Showing posts with label UU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UU. Show all posts

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Is the Social Contract of Niceness Winning

So let’s talk about how beneficial game-theoretic equilibria can come to exist even in the absence of centralized enforcers. I know of two main ways: reciprocal communitarianism, and divine grace.
Reciprocal communitarianism is probably how altruism evolved. Some mammal started running TIT-FOR-TAT, the program where you cooperate with anyone whom you expect to cooperate with you. Gradually you form a successful community of cooperators. The defectors either join your community and agree to play by your rules or get outcompeted.
Tit-for-tat fails when the community hires enforcers for the tats.  Either vuvuzelas in fancy dresses in over decorated balconies who administer divine grace or community enforcers who inevitably fall victim to the Stanford Prison Experiment guard syndrome.  One would hope that the vuvuzelas would be immune to the guard syndrome, but the evidence is not hopeful. 

The most useful strategy for a community seems to be a variety of tit-for-two-tats.  Some forgiveness for transgressions but recognition of the fact that consecutive transgressions are socially dysfunctional.  This is particularly useful in social situations where communication is possible between the “players” and the first transgression can be identified as such and some sort of counselling available as to community standards.

Tit-for-two-tats is inherent in the UU First Principle of Radical respect.  The first transgression is attributed to ignorance of social standards and not malice.  The second transgression especially after the reciprocal “tit” even without counseling can be attributed to malice and appropriate action taken.    

Thursday, September 24, 2015

UU Outreach

Many UU and UCC congregations have aggressive outreach to minorities, especially children.  I know of one UU church that started an alternative scouting program for essentially abandoned areas.  They first started a Boy Scout program from a welfare hotel and expanded it into the south Bronx.  The participants and their parents are invited to be full participants in the congregation including age appropriate RE.  (One "graduate" has even written a child level book Birds, Bees, and Babies.)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On Transcendence

(And I'm leery of that word 'transcending' - it's too often an attempt to smuggle nonsense into conversations.) Blü
I find transcendence to be a perfectly good word for the natural ability of the mind to focus on a single task.  Normally physical, athletes and musicians call it the zone, but can be purely mental. The mental state is harder to achieve but can be trained just as the physical state is trained.  The problem is that it can be focused just as well on imaginary things as real ones, so it is important to recognize explicitly the focus of the transcendent state.  The Transcendentalists focused it inward, to discover what it is to live meaningfully as a human, and atheists should acknowledge our debt to their efforts.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015


I was a Boy Scout and an atheist and a Scoutmaster and an atheist.  Most of my ancestors that I know their religious inclinations were atheists or at least made fun of their clergy.  It is rumored that an ancestor that left England circa 1611 for Virginia was given the choice emigrate or die by his bishop.

Nonetheless, I grew up in a religious society and being an out atheist was neither important nor safe.  The Scouts provided a great experience for little money and my parents weren't wealthy enough for secular camps. So it was "Trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, thrifty, brave, clean, irreverent" for me.  I was interested in religions by that time so going to church was no problem.  I even went to a Pontifical Mass at a Boy Scout Jamboree, certainly a first for an atheist. I could sing dominos with the best of them.

The scoutmaster was a different story.  My UU church wanted to sponsor a Boy Scout troop at a welfare hotel, the worst in NYC.  They forgot to tell the Scouts that I was an atheist so I became one of the scoutmasters.  A successful troop, as those things go.  One of our scouts was quite successful and had a nice Wiki write up courtesy of the Scouts until the church quit Scouts due to discrimination and founded the Navigators, a scouting experience for everybody.  The two troops they had, one in the South Bronx and one in Manhattan, became the first chapters in the Navigators.  I think BSA were relieved, as the scouts were generally the wrong skin color as well as not too loyal to God and the Republicans. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Human Worth

If you have one, what is your standard for measuring human worth?

How well a person embraces the UU First Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Not every white male; not every Christian (almost an oxymoron, as Christian theology teaches all are sinners;) not every Buddhist; not every civilized person;  but every person.  

Note that this principle does not embrace bad behavior just that the bad behavior is not a result of being a bad person.  That rogue cop, or despot, or exploitive capitalist is not a bad person, hesh has just embraced a bad belief system that leads them to ignore the first principle.  If somehow one could change the belief system the inherent worth would emerge and the conscience (since this is OFS' thread) would repair the bad behavior. 

Changing belief systems is an extremely difficult task.  The brain builds blocks to information contrary to strongly held beliefs, so that contrary data is not even processed by the brain.  Not impossible, Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates come to mind as examples from the capitalist belief system.  Possibly, it is early yet, but some have even attacked their own belief systems to bring them more in line with the First Principle, Pope Francis and Bishop Spong come to mind

In order to embrace the first principle it is necessary to be aware of and resist the brain's inherent tendency to create beliefs about other people.  That is to generalize from behavior to the person.  Currently, all Muslims are terrorists is a common belief that leads to terms like Islamist which reinforces the belief system to make it for practical purposes unassailable.

