January 29, 2009
Being Liberal in an Illiberal Age: Why I am a Unitarian Universalist by Jack Mendelsohn
There are some books I have a hard time reviewing, because they have so many ideas in them that no one thing sticks out, and I have trouble remembering what struck me, positively or negatively about the book- this is such a book.
Mendelsohn covers a lot- the history of Unitarians & Universalists, their relation to Christianity, the religious education of children, the nature and existence of God, ethics and social justice
His reactions to traditional Christian doctrine in his youth that he recounts was something I really identified with- I had many of the same responses- rejecting original sin, hell, needing someone to “die for our sins”. I questioned the Trinity, parts of the Bible and communion.
Despite the diversity of views in the UUA, I suspect some of his beliefs are pretty typical of many UUs: a belief in a very transcendent, Deist-like God, doubt about the afterlife, an emphasis on living a good life and use of reason in religion as with other areas of life. Reading about his theological views helped me clarify my own beliefs. I don’t really see the point of believing in such a distant God- if that was the only conclusion I could come to I would probably just be an agnostic or atheist. In the end of the book he discusses prayer- why bother praying to a “God” who is more like the force of gravity than a conscious being with willpower?
He gives examples of petitionary prayer that are rather absurd and extreme- but I don’t think asking the Divine for help in some way is necessarily like that
If that is the philosophy that makes sense and works best, more power to him. But I do think the UUs who essentially worship logic are missing out on something.