A while back, I attended a three-week “Getting to Know UU” discussion group for those who are considering joining a Unitarian Universalist congregation (and I did join the congregation). At the beginning of the meeting, we were all asked to introduce ourselves and explain how we arrived there—sort of a brief spiritual autobiographical sketch. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to present it as a logical A to B journey before or even think of it that way. Still, as it often happens, answering someone else’s questions taught me things I didn’t realize I knew.
I’d already been meditating on just who I am, what I believe, and what I want to accomplish in this life. How would I want my daughter and other loved ones to remember me if I died today? What would I want them to know about what I thought, hoped, believed, wished for, and why? I find that being a parent makes me far more conscious of time and of planning for the future than I was before.
I don’t think some things can be adequately expressed through words. They must be conveyed through behavior. Still, my words are an essential part of who I am, and I feel some need to express my beliefs through them. By publishing them, perhaps I’ll find like-minded souls with whom to strike up a dialogue, or maybe they’ll at least provoke contemplation in those who read them. I do not claim to be wise, nor do I claim to express any eternal truths. My beliefs and values have evolved throughout my life, and I expect them to continue to do so as long as I exist—I abhor stagnation.
|Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe simply because it has been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is written in Holy Scriptures. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of teachers, elders, or wise men. Believe only after careful observation and analysis, when you find that it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all. Then accept it and live up to it.—The Buddha on Belief, from the Kalama Sutta
So…I was a pagan when I wrote many of the articles on this site, but over the years, I’ve evolved into an agnostic atheist. That means that I don’t claim to absolutely know whether there are or are not any deities (although I find it extremely unlikely that there are), but I do not believe that any exist. I’m also a Unitarian Universalist. No, there isn’t a conflict between being UU and atheist or pagan. It isn’t easy to explain what being UU means in a couple of words, as there’s a lot of diversity within our association. We’re a non-creedal religious group. What we do agree on is expressed in the UU Principles and Purposes. The UUA Bookstore has a rather nice article that’s also informative, Who We Are. Beyond the principles and purposes, you’ll find Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, (obviously) atheist, and pagan UUs. I’m also a secular humanist and a skeptic.
I believe that everyone has the right to determine their own beliefs and the freedom to follow the path those beliefs dictate. Groups like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are welcome to their views, but the fact that they try to impose those views on everyone else is absolutely wrong. That’s why I got involved with the Greater Atlanta Interfaith Alliance. It’s also one of the reasons I’m a Unitarian Universalist—because it permits me to be part of a community of faith that welcomes and affirms people of all paths. Being UU gave my child exposure to those paths in a positive way. I wanted her to have the information to make a fully informed decision about her path when she was old enough to do so. I did not make my parents’ mistake of trying to force her to follow my path.
I believe that for every right, there is a corollary responsibility and that only a fool tries to exercise one without fulfilling the other. In terms of belief, that means questioning everything. If you believe what your parents believed, whatever you were raised in, and have believed throughout your life, you probably just inherited your religion as a habit. You may have gotten your political views the same way, and I’m not going to take you very seriously. There’s a saying among Christians that “God doesn’t have any grandchildren,” but few consider that to its fullest because they were indoctrinated into their religion as small children.
Politically, I believe that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. My definition of a civilized society is one in which there is sound infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, utilities, etc.) and a reasonable degree of safety so that ordinary people can walk down the streets without worry at any time. The basic human rights and freedoms of speech, religion, privacy, bodily autonomy, education, healthcare, equality of opportunity, representative government, the pursuit of happiness, and so on must be guaranteed. I think that children, the elderly, and the disabled should have a decent standard of living provided for them. A robust social safety net is an integral part of a civilized society.
I think everybody has the right to determine what they do with their bodies, including what they put in them. I happen to think it’s too stupid for words to put substances in your body that cause you to lose control of yourself. I also think the “war on drugs” is an excuse for the government to chip away at our freedom, and I’m wholly against it.
I believe that because I exercised my right to bring a child into this world, I was obligated to fulfill my responsibilities by providing for and educating her until she was an adult and doing my best to see that she grew into a responsible adult. I believe that being a parent is both one of the greatest rights and one of the most immense responsibilities any person will ever experience. I’ll admit to being judgemental about people based on how they parent and their children behave. I choose not to spend time with people who don’t parent well because their children are generally little monsters. I realized some time back that I don’t “like” children any more than I “like” any other particular group of people. I enjoy the company of intelligent, well-behaved people and don’t like to be around noisy, rude, or willfully ignorant people no matter how old they are.
I judge people by their words, deeds, and abilities rather than by their appearance, ancestry (race, ethnicity, etc.), gender, or sexual orientation. I ask that the same factors be used in judging me. The entrenched bigotry of the churches in which I was raised was one of the biggest reasons I left all organized religion for many years. I refuse to be part of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-intellectual campaigns, or to be associated with any organization that promotes those evils. I believe that laws that exist solely to enforce religious standards on those who do not share those religious beliefs are inexcusable and ludicrous. Prohibitions against marriages between consenting adults of any gender and Georgia’s ridiculous sex laws are just two of the examples that come to mind immediately.
I believe that the more love one gives to others, the more you receive. I don’t know if Spider Robinson said it first or was quoting someone else, but as he said, “Shared joy is multiplied, shared sorrow is divided.”