Maybe, I am a Unitarian..

I am often asked if I am religious or if I am a Christian. It is a question that I have grappled with due to having a contemplative and speculative mind. None of the current mainstream religions really work for me. That being said I have been searching for maybe a lesser known system that exists or may have existed in the past that I may be aligned with, because surely I can’t be the only person who thinks and believes the way I do. I believe in God, but not in the impersonal way that Deism offers. I admire the character of Jesus, but reject the idea that he was God. I had to find a Theistic path to follow so that at the very least I could answer the “What is your religion?” question. Well, I have found an older and re-emerging system that I have a growing affinity to – Unitarianism.

First off, let me be clear that when I say Unitarian, I in no way am referring to the Unitarian Universalist system.

So, what is a Unitarian? There are no official doctrines or dogmas in Unitarianism, which is one of the things I love the most about it. There are a few general precepts that most Unitarians accept and I have included them in the following “profession of faith”:

A Unitarian believes in ONE God and demonstrates their relationship to all of God’s creation with humility and love.

A Unitarian will accept no limiting doctrine or creeds imposed on them or seek to place labels on the way to worship God or seek to restrict how others may relate to Him. They observe all of humanity as one family under the loving care of ONE God.

A Unitarian looks upon Jesus as a moral standard-bearer and takes up their own “cross” rather than pass it off on Jesus or anyone else to bear it for them. They understand that Jesus taught and lived His life to serve as an example for all humankind. Jesus was the embodiment of love and showed us how to become one with God and with each other.

A Unitarian holds the Bible in high regard as an inspired text that contains historical narrative, mythology, archetypal characters, and the most sublime truths. Unitarians also accept the validity of other sacred texts as different interpretations of the same God. They view all of creation as the purest revelation of God.

A Unitarian holds the two-part law of love as forever binding and of the utmost importance: Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love everyone as you want to be loved.

It is an odd coincidence that one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson, was widely believed to be a Unitarian as well as some of the other founders. Aside from that, I find it to be one of the only religious systems that allows the blending of Reason and Religion without casting doubt or placing one as a higher authority over the other. Clearly as a reader of this blog you are a thinker (or maybe a hater who uses me as a heretical example) and perhaps you may have been searching for answers that your religion hasn’t been able to satisfy.

Interview on “The Place”

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Michael Jones and his wife Rhonda.  I had a great time and look forward to going back on their show again in the future.

Chasing the wind

Sometimes I wonder why I’m searching so hard. What if there really isn’t anything to be found? What if after all this reading and thinking and debating it turns out that I’ve just been chasing the wind? A really good friend of mind made a very interesting point to me this week. I can’t remember the exact words, but they were in the vein of to much studying takes away the beauty of the message and that it’s better to just believe. How does one “just believe” though? While I would love to have the gift of a child-like faith, unfortunately I appear to have been cursed with a contemplative and speculative mind. To those that say “turn to the Bible”, well I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read it. The Bible is a book I rarely miss a day reading. As much as I love it though, I find myself digging into texts with less obtuse messaging and even a touch more on the mystical side (since mysticism tends to soften the tone).

We live in a pretty scary world. People are greedy and self absorbed with very little interest or desire to think about things that matter to anyone other than themselves. How else can you explain a society that is so lost that it celebrates the death of an enemy and fights ways to care for their less fortunate neighbors? Children are physically and sexually abused, people eat each other, and the religious institutions just keep racking in the tithes. Praise the Lord!

God, if you are out there, do you even care anymore??

Do you care that little children are born with collapsed lungs and a young couple has to endure the stresses of the condition only to cope with the loss?

Do you care when your representatives here on earth rape children?

Do you care when an elderly lady can’t even walk from a store to her home without a thug knocking her over to steal her purse?

Do you care that millions of children will go to bed hungry tonight and tomorrow night too?

God, if you are out there, did you ever care?

If your chosen people are the stock of Abraham, why are your chosen people always fighting each other?

If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, why do I have to lock my doors at night and arm an alarm system?

If we are to do unto others what we would want done to us, why do I need insurance to protect my own identity?

God, where are you? Have you given up on us?

