Thinking About Choosing My Religion

24 06 2008

In reality, I am an atheist. This makes this week’s topic — If you had to pick a new religion, which one would it be, and why? — a bit of a challenge.

I could just skip this one but that seemed wrong. Surely, I can be open-minded enough to imagine I am a member of some religion or other. Surely. . . . ??

I could just lie about being comfortable enough with one sect or another. I figure, in my atheist way, that that’s what a lot of people do. Can all of those people who say they believe in a god, 82% according to this Harris Poll or 92% according to this Pew Poll, be telling the truth? Surely not.

Surely some have gone along with what was presented as they grew up, perhaps questioning but not making a fuss about their doubts. Not speaking out about how wacky their religion sounds.

Because, I have to tell you, they do. When you come at them from the outside and shop around, as I have been doing in a non-scientific catch-as-catch-can way for this assignment, the oddities of each particular belief system are startling.

I’ll go to a website to read about a religion and find references to every sort of fairy story. It’s turtles, all the way down, no matter where you start.

Then I jumped over to the Unitarian Universalist page.

I have to give some credit to a religion that makes it all the way through their set of principles with only one “God” reference and that is to “God’s love” and the Golden Rule.

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

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

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.

They don’t seem to have anything too frightening or bizarre that they teach the children either, setting aside the whole belief in a god thing.

The kids get posters or stickers saying:

1. Each person is important.
2. Be kind in all you do.
3. We’re free to learn together.
4. We search for what is true.
5. All people need a voice.
6. Build a fair and peaceful world.
7. We care for Earth’s lifeboat.

So, I could live with that. I’d pretend about the god part and just concentrate on the basically good ideas in the rest of it. Perhaps not completely unlike the approach 70% of the believers in the Pew Poll take as they acknowledge that their religion is not the only way.

Of course, in my heart I’d know that this series of videos comes closer to anything I could ever have any real confidence in, compared with any UU potluck or whatever the hell they do when they get together.

Oddly enough, I learned about the videos on a message board called United Homeschoolers. United Homeschoolers claims to be a secular board, which is why I joined in the first place.

It turned out they weren’t so much secular as they were not the hyperjudgemental “Christians” on another board. When I pointed out that that didn’t actually make them secular, I got a nice but very Humpty Dumpty answer about things meaning what the board owner said they meant.

At any rate, nobody there minds that I am an atheist. And, I assume, nobody here minds either for, as you can see, I would not be a good addition to any religion’s membership. 🙂

Nance Confer — edited to add my name as I’m never sure who wrote what the way WordPress does things and this one should probably be clearly marked.