Monday, December 12, 2011

My Religion - I am a HUUmanist


The Banner of the HUUmanists
I am a Unitarian Universalist, and I am also a Religious Humanist. As such, I am part of the HUUmanists, The Association of Unitarian Universalist Humanists. This is possible because Unitarian Universalism is a creedless faith. As long as one believes in the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism, they are free to believe whatever else fits their ideology. There are UU Christians, UU Muslims, UU Wiccans, UU Atheists, etc. Just because I am a HUUmanist does not mean I don’t respect the right to practice other faiths. I have gone to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and lit a candle for my Jewish family members, and I have gone to the Vatican and prayed for my Catholic family members, because I embrace all.
As a HUUmanist, I identify with many prominent members of society, but none more so than early Unitarian Humanist Thomas Jefferson. In 1776—the same year that he authored the Declaration of Independence—Jefferson said:
“No man can conform his faith to the dictates of another. The life and essence of religion consists in the internal persuasion or belief of the mind.”
Indeed, Thomas Jefferson is the author of The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, a version of the New Testament in which he took away the divinity of Christ and focused instead on the teachings of the man—love thy neighbor, do unto others as you would have done to you, and so on.
I am a Unitarian Universalist
As a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), I believe that everyone deserves respect and tolerance no matter what their beliefs. I also believe in a democratic religious society where the elected lay leadership is in ultimate control of the congregation’s affairs.
I am one of few people today who can say they were raised UU. I currently attend the First Unitarian Society of Ithaca (FUSIT) in Ithaca, New York. As is common with many UU congregations, we hardly ever focus on divinity of any kind, and when we do it tends to be in terms of lessons learned instead of necessary religious tradition. We once had a sermon on the life and music of American Communist Woody Guthrie. As you can gather, ours is a left-leaning faith. Music that we have been known to sing includes Cat Stevens and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. This does not mean that we do not focus on the serious issues at hand in religion today. We have tackled tough issues such as how the seventh principle on respect for the interdependent web of which we are a part is practiced through environmentalism. At Christmas, the minister will often focus on the teachings of Jesus as guidelines rather than as rules to live by. There is a saying that one does not go to church to catch hell, and that is certainly true at a UU congregation.
Just because we do not believe in any one creed does not mean that we are lacking in ceremonies to mark the most important times in one’s life. There is a Naming Ceremony when a new life is brought into the congregation and a Bridging Ceremony to mark graduation from youth to adulthood. Because the UUA has been LGBTQ friendly since its founding in 1961 and has pursued an activist agenda in this field since the 1970s, UU congregations have been performing same-sex weddings since long before Massachusetts first legalized them in the States.
I am a Religious Humanist
As a religious humanist, I believe that religion has a functional role to focus on the needs, interests, and abilities of humanity. In short, I do not worship the divine, but rather human potential. While not the be-all end-all of life, the tradition of religion as expressed through humanism helps provide structure to life.
This structure is guided by reason and has strong basis in scientific fact. I have casually remarked that for all I know the ultimate force in the universe is String Theory. I am always questioning the world around me, finding answers when I can, and believing that there is order to the universe that is always rationally explained. To my mind, there is no chaos, only order. Without order, the world often devolves into insanity.
While I approve of the beliefs of others, I frequently find myself asking why so many people believe in dogma that has time and time again lead to conflict and strife. I also believe that many people take their scriptures too literally. I am a strong believer that the whole reason behind organized religion is to give life a purpose and meaning. I do find it quite odd that faith is expressed through means that may otherwise be construed as fairy tales. Don’t get me wrong; I love fairy tales, and I often wish that they were true. But rational thought dictates otherwise.
Therefore, by expressing my faith through religious humanism, I give life a purpose and meaning that is rational and scientifically based.

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