Friday, August 11, 2006

Poll Question for my UU readers

Do you consider yourself a "Unitarian," a "Universalist," both or neither?

Feel free to split hairs and clarify which definition you agree with and which you don't.

I was all set to provide the shorter O.E.D.'s definitions, but I didn't think they were actually very good. The definition for "Unitarian" begins "A belief that God is not a trinity but one person" and the definition for "Universalist" begins "an adherent to the doctrine that redemption is available to all people."

Well, I know I don't see God as a person, and I doubt many other people do either. And lots of Christians believe that redemption is available to all people, Universalists believe specifically that all people will be saved.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church does a better job, but has an enclyopedia-article length discussion of each.

Thus, I'll keep it simple. I believe that God is unipersonal and I don't believe in the bodily ressurection of Christ, so I'm a Unitarian. I haven't completely settled on what I mean by "saved," but I don't think life is a test that some will pass and others will fail. People can be awful, IMHO, but not inherently evil. So for the purposes of discussion, I'm a Universalist, too.




fausto said...

I'm more Unitarian than Universalist, in that I'm more drawn to UUism because of Christological issues than soteriological ones. For me, the supernatural claims that orthodox Christianity makes about Jesus are a barrier rather than an aid to faith. I need to be able to remove the barriers in order for my faith to thrive. Unitarianism does that for me.

Nevertheless, the Universalist view of the essential nature of divinity as supremely redemptive and conciliatory rather than retributive or punitive, a force for reconciliation that won't rest until every last stray sheep is brought safely back into the fold, also appeals to me.

Satori said...

I'm essentially a panthiest - I believe there's a spark of the divine in all living things. So while I don't believe in an afterlife, per se, I'd say there's still a certain Universalism in that. People aren't condemned to hell or rewarded in heaven, but rather their energy is returned to the universe itself - and thereby to God.

Clyde Grubbs said...

Unitarian Universalist is the chosen name of the faith community that I identify with, I would think we could have found a different name...we are the one Protestant type denomination that has a theological defining name, in fact two defining names and then we say we are creedless!

So I use the name to designate my community. I have no horse in the debate about how many persons in the God head debate, I hate orthodoxy and orthodoxy is Trinitarian so my unitarianism is more a way of saying no to authoriarianism....but the spirit of God may be Father, Mother, Turtle and Tiger plus Moon and Sun and the wind of the four directions. Cherokee are not polytheists, nor are they monotheists, God is incarnate in a hundred sacred forms.

And the ancestors all are alive in God so is that universal salvation or just economy of spirit.

Unitarian Universalism is the name of my faith community, and I do and I don't use it as a theological definition.

kim said...

I'm somewhere near the same as CC -- on some days.
I believe there is at most one god -- except when I am rereading Small Gods :-)
I believe that if there is such a thing as salvation, it is universal.
I'm also something of a panenthist or pantheist (not entirely clear about the difference) and sometimes lean toward deism.
I figure that no way we can conceive of the infinite is correct, and if a God had a person, it wouldn't care what we believe. so "God" is a useful designation that we should hold lightly. Compassion is what is important.

UUpdater said...

I am still searching for my hyphen, so I would answer the question "neither". I feel comfortable seeking in the UU community. Maybe some day I will be a something - UU, but not yet.

Joel Monka said...

I'm in a similar space with Kim. I believe in one deity, nature not understood. I am an animist of sorts, believing that all living things posess souls, no matter how rudimentary, and possibly all inanimates things as well.

I do not believe in damnation, so the question of salvation, universal or otherwise, is irrelevant. On the other hand, whatever process we do go through after death is universal.

I'm not sure whether these positions put me closer to Unitarian or to Universalist.

Jamie Goodwin said...

Although when asked my religion I would simple say Unitarian Universalist, I have strong connections emotionally with the Emergent Universalists from the mid 20th century. They believed in a faith that was rooted-in, but not centered on Christianity. Universalism for them was less about universal salvation and more about a belief that all people, of all faiths are welcome at God's table.

So I am a Universalist, just one of a later definition than one you gave.

Jay said...

