

        • Stay Loose

          Rev. Guengerich did not say UU’s deny Jesus is the son of God. He said that is the history of the heresy of Unitarianism. Today there is no dogma or doctrine that says what any UU must believe about the Holy Trinity. My Catholic wife is also a member of the UU church, and she is permitted to hold her own beliefs, while also appreciating what UU has to offer. UUs are of many stripes.

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            Now, if we’re being realistic, can we say the vast majority of UUs believe what UU historically teaches? I should think so.

          • Stay Loose

            Realistically, I would say that UU history does not concern most UUs, especially those that grew up in UU religious education classes. I taught 4th grade RE classes and we taught the principles, and my kids did 13 years of RE, but none of the curricula emphasized the UU history.

            These questions tend to most irk atheists and the religiously wounded who join UU congregations. Fundamentalists on the left and the right of the religious spectrum get really wound up about resolving these questions.

            The rest of us are there for the community, the sermons, the discussions, the small group ministry, the bible study, the religious education lectures, the guest speakers, the social justice and neighborhood outreach, the music, and, of course, the coffee hour.

            I don’t know any UUs who have a fixed personal doctrine. Most are open to learning and hearing new ideas. Most are motivated by “deeds not creeds” as the bumper sticker slogan goes. In fact, 9th graders do a crash course in UU history and the big questions in their Coming of Age course, and then write their own Credo statement. When we ask parents of kids in the 4th grade what they believe, the most typical answer is, “It’s complicated.” Some are not willing to commit to calling themselves Unitarian Universalists — even in front of their children who they send to UU religious education! Faith formation is an ongoing process in UU congregations in my experience. One rarely sees adult UUs challenge themselves to write a personal credo. All of this varies by congregation.

            Are you a UU? Does this differ from your experience?

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            No, I am not UU, so I take your words as an outsider. But it does strike me as (apparently intentionally) theologically nebulous, and I can imagine that in most cases, UUs thereby do not affirm that Jesus is the essence of God in human form, the only mediator between God and mankind. The average UUs views may be “complicated”, but they almost certainly are not historically Christian.

          • Stay Loose

            You are not a religious historian either, so you don’t get to decide whether UUs are historically Christian or not, but each individual decides whether their views are Christian in the meaning you describe. And as far as that goes, there is plenty of division among Christians about the essence of Jesus, and that conversation has not been settled for 2,000 years. Unitarians and Universalists and Christians with similar beliefs, have often played a role in that discussion.

          • http://twitter.com/natemup Nate Tinner

            And by your own description, their views are vague or conflicted, and that is apparently encouraged. Such is not historically Christian. I am only attempting to assess based on your own descriptions. And while there is division about Jesus, yes, Paul even said there must “be divisions among [the Church], so that those of you who are approved may be evident” (1 Corinthians 11:19), so I would be slow to say division means we really can’t know the truth about Jesus.

            “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created in him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross—through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1)

            To reject this is to reject Christianity.

      • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

        I’d rather be an atheist than a “reverend” who deliberately disregards the New Testament verses applying to Jesus.

        And the idea that “… an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God is hard to accept” speaks for itself, especially considering that it was written by a Ph.D. who also wrote a book titled “God Revised”.

        Revised indeed.

        • jdriesen

          Is this quote sharing time? How about this one? Seems fitting. Though I personally believe in God.
          “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours”

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Trinitarians aren’t polytheists, but for Unitarians, a personal belief in God is optional.

          • jdriesen

            Correct. This quote is not referring to any specific religion or theology. It is making a point that Atheists just believe in one less god than religious people. …Of course in the case of pantheism, they believe in several less gods.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If atheists “just believe in one less god than religious people,” then atheists can be just as religious as some Unitarians.

          • Caty

            That’s fair – but atheists can also be as religious as muslims, christians, buddhists, etc. Religion is any organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I have seen atheists on these forums who adhere to a dogma of unbelief as if it were a religion.

          • EvidenceBasedPolicy

            And that is their right.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Along with their right to hypocrisy whenever such atheists criticize religion.

          • penzance

            Yes, some atheists are dogmatic. I call them “fundamentalists of the left.” It appears that you and I may agree on something.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            If you think a preference for reason over faith is being dogmatic, then you really don’t understand the meaning of dogma. — an unquestioned shared set of beliefs. The very essence of atheism is to accept nothing on faith but demand evidence and reason.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Yet those same atheists have filed unreasonable lawsuits that claim they suffer mental and physical anguish whenever they see the 9-11 cross on display, but have yet to produce a shred of evidence of their illnesses and have lost every legal case.

          • bakabomb

            “those same atheists”? You have no basis for lumping together all atheists and declaring them the “same”. Indeed, I’d wager you find more diversity among atheists than you’d encounter in any world religion you care to name. But you prefer to attack strawmen.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If you think that “same” is the same as “all” you need to repeat elementary school.

          • penzance

            More insults! That seems to be your “default” setting.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I’m afraid that repeating elementary school won’t help you.

          • penzance

            You are trolling again.

          • bakabomb

            “Same” as in “identical”? Then I am correct. “Same” as in “of an identical type”? Then your mode of discourse is the same as that of Richard Dawkins.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Having another problem with English, Ly’in King?

            Same as in “same”: closely similar, or comparable in kind or quality or quantity or degree, but not exactly alike (identical) and certainly not “all” .

          • bakabomb

            2 Timothy 3:1–5

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Bible is not a dictionary, and you really need the help of a dictionary.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            If I recall reading about these suits, they had to do with government funding of strictly one religion’s symbols. According to the suit, if all religions were accommodated the suit would be withdrawn.

            The other common reason suits have been filed by “reasonable” atheists originate when religion and science are intertwined. Forcing Intelligent Design to be taught as science in biology class is certainly grounds for concern. I don’t want ID to be taught as science anymore than alchemy should be taught as part of chemistry. Well, actually, I’m assuming you wouldn’t.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            When the apparent “preference for reason and logic” morphs into the declaration that one’s life would benefit by embracing said “logic” , it begins to sound remarkably similar to evangelism. Mind you, I have no quarrel with that. I’d just wish those engaging in said behavior would admit the similarities are strong.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            A demand for reason and evidence to buttress one’s beliefs is far different than a demand for fealty regarding one’s dogma. Dogma: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. Notice there is no mention of evidence or reason. Atheism has no dogma other than a respect for evidence.

          • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

            “For Unitarians, a personal belief in God is optional.”

            Yes, that’s true.

            “‘We don’t believe in the God many others don’t believe in either’ puts Unitarianism on a par with atheism.”

            I’m not sure what you mean by “on a par with,” but you are right at the end and wrong at the beginning. Unitarians can indeed be atheists. (We don’t have to be.) But does that statement imply atheism? No. It asserts that people mean many different things by “God,” and so “I don’t believe in God” is not a very full statement. The question is, what kind of God do you not believe in? I don’t believe in a God who decided which of us was going to hell before the world was even created; not only do I not think that God exists, but if you could prove to me that he did, I wouldn’t worship him. But I might believe in another God, say the spirit that is moving in us when we choose justice over our own selfish interests, or when we treat someone with love whom we don’t even know.

            –Another UU minister.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If the question really is: “what kind of God do you not believe in?” and you alone determine what God is, or isn’t, then I submit that you’re not worshipping the self-existent God of Genesis, but a god of your own making — a projection of oneself.

          • penzance

            The God who walks in the Garden of Eden is only one biblical description of God: God is also the “still, small voice” in 1 Kings 19:12, and the one from whose womb the ice flows in Job 38:29 — female imagery of God! If you think there is only one definition of God, even in the Bible, you haven’t thought or read much about the subject. God’s Biblical name, “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14) can also be rendered, “I am becoming what I am becoming.” Don’t get stuck in the opening chapters of Genesis. Read on. And read the theologians of the past two millennia. Don’t think your small definition of God is the only one possible. God is much more than your little definition (i.e. “the self-existent God of Genesis”). I think the Unitarian Universalists may see a more expansive God than you do.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Many Unitarian Universalists don’t see any god at all, nor are they required to.

            And Ex. 3:14 is correctly rendered as “I am who I am”; i.e., He has His being of Himself, suggesting both eternity and self-existence.

            Further, the God of the Bible states that he does NOT change: “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6), e.g., His steadfast love endures forever (Psalm 100:5).

          • penzance

            Yes, “Ex. 3:14 is correctly rendered as ‘I am who I am’.” Yes, the Hebrew can ALSO be correctly rendered, “I am becoming what I am becoming.” It can also be accurately rendered, “I will be what I will be.” There are several correct possible translations! Ancient Hebrew is not modern English. God is tot static; God is active. The passage in question is not static, the Hebrew words suggest action, not stasis.

            Regarding “God does not change,” I know some people are Biblical literalists. I am not. The Cosmos is constantly changing. The only thing that is guaranteed is change.

            I’m not a Biblical literalist. I see that Judas Iscariot died twice, by two different methods. He kept the 30 pieces of silver and bought a field in Acts 1:18, but in Matt. 27:3-10 he returned the money, and the priests used the money to buy the field. He couldn’t have both kept the money and returned the money. One account has to be wrong. Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus and fled south to Egypt to be safe from the murderous King Herod in Matthew 2:13-15; but according to Luke 2:22-39 they went north to Herod’s capitol, Jerusalem, and had the baby dedicated in safety in the Temple, then went further north to Nazareth. Both can’t be literally right. The Gospel of John 1:18 and the Epistle 1 John 4:12 say “No one has ever seen God,” yet Exodus 24:9-11 says that Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and 70 elders saw God on the mountaintop. Both can’t be literally correct.