With all the violence and hate, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that sometime I question whether nature is just random. To my friends who say all of these natural disasters and the obvious moral collapse of our society are prophecies that are being fulfilled: I not subscribe to an ending times apocalyptic view requiring me to resign myself to believing that the very Creator that fashioned the cosmos in their unknowable and infinite majesty, did so just to destroy it. Nor do I believe that a blood sacrifice was needed as a condition for anything.

To understand a holy unity, examine the flame rising from a candle. We see at first two kinds of light, one glistening white and one blue or black. The white light is above and rises in a straight line, the blue or black light is beneath and appears to be the source of the white; yet the two lights are so closely united they form one single flame. But the source formed by the blue or black light is, in turn, attached to the wick under it. The white light never changes, it always remains white; but several shades are distinguishable in the lower light. Moreover, the lower light moves in two opposite directions; above, it is connected to the white light, and below, it is attached to the burning matter; this matter continually consumes itself and rises toward the upper light. It is thus that all that is, reunites with the one unity. — Zohar

Perhaps the Divine Essence is within all of us as a thread to weave us together with a sense of oneness. The more the focus is on me instead of we, the weaker that thread becomes. Perhaps what I’ve been looking for in this Quest has been within me and those around me all along, bottled up and waiting to be let out.

The entire lower world was created in the likeness of the higher world. All that exists in the higher world appears like an image in this lower world; yet all this is but One. — Zohar

What if?

Recently I had a very deep philosophical discussion with an atheist friend of mine. It’s always a very engaging discourse and always sparks thoughts in my mind about what my beliefs are, what they aren’t, and how they’ve evolved over the past several years. The overwhelming question is always the same though: What if?

What if there is no life after death?
What if love is just a chemical reaction in the brain?
What if the Bible is just Bronze Age mythological nonsense?
What if God does not exist?

Could billions of people have been duped into what those with “enlightened minds” consider simple-minded dogmatic nonsense? Have countless hours of Bible Study, Torah teachings, and Sunday Sermons over the course of the last 2000 years been an abominable waste of time and effort? I would be lying if I said that I haven’t questioned with boldness the existence of God or the reliability and credibility of the Bible. To truly believe requires the suspense of reason and a leap of faith. However, one could argue that to not believe also requires a similar leap. Does belief in God and the study of Scriptures parallel what the modern organized churches execute? Maybe the question could be posed as – What if the churches have got it all wrong? It’s pretty clear that many of them get it very wrong. I recall a gentle and kind Jewish man saying “Love one another” and another one saying “faith without works is dead“. Yet we see angry people cursing, judging, and condemning other people because of “sinful lifestyles”. That’s a bit hypocritical don’t you think? Especially when “judge no one” is a tenet. We could go into the not so distant past to see a number of church led atrocities, but that’s not a path to take for this post. The fact is that to many churches place dogmas over morals and tithing over charity.

True religion is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

So let’s take the position of atheism. Let’s say God doesn’t exist and that the Bible is irrelevant. Then we are merely carbon based globs of cells with no purpose, no significance, and no accountability. We are just specks of dust amidst a vast immeasurable universe. Love, compassion, morality, and evil are mere chemical reactions equivalent to burps and farts. Well, that’s a pretty bleak view isn’t it? Of course the secular defense would be that morality and justice in a godless world are possible because they “feel right” and are qualified by using “reason” and “common sense”. Well, where do those things come from? There has to be a common thread that weaves all mankind together when it comes to matters of morality, love, and the thirst for knowledge and truth.

What if God is incomprehensible?
What if the Bible needs to be studied (personal studies not just in a group) in order to be understood?
What if love is the breath of the divine within our souls?
What if our sense of morality is a divine influence?

The idea that our existence is just pure happenstance could be a fact, however there is no reason we have to live it that way. If our lives are the only lives we will ever have, shouldn’t we be as productive as we can and leave a legacy, maybe leave the world just a little better than when we got here? Science can explain a lot of things, but why let it reduce us to a state of hopeless meaninglessness

It has often been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. The idea being that when a person finds themselves in a life threatening situation or is in the deepest state of despair they always look up. They cry out to someone. Sure, they may not recite a prayer or cry out “My God, why have you abandoned me?“. But, they do cry out, they say “why me?” or “what did I do to deserve this?”. Well, just who the heck do you think you are talking to? What if it’s God and you just don’t realize it?

