Monday, March 5, 2012
Join a UU congregation? What are the benefits?
I have been reading James Griffith's latest book, Religion That Heals, Religion That Harms: A Guide For Clinical Practice. Griffith makes a distinction between personal spirituality and religion. Griffith writes, "Like many, I have been repeatedly puzzled by the strange disconnect between some person's religious beliefs that saluted love and compassion while their actions fueled hatred and violence, all the while feeling no conflict between the two." P.vii
Griffith goes on to explain that personal spirituality and the sociobiological systems such as attachment, peer affiliation, kin recognition, social hierarchy, and social exchange as they function in religious organizations explain heuristically this disconnect. Griffith says, "For example, religious behaviors that facilitate identification with one's religious group can also extinguish a sense of accountability to those outside the group. Religious beliefs can create such a totalizing, all-encompassing picture of 'what is real' that everything within its purview is defined, ordered, and assigned meaning, to the exclusion of any alternatives." p.7
Griffith writes "Sociobiological processes that enable a religious group to feel cohesive and its members to feel competent can also propel violence toward others, particularly when personal empathy is weak across the group boundaries." p. 8
Increasingly people in the first world countries are growing disenchanted with organized religion which they perceive as dogmatic, rigid, and dysfunctional. According to a report in Time Magazine in the March 12, 2012 issue the fastest growing religious group in the U.S. is the "nones", people who report no religious identification or affiliation. The "nones" have doubled since the 1990s and now stand at about 16% of the population. The "nones" are not necessarily atheistic but rather say they believe in some sort of god or higher power. Only 4% of Americans identify as atheists.
Unitarian Universalism offers an option for fulfilling the sociobiological needs of these unaffiliated people, but even if they are attracted to the lack of dogmatism, the de-centralized congregational governance system, they don't join congregations as UUA President Peter Morales pointed out in a recent letter "Congregations and Beyond" released to UUA members on 01/15/12. In his letter, President Morales points out that over 650,000 people on survey identify with UU principles and even contribute money to the UUA "movement" but only about 160,000 are affiliated with any congregations.