            The Bible is “The Good Book,” not a perfect book. It is morally wrong in its support of slavery. It was written by many people, in three ancient languages, over hundreds of years. Other human beings decided what books to include and what books to leave out. For 300 years after the time of Jesus there was still no universally agreed upon canon of Biblical books. Even today the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants have slightly different lists of biblical books. It is a great religious classic; it is Scripture for those who consider it to be Scripture. God’s word can be found in the Bible, but not all of it is God’s word. It is a conversation about God, not a divine instruction manual.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            For atheist Unitarians, there is no “God’s word” in a “church” where He is “optional”.

          • penzance

            Re. “For atheist Unitarians, there is no ‘God’s word’ in a ‘church’ where He is ‘optional’.”

            You are merely expressing an opinion, and an angry and self-righteous sounding opinion at that. You have a right to your opinion. Isn’t it great that our nation doesn’t dictate what we must believe? As Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no God; it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” By the way, he also write in the last year of his life, “There is not a Unitarian Church close enough to join, nor are there enough Unitarians in the neighborhood to form a church, so I will be a Unitarian by myself.”

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Unitarianism is just a Jeffersonian Bible: nothing more than “scripture by subtraction”.

            According to Smithsonian Magazine: “Much of the material Jefferson elected to not include related miraculous events, such as the feeding of the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves of barley bread; he eschewed anything that he perceived as ‘contrary to reason.’ His idiosyncratic gospel concludes with Christ’s entombment but omits his resurrection….” so it looks like Jefferson couldn’t celebrate Easter without being a hypocrite.

            And for the record, I don’t give a damn what you think of the Smithsonian’s “opinion” either.

          • penzance

            I’m glad that there were Unitarians such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and Deists like James Madison, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Paine, among our Founding Fathers. They helped obtain religious liberty for us all.

            “The Jefferson Bible” as we call it today, was what Jefferson tried to preserve when he rejected supernaturalism. It’s a noble attempt on Jefferson’s part. Like Jefferson, I want my religion to make sense. I can’t believe in nonsense just because my neighbor demands that everyone should take every word in the Bible literally. I can’t pretend that the modern world never happened. Yet, while throwing out the bathwater of magic and supernaturalism, I want to keep the baby. That’s what Jefferson was trying to do as well, I believe. He called his redaction, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Jefferson’s “redaction” was nothing more than “scripture by subtraction”; to edit out the Resurrection is to reject the rationale basis for the Christian faith.

          • penzance

            Re. ” to edit out the Resurrection is to reject the rationale basis for the Christian faith.” That’s an opinion. In the ancient world there were as many Christian sects as their are today. Ebionite Christians said you must be Jewish in order to be Christian, and that Jesus was a great human teacher. Marcionite Christians said the opposite — that Christians must reject all of Judaism, including the entire Old Testament (and much of what is now in the New Testament). Gnostic Christians said you must understand the secret knowledge that we must be “born from above” (“anothen” in Greek, sometimes translated “born again”) in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Etc., etc.

            Not all Christian sects, in all ages, have agreed on the doctrine that you demand that we agree with. You may have one definition of what it means to be a Christian, I may have another.

            And most UUs would say, “the name ‘Christian’ is not important. What matters is how we treat one another. Unitarian Universalism is about the kind of lives we lead, not the dogmas we claim to believe in.”

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Apparently Unitarians don’t believe in anything their minds can’t comprehend, so if they do actually believe in god, he must be a very small deity.

          • penzance

            Actually, if you believe God is a super-man in the sky, as you seem to, that is about the smallest deity possible. Can’t your mind comprehend a larger God than that? Mine does.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Is your “superman” Jefferson could comprehend a larger God, why did he edit-out everything he deemed was impossible for God from the Gospels?

          • penzance

            You, not I, have referred to Jefferson as “superman.” I think he was a great, yet flawed, human being.
            A superman in the sky, apparently, is the miniature kind of God you believe in.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            That’s the kind of nonsense I would expect from a poster who claims to “see” his dead relatives.

          • penzance

            Again, please re-read what I said. I did NOT claim to have “seen” my dead father. I said my MOTHER told me she had such a vision.

            Are you now claiming that the Disciples could not have “seen” the resurrected Jesus, just as you doubt my mother could “see” my late father?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Odd that I can’t now find your quote, but if your mom said she could see the dead, why hasn’t that trait been passed down to a drama queen like you?

          • penzance

            There you go with the insults again, Mr. Troll. My mother was an evangelical Methodist, and so more likely than me to believe in such things. I’m a Unitarian Universalist and a skeptic. I’ve always had doubts about the biblical resurrection stories, Paul’s visions on the road to Damascus (told in conflicting stories in Acts), and the visions of Medieval mystics. You seem to argue that things that could happen 2,000 years ago can’t happen today. That’s an odd position for a believer in miracles to take.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Are you claiming that your family is miraculous?
            And as a UU, do you even believe in your own mom’s “visions”?

          • penzance

            Okay, you do seem to have reading comprehension difficulties. There, I’ve now returned your many, many insults by noting that you apparently cannot read very well. No, I did not ever claim my family is miraculous. I was trying to see if you and I had any common ground. I was conceding that I thought the Disciples experienced something real — and the evidence to me is not that someone who was not there wrote a Gospel (a religious tract) 60 years after the events. The evidence to me that such visions are possible is that my mother told me she experienced something similar. And you used the opportunity to belittle my late mother.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            So your late mother’s “visions” hold more weight for you than the Gospel?
            Some skeptic you are!

          • penzance

            In what church did you learn to explain your faith by insulting and belittling other people?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If you actually believe that telling you the truth is an insult, why do you keep coming back for more “abuse”?

          • penzance

            I keeping hoping that the troll has a heart. It turns out that he has no heart and only a very tiny brain. Sigh.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            That doesn’t answer the question, does it?

          • penzance

            Ah, you have such a knack for the obvious, Mr. Troll. Does that earn you your promotion to “Troll, 2nd Class”?

          • penzance

            You are always quick with the insult — you think we don’t realize that’s a way of not answering the question. But we see your side-stepping, covered up by an insult.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            You mean there’s a rational basis for Christianity? It’s real rational to believe that a loving god would devise a plan of reconciliation whereby the only way to forgive sin was through a blood sacrifice; not to mention that any god holding one generation responsible for the sins of another is unworthy of admiration let alone worship.

            There is no single resurrection story. Virtually every detail starting from Jesus’ last words are contradicted between the Gospels. The only way to believe in this story is to ignore the contradictions.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Again, exactly what are the chapters and verses of all your so-called contradictions?

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Here’s a brief sampling. There are many more.

            Let’s start out by identifying who was the message at the tomb:

            – Matthew – One angel
            – Mark – Men
            – Luke – Men
            – John – Two angels

            When did Jesus first appear after his resurrection:

            Mark 16:14-15 – Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalena but it’s not clear where
            Matthew 28:8-9 – Jesus first appears near his tomb
            Luke 24:13-15 – Jesus first appeared near Emmaus, several miles from Jerusalem
            John 20:13-14 – Jesus first appeared at his tomb

            Who did Jesus first appear to?

            Mark – Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalena then later to “the eleven”
            Matthew – Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalena, then to the other Mary, and finally to ”the eleven”
            Luke – Jesus appears first to “two,” then to Simon, then to “the eleven”
            John – Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalena, then the disciples without Thomas, then the disciples with Thomas

            The gospels all say that Jesus first appeared to a woman or women. What the response of those women?

            Mark 16:8 – The women were amazed and afraid, so they kept quiet. So how do we know they say Jesus?
            Matthew 28:6-8 – The women ran away “with great joy”
            Luke 24:9-12 – The women left the tomb and told the disciples
            John 20:1-2 – Mary told the disciples that the body had been stolen

            There are plenty of these but it’s pretty obvious that the most important event ever to happen in the world, differs widely in detail from one gospel to the other. If you were interviewing 4 witnesses about a crime and all four got most of the details concerning who, what and when participated in the crime, you would discount them all.

            There’s no reason to believe in the accuracy of these accounts when there are so many contradictions.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            No two witnesses give the same exact testimony of the same incident, much less dozens of witnesses concerning incidents at different times in different places , e.g., the Emmaus encounter.
            If all the testimonies were exactly the same, we would be justified to suspect collusion.

          • penzance

            Founding Father Thomas Paine said that if the four Gospel writers gave that kind of contradictory testimony in court, their testimonies would be thrown out by the judge. We can be confident, however, that none of the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Josh McDowell’s “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” states otherwise.

          • penzance

            Don’t tell me that someone has written a book. That’s an easy cop-out. Plenty of people have written books. Tell me what you think, and try doing it without hurling self-righteous insults.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            The specifics of who, what and where are not anywhere near a standard of exactness. Any police officer interviewing eyewitnesses to the same incident but differed on the major characteristics of the incident — who was there, what did they say, when did they say it and where was it said — would be discounted. Those are not exact details. Those are fundamental characteristics.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            These biblical records were written long before the “who, what and where” of the modern AP stylebook.
            Further, these accounts were not written by police officers or professional journalists, but ordinary men who would eventually be persecuted and even martyred for what they wrote.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            They were not written by anybody, that’s why they were so unreliable and chock full of discrepancies. Most of the gospels were passed around as stories for years after Jesus died.

            Why would you think they would be the least bit reliable?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “… not written by anybody”?
            We know more about the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John than we know about you!

          • Tom from North Carolina

            You aren’t claiming that the book of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by the disciples of the same name, are you?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You aren’t claiming that we know more about you than we do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are you?

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Actually, I am. I am saying that you know more about me than about the authors of the gospel because we don’t know who wrote any of the gospels.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I don’t know who “we” is, but the only thing I know about you is that you have 247 comments and two followers on Discus.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Two points. First, you’ve seen me respond to comments / questions in a very short period of time so that tells you something about my existence in this time frame.