These days, anyway, I understand "Unitarian" to suggest a certain iconoclasm or freethinkingness (rather than being some commentary on the number or forms of God). Under that definition, I absolutely qualify as "Unitarian."

"Universalist" is harder for me. To the extent it suggests that everyone will be "saved," I'm doubtful. As a non-theist, I don't think there's anything to "save" us. But to the extent "Universalist" just means, as you suggest, that life isn't "a test that some will pass," I agree, of course.

ogre said...

I'll go sit over by Clyde; he's articulated something close enough to my ill-articulated views and feelings that I'd have trouble finding hairs to split (and I split hairs well and finely).

I claim the whole name, Unitarian Universalist. I don't obsess over the origins of those terms, individually. They had, and have, specific meanings to Christian, Protestant, thinking. They also have meanings--even if we haven't defined them well--for us, now. At one level, they say to me "All for one and one for all."

My belief, my understanding, of what is... is that it's not intimately individual and personal and singular. But it is all one, all tied together, inextricably, and always was. That's unitarian, in a manner--just not Christological; probably because Christianity isn't personally significant to me. Universalist in that we're all (we being from people to interstellar gas... at least) in this together. What befalls us, befalls us all... particularly since my unitarianism insists on that underlying commonality oneness.

I refuse to define the divine. I understand the temptation and will indulge in discussion about it... but my limited run-ins with it simply reinforce my sense that it's not something any of us really can understand--at best we get a grip on it and hold on for dear life. It does as it does and it's violated my presuppositions already.

Coffee, Clyde? (I believe that's the chosen informal form of communion of our people...)

Clyde Grubbs said...

ogre, Coffee, its a date!

I hope to be in San Diego in the winter, I am on my way to Pasadena next week (I will be an interim there.)

But Marjorie is still recovering so it will be a few months before we move to San Diego.

kim said...

I've been Unitarian, and then Unitarian-Universalist, all my life. But I don't drink coffee. What does that mean? Am I to be excluded for not indulging in coffee? I do drink a lot of tea. (and in New Zealand, the Unitarians have Tea Hour instead of Coffee Hour, so maybe we should move there....)

CK said...

Unitarian Universalist, but since I'm a humanist agnostic, I don't really consider those categories relevant for me personally.

I am attracted to the idea of pantheism, but struggle with how the divine is necessary (why is pantheism better than physicalism?).

I'm with Clyde--the label works for what I'm a part of, but it doesn't describe what I believe.

Chip Peterson said...

I have a poll to.

indrax said...

Depending on definitions, I believe in zero or many gods. One doesn't work for me.

I don't believe in an afterlife, but I don't think any personal Gods generally care what we believe.

I usually count my self closer to universalist.

UU Soul said...

Wow, last time I was here there was only one comment. I was in need of some "conversation" to process my thougts. Not that I have a firm answer now.

I see Unitarians as freethinking and humanistic and Universalists as believing that there is no "one" right path and that there a fundamently goodness in life. I can identify with both. At times I feel the my scales tip toward Universalism. I get quite frustrated when there is an over-abundance of rationalism and there only seems to be room for disbelief and skepticism. At the moment I idenitfy with pantheism (and possibly panentheism), but my worldview is still shaped by my christian roots.

anakashiko said...

I'm a Universalist, by childhood upbringing and adult temperment. That's how I identify myself theologically. My view of God is decidedly Unitarian, though. So I guess I'm a good combination of both.

Bob S said...

Just came across this, hope it's not too late to post. I identify mostly with the Universalists who defined God "as Love". I tend toward a belief in a panentheistic All in All which would include the Universalist concept of "God as Love". I also identify with the off center cross inside the eternal circle (of mid century Universalists) that acknowledges Christian roots while making room for new paths. I'm less comfortable with Unitarianism. Except for Priestly, most of the early Unitarians were not actually all that concerned with the Trinitarian thing. They were much more interested in morality - the morality of God and the potential for good among people. Perhaps it's because of the Sunday School no sex version of Christian morality but I'm still kinda shy about God as moral spirit or energy so I'm not sure where I stand with Channing. I do identify with the Transcendentalists and natural theists who followed in the Unitarian tradition. So I guess I'm an "other than Channing Unitarian Universalist.