Even atheists can fall victim to beliefs based on belief systems: All Christians are bigots.  Theists aren't reasonable. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Church Across the Street

In the UU RE Curriculum there is a unit called the Church Across the Street.  A Sunday School class and teacher from a neighbor church, synagogue, or mosque if available is invited for the children's part of the service and join their cohort in RE to discuss, comment and compare.  The next weekend the roles are reversed with the neighboring church, synagogue or mosque hosting the UUs.  When an exchange cannot be arranged the class discusses what they have learned in the previous exchanges.  I can't speak for the exchange RE programs but the tolerance, respect, and humanism learned by the UU kids is incredible.  "They are just like us!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An ex-UU none on the blue road.


As an ex-UU none who studied religion and spirituality at the university and beyond at All Souls in NYC and later beyond UU I have a couple of suggestions.
1. Take our spirituality seriously. You lost a promising UU spiritual leader (it wasn't me) by banning an atheist from a God discussion group at a UU Church. Keep in mind that spirituality is a human attribute that has nothing at all to do with God or religion.
2, You may keep and use the God meme, as long as it is clear that it is a spiritual learning meme rather than something to pray at or worship. You can even still pray if it is clear that prayer is a way to focus thinking usefully.
As an aside, not a suggestion, we all have our own social and political action vehicles that we choose for ourselves. Social pressure to conform to particular social values is Katy, bar the door! for most of us even if we agree with them. 

I love the scene of Ben and Elaine barring the door with a cross in The Graduate.  I have  been tempted frequently as I left a UU church for good, prevented only by not being able to find a cross. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

the unfulfilled dream : the unfulfilled dream

Note the linked article is necessary background.

As long as UU does not define a belief statement it will remain a social club that meets on Sunday.

UU's seem to fear any statement containing God as offensive to us atheists, but Forrest Church's Cathedral even had windows for atheists. In that Cathedral atheists could worship meaningfully with their theist friends. The humanist God of Jesus (Matt 22:37-40) who loves all Herm neighbors is perfectly acceptable to most atheists. They won't believe, but as a unifying principle with their theist friends God can work as an avatar if not a deity.

As a side benefit you will probably attract a lot of Christians who are fed up with Paul's trinity and have refocused their theology on the Synoptics and Matt 22:37-40 in particular.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

When religion dies.

Is religion is a "mind rotting" disease? - Beliefnet

Atheism is not an answer for the mind rot of religion. If there were no theists there would be no atheists. Atheism is simply one solution to life without God. If the mind rotting religions of faith and salvation were somehow eliminated you would probably find much the same things you see now. People gathering in social settings for conversation, perhaps some music, many might choose something resembling a religion without the mind rot of imposed belief. As someone else pointed out a 'high' UU church has all the ritual, music, stories from the pulpit, of a traditional religion without the requirement for a specific belief. Arguing with the minister is a strong tradition in most UU churches. I suspect that many of the traditional religions to survive will adopt a similar strategy. Listen to the stories of Jesus, discuss them. What can they tell you about getting what you can from the life you know about, the one with the fancy bookends of birth and death.

Meaning and purpose must be found in this life, and traditional stories might help. But don't count on anything unusual happening at death.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Intelligent, Rational Tribalism

Our potential - Beliefnet

But ive changed that attitude by seeing myself as a tribalist and I think our church would be better as seeing ourselves as more Tribal. Tribal as in were all good and valuable for something and we all depend on each other to survive and everyone is on the same level nobody's better then anyone else therefore looking down your nose at others because you have a certain gift is not valid, we all depend on each other and are valued,everyone contributes.I dont have any gifts but I want to go in and do community service this year, helping clean the church and community service is important as much as serving on any committee is, showing up and being there and being loving towards others at church is valuable, paying our monthly dues is a value. Showing up to board meetings that are open to the public and offering your support is valuable.

were all valuable somehow and we contribute to the tribe and as a tribe we depend on each other to survive. [corrections for spelling only]

A beautiful synopsis of what is wrong with UU churches and how to fix it. And maybe the tribe of intelligent rational people that I like to think I am a part of as well. If we all look at ourselves as good and valuable for something and dependent on all for everything the world would be a much more livable place.

I think about the phrase "intelligent rational" and think about those who might not be immediately considered to be a part of the tribe, that can be given the opportunity to find their place in the tribe using whatever intelligence and rationality they have to offer. I was pleased to be able to help a Downs Syndrome person use the "affection magnetism" so common to the syndrome in a service position, that was within his ability level. It seems we all can be intelligent and rational enough to be important to the tribe of intelligent rational people.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

UU Elevator Speech

Dashboard - DISQUS

UU is a personal religion which brings the wisdom of all religions to each member.

I was a RE teacher, and found that rewarding and challenging as the kids were bringing their friends' religion to class for discussion. My own response was what can we learn, rather than what is wrong with that religion. You are correct that we all must contribute but one of the things that has turned me off from most UU congregations is that the Pagans are in their group in the parking lot, the UUChristians are in the Fireside Room, the atheists are protesting any mention of God in the main service, and (this happened to me) atheists are banned from the God discussion group. This should be a religion concerned with spirituality, meaning and purpose in the lives of those in the congregation. If not, bye.