            Second, what evidence do you have that apparently is unavailable to biblical scholars that leads you to conclude that the disciples wrote the gospels that you hold in such high acclaim?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I also have two points: first, the evidence of biblical authorship is the ongoing existence of a New Testament church for more than a millennium, and if that’s a secret, it’s hiding from you in plain sight.
            Second, I wouldn’t take as gospel anything an anonymous poster states on his own behalf over any period of time.
            As in the Bible, most matters are established by two or more (known) witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1).
            And for all I know, you’re wearing a hijab.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            You said, ” first, the evidence of biblical authorship is the ongoing existence of a New Testament church for more than a millennium, ”

            So existence proves who authorship. I know I’m only an old software engineer, but I’m not following your logic. I never said the new testament doesn’t exist nor are there lots of people who believe in its divinity. But existence has nothing to do with origination. Where is there evidence as to who authored the gospels?

            I’m not asking you to take anything I said on faith, but from the looks of things, faith is all you got.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            From the looks of things, you have no faith at all.

            Again, the evidence of the gospel’s authorship comes form the church, specifically the early church fathers, e.g., Irenaeus identified the author of the fourth gospel as John the Apostle based on the testimony of his teacher, Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. Luke — the doctor and disciple of Paul — was recognized as the author of the third Gospel by not only Irenaeus, but Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria as well.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            Since the plan of sacrifice is irrational, how do you see reconciliation being accomplished? A tousle of the hair and a firm swat on the rear? We cannot comprehend moral perfection, so it is impossible to determine the punishment should one fail to meet that standard.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            I don’t buy the argument for one minute that the best idea god could come up with is to have someone tortured and put to death so that god could reconcile mankind. I could think of quite a few superior methods for reconciliation.

            For example, how about looking into someone’s heart and seeing if there is genuine remorse and if so, offer forgiveness. How about granting forgiveness when someone asks for it?

            Five thousand years ago, when blood sacrifice was the only way of appeasing an angry god, this method would make sense. But just as humans have abandoned blood sacrifice of any kind, the idea that we should celebrate this ancient and horrific practice as something that is good, seems ludicrous today. should we also go back to sacrificing doves on certain days?

            Why would a god worthy of worship demand a blood sacrifice to begin with?

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            You didn’t answer my question. How does a being solve the paradox of perfect righteousness, holiness and love? Perfect righteousness and holiness demand that misdeeds be punished. To overlook said misdeeds would be a violation of those perfect characteristics.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Step back a little in your perspective and ask the more fundamental question: How could a perfect being invent a world, people and animals that are less than perfect?

            I would also suggest that punishing the “wrong” person for a misdeed is far from perfect righteousness.

          • bakabomb

            Unitarianism is certainly not “just a Jeffersonian Bible”, nor is it “[theology] by subtraction”. UUs do “subtract” some elements of traditional religious practice, such as dogma. They also “add” a number of things to traditional Christian beliefs and practices — things deriving from other spiritual traditions, from science and from reason — things it seems you disdain as much as the things they “subtract”. They have valid reasons for these emendations and additions, and their opinion is every bit as legitimate as yours.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Here’s the “opinion” of the Smithsonian:

            “Much of the material Jefferson elected to not include related miraculous events, such as the feeding of the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves of barley bread; he eschewed anything that he perceived as ‘contrary to reason.’ His idiosyncratic gospel concludes with Christ’s entombment but omits his resurrection. He kept Jesus’ own teachings, such as the Beatitude, ‘Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ The Jefferson Bible, as it’s known, is ‘scripture by subtraction,’ writes Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University.”

            Simply using your opinion to edit any book violates the text.

          • penzance

            Re. “Simply using your opinion to edit any book violates the text.” Or it creates something new. The internal textual evidence is strong that Genesis was written by several authors and put together by an editor. Did the editor “violate” the original texts, or create something new? Jefferson did not just delete, he also combined parts of the Four Gospels. And by the way, he did it for his own use. He never intended it for publication. Yet I believe he created a new work by combining and editing, just as the editor/redactor of Genesis did.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Except when it doesn’t. God has changed his mind just like Jesus did and there are an awful lot of biblical stories where god doesn’t show love but shows anger, impatience, even jealousy. Not very godlike.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Anthropopathisms are figurative expressions ascribing human passions to God; they are the emotional equivalent of anthropomorphisms.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Exactly. And since the bible was written by men, it can’t help but reflect beliefs and aspirations of men as opposed to reflecting godlike testimony that could only be produced by a god. There is nothing in the bible reflecting a being of godlike qualities. There are plenty of places where God appears to be rather human and not a particularly attractive one at that.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Bible was written by men inspired by God.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            All the more reason to be suspicious of the particulars of any story. Someone writing a story inspired by their love of God is less apt to be accurate as they are to put things positively.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Yet these same god-loving writers described in detail Peter disavowing Christ, Thomas’ skepticism at His Resurrection, etc.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Well Joe, isn’t that my point. You see, not all of the gospels describe the doubting Thomas dialog just like who first saw Jesus differs from gospel to gospel.

            If you’re going to quote Jesus or any gospel dialog, then you are in effect saying that what was said and by whom was recorded in such precision that you are confident as to its accuracy.

            But just a few posts ago you insisted that these accounts could not be exact. So, which is it? Are the accounts exact enough that you can quote the dialog in which case my original point as to the myriad of contradictions between accounts renders them completely unreliable.

            My favorite book about the accuracy of the new testament was authored by a fellow North Carolinian — Bart D. Ehrman. His book, Misquoting Jesus, reveals why it is impossible to know what Jesus said or anyone quoted in the gospels for that matter, said, with any degree of certainty.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Even John wrote that not everything Jesus said and did could be recorded, but it was not impossible for him to testify of what he knew firsthand (John 21: 24-5).

            As for Ehrman, his book was mostly New Testament textual criticism; the title was deliberately provocative for sales.

            And I’ve already answered your so-called “myriad of contradictions”.

            And do I have to remind you again that even today, no two witnesses of the same event recall the exact same thing.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            So let me see if I understand your position. You think it impossible for two witnesses to describe an accident in almost exactly the same way but the gospels recorded what happened in enough detail that you can quote what people said to each other.

            Or, said another way, you would expect there to be variation between the gospels accounts and that explains why there are so many discrepancies between the accounts. And yet you quote from those very same gospels as if there was a perfect recording of what was said. This perfect recording exists even though who was there, where they were, who spoke to whom and when they spoke can be contradicted from one gospel to the other.

            Do I have that about right?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            No, you don’t.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            There is the concept of “righteous anger”. Same goes for jealousy. Whether or not you believe it exists is not my concern. I’m merely pointing out a possible explanation..

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Anger is a human characteristic and certainly not an emotion that I would equate to a perfect being.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            Just because * you * would not apply it to a perfect being does not mean the concept of “righteous anger” is an impossibility. Do you not get angry at injustices you see? Is that anger inappropriate? I will agree that almost all human anger is an inappropriate response, but that isn’t always the case.

          • Jessica

            the bible was written by man, the world of God is not here on Earth but up in Heaven, people need to change they grow from children to adolescents to adult etc….my understanding of the biblical stories is a set of suggestions by prophets/man how can people cope with anger, jealousy in a constructive way.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            And if the bible were filled with stories that provided good advice in that area, then it would be very useful. Unfortunately, the bible is filled with stories that depict the worst sides of people including jealousy, impatience, racial bigotry and misogyny. These are all characteristics that God or Jesus has demonstrated in the bible. The bible stories are kind of hit or miss as to their moral message value.

          • Jessica

            your statement proves the same what in above comment: “For I am the LORD, I change not” and I am who I am” but somewhere in the Bible God says “I am not from this World ” so pezance and joe you both look at GOd from the same way believe me, just you’re tangled in the extra words around them 🙂 just my humble opinion

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Jesus said that his kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36 ) and told Nicodemus that “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

          • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

            You realize you can’t prove that a text is true
            by citing the text, right?

            Otherwise, I could type on a piece of paper, “Amy Zucker Morgenstern is
            Lord of Heaven and Earth. Thus saith the Lord,” and wave it around as
            proof that everyone should listen to me, and they would have to. I would hope
            people are more skeptical than that. They certainly manage to be when it comes
            to OTHER people’s holy books, yet somehow, the one they learned about as a
            child really is the final word.

            What people want to know is: do the Biblical descriptions of God correspond to
            reality? This is something that can’t be proven simply by citing the Bible. All
            that proves is that the Biblical descriptions correspond to themselves. (When
            they do.)

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            And where are you going to find a working typewriter to type “Amy Zucker Morgenstern is Lord of Heaven and Earth” in the 21st Century?

            You do realize how “horse and buggy” that sounds?

          • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

            It’s a bit of an anachronism, but I’m an old-fashioned kind of girl.

            So old-fashioned, in fact, that I still use a dictionary, albeit an online one.

            Merriam-Webster says:

            type (verb)

            3: to produce (as a character or document) using a keyboard (as on a typewriter or computer); also : keyboard

            Even my daughter, who is only 8, says, “Mama, you type fast,” not “Mama, you keyboard fast.”

            And even you, who are pedantic enough to derail the conversation into a nitpick of the word “type,” use the word “typeWRITER,” an anachronistic term dating bac to when people were amazed that a machine could replace a pen.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Typing on a piece of paper was your analogy, not mine. But if you find me pedantic, please feel free to share your anachronisms with someone else.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            The god that you worship is also one of your own making. I’m pretty sure you cherry pick verses and chapters to match your image of god and reject or ignore those that contradict this image.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I more than “pretty sure” that you’re a troll.

          • penzance

            Says the troll.

          • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

            “worshipping . . . a projection of oneself.”

            That is the risk. But I don’t see why the authors of the Bible didn’t run that risk.

            For that matter, what makes the God of Genesis self-existent? It SAYS he’s self-existent, but it’s a book, created by human beings. It could be wrong. For example, it describes God almost exclusively in male and human terms. That is very strange. It seems unlikely, and since the society was run by men, and had highly misogynistic laws justified by the supposed words of this God, it seems so self-serving as to deserve suspicion.

            There are ways to mitigate the risk, such as: Cultivating humility. Questioning. “You alone” NOT determining anything, but exploring possibilities within a wider context: the community of others who live now, the community of past humans, the wider community of non-human beings. Reality-testing. Being open to change and mystery. At our best, that’s what UUs commit to do.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            As the authors of the Bible didn’t cut God down to our own size as did Jefferson with his utility knife, they didn’t run the risk of worshipping a projection of themselves.
            They must have realized long ago that God was indeed “totally other”.

          • Amy Zucker Morgenstern

            The biblical god doesn’t come across that way to me. He seems all too human, complete with the human desire to kill infants who have the temerity to have been born on land we want to occupy (Joshua 6:21), the human desire to sell their children into sex slavery (Ex. 21:7), the human desire to know that someone will do anything for us without question, however heinous (Gen. 22:2), etc.

            But we each have to bring our holy consciences and intelligence to bear on the texts we are given and decide whether they are holy or merely the justification of all-too-human prejudices and wishes. Those who think your God sounds like someone they wish to obey will follow your path. Those who don’t may want to check out another option, perhaps even the tradition to which Rev. Guengerich and I belong.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            After Old Tom Jefferson cut God down to your Unitarian size, it should come as no surprise that he now seems very much like you after being edited into your image.

            But as for me, scripture by subtraction just doesn’t add up.

          • penzance

            Actually, many people regard Trinitarians to be polytheists.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Many Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongly regard Trinitarians to be polytheists; both the Quran and Awake magazine are adamantly against this and other Christian concepts.

          • penzance

            You say “wrongly,” but they would say “rightly.” Frankly, I don’t think you can have one-god-in-three-persons without having three gods. I also consider Trintarians to be essentially tritheists. No one can explain the doctrine of the Trinity and have it make sense. Jesus never used the term “Trinity,” nor did he ever explain the doctrine. If he had believed he was the second person of the Trinity, and that the doctrine was important, one would have thought he would have said so, and would have made this odd doctrine central to his preaching. Yet the word “Trinity” never appears anywhere at all in the Bible, nor is it ever explained there. Trhintarians begin with that incoherent Fourth and Fifth Century doctrine, and then try to read it back into the Bible.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The fact that the English word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible is the same lame rationale Jehovah’s Witnesses use to dismiss the concept; apparently the difference between the Watchtower and Unitarian Universalism is that Unitarians don’t go door-to-door. However …

            “Since the Bible is an infinite revelation, it brings the reader beyond the limit of his intelligence … The Bible forces any reader to crash into the ceiling of his own comprehension, beyond which he cannot go until he sees the Lord face-to-face.”
            Apparently the only face JWs and UUs can see is their own reflections.

          • penzance

            Re. “Apparently the only face JWs and UUs can see is their own reflections.” Yes, we know that you are able to hurl insults. Perhaps that is the basis of your religion. But you don’t answer my point that the Trinity is a Fourth and Fifth Century doctrine, and that if Jesus had believed in such an unusual doctrine, he would have explained it fully, and we would see that reflected in the New Testament. The fact that he did not claim to be the second person of the Trinity, never used any word in any language that is equivalent to the word Trinity, and never explained any such doctrine, suggests that he did not believe in any such doctrine. But he said plenty that suggests that he rejected the concept.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The only way you and the rest of the UUs could ever comprehend God fully is by making him smaller.

          • penzance

            I notice that when you have no answer, you resort to insults.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Odd that you can claim to “see” your dead father but not my responses.

          • penzance

            Please re-read — I said my mother had a vision of my dead father, and that I accept that it was a genuine experience of some kind for her, in the same way that the Disciples had some kind of genuine experience. I called it a mystery. I did NOT say I saw my dead father.

            I have seen your posts, and I have written clear responses. Then, when you have no answers, you resort to insults. That does not reflect very well on your “religion.”

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If you mom “sees” the dead, then it looks like your family issues are genetic.

          • penzance

            So, if it was impossible for my mother to have a vision, it must have been impossible for Paul on the road to Damascus, and for the Disciples after the Resurrection. You’ve switched sides here, Mr. Troll.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Your mother isn’t an apostle and your “testimony” of what she supposedly saw is suspect to say the least.

          • penzance

            Suspect? An evangelical Protestant having a vision is suspect? Certainly the appearance of a dead Jesus being beamed into a locked room, as if from the transporter on the Starship Enterprise (in “John’s” Gospel), is suspect! Why do you argue that visions were possible 2,000 years ago, but not now? Has human experience changed that much? Has God changed that much? Have the laws of nature changed that much? Do you even know what you are trying to say?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            What I’m trying to say that I don’t believe anything an anonymous poster has to say about himself or his mother.

          • penzance

            I tried to find some area of agreement with you, by saying that I thought the visions of the Disciples and of Paul were possibilities — and that, indeed, even my conservative evangelical Protestant mother said that she once had a vision of some sort. And although I’m a skeptic and a UU, I was trying to find some common ground with you.

            You used it as an opportunity to demonstrate your religion by insulting my late mother.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Repeating yourself?

          • penzance

            In what church, Mr. Troll, did you learn that the way to explain your faith is to insult others? You are a terrible ambassador for your “faith.” I’m glad I know some real Christians. I will not mistake you for one.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            How can Unitarians such as yourself call others “real Christians” when they themselves deny Christ’s claims about himself?

          • penzance

            A UU says, “I’m not a Christian,” and you think you can insult him by saying, “You’re not a Christian.” Doh.
            But I KNOW Christians, and I know that, by your bad fruit, you are not one.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You may know Christians, but you don’t know Christianity.

          • penzance

            I can see the obvious. You are no Christian. “You will know them by their fruits.” Your fruit is rotten.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You may know Christians, but you don’t know Christ.

          • penzance

            And maybe you know some Christians, too. But you obviously don’t follow Jesus. I don’t have to meet your criteria for a “Christian” in order to see that you obviously aren’t one, Mr. Troll.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            Yep. Not much we can do to stop it. Since you don’t believe in this god, anyway, why would you use another group’s position on the Trinity in an attempt to score points against those who accept it?

          • penzance

            I’m not sure what you mean when you say I don’t believe in “this god.”
            I do believe in God. I don’t believe in a god with three heads, however. Nor in a god who is three-persons in-one-person. It’s unbiblical, unnecessary, and incomprehensible.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            If one considers Christ’s divinity a foundational concept, then the concept of the Trinity is most definitely necessary. If you do not consider Christ divine, then your comment makes sense.

          • penzance

            That’s correct, I do not consider Jesus of Nazareth to be divine. He didn’t, either, I am convinced.

            For instance, I look at what early Christians said when they wrote the Gospels. It shows me that the earliest Christians we know of did not believe in the Trinity, either.

            If Jesus had believed in the Trinity, and that he was the second person of the Trinity, and that it was important, he would have said so. We would find that doctrine explicitly explained somewhere in the New Testament.

            But Jesus never used any word, in any language, that translates as “Trinity.” He did not say that he was the second person of the Trinity. He never explained the Trinity. If the Trinity was important, why did he apparently never explicitly mention it?

            But we are told that he did pray to God, “If it is your will, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:24). So we can conclude that his will, and God’s will, were not always the same. And he said of the end of time, “No one knows the hour; not the angels in the heavens, not even the Son. Only the Father knows” (Matt. 24:36). So his knowledge was not the same as God’s. At his crucifixion he asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

            So, if 1) his will and God’s will are sometimes different, and 2) his knowledge is not the same as God’s knowledge, and 3) he wondered why God has forsaken him — how can he be identical to God? Then, 4), in John 14:28 he explicitly says “the Father is greater than I.” So I suggest to you that the earliest Christians, as reflected in the words of the Gospels, did NOT believe Jesus was the second person of some “Trinity.” No one ever talked about the Trinity until about 200 years after the birth of Jesus (170 years after his death). It did not become church doctrine until it was proclaimed by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I in 380, and adopted by his hand-picked bishops at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            That’s a rather silly response, as it’s akin to saying we’re both murderers, the difference being I have murdered only one person more than you.

        • Stay Loose

          Joe, your answers here suggest you would fit in very nicely at any Unitarian Universalist congregation. These are precisely the kinds of discussions we have all the time. Except we have a respectful conversation. UUs voluntarily try to observe 7 principles or guidelines, the first of which is to affirm and support the inherent worth and dignity of each person. The rest guide us to be kind and compassionate and accepting. I suggest you visit your local congregation. You may find it stimulating and refreshing.

          • Joe DeCaro

            But the responses of many claiming to be UU not only suggest that I would not only not fit in, but not wish to

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I found this thread to be neither.

          • Stay Loose

            You only have yourself to blame. When you point one finger at others, three are pointing back at you. If you read your comments, whatever religion you claim to be (and we have no idea what church you belong to) all cite the Golden Rule. You have not been bringing your best self to this discussion. You insult, you ride, and when you are called on being a troll, you double down on the insults and evasions. You care little for this discussion except to prove a point you have no hope of proving. You are trying to win an argument with Unitarians Universalists who will only argue to a draw. Our beliefs are ours and you are entitled to yours, until you try to force me to accept your beliefs. You can’t win against someone who isn’t interested in choosing winners and losers. UUs affirm and support each individual’s responsible search for truth and meaning. You have not demonstrated respect in the the inherent worth and dignity of your “opponents”, and you have proved repeatedly that your search is not responsible or concerned with truth and meaning. You are focused on proving to yourself that your unprovable belief is justified. It must be hard to try to demonstrate the truthfulness of something that cannot be proven by any valid test or means, and that can be so easily challenged by every standard. Bless you. Good luck. I hope you find finally make peace with this.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I don’t have to blame myself for your “selective outrage,” nor must I find fault with myself for not embracing an organization that has decided that the triune God of the Bible was too big for it and, like Jefferson, has edited him down to something more “comfortable,” now made in its own image.

            Frankly, a “church” that believes anything stands for nothing.

    • Guest

      So Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, anyone who is not Christian, is atheist?

      • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

        Are you really that stupid?

        • penzance

          Must you resort to insults?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “So Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, anyone who is not Christian, is atheist?”
            This kind of stupidity is an insult to anyone’s intelligence.

          • penzance

            You call it stupidity — that’s you insulting someone’s question. Why can’t you take the question at face value?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Why don’t you take the question at face value and answer it?
            Asking that “… anyone who is not Christian, is atheist?” is doing more than just asking a stupid question.

          • penzance

            Your opinion.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            It’s my opinion of a reply addressed to me, not you, which — also in my opinion — was none of your damn business.

          • penzance

            So you think it is fine for you to call people “stupid.” Is that your religion, or are you just a troll?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            No, moron, it’s my informed opinion of your stupid questions.
            Do you have any more stupidity to share with us?

          • penzance

            So you have no answers, no intelligent thoughts, just insults.
            Yet you indirectly answered my question: yes, you are a troll.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You are a nut job.

          • penzance

            You are a troll. I gave you reasoned answers, you merely hurled insults.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            And what’s so reasonable about the dead “visions” of your family?

          • penzance

            Odd that you are now switching sides, arguing that Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus was unreasonable. Are you saying such visions are impossible?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You’re the one who is switching the so-called visions of your occultist family with an apostle; only weeks away from Easter and apparently you can’t tell spiritualism from the Resurrection.

          • penzance

            When I mentioned that my evangelical Protestant mother had a vision, I was conceding to you that such visions (such as Paul’s) are real experiences, and although I’m skeptical, I call such things mysteries. I was trying to find some area of agreement with you. But you won’t allow any room for agreement. You merely want to hurl insults (apparently hurling insults is your “religion”). Now you argue just for the sake of argument, apparently because it gives you the opportunity to insult others.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I’m more than skeptical of the claims of an anonymous poster with no Discus bio.

          • penzance

            You may pretend to be a Christian, but it is obvious that you are no follower of Jesus. You are simply a hater who trolls the internet looking for people to insult. If you were an actual example of a Christian, it would speak very poorly of Christianity. Goodbye, Troll.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Ironically, Unitarians like you follow a human Jesus while denying his Messianic title, which in Greek is “Christ”; therefore, how you could claim others aren’t examples of Christians when you aren’t either?
            Goodbye.

          • penzance

            Ah, yes the title “anointed,” which is also “messiah” and “christos,” and is used to describe many people in the Bible, including King David and even Cyrus the Great (a pagan). Yes, I think that Jesus was “anointed,” — chosen by God for a special task — and therefore was one of the people we might call “christos.” But most UUs don’t call themselves “Christian,” so it is a non-insult when you say we are not Christians!
            However, I KNOW real Christians, and you obviously are not one, Mr. Troll. Goodbye.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “Goodbye”?
            “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,” as you keep coming back.
            UUs can’t call themselves Christian when they deny Christ’s deity.
            As Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

          • penzance

            When someone says to you, “I’m not a Christian,” and you reply, “You’re not a Christian,” it’s not a very effective insult. It may be too deep for you, but think about it anyway.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            As it will soon be Easter, think about what it means to be the “Son of God” from Matthew 26:63-65 (NIV):

            The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
            “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
            Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.

            Why was Jesus accused of blasphemy by the high priest?
            It may be too deep for you, but think about it anyway.

          • penzance

            You are having reading comprehension problems again. When someone says they are not Christian, telling them “You are not a Christian” is not an effective insult. I don’t accept your basic premises. You worship the Bible, I read it. It is not a divine instruction manual. It is an ancient — and worthwhile — human conversation about God.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
            “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
            Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.

            Again, why was Jesus accused of blasphemy by the high priest?

    • dk_adams

      You mean UUism, I think… Unitarianism and Universalism are slightly different, as independent ‘denominations.’

      • penzance

        You write, “Unitarianism and Universalism are slightly different, as independent ‘denominations.'” “Were,” is the word you may be looking for. They “were” independent denominations before 1961. In that year the American Unitarian Association (est. 1825) combined with the Universalist Church in America (est. 1794). They have/had separate histories, but are now part of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

    • Elizabeth

      I think the way a lot of UUs define God is very different from how it’s typically used in conversation in the USA. I’m not quite an atheist, but for me “God” means “the moral imperative to do good” and for other UUs might mean the “Spirt of Life.” I don’t think many of us believe in a personal all knowing all powerful all loving deity who responds to prayer.

      • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

        If many UUs don’t believe in a personal, all knowing, all powerful deity who responds to prayer, who do you pray to, if at all?

        • Dan

          That depends on how you define prayer. If you define it as “appealing to some higher power to suspend the laws of nature for my (or anyone else’s) personal benefit” then not many UUs “pray”. If you define it as a statement of hope, aspiration, and gratitude to the best that lies within us all, then many UUs pray – a lot!

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Prayer and hope may be related, but they are two different words with their own definitions.

            According to the Advanced English Dictionary, if prayer is a “reverent petition to a deity,” then hope is “the general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled,” e.g., a petition made in prayer.

        • penzance

          Consider what Mother Theresa said when she was asked by a reporter what she said to God when she prayed. “I don’t say anything. I just listen,” she said. The reporter then asked, What does God say to you? “He doesn’t say anything. He just listens,” she said.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            How does the impersonal god of UU “listen”?

          • penzance

            Human language is probably incapable of defining God. God does not “listen” in the way you or I (or Superman) would listen, because God is not a “super-man.” Theologians have sometimes said that we cannot say what God is, we can merely say what God is not. God is not an Old White Man, with a long white beard, wearing a white robe, sitting on a white cloud in the sky. God does is not a mere super-man with earlobes, fingernails, or a big toe.

            While some UUs do believe in a “personal” God, most do not. Many would agree with theologian Paul Tillich who said that God is not a “being” at all, not a super-being, but is Being Itself, the Ground of Being. Or with Charles Hartshorne who said God is the Cosmic Creative Process, and because we participate in the creativity of the Cosmos, even in small ways, we matter to God. Some would agree with Spinoza that God is Nature and Nature is God. And some would say that because there is no universally agreed-upon definition of God, we really can’t have a meaningful conversation about God. Yet we would say we are grateful for the gift of life, however we define the Giver. I call that gift “grace,” and I call the Giver “God,” while recognizing that we come from mystery and will some day return to mystery.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Human language is probably incapable of defining God, but it is perfectly capable of defining “How does the impersonal god of UU ‘listen'” as a rhetorical question.

          • penzance

            You seem to not understand metaphor. Almost all religious language is metaphorical. That is, is has the qualities of “is” and “is not” at the same time. The arm of a chair both “is” an arm and “is not” an arm. God “does” and “does not” listen at the same time. That’s why Mother Theresa said nothing, but listened. And God said nothing, but listened.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            To paraphrase St. Paul, if the Resurrection is a metaphor, then his preaching and our faith are both in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).

          • penzance

            Yes, as you admit, that’s a paraphrase, not what he actually said, and not actually relevant to your original question about prayer, nor to my answer.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            What Paul actually said was: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
            Or is the Resurrection a metaphor too?

          • penzance

            I would call the Resurrection a mystery. My mother saw, and talked with, my father 6 years after he died. It was a very real experience for her, and I accept it as a real experience — for her. I was not there. And another woman I knew, Helen (she is now deceased), saw and spoke with her late husband a few hours after his death. He, like my father, vanished. What are these experiences, exactly? I do not dogmatize about them, but remain open to the mystery.

            Likewise, I think the Disciples experienced something real. They somehow experienced Jesus as a continuing presence. None of the New Testament accounts of the Resurrection are eyewitness accounts, except Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus, which he recounts in his own Epistles. Paul had a vision.

            The Disciples were illiterate and Aramaic-speaking, and left us to first-hand accounts of the first Easter. The later Gospel writers (Greek-speaking, well-educated, Christians who wrote 35 to 65 years after the events), in their second or third hand accounts, started expanding and elaborating the stories of the first Easter. But their accounts are based on some real experience.

            My Mother had a vision, and so did my friend Helen. I have not had such a vision myself, but I accept that others have, and they were “real” for the people who experienced them. I don’t dogmatize about mysteries.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Visions don’t ask you to put your fingers in their wounds (John 20:27), nor do they cook you breakfast (John 21:9-13).

          • penzance

            Re. “Visions don’t ask you to put your fingers in their wounds (John 20:27), nor do they cook you breakfast (John 21:9-13).” Exactly. That’s why I believe these late elaborations, told by someone who certainly was not there, are later fabrications. “John” was written anonymously 60 or 65 years after the events, was written by a well-educated Greek-speaking Christian of the third generation (or so) of Jesus’ followers, not by an illiterate Aramaic-speaking Disciple. We added the name “John” to the Gospel in the following century.

