I was recently talking with another new Unitarian on how we "sell" our religion to others. My original sales pitch was: “You don’t have to believe in anything in particular to join our group.” Her sales pitch was: “We take the best of every religion, with out taking the bad stuff.”
Well I don’t think it takes a genius to see which sales pitch is better. Hers is both better and more accurate than mine. In fact, my sales pitch is so weak I’m shocked I would even say it aloud – that the best we have to offer is a lack of constraints, total personal freedom? Is this what we offer? Why join a group whose main offering is to leave you just the way you were before you joined?
I think what I was trying to say is that we encourage people to think for themselves, and to create a theology based on their understanding of the universe. In other words, we create a community for seekers that can help provide guidance, dialogue, and rigor to the search for the great truths of existence. A community of seekers – sort of like the Quakers. This is a bit better of a sales pitch, but I think it still lacks something. I think there is a core stance to Unitarianism, or if there isn’t one I think there is something I would like to place at its center, to give it a core stance in my mind.
Taking the best of religion while leaving behind the worst sounds good, but also sounds very ambiguous. What is the best part of religion? And what is the worst part? In a simple way, perhaps the best part is the part of religion that connects us to each other and helps us see our fates as linked. The best part of religion exhorts us to be kind and considerate and to act ethically. The worst parts of the religion are those parts used to enforce outdated social hierarchies or social norms – like elevating men above women, or one class of people above another. So this definition makes some sense, assuming that the other person is coming from a similar value system to those of most Unitarians.
But what is that missing item at the center? I think it would be accurate to call that thing God. But whatever you decide to call it, the thing that I am indicating is a belief I have – a belief that I think is widely shared among Unitarians – that there is a force greater than ourselves that we can connect to through worship. And that by connecting to this force greater than ourselves, our ability to understand our role in the universe is enhanced and our ability to do good in this world is strengthened. Without this sacred offering, would Unitarianism be anything more than a social club?