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09 December 2006 @ 03:30 am
As I've learned about and become more involved with Unitarian Universalism through the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, the experience has moved me to reconsider my vocabulary of religion.

I don't believe in a personalized deity or deities who need or desire my worship and obedience, and I've come to believe that everything I am and will be is part of the natural universe. My sense of UUism is that it is (or strives to be) compatible with such a naturalistic outlook. Yet, while the UU liturgy and Seven Principles are generally circumspect about "God," they do lean rather heavily on "faith" and "spirit." On Sunday mornings, UUs get together in "worship" focused on these concepts.

If I resolve to appreciate the miracles of the merely natural, what do these words mean to me? Can I meaningfully participate in the UU religion -- or any religion -- if I believe that all the magic is being achieved in accordance with the laws of physics? If so, is this practice still "religion" or merely fellowship? Is there anything important in the distinction?

As an American, I often look to the gospel of Noah Webster (as kept by his associates, the company of the bros. Merriam) for clarity in questions of language. As an technical editor in an electronic medium, I do a lot of cutting and pasting to find the clearest through-line in jumbles of meaning. Working from this background, and using orthodox dictionary definitions, I've tried to piece together a possible description of what goes on each Sunday at 2U that doesn't require recourse to the supernatural. Here's what I ended up with:

UUism involves religious worship:

A form of practice with its creed and ritual manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality -- a cause, principle, or system of beliefs for which there is no proof.

This practice serves to recognize, explore, and celebrate the divine spirit:

The infinite mind as revealed in the immaterial intelligent or sentient, moral and emotional nature of human beings.

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From the Book of Merriam-Webster -- with which to create your own mashup, or to argue...Collapse )
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