Sunday, August 17, 2008

I cannot be tolerant of intolerance.

Juggernaut Amber here.

Most of you know that I am attending University of Arkansas this fall.

I moved down to Fayetteville on Saturday, and found myself with a full free day on Sunday.

The campus was mostly barren. (Classes don't start for undergraduates until the 25th). My internet isn't hooked up yet, and I have to have a school ID for them to allow me to pick up wireless on campus, so I am only able to post when I become ambitious enough to leech near the downtown area five blocks away. Heck, even my roommate has only swung by long enough to pay me the rent and drop off boxes.

So, half out of boredom, half out of curiosity, I swung by the local Unitarian Universalist Church for their morning service.

I grew up within the Unitarian Church in Springfield, at least sporadically. They are trying. They are moving the right direction. I see the Unitarian Church as a group of people who still want the benefits of a fellowship (community, support, social networking, and a place to celebrate life milestones) without the mandatory adoption of the morals of organized religion ("morals" is used very loosely here). Most Unitarians seem to label themselves as "Humanist", "Agnostic", or "Atheist", if pressed further on what they believe. I like all those groups!

Still, their focus on tolerance has always seemed to swing a bit too far for me. I guess it takes a while for the liberal response to find the perfect medium. Organized religion was intolerant, so the Unitarians were super-tolerant.

The problem is that we cannot be tolerant. Not in every case. We have to take a stand when we see others committing atrocities. Labeling an action as religiously motivated should not make it free of criticism.

This church, at least on this first visit, seemed to come closer to an appropriate medium then the other Unitarians I have had experience with. The co-minister today was discussing the blind acceptance of dogmatic morality.

To butcher and paraphrase her statements, she said that we should never accept moral certainty from a religion without constantly questioning and constantly rethinking. She used the example of religious statements about sexuality. She then stated that there is nothing different about an evangelical Christian religion dictating that you must stay a virgin until marriage and a Mormon offshoot requiring that young girls marry older men. Both are requiring followers to allow their sexuality, their bodies, to follow strict rules with no reason, no rationality, behind the orders.

For a Unitarian minister, I was astounded. All my memories of Unitarians discussing other religions have been based on a message of understanding and acceptance.

Hell, even this church says that they "believe personal experience, conscience and reason are the final authorities in religion". Umm... personal experience is a fine marker of a belief system if it only applies to yourself. But my research in cognitive psychology tells me that your mind can be tricked. And you want me to allow you to effect your children, your community and your ballot box based on personal experiences?

Ok... maybe it isn't perfect.

I know (Hell... I better know... I don't have a useless degree in psychology for nothing...) that people need to have a sense of community. They need to share time with others who they feel support them. They need to feel as if they are part of a tribe who is concerned about their well-being. The problem is that, for millennia now, that support has come from the walls of churches and temples. And I think that many individuals who self-identify as Unitarian are still too eager to label themselves. To find a "church"... which might mean that they are the same ones who still hold some underlying respect for religion. Respect it has yet to prove it deserves.

I'm just not convinced that a group can identify themselves as a religion, as a church, and stand strong against the religious dogma that is attacking the bare fibers of human morality.

But I am interested in seeing exactly what is going on there.

Worst case scenario, I read a few books, attend a few sermons, and have more ammo when debating with those idiots that preach unbridled tolerance.

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