The Illusion of Atheism

Contrary to what an atheist may try to convince others and even themselves, the entire concept of atheism is a mere illusion.  Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher are all very public about being atheists and are antagonistic to the adherents of any and all revealed religions.  However, I can provide a strong argument that neither they nor anyone else can possibly be atheists with 3 words:

Eyeh asher eyeh

See, three words.  I will assume some of you don’t know what these words mean so I will explain them.  Eyeh asher eyeh is Hebrew for “I shall be what I shall be” it has also been translated “I am what/that I am.”  This statement is as brilliant as it is cryptic.  No actual name is given, no definitive divine description, just an open-ended concept of indescribable and ineffable supremacy.  There is a misconception amongst people who consider themselves to be atheists that the rejection of an interventional deity means they also reject the concept of a supreme intelligence or ultimate reality.  The use of “Reason” and “Intellect” is a valid approach to such a topic and given the advancement of science and technology over the past few centuries (especially the last decade) we have seen the scope of the Divine drastically diminish.

The Ultimate Source

Galileo shattered the long-held belief that the earth was flat, the sky was a canopy, and the celestial bodies were mere lights in the canopy.

Astronauts erased the concept of heaven being a paradise amongst the clouds in the skies, thereby casting serious doubt on chariots of fire and men “ascending into heaven”.

Medical advancements have saved people from death, even brought people back from death-like states (ie. coma).  Stem cell research has now advanced to the state where scientist are capable of manipulating and even splicing cells to regenerate organs.

Carbon dating has identified artifacts that date the age of human civilization far beyond the Biblical timeline.

However, the idea that the rejection of any religious text, creed, or doctrine or the literal or scientific debunking of them eliminates the concept of Deity is inaccurate, ignorant and irresponsible.  Regardless of how far we go with science or how many theories we develop we still have not been able to discern the origin, source, or “author” of the various laws of nature and science.  We have not been able to explain or discover the power that allows these laws to be executed in endless perpetuity.  No explanations exist for the reason or cause of human emotions or our ability to discern the basic precepts of universal morality.  This origin and this perpetual source is that supreme and ultimate reality that mankind has tried to understand.  Whether through scientific exploration or theosophic study, the Divine is ineffable and we are not capable of understanding.

Where our intellect and reason falls short

For most of recorded history mankind has made many attempts at understanding this source.  Our inability to prove or disprove the source or origin expels us from the right to deny it.  The belief that this source is an interventional God is the belief of over 3 billion people and it has been for thousands of years.  The concept of an interventional God is not based on facts though.  It is based on faith.  If one chooses not to believe in an interventional god that is fine.  It does not rule out the fact that there is a an original and perpetual source of the universe though.  If you base your belief on science, than nature or science is your deity.  If you believe there is no source and everything just happened then chaos is your deity.  However, out of chaos came order.  Where did this order come from?

Our sense of reason can serve as both a gift and a curse.  While one can reasonably discern various laws of science and morality, you can also box yourself in to your own limited knowledge of the universe which limits the greatness of it.  The Age of Enlightenment gave rise to skepticism and literal criticism of religious texts but, it did not render them obsolete.

Divine Revelation

It is Jewish tradition that the Scriptures (Torah, Prophets, Hagiographa) were written by men for men and in the language of men.  A literal interpretation of the text is not conducive to modern times as many of the mythical occurrences were similar to modern-day special effects in movies.  The scribes wrote the text to instruct the simple-minded while the learned minds of the time labored for hours over the hidden meanings and allegories.  Is an intense study of these texts still required?  Perhaps for some but, the morality that has derived from their writing are now commonplace in a civilized society.  As rich as religious text are in their allegory and moral lessons, they can easily be taken out of context mainly because, unlike the US Constitution they can not be amended.   There is a revelation that continues to evolve and is infallible – nature.  A walk along the seashore, a hike in the mountains, or a rafting trip on a river display the awesome power and beauty of nature.  Gazing at the night sky on a clear night is a mind-boggling display of the vastness of the cosmos.  Taking all of this in, is it remotely possible that there was no order, no source, and that all is chaos?

Atheism advocates the absence of an orginal source or intelligent design.  If there is no source – then universe is an illusion.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light