I have been taking a course this semester at SUNY Brockport on the Sociology of Religion. It is a fascinating course and the instructor is excellent. I am 63 almost 64 years old and it is hoot for grandpa to be in class with students who are 19, 20, 21.
Tonight the Prof. lectured on Charles Kimball's book, When Religion Becomes Evil. Kimball says that the 5 warning signs of corruption in religion are:
1. Absolute truth claims
2. Blind obedience
3. Establishing the "ideal" time
4. The end justifies the means
5. Declaring Holy War.
I don't think that Unitarian Universalism is in any danger of becoming evil. In the opposite most of UUs principles are the antidotes to Kimball's identified religious toxins.
Religion has become corrupted in all faith traditions in just about every culture in almost every age. The key that all corruption has in common is the tendency of religions and their adherents to project their own limitations and inner turmoil outward.
If any of us sit in silence for just 10 minutes and watch our thoughts and feelings we will encounter greed, hate, envy, lust, jealousy, arrogance, selfishness etc. We each come with our inner demons and failings. Evil is not "out there" and it first and foremost inside ourselves. It is personal transformation which must be first and foremost if we are to change the world.
It is not clear to me what religious practices, if any, Unitarian Universalism, prescribes for the transformation of the self and one's relationships with the world. Practices are drawn freely from other traditions which is fine.
This month, November, in Rochester, several of the churches are working on Compassion. What have we been taught about compassion in our families growing up and how do we practice it in relation to ourselves, to our family, to our community, to others different from us.
One corruption of religion is the dualism which redemptive and transformative groups preach in which they describe themselves as the persecuted minority who is on a messianic mission to convert or eradicate the nonbeliever. The very existence of the nonbeliever is a threat to the plausibility structure upon which my believe and sense of secure in being right rests.
When religion defines the world as "us vs them" compassion has been overlooked and a toxic element has been introduced in human relations as well as in the spirituality of the person who subscribes to such a world view.
Unitarian Univeralists believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and in justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. These values are much easier said than done. It is easy to preach and much more difficult to practice.
I welcome your thoughts on how we as Unitarian Universalists can be more compassionate and thus deepen our own spirituality as well as transform our relationships here on earth.