The important word is "brings." What you take is up to you. Personally I have found much wisdom in most religions. None are "The Truth" and usually the God is an idiot at the very best and dysfunctionally misogynist at worst, which is why I am an atheist. But religions have been serving people for thousands of years. I find it useful to find out why. If only to find out what does not work for me.

I think agreed upon wisdom is the problem not the solution for most UU congregations. Ideally a UU church should somehow find a way to present wisdom from many traditions for people to incorporate (or not) in their personal faith.

As an example every UU should know what they think about the Et Expecto section of the Mass. Do you or don't you expect resurrection after you die? If you do do you buy into the Iudicare section or do you buy Forrest Church's Universalism? If you answer is what is that? IMO your church failed you.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Carlton Pearson : the gospel of inclusion:

"Then Pearson got a divine revelation, as he tells it. Watching a news report one night in the spring of 1996, he was getting worked up about the genocide in Rwanda. His assumption was that the victims were bound for hell, persecuted yet unsaved. Feeling angry at God, and guilty that he himself wasn’t doing anything about it, he recalls, he fell into a sort of reproachful prayer: “God, I don’t know how you can sit on your throne there in heaven and let those poor people drop to the ground hungry, heartbroken, and lost, and just randomly suck them into hell.”

He heard God answer, “We’re not sucking those dear people into hell. Can’t you see they’re already there—in the hell you have created for them and continue to create for yourselves and others all over the planet? We redeemed and reconciled all of humanity at Calvary.”

Everything Pearson thought he knew was true started unraveling, as he began to realize: The whole world is already saved, whether they know it or not—not just professed Christians in good standing, but Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, gay people. There is no hell after you die. And he didn’t have the good sense to keep it to himself."

200 of his 5000 Pentecostal flock followed him eventually to the Tulsa UU Congregation where he got the first of two similar services the first of which is decidedly not the typical UU frozen chosen.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UU Youth

Owning Your Own Shadow - Beliefnet

What did the UU youth group contribute to your righteousness / no shadow?

There were no rules, no belief systems, and yet we had to function as a coherent group in spite of radically different views on everything from God to sexuality. I learned to respect the rules and limits of others without internalizing them. I learned to communicate my rules and limits without projecting them on others. This was fairly easy with respect to God, in spite of my unusual for the time overt atheism, but the sexuality issues as you might expect in a group of horny teens with no rules except respect for your partner made for some interesting times. Further, deponent sayeth not.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Unitarians v Universalists v atheists

Unitarians v Universalists: "Mar 29, 2009 - 04:53AM, RevDorris wrote:

The children are in a state of rebellion against those who would want us to deny the existence of God. They want a return to God centered worship and open spiritual training and development.
Rev Dorris

I am am one of those children rebelling against those who deny God in UU churches. I find those churches where God is a three letter word, never to be said out loud or even lusted after in the heart to be sterile exercises in community building and frequently social action, both of which are desireable but IMO have nothing to do with spiritual growth. A Sunday morning gender inclusive Rotary meeting or Elks club.

For a UU church to gain my support it must be a diverse community of Paul denying Christians; hopefully a few ex-Jews that still cling to their Jewish roots and ritual; Pagans who wish to share and enrich their spirituality with the 'Unitarians' who only have one God; maybe a smattering of others who found other traditional religions too confining, and a few atheists to remind all that God is not necessary for spirituality.

And the sine qua non for me is a music program where no spiritual music is forbidden. Catholic Prayers? Jewish hazzanut? Buddhist Chants? Lutheran Hymns? Bring 'em all on. These folks have had hundreds if not thousands of years of refining the music that connects people to their higher being whatever that is. And believers are needed to bring the passion, in the best sense of the word, to the music."

I am glad to hear from Rev Dorris that the children are rebelling. I quit rebelling a while ago and found other ways to feed my spiritual needs without a pile of rocks (or bricks) and a guy in a fancy dress to help. I was not happy to do so, but I never was into Rotary and found my social needs satisfied in other venues than churches. Social action was much more satisfying with direct participation unguided by the guy in the fancy dress and politically correctness of the causes. I was usually ahead of the UU's in political correctness and got tired of pulling them along.

I found the internet early on as a source of spirituality APOD for example, and since most of my social group was scattered all over the country email was an early substitute for coffee hour.

I think churches of all denominations need to be aware of and beware of Web 2.0. Any church that doesn't have a Web 2.0 site based on DRUPAL or the equivalent is probably going to have to build one or die. And soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To Bob on the death of his father.


In times like this my thoughts turn to two sources for the bittersweet comfort of being alive after the death of a loved one.

The first is Bob DeCormier's Legacy Which I hope you are familiar with. I will share a recording when you return if you wish.

The other is Forrest Church's stock sermon on Being Alive and Having to Die. made more poignant at this time with the final recurrence of his cancer.

My thoughts are with you and although Unitarians don't pray very well I am working on a prayer theory that might work even for us. I will try it out for you.

With love and hugs,