As an atheist, I have not been in a church for decades. But this week a friend invited me to the Cascade Unitarian Church.
It was wonderful! I knew nearly everyone and felt loved and welcomed.
The minister's message was about improving the Golden Rule. Treat people as they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated. Over 22 religions have some form of the Golden Rule.
This message resonated with me. I felt centered and grounded. No mention of Jesus.
Members were invited to light a candle and share joys or sorrows. One man talked eloquently about how he refused to accept help and it resulted in loneliness. He spoke of his "trembling and vulnerable heart" and the weight of "carrying the flaming saber of justice."
"Your words hit me in the center of my chest," I told him afterward. I got lots of hugs and enjoyed connecting with old friends. Found two new female hiking partners!
Next week they will celebrate Paganism. I plan to go. This is what church should be: acceptance and connections between people.
When I was going through a rough patch in a relationship I felt I needed some kind of guidance or uplift. I went to the local Unitarian Universalist church a couple of Sundays. It didn’t help. Still felt shitty, didn’t get any insight and it’s still involves a magical entity in the Universe somewhere. Went to see a shrink, it was much more productive!
Religion is simply nothing more than a tool for which you can either build or destroy with it.
That’s why I don’t judge religious people until they give me a reason to. Yet sadly the concept of unity and fellowship has been lost on most of society let alone the church but it’s also said that religion is merely a reflection of society so it’s next phase should be very interesting.
Cool. We've talked about trying to start a little UU church here. We have a chance to talk about it with someone from the UU organization sometime in the near future. It would be amazing if we could make it work. Reading this made me more excited to see those conversations get started.
LiterateHiker, I fully agree this is how a church should be, but my local UU church is now anything but what you describe. Ironically, there is a small, very liberal UCC church right down the street from me, but they use the Bible and are Christian. I would probably fit in great there socially and share all their politics. And I've heard they have all the qualities of the UU church you visited. But I'm not going to lie or pretend to believe or be a Christian just to attend and enjoy their community.
Interesting (to me) information about Unitarianism: Four presidents of the United States were Unitarians. One of our greatest founding fathers, John Adams, was one of them. He was a strong advocate of the separation of church and state. In 1797, he signed the "Treaty of Tripoli", in which he wrote, "“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims]..." Some of our modern politicians would be well served by re-reading that passage.
I was surprised to learn that a Unitarian church in my area (northern Virginia) actually mentions Jeebus and sings hymns. But apparently the local UU churches have a wide latitude. Some congregations actually call their buildings meeting houses, not churches.
Brilliantly! Sounds like the ecumenical services that joined the Catholic and (Protestant ) Church of Ireland communities in my home in Ireland. It's fantastic when people put aside their differences and acknowledge that we are all human, fragile and vulnerable. This to me is community, regardless of religion.
My parent recently went to a Quakrr wedding and reported a similar experience to yours, very all encompassing.
Now, if only we could put the invisible friends aside.....
The Unitarians are much more open-minded and welcoming, and thankfully less greedy. Long ago, used to be in a Universalist Unitarian Church group for gays only, but they still did some communion things which I would not participate in. The gays who had rough early lives and were a bit damaged really appreciated a welcoming space and some hugs. Some people need that crutch even as adults to wish an artificial parent figure will watch over them, love them, guide them, and bless them sometimes. That is the precise psychological weakness the religion Businesses tune into in order to get their revenue. So most often we see religion preys on the poor, the poorly educated, the oppressed, and the depressed. These people use religion as a kind of therapy that they become mentally dependent on to feel good.
If only religion could be a local community of people celebrating their common humanity and human spirituality, with maybe some regular rituals of gentle music and important questions to discuss and think about. And chocolate chip cookies and coffee of course.
That sounds great! I'm currently trying to start a Unitarian church in my area because there isn't one. I did briefly attend one in college, and my impression was "this is where the smart people go" because there was a lot of interest in different cultures and religions, and tolerance for other views, including atheism.
I tried a UU church a few weekends myself. The one near me was still seemed pretty religious - they never referenced a deity or anything, but I got the impression that most people there were either liberal Christians (or the equivalent in other faiths) or still somewhat spiritual. They were nice people, though! Just didn't work for me. Not against trying it again.
I have zero issues with Unitarians and progressive Episcopalians... they are overwhelmingly good people, very accepting and not evangelizing. That they believe in gawd is fine with me... they don't seem to have an agenda of making their spiritual beliefs into public policy.
Some of my clients attend Unitarian churches all around the country. Seems that some are a bit theistic minded and some are totally secular, humanistic even. Some love it, some left due to a bit too much spiritual talk. I like the idea of gathering for life-affirming messages and discussion.
I think each congregation defined how much religion goes into their services. Supply and demand, I guess. Glad you found a great fit for you in your area.
I agree that the golden rule should be to treat others how THEY would like to be treated, not necessarily how you would like to be treated. Sometimes they are one and the same - sometimes not.
Carrying the flaming saber of justice sounds a tad overwrought and probably reflects that he's a social justice warrior, which is fine ... but the intensity can be a little off-putting to me. The local UUs here have been known to chain themselves to the entrance gate of the local fracking facility, and social status is tied partly to how many time's you've been arrested. Not my cup o'tea but I admire their devotion to their ideals.
I haven't felt the acceptance and connection you describe with the UUs here but it's probably more me than them I suppose.