What I Believe

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.

Black text on white background with rainbow stripes reading We Are: All Connected, Stronger Together, Love's Hands in the World, Called to Create Justice, Responsible for One Another and the Earth

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.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: