November 4, 2008

If you, reading this, are an American, I urge you to go to your local polling place and vote today. I further urge you to cast your vote for Barack Obama, who taught me in law school and who has proved himself to be just the leader we need in these uncertain times.

I've quoted this guy on my LJ before, but his passion seems to me particularly appropriate today:
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

- Frederick Douglass
"If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress"
August 3, 1857
Our long national nightmare has gone on for far too many years. It won't end today, but I'm hopeful that today's events will strike it a mortal wound.

One Night in Schwaben

(The title is a--weak--allusion to "One Night in Bangkok," one of many numbers I've had to arrange for a rock band, but never mind.)

As I think I've written on this LJ before, I'm a longtime fan of Greta Christina, the beautifully outrageous atheist/queer/feminist blogger who has earned an honored place in the atheist blogosphere. (Very likely the queer and feminist blogospheres, too, but I'm not in a very good position to know.) My favorite GC blog post (and I know I'm not alone) is "Atheists and Anger," which is a must-read for anyone who is mystified at online atheists' fervency and wants to understand where we're coming from. If you start that one, make sure to read all the way through!

Greta has put up another thought-provoking post, this one titled "What Convinced You?" A tiny snippet:
So I'll ask again: If you're a non-believer in religion, and you used to be a believer -- what changed your mind?

I posted a response in comments, and it was long enough that I thought I could get an LJ post out of it. Here 'tis:
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Thanks for All the Fish (with update)

After seven years in the UU world, I've decided that I can no longer in good conscience call myself a Unitarian Universalist, and that I need to resign my membership in my local UU church. In the long and hallowed tradition of GBCW posts, though, I need to explain why--and so you can follow me below the fold if you're interested.

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(Crossposted at chalice_circle)


As a further update from several years later:

I checked in on my old congregation in 2009, about a year after I left, to see if the new permanent minister was any better than the interim had been. He was not. The minister, who identifies himself as an ex-atheist, smeared "fundamentalist humanism and atheism" in his application essay to the search committee. His entire sermon history contains repeated attacks on atheism. He cracked insulting jokes at nonbelievers' expense in his first sermon. My old congregation barely yawned.

I am far better off as an ex-UU.

James Fowler and Unitarian Universalism

The following is text I drafted for a post I was thinking of posting on my UU church’s online discussion forum:
In UU circles in recent months, there appears to have been an explosion in interest in the work of Methodist minister and Christian theologian Rev. James Fowler--specifically, his theory of faith development, which he first stated in his 1981 book, Stages of Faith. If a Google results page (say, this one) is any indication, Fowler’s theory is extremely “hot” within UUism right now. I know it’s led me to read Stages.

Given the content of Fowler’s system, though, his popularity in our circles frightens me. In his book, and in the many articles he has written since, Fowler forthrightly declares some religious perspectives (including some that are common in UUism) to be inherently superior than others (including some that are common in UUism!), and his treatment of people who are in insufficiently “developed” stages of faith is consistently disrespectful and insulting.Read more...Collapse )

Woo-hoo: Go, me!

A diary I posted on Tuesday evening made it to #1 on the Recommended Diaries list at Daily Kos, only the most visited blog in the world.

Obviously this took an enormous amount of luck--Barack Obama was a professor of mine in law school, and that wasn't actually because of some fitness on my part--but still: woo-hoo!

My Reaction to That Sermon

After I had heard (and read the transcript of) the sermon I posted below, I posted that transcript on the internet forum run by my church’s young adult group. Two of my friends replied that they didn’t think much of the sermon; here was my response (I’ve changed some names to protect identities):
I would put things much more strongly than Lester and Eliza have: I think this is an outrageous and offensive sermon that cruelly insults anyone whose way of looking at the world fails to meet Rev. Smith's standards of piety. Read more...Collapse )
After that, the thread on the young adults forum became a debate over whether the minister is in fact intentionally malicious or just clueless about the effect that her rhetoric has. (I argued malicious.)

In the end, I think the subject matter of the sermon quoted above is a prime example of the unhappy UU-clergy trend I wrote about in the sermon I preached from the very same pulpit, fifteen months before “Rev. Smith” honored our congregation with her presence.

What do you think?

A Sermon At My Church

The following sermon was delivered at my church this past October:
A Question of Faith

Theologian Wilfred Cantwell Smith was one of the first to note that, while there is considerable diversity in what people believe--in the content of people’s faith--that actually there’s remarkable similarity in the ways people do their believing. In their “faithing.” Actually, it was a few years later that James Fowler started talking about the importance of understanding the distinction between belief and faith--the distinction between what you give intellectual assent to, what you’re willing to say is the content, the tenets you’re willing to hold--and the way you live those in your life, the way you understand them.

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I'll put my written reaction to the sermon in my next post.


A Conversation with Rev. Ford

Over the past few days, I've been involved in yet another conversation on my usual topic--that is, UU treatment of nonbelievers.

I'd rather not spend too much time recounting the entire course of the conversation, but if you'd like to get up to speed, here are some links to follow.
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Thus far, I've enjoyed my exchange with Rev. Ford; I think there are interesting and valuable things to be said here regarding our cultural discourse regarding atheists. What follows here, then, is my attempt to continue the discussion with Rev. Ford. If that sounds like it could be worth your time, read on....

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Is Unitarian Universalism a Religion?

[Warning; Long!]

[Cross-posted to chalice_circle]

Most people who have spent any significant amount of time in Unitarian Universalist circles know that semantic discussions are high-stakes affairs in our ranks. What exactly it is that words like "faith," "prayer," "church" and (perhaps most commonly, and most heatedly) "God" mean is a matter of severe struggles in many UU congregations and other communities, such as this LiveJournal.

There's at least one semantic issue,* though, that impacts the the basic definition of what we are: Is Unitarian Universalism, on the most fundamental level, a religion?

Answering this question, I think, requires discussing the meaning(s) of "religion" and how those meanings play into UU discourse. If that sounds interesting, read on....

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Greta Christina on Atheists and Anger

Greta Christina, who's among my favorite atheist bloggers, has a post up called "Atheists and Anger" that resonates a whole lot for me.

The (very long) first section of the piece isn't quite as relevant in a UU context (I can imagine plenty of non-atheist UUs arguing that some of those things make them plenty angry, too)--but the second section, beginning with "Why atheist anger is not only valid, but valuable and necessary," is something that I wish many more UUs understood. And then the points Greta makes in that section lend the elements of her first section some added oomph for the minority that she and I both belong to.

Greta then wrote a follow-up post to respond to the comments to the first one--largely she's reacting to the tone-deaf recitation of anti-atheist mantras that certain folks saw the need to throw at her.

Well done, all of it.