Friday, November 18, 2005

What is Universism?

A description on their home page reads, "Uniting atheist, deist, agnostic, pantheist, and transcendentalist philosophy to create the world's first Rational Religion." Universism is the new chic way of being "spiritual" without being overly religious. As a religion of rationality, Universism stand against anything that calls for "faith" or precommitment to abstract, intangible realities.

Therefore, one should not assert that God/gods/angels or other invisible beings definitely exist. According to an article in the Birmingham News released on September 9, the Universist movement claims about 8,000 adherents who decry the idea of certainty and assurance in spiritual matters. They may be atheists or freethinkers, but the common ground they stand on is that there are no universal spiritual truths. (Yes, that's a self-stultifying argument. I know it already.) Their religion is one of flex, tolerance, ambiguity, and denial of absolute truth in spiritual matters. Their only dogma is the promotion of doubt and nonbelief.

Universism should not be confused with Universalism (the belief that all people will be saved or will go to heaven) nor with Unitarian-Universalism (a merger of two liberal 18th and 19th century denominations, which in some ways is similar to Universism). However, the Unitarian-Universalists deny the Trinity and affirm universalism, and for the Universist, that's probably going too far.

Founded by Ford Vox, a medical student at the University of Alabama, the Universist movement appeals to people who want some kind of religious expression, providing a sense of community that intends to help others, and an appeal for each person to "arrive at their beliefs through reason and personal experience" (from the short FAQ). Just don't come to any conclusions that apply to anyone else, because the ultimate booby prize is dogmatism.

Will Universism amount to much overall? It appears to strike a chord with those who want discussion and freewheeling conversation in an accepting, tolerant atmosphere. But without a coherent system of truth, they don't seem to have anything of substance to pass on to a future generation. Eternal skepticism will eventually have to give way to people who can offer hope for tomorrow, and who can base their hope on the living God who acts in history.


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