Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Unitarian Church

Wow. I don't like starting off my blog posts with that, especially when this is likely not to be news to anyone but me, but I genuinely didn't know there was a church out there where you didn't have to believe in God to sign up. I thought believing in God was kind of the point, which is why I kept saying churches are missing the real point of it all.

I found out today that I was wrong. As it turns out, there's this thing called unitarianism. They're trying to do what I'm trying to do, sort of. Provide a place where you can be a person with some kind of faith (or none, if you prefer) and be supported in working towards goodness, without having to buy into any particular religious conception of God.

Here's what the website of my local unitarian church says:

This is a church of people. It is for spiritual explorers and free thinkers. It is for people refining their values and parents wanting to teach those values to their children. It is for people who are sure about God, and for those who are not. It is for people who are concerned with injustice and people who are accepting of differences.

In other words, if they're not kidding, this might be the type of church I could go to without feeling like I have to lie and say I believe something I really don't. Anyway, it's worth a try, as I've mentioned I really would like something churchlike without all the mythology and ritual of a typical church.

Does anyone know much about the Unitarians? I find it unbelievable that in all the times I've gone "I wish Church was like this" nobody has gone "But wait, this one is."

Sorry, no heavy philosophy tonight. That's a full week now without it. I'll have something good on Sunday, I promise.

Update, August 17, 2008: I've just come from the Unitarian service. It was exactly as the website indicated. Some very thouhgtful people there, with various beliefs, but otherwise very much like regular church, right down to the hymns (with lyrics about building and teaching and working in the world, rather than praising the Lord). I think I'm going to keep going.

Update, August 23, 2008: After some more looking into things, it turns out unitarianism (and universalism) don't mean what it sounds like they mean, or what the people at my particular Unitarian Universalist church were practicing. Unitarian means they don't believe in the trinity (father, son and holy ghost), and universalist means they believe everyone gets into heaven. Both are Christian ideas. The practice of my particular Unitarian church seems more like what I was looking for than that - somewhere where all beliefs were accepted, and the underlying truths of many of the core beliefs of those relgions were acknowledged, with an effort to bring people together around those core truths rather than get caught up in the details of a particular belief system. But still, if the meaning of the name they have chosen for themselves has those roots, it's debatable whether I wouldn't be better off just continuing outside of a church. We'll see.


kevin said...

According to this recent survey (scroll down to "Conception of God"), religious people hold fundamentally different ideas about God, including not believing. It also says that 6% of Atheists believe in a personal God--I'm not sure what that means!

Regarding Unitarians, they are one kind of religious universalism. I've considered attending a Unitarian church before, but I decided against it. Not because I'm completely opposed to it; I think it's a very practical religion. However, it seems to me that they sacrifice the full context of meaning available in a single religious tradition by trying to mix a bunch together.

Myron said...

Hey Kevin!

Thanks for that survey. I love surveys (yeah, I'm a stats geek).

I'm not really looking for the meaning in a religious tradition. I have a "meaning of life" with which I'm satisfied. However, when I did attend church, I really liked how there were people there who were concerned explicitly with attempting to do good in the world, rather than just doing what's good for them as individuals (although it turns out altruism makes you happier). If I can get that connection with a like-minded group of people without having to subscribe to a religion in which I don't believe, it's quite exciting to me :)