            The resurrection story grew like a fish story where the fish got bigger and bigger. In the earliest version, Paul’s, its just a vision. Then “Mark,” written anonymously but with the name “Mark” added in a later century, added the tomb and the stone, and the women running away in fright. But the oldest copies of “Mark” end with no resurrection appearances. The anonymous Gospels attributed traditionally to “Matthew” and “Luke” add resurrection appearances, and “John” adds the fingers in the wounds and Jesus cooking breakfast. “John,” whoever he was, also has Jesus appear in a locked room, as if he had just beamed in from the Starship Enterprise. Bigger and bigger stories as time goes on, and as we get farther and farther removed from the actual 12 Disciples.

            In the 2nd Century a Gospel of “Peter” has Jesus come out of the tomb and grow until his head fills the sky and beyond, and a cross also comes out of the tomb, talking. Just like that fish story that kept growing. Of course the Gospel of “Peter” did not get into the biblical canon, but it helps show how the story kept growing.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You don’t have answers, only lengthy excuses for your disbelief in the Resurrection.

            As for Christ’s disciples, the fact they were boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus after they were in hiding behind locked doors — as recorded in the book of Acts — strongly suggests that the Resurrection was no elaboration.

          • penzance

            I agree that the Disciples experienced something real, just as my mother experienced something real. That does not mean that the stories in the anonymous Gospel traditionally called “John,” written by someone 60 or 65 years removed from the events, occurred exactly as “John” recounts them. Have you ever played a game of “telephone”? Once the story has been told a few times, it changes considerably.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The ancients had an oral tradition of properly passing down stories, but the occult “spirituality” of your family has nothing to do with Christ’s disciples.

          • penzance

            Do you deny that the Disciples experienced something real? Do you deny that when people tell a story, and the next person re-tells the story, etc., that the story can change and even grow? You insult me again and again, Mr. Troll, but you come up short on answers.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The answer is that you’re not a disciple and any visions you or your bizarre family allegedly had can’t be vetted.

          • penzance

            Paul wasn’t one of the 12 Disciples either. And his vision can’t be vetted either.

            If you mean Paul was a “small d” disciple, any one of the billions of followers of Jesus, so was my evangelical Methodist mother. But people have had visions throughout the Middle Ages into modern times.

            Are you saying that God — or human experience — has changed so drastically in the past 2,000 years that things that happened back then can’t happen today? O ye of little faith!

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Paul wasn’t an anonymous poster on Discus.
            And Paul was more than a disciple; he was an apostle who wrote the majority of the New Testament.

          • penzance

            So Paul — who never met the ‘pre-Easter’ Jesus — could have a vision 2,000 years ago, but visions are impossible today? Is that your point? Is that why you insult my late mother? I tried to find common ground with you, by saying that although I’m a skeptic I think that mystical experiences are possible. You use my attempt to find agreement as an opportunity to insult my late mother. That seems to summarize your religion.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You’re the one who brought his family into this; if I don’t believe you, why would I believe them?
            And for the record, I have nothing in common with you, or UU.

          • penzance

            You are a terrible ambassador for Christianity. Your religion seems to have taught you to simply hurl insults. Fortunately, I know many Christians who are good people, so I know they are not all like you.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I doubt many Christians would consider you and your fellow Unitarians to be Christians simply because you deny the deity of Christ.

          • penzance

            Then you agree with the majority of UUs that they are not Christians. And by your behavior you are not one, either. Unless the hallmarks of Christianity are rudeness and the inability to comprehend simple sentences.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You and the majority of UUs are not the arbiters of Christianity.

          • penzance

            You CLAIM to believe, but you refuse to follow. Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. I don’t have to be an “arbiter” to see the obvious — you are no Christian. You are merely a minor troll.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            It’s not really clear whether Paul himself believed in a spiritual or physical resurrection. According to David Friedman, 1 Corinthians 15 actually speaks about a spiritual resurrection.

            1 Corinthians 15 is a crucial chapter for understanding the meaning of the resurrection. While literalists claim that it supports a physical resurrection, the evidence shows the exact opposite to be true. The main point to bear in mind is a focus on the meaning of the natural body versus the spiritual body, which is the immortal body people are raised in.

            In the first three verses Paul speaks of the gospel message which he had received, and which had been received by others whom he had preached to. In verse 3 Paul says that he delivered first to the people that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures, and follows this by saying that Christ was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures in verse 4. These verses indicate that the main teaching of the early followers was of Christ dying for the sins of mankind, and then being raised, or resurrected, on the third day. Verses 3-4 do not provide independent confirmation of a physical resurrection.

            As Richard Carrier states, “the phrase “died…was buried…was raised” can just as easily be a metaphor as an indication of a physical raising; the “concept of the resurrection itself” does not entail any more a physical than a spiritual idea (and since Christianity changed many Jewish beliefs–it was, after all, new and different–we cannot this that the Jewish tradition on speaks of the physical).” {1} In addition, Colossians 2:12 speaks of people who were raised (resurrected) with Jesus. Those spoken of were not physically resurrected. Ephesians 2:1, 5-6 speaks of people who were resurrected from the dead, and the death was only spiritual. This seems to suggest that these passages and others imply that the resurrection is non-physical.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If “the phrase ‘died…was buried…was raised’ can just as easily be a metaphor,” why would the apostles undergo martyrdom for a metaphor?

          • Tom from North Carolina

            Yes and some of the gospels contradict that account so who’s to say what really happened versus what the various authors of the gospels wanted people to believe happened.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Exactly what gospel chapters and verses specifically contradict John 20:27 and 21:9-13?

        • Susan Christie

          I think of it as the Universal Mystery, which from my tiny, limited human perspective, is impossible to understand or define. And I feel no need to try. And I’m not much interested in “beliefs.” I think of our religion as “what we do” and what REALLY determines our behavior. In that light, our national religion looks a lot like “adoration of money!” Don’t we base most of our decisions and our behavior on that? Oh. I see we have strayed far from discussing the points in the author’s article. But Unitarian Universalism offers the guidance I need to live in the world with the most integrity of which I am capable. My favorite principle is the seventh.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I am not familiar with Universalist principles, but the impression I’m getting is that Unitarians have deliberately shrunk the God of the Bible so as to fit our tiny, limited human perspectives.

          • Susan Christie

            Hi, Joe. As a UU, it feels just the opposite. That’s why I’m reluctant to focus too much on “beliefs.” It seems much more useful to get together and do the good in the world that needs doing, such as caring for each other and the creation, and refuse to let ourselves as people of faith be polarized.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            As a UU you’re reluctant to focus on beliefs, but on your feelings instead?

          • Susan Christie

            “Beliefs” are fluid, ever changing, as we grow spiritually. That’s one thing. Then secondly, people can say that they “believe” something, then behave in ways totally counter to that. Beliefs are not the same as “knowings.” They are not facts. So, it’s not so much that I focus on feelings. Rather I look to how I behave, and how others behave, in the world as a clue to what they REALLY believe, as opposed to what they say they believe. Does that make any sense? 🙂

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Yes, but I can still believe that 2+2 will always equal 4, or that E=IR.

          • penzance

            Religion is not mathematics. Using math to compare it to religion is a mistake unique to the modern age.

          • Susan Christie

            That’s different, isn’t it? You don’t merely “believe” those things, you “know” them. They are facts (well, 2+2 = 4, as long as we assume we’re talking a base of 10).

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I was thinking of something Einstein said about having faith, but perhaps a better illustration would be a pilot who doesn’t recognize the terrain below and has to have enough faith in his instruments to get home.

          • Dreaded Rear Admiral

            If there is universal truth, are “fluid beliefs” an attempt to hone in on said truth or merely flitting about , landing on whatever sounds good at the time? This is not an attempt to prove that Christianity is that universal truth. It either is our is not, but * something * is true.

          • Susan Christie

            Fluid beliefs…by that I mean they change as you age and grow intellectually and spiritually. It’s a natural process, it seems to me, much deeper and more meaningful than “flitting about.” I don’t hope to come to a full understanding or a final decision about what is true in my lifetime. My human brain is simply inadequate. Maybe that makes me a raging agnostic! I do “believe” in love, though–the intentional kind, not the sentimental kind. And what I do is more important than what I think. Those two things I can say firmly.

          • penzance

            Faith without works are dead.

      • Sammi

        I certainly do and my family does! I fully expect God to hear each and every one of my prayers even if He doesn’t answer them all. God can move literal mountains if He so wishes, it’s nothing for Him to answer my prayers. That being said I also know He won’t always do so even when I feel I need him to. There are morals to every story and a reason for everything, we just don’t always know what it is. So I do lots of prayer and when I’m not praying sometimes I’m just talking to God cause you’d be surprised how much that can help you. I love my personal relationship with God and I encourage it in the kids I work with.

        • Elizabeth

          I think prayer can be a good thing for the people who pray. Like meditation prayer can center the mind and have many positive mental, emotional and spiritual benefits.

          But I’ve seen no evidence that praying for a specific thing can make that thing more likely to happen. I’m sure you’ve heard of the problem of evil. If God is all loving and all powerful, why doesn’t he intercede to stop war and famine and disease? Why does he not, at the very least, protect innocent children from these evils?

  • laineypc

    I think the “theological identity that has yet to cohere” should be sustained into perpetuity.

    • starzanne

      On the contrary, I feel UUism is the most highly evolved form of spirituality and truly expresses divine love and a way and path for the future. We must learn compassion and acceptance if we are to progress beyond perpetual war.

      • laineypc

        I don’t see that you statement contradicts my idea. I think once humans try to define god that is when they get into trouble. So I would rather we not worry too much about a theological identity. We are doing just fine with our amorphous ideas about god and spirituality, let’s focus on cohering as a diverse community that seeks to act on our spiritual values.

