If there is one thing I dislike more than anything in this world it is people who are judgmental against others. I have been judgmental of others in the past and it is a hard habit to break but I am working on it. I spent years going to a Catholic church but never really felt like I was free to follow my conscious or to figure things out for myself. Add to that the sniping of different religious sects and the influx of politics into religion, it did not appeal to me. Being on the flip side of the religious coin often brought the worst of some religious folks, condemning me to hell. At my grandmother’s funeral, the priest brought up Atheism in his personal one man debate which I’m sure had I made into a two person debate, nothing good would have come out of it, and so I sat in silence.
The one thing I missed most of all from being involved in religion was the community, the involvement in activities that brought people together. Don’t get me wrong, I belong to a small group of Atheists that get together from time to time but the activities are not always conducive to families getting together, especially those who are somewhat split religiously. I took Buddhism classes and meditations and that too was not very conducive for the same reasons. I was interested when I heard about Sunday Assembly but I would have to travel two or three hours to the nearest one! I tried to get a discussion going but it was met with resistance… and I flowed the path of least resistance!
It was when I met with a Reverend that I found out about a church I had no clue existed. “This church is a fellowship of seekers after truth, bound by no dogma, restricted by no creed.“… It intrigued me “The purpose of this fellowship is to bring those who believe in free inquiry into matters of religion into closer acquaintance and cooperation.” And wanted to find out what it is all about. “Relying upon reason as our guide, and upon freedom as our method, we seek to grow in understanding of ourselves and of our world, and to serve one another.” (bold emphasis mine).
I walked in and every single person could be my neighbor, these could be the very people I interact with in my neighborhood. Everyone was welcoming and grateful to know there is a family that shares their values. After service I found out backgrounds of it’s congregants. A couple who was a mixed religion, couples that are LGBT, Agnoistics, Atheists, Freethinkers, Pagan and over time I have met people all over the religious and philosophical spectrum. This was truly a place anyone can seek their own path. As long as you are accepting of others, you will be accepted into this community. Most congregations have a set focus on a belief (ie. Christianity, Judaism, Islam) but the UU community is unique, they are not looking to convert people to their set belief but are looking for people who will accept everyone in their community.
Getting back to “community”, I totally admit, there were some redeeming features of being in a “community”. While in the Catholic community I (or family) was involved in Choir, plays/musicals (Godspell, South Pacific..etc) bake sales, craft sales, youth group, retreats with your friends as well as various other activities. The Catholic community was large and I had a great time. I just wish I had the opportunity to explore my own beliefs in this community but once you go against the grain, you tend to be looked down upon. Once you don’t believe what they believe, you are no longer part of the community. Some people are super awesome, family has been awesome, some friends, less than understanding. This is something I never have to worry about in the UU Community.
I talked about Thomas Jefferson in the past and he was said to be a Unitarian. Based on my research of him, he likely had beliefs similar to me. He challenged himself and suggested to others that they challenge their beliefs (Jefferson Letter to his nephew Peter Carr). Why can’t we all be accepting of other religious and non-religious beliefs? It certainly has made me a better person! Understanding others can certainly reduce the conflict of misunderstanding. Remember folks, it’s not about the destination, it is about the Journey! I’ll likely discuss that in the next blog.