Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do Unitarians believe in the unity of religions?

I've been mulling something over. Peacebang asks if this is the best statement we can make about Unitarian (Universal)ism.

I've been thinking about the language used here: different people identify with different beliefs; this is fine because we're non-creedal, and we have principles that unite us. It's a negative way of putting it I think. It seems to suggest to me that beliefs don't matter. You can be a Christian or a Buddhist or a Pagan, but that's secondary, what unites us is our principles, therefore they matter more.

Yet how can we say that following Jesus is a secondary thing? How can we say that taking refuge in the dharma of the Buddha is an unimportant thing? These are life-transforming things. These are things that shape the entirity of one's life. And these are exactly the things that I go to church to to talk about, and to practice.

So how can these things live side by side in one community? There are three posibilities: one: they cannot, pluralist religion is impossible; two: for us to live side by side, religious belief must become secondary to basic ethical principles that don't really have the power to be life changing; or three: we hold a belief that there is something that unites all religions, there is the possibility of a unifying reality beyond all genuine experiences of enlightenment.

The third option is not without it's problems. And it may need more work to articulate is theologically, yet I would maintain that it's better than the other two options. It's sort of hinted at by some things that Unitarians say, and yet it doesn't quite seem to be something we've committed to wholeheartedly. Maybe there are good reasons for that. But I think the other option is to degrade the importance of all religions to maintain unity in diversity.

Wouldn't a better way to put it be to say that we affirm the unity of all religions and that we're engaged in a search for the unifying reality behind all religions, and that some of us do this by choosing and praticing one particular tradition? This seems to affirm the importance and power of religious traditions, while the language on the UUA website seems to degrade their importance. In short, we aren't united despite our diffferent religious committments, but because of them and through them.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck figuring this one out. The seven principles are completely humanistic, as are many UUs, so maybe for most members this issue simple does not come up because Jesus and Buddha are of some modest interest, but not a focus of attention.
Dudley Jones
jonesdudley@hotmail

5:07 pm  
Anonymous plonkee @ the religious atheist said...

Particular religious traditions are important to you. That doesn't mean that they are necessarily important to all Unitarians. I for one, am not looking for the truth behind all religions. I find some religious practices and teachers helpful, and that's it.

Trouble with Unitarianism is that when you think you've cracked it, someone comes along and says that they disagree ;)

9:37 pm  

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