  • Susan Christie

    Here’s what I said on Facebook: This was written by a
    senior UU minister, so it is theological, which is to be expected. But
    “theologizing” can differ significantly from “what we do,” which for me
    is a stronger indicator of what we really “believe.” I appreciate the
    history in Nos. 1, 2, and 4. That is important context. In no. 4,
    however, I would add “How shall we live?” in addition
    to “where did we come from and where are we going?” No. 3 is too
    simplistic. I cannot agree that “experience” includes only that
    explainable by science and that there is no “revelation” beyond
    science. Nor can I agree that most humans behave as they do because they
    are inherently rational. No. 4, hmm… As a woman, I am lumped in with
    gays, people of color, etc., and we are all “disadvantaged.” I think
    we are not disadvantaged. White straight men, especially those in
    positions of power, have a “superiority” problem. And there are and
    always have been many understandings of “god” other than that
    ultra-white anthropomorphized rewarder/punisher he describes. I like
    no. 6. To be who we think we are, our understanding of all that is can
    never be static; it has to keep evolving and changing, even minute by
    minute! No. 7, yes, that’s wonderful. And nos. 8 and 9 about gratitude
    too, but, as someone else said, love should be in there somewhere. If
    we think of “worship” as paying attention to that which we love, it
    works for me! And, finally, no. 10, service. Yes, that’s one expression
    of the deep love for the world and all its creatures I see in so many
    UUs. I wrote this really quickly. I should probably run for cover now!
    🙂

    • Randal Ott

      >> No. 3, hmm… As a woman, I am lumped in with gays, people of color, etc., and we are all “disadvantaged.” I think we are not disadvantaged. White straight men, especially those in positions of power, have a “superiority” problem. And there are and always have been many understandings of “god” other than that ultra-white anthropomorphized rewarder/punisher he describes.

      It’s clear you were actually referring to #5 here, but I don’t know that you truly disagree with the author’s point.

      You deny that women and members of the other groups listed are disadvantaged by systematic forms of injustice, and you resent being “lumped in with gays, people of color, etc.”. But the oppression, or disadvantagement, of each these groups clearly persists (through sexism, homophobia, racism, etc.) to the advantage of the “White straight men” you condemn. It seems counterintuitive to deny the existence of systematic disadvantages when combating such inequalities is a fundamental practice in our faith.

      Of course, during the first half of the 19th century, there were Unitarians who denied that slavery was an unjust system that, by design, put people of African descent at a disadvantage, because to house and feed slaves was considered a burden of the ruling class, and the forced extraction of labor from such people was seen as a valid way to seek remuneration for these services. During the women’s suffrage movement, some Unitarians denied that withholding a woman’s right to vote put her at a disadvantage, since Biblically-derived tradition prevented her from being the head of a household anyway, and thus she would not have any use for it. Minor groups of Unitarians have continued to invalidate personal experiences of struggle in the face of the waves of civil rights and feminist struggles for generations since then. But the long arc of the moral universe has continually cast aside these doubts on its bend toward justice, all the while teaching the rest of us how to clarify our deepest beliefs and values to ourselves and each other.

      Looking back on these historical examples within our faith, has it not consistently been a worthier pursuit to bear prophetic witness to systematic forms of injustice as we have encountered them? To support efforts against them rather than to invalidate the perceptions of the oppressed?

      • Susan Christie

        Yes, Randall, I did mean #5. Thank you. When I speak of people other than “white straight men” not being disadvantaged, I mean not inherently so. Of course there is systemic skewing in favor of white straight men. But I do not wish to condemn them, merely point out the “superiority complex” part. And yes, we must work continuously for social and environmental justice, not only because justice is right, but because the world desperately needs help from the rest of us.

        • Randal Ott

          Ah, I see where you were coming from. You took the author’s use of “disadvantaged” as an essential description and not an existential one. It still doesn’t seem to me that this was the author’s intent, especially in the light of the rest of the article.

          Merriam-Webster defines “disadvantaged” as “lacking in the basic resources or conditions (as standard housing, medical and educational facilities, and civil rights) believed to be necessary for an equal position in society” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). This seems to be a valid descriptor for many oppressed groups in our society.

          • Susan Christie

            I appreciate this discussion, Randall. Thank you for engaging me. I can’t know the author’s intention for sure in his use of the term “disadvantaged,” but he seems to say that being black, gay, or female, etc., is an inherent (essential) disadvantage. One could be a well-educated professional, with decent salary, benefits, housing, etc., yet be “disadvantaged” just by nature of being black, gay, or female. Perhaps he merely means there is systemic inequality. This is all very general. In fairness to the author, his article wasn’t intended to address all the social, political, and economic nuances. 🙂

          • Randal Ott

            >> One could be a well-educated professional, with decent salary, benefits, housing, etc., yet be “disadvantaged” just by nature of being black, gay, or female.

            Isn’t that true, though? Aren’t people in these groups generally paid and promoted less than SWM in similar positions? Even those who defy this pattern are put under more unfair scrutiny than SWM in similar positions.

  • bamcintyre

    The point is that UUs do not have a dogma. If you want to believe in a god or gods that’s up to you. If you want to be Pagan, you can be comfortable here. If you are a Satanist, or any other sort of believer or unbeliever, you can find yourself part of a community of spirit and action. I would say that a very large percentage of UUs are atheist.. but no one asks or requires any specific belief or un-belief.

  • Andi Johnson

    This is a really good selection. Of course we aren’t going to agree on everything. But, it’s a pretty good synopsis of what it is.

  • Andi Johnson

    This is a really good selection. Of course we aren’t going to agree on everything. But, it’s a pretty good synopsis of what it is.

  • Carol Carpenter

    Not all Unitarians are atheists. I am a Unitarian who considers herself an agnostic (simply no way to know for sure). But based on evidence, I do lean more toward atheism. Why people get so upset that others don’t necessarily believe in a god is baffling to me. Really, why does it matter? It’s a personal thing and has no bearing on anyone else’s beliefs.

    • penzance

      Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me to harm if my neighbor believes in 20 gods or one God, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    • Linda_LaScola

      Atheists don’t know for sure either. They just don’t believe in god.

      • Carol Carpenter

        Christians don’t know either. They do believe in god.

      • RM1948

        Atheism is not a belief. It is only called that because believers need to fit something they do not comprehend into a slot that is comfortable to them. You have to be taught to believe in god(s). Without that teaching you may decide they exist but many would not make that decision.

        • Sidran Moon

          My mentor says that Atheism is no more a belief system than NOT collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • Anissa

    Excellent article, Gratitude to the author Galen Guengerich.

  • Rev. Greta Browne

    Let’s not develop UUism to the point that we have a credo, a dogma. Our strength is in being a gathering of people who do not know what ‘we’ as a whole believe – it’s up to each one of us to discover what matters and to learn how to live a good and honorable life.

  • Judi Marshall Metz

    So how do you worship, what do you worship, what’s the point in fellowship when there is not a common set of beliefs? Do you just unite all people who feel grateful? Why do you feel grateful? Who are you grateful to? Do you just gather together to make each other feel valued? So confusing

    • Julie James

      We do hold a common set of beliefs, our 7 Principles. They are, in summary:

      1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
      2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
      3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
      4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
      5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
      6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
      7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

      But those are, deliberately, large and fluid principles. Within those, we are able to express our spiritual path in whatever way we feel is right for us (4th Principle), so that you see a lot of “hyphenated UUs”: UU-Buddhists, UU-Pagans, UU-Atheists (that’s me), UU-Jews, UU-Christians. We can come together to affirm each others spiritual path as valid for oneself, we can learn from others on a different path, and if one changes their path, as happens very often in a human lifetime, we can still be in the same religious community.
      Who are we grateful to? Well, to speak personally, from MY path, I am grateful to my communities. I am grateful for trees. I am grateful for science. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my church. So when i go to services on Sunday and I worship with my church around me, I hold them, and the larger world, in my heart, and I am fulfilled.

      It’s not really that confusing, but it is complex. And that’s OK. Life is complex. Beautifully, and sometimes tragically, so. We can come together to lift each other up during our times of beauty and tragedy and change. That is my religion.

      • Anne Wilson

        In addition to principles we also have sources. These include religious books like the Bible, prophets like Jesus and Buddha, religious experience, people of wisdom, and others.

    • Anne Wilson

      Fellowship can be its own point.

    • penzance

      Worship comes from an Old English root (worth-ship) that means “to ascribe worth to something.” UUs ascribe worth to many things — the laws of nature, the Cosmos, the grace of the world, human community, etc. UUs are not required to hold to one particular statement of faith, so within broad parameters there are a variety of beliefs.

      Many UUs would use the term “God,” but there is not one agreed-upon definition of God that all humans agree to. When we speak of God your definition and mine are probably at least a little different, maybe very different. Some people believe in “the old man in the sky” who spares one family from a tornado but kills another. Some believe God is Nature and Nature is God; some (like the theologian Paul Tillich) say God is not a being but is Being-Itself; some like Charles Hertshorne say God is the Process of Cosmic Creativity. Not all people agree on a single definition of God.

      I am grateful for the gift of life. I call that “grace,” as I don’t know for a fact where that gift came from, and I did nothing to deserve it. Somehow the Universe, the Cosmic Creative Process, gave me life, and I am grateful. We have come from mystery and we will return to mystery — a mystery that gave us life, sustains us in the present, and is our destiny at the end of time. We might call that “God.” And in the meantime, whatever name we use for the mystery, I am grateful.

  • Tom Creacy

    A good list, but don’t worry; no one is telling us what to believe.
    These are the views of one (very knowledgeable) UU minister. They do
    not represent the views of any one UU congregation/society/group or UU as
    a whole. I’ve explored many spiritual, religious, and philosophical
    paths myself, and I have found the practice of gratitude to be central
    to many, especially Christianity, and therefore I do not agree that
    gratitude can the defining characteristic of, or claimed by, any one
    movement including UU. Gratitude is a powerful spiritual practice
    which from time to time gets corrupted by such forces as “The Secret”
    movement/book/video of recent memory. Gratitude is a spiritual practice
    open to all, and the challenge is to practice it with a pure heart and
    mind and not turn it into dogma or religion.

  • John John

    Mental parasites,
    They took up
    A universal vague religion.

    —W.H. Auden

  • elvischannel

    Unsurprisingly, I am a Unitarian Universalist who disagrees with the author. The second item seems to point to a time when we will get past adolescence and somehow establish a home of our own like that of our parent faith. Unitarian Universalism is more like perpetual adolescence–always growing and learning and never growing up. Unitarianism could have established a static line of thought when it questioned the Trinity and stopped there. It didn’t. Universalism could have established a static line of thought when it dismissed Hell and stopped there. It didn’t. The process of questioning continued and continues. What we know is that we don’t know it all and that our beliefs should change as we learn more.

    • Stay Loose

      I like that! So is Unitarian Universalism on a perpetual Rumspringa?

      • elvischannel

        Yes, but so is all of life if let it be. Unitarian Universalism just provides the company and the lamp to brighten your journey–whatever direction you go.

        • Stay Loose

          I’m a UU, too. Agree. Incidentally, Rev. Guengerich was raised Mennonite, so it is possible to describe his odyssey as a Rumspringa. 😀

  • Anne Wilson

    If wishes were horses beggars would ride.
    Wishing that others knew more about our history, beliefs and values is a pointless exercise. We do not proselytize. What other choose to learn or believe is their choice. Besides, our principles do not speak to expanding our church, or wishing for others to know us better, nor do our principle require that others respect us as equals. Our principles ask us to respect others as equals; we need to know that, others do not.
    Our principless ask us to commit ourselves to action in the world, to treating all people with fairness, dignity and respect. Our principles ask us to act in the world knowing that all things and beings are dependent and interdependent. Our principles ask us to keep searching for truth and meaning.
    Our principles are like love: not merely a nouns but a verbs. They call us to act in the world. They call us to act in the world with compassion whether or not the world knows or cares. Our principles call us to act in the world even when our ministers get shot in Selma, or in their own churches. I don’t need others to know anything about us at all. I respect their religious, political and moral choices; I do this because I am a UU. I do this whether others understand or misunderstand.
    As a UU I do not ride horses made of wishes.

    • Corey Wesley Walter Jacobs

      Brava, I enjoyed reading this and moreover learned more from you than the original post.

  • Sam

    Thank you for sharing.

    Similar beliefs and ideas lead me to Islam. 🙂

  • Bill Miller

    I’ve always considered the Unitarian Universalism a “process” religion rather than a “product” one. The emphasis is not on a set of fixed beliefs often handed down from antiquity, but on each person finding meaning, fulfillment and community through exploration. Having grown up in that very large “product” religion of Catholicism, I found the UU community at a fairly early age and stuck with it. The journey has been very rewarding! In response to comment 2 above, ethics and guiding ideas are important, but I hope, as a religion, we never become codified, stratified and closed to new ideas.

  • ksed11

    The Universalists rejected the Christian doctrine of predestination;

    So did many Christians, if by “predestination” one means “double-predestination”.
    Double predestination is exclusively a Calvinist doctrine and Calvinism is by no means the majority view.
    Nonetheless, the essential doctrines of Christianity (as articulated in the early creeds) allow different Christians to hold differing views on non-essential theological viewpoints.

  • Glenda Clemens

    Very informative and insightful. Thank you!!!

  • Jessica

    Thank you for the informative article. I read that Unitarian religion was started in 1557 it is a very old religion and yes “belonging” is major heart ache of the people who originated that I think will never heal ever. The first free church was allowed in 1945 before that people were persecuted and they could only practice their religion in seclusion. I am still learning of course about the history but about their psychology issues I am certain. I think the religion is not in its adolescents but because of this “belonging” issue speaks to the people who are in “splitting” stage of their lives, for example adolescents who split from their parents, elderly who lost their partners, people who immigrate or thorn between two forces. Identity unity in mind is very important for a human being to function. Where one feels at home? If we are born on a foreign land where do we belong?

  • Jeff May

    It is always a bit tricky to say “We Believe . . .” when referring to Unitarian Universalism, and given our deliberative tendencies any attempt to do so is likely to result in lively discussion and generally some debate. With all due respect for Galen – and I mean that quite sincerely – there are a few items in his list that at least deserve an asterisk. As others have mentioned I don’t know if I quite accept the “adolescence” analogy – unless we can think of it as “perpetual adolescence”. An essential understanding of our movement is that it IS a movement and revelation is never sealed. So, to use Galen’s imagery we shall always be “teenagers” as we shall always have the elasticity and growth of youth.

    My other comment would be on the 5th and 6th point – the discussion of “God”.

    As Galen points out quite rightly, not all Unitarian Universalists find the word “God” to be useful or meaningful (for a variety or reasons). To say that “We don’t believe in the God many others don’t believe in either.” is either meaningless or presumptuous, depending on how you look at it. Yes, I get it . . . Unitarian Universalists in general do not accept the traditional concept of a “God in the image of man” as understood by most of our Christian forebears, but to me it’s more important to talk about what we do believe in common rather than what we don’t believe. I love the expression of the Wellsprings Congregation in Chester PA . . . “We can experience God without being able to define God.” This works for me, but your mileage may vary. Our attempts to define God (or what God is or isn’t) is what falls outside of the boundaries of our free faith.

    May we ever be the “Gratitude People”.

  • http://joannevalentinesimson.wordpress.com/ ValPas

    Great synopsis! I essentially agree with everything, especially the notion that “The
    experience of God intimately and extensively connects us to everything” although I would probably reverse that to say “The experience of feeling intimately and extensively connected to everything is probably what mystics mean when they talk about God.”

  • Randy Pawley

    Thank you for the words of wisdom.My truth is that we do not know the final truth untill we arrive. My understanding would be according to science, the BIG BANG was created by , my thought, universal intelligents and all of life as we know it on earth, was the grouth of the same four elements.The water we drink is the same water our dinosaur friends drank. If we look to our HIGHER SELF consciousness we might find that all is connected to the whole.

  • Jace Paul

    A wonderful summary of the UUA. As an atheist, I have much respect for the denomination and have proudly worked along with them on outreach and charity initiatives. If only more people of faith were like this.

  • MikeBratton

    It would’ve been great if point 11 had addressed the fact that UU and Christianity are mutually exclusive. Reading the article, that’s rather the elephant in the room–that though it sounds a little bit like Christianity, it isn’t. At all. And that’s unfortunate.

    • Corey Wesley Walter Jacobs

      Yep they deny the deity of Christ. Turns out my coworker goes to a UU Church I just learned about UU today. They would always talk about going to Church and of course I assumed that it was Christian. Basically, they poked fun at “Kingdom Hall”– (A whole other basket of cans of worms there, I don’t agree with JW either. Surprise surprise) which startled me after learning about UU. They miss the healing power of forgiveness. Which, now makes sense after putting point A with point B with this coworker. This whole UU thing seems empty and at the same time they wish to be a community. A community needs something to bind it together, an ultimate goal that everyone shares. With UU, it seems the ultimate goal is for everyone to get along. That’s possible in prison. It’s an easy goal. And guess what, they have done it. Now what? I feel like if I peel back any more information on, or talk to any Universal Unitarians there will be fear just under the surface.

  • http://www.GodCameDown.com/ GodCameDown

    So you said you let go of this rope, “Over the past 500 years or so, human beings have come to rely more and more on reason and science as the basis of human knowledge. As a result, religion and its defenders have been engaged in an often-brutal tug-of-war with science and its defenders over what we most truly know.”
    But in reality you only switched hands. You claim you are on the side of what you truly know, thus to you science is empirical evidence.
    Christians believe God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.
    Since the Biblical concept of God is an all powerful creator of everything, then it is more reasonable to believe He transcends the empirical laws of science since He created them and god live above those laws because they are subject to Him but God is not subject to the laws of science. This is even more reasonable than to require natural evidence to prove supernatural claims, whether it involves creation or any other Biblical claim.

  • Corey Wesley Walter Jacobs

    Dear writer, you have missed the point of Christianity all together. The love of God is important, as is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. However, the main tenant of Christianity is “Forgiveness”. This is a very important distinction that you have missed. We are called to first and foremost be forgiving as God has been forgiving. Without forgiveness may we truly be polite and accepting? If we do not forgive, may there truly be progress of any sort?

  • Corey Wesley Walter Jacobs

    Dear writer, you have missed the point of Christianity all together. The love of God is important, as is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. However, the main tenant of Christianity is “Forgiveness”. This is a very important distinction that you have missed. We are called to first and foremost be forgiving as God has been forgiving. Without forgiveness may we truly be polite and accepting? If we do not forgive, may there truly be progress of any sort?

  • npverni

    Wow and here I thought UU were pompous and holier than thou. (facepalm)

  • KLabana

    Most in this article is what is Sikhism…people doesn’t know much about it because they don’t convert others through incentive or force. There is no conflict with science. Worshiping together, service to the needy, earning an honest living through hard work, and gratitude to the universe and universal brotherhood, respect for all human beings and religions are the main tenets of Sikhism. Bertrand Russel said On Granth Sahib & Sikhism

    Bertrand Russel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literaure in 1950

    He said “If some lucky men survive the onslaught of the third world war of atomic and hydrogen bombs, the SIKH religion will be the ONLY means of guiding them.
    It has the capability, but Sikhs have not brought-out, in broad day light, the splendid doctrines of their religion, which has come into existence for
    the benefit of entire mankind.”