What is Universism?
Universism is a new interpretation of religion that elevates the search for meaning and purpose rather than valuing belief for its own sake. Universists arrive at their beliefs through reason and personal experience, and deny the validity of dogmatic faith as a way to understand one's place in the world.
Since reason and experience lead people to different conclusions, and we recognize no authority outside ourselves to judge among them, Universism allows for a range of different beliefs. For instance, Universists may believe or disbelieve in a creator so long as they've honestly examined their beliefs, and acknowledge that they could be mistaken. This allows the Universist community to put aside what might have been major religious divisions, instead uniting its members in a commitment to learn and grow.
What do Universists believe?
Universists represent an enormous diversity of evolving belief within the bounds of five unifying principles:
1. The most important activity in life is the individual search for meaning through love, learning, life experience, and so on.
2. Meaning is inherently personal, and no person or document has more spiritual authority than any other.
3. The morality of an action is determined purely by how it affects the people involved, and not by any universal religious code or
4. Governments and other social structures are only useful to the extent that they enable all people to work toward their personal goals without interfering with the goals of others.
5. Human potential is limited only by the laws of nature.
What does Universism hope to
Universism hopes to dispel the illusion of certainty that divides humanity into warring camps, each one equally convinced of its own religious or philosophical truths. By acknowledging uncertainty as a natural part of the human condition, Universism hopes to help people view each another as fellow searchers rather than as rival ideologues. Instead of insisting it has the ultimate answers, Universism hopes to help its members embrace the unknown and continue their search for meaning as a community.
Is Universism a
Yes. It is a religion in the sense that it unites members in community around a set of shared values and is concerned with questions of meaning and purpose that exist outside the domain of science. However, it differs from other religions in that it does not ask its members to accept anything on authority. In short, Universism is a religion, but not a faith.
What is a Universist "service"
Typically Universist meetings occur at member homes or cafes, and as local groups grow more permanent places of gathering will be established. The practice of Universism is the search, and its fruits are shared with the community of Universists. We try to find the nexus of life, ideas, art and culture. In some groups, group leaders and members select excerpts from books, essays, song lyrics, poetry, audio and visual media and so on, often centered around a transcendent theme. These short readings are passed out and read aloud, then they are interpreted in group discussion. Our focus is generally on fictional literature, where there are many levels that can be explored and connections that can be made to individual life experience. This practice emphasizes how there is no one reference, no one authoritative source from which we draw inspiration and meaning as Universists. Fiction can speak to truth, but it is subjective and depends on our own possibly unique interpretation. Individual groups function quite autonomously from one another, and can take limitless forms depending on the local membership's needs.
Universists prefer the term ethics to morality. Morality implies certitude. Universism is morally relativist, but certainly values ethical behavior. It does not enshrine a set of moral commandments, as such codes inevitably conflict with reality's complexity and uncertainty. Instead, Universism emphasizes our own responsibility as individuals to judge the unique situations of our lives. Far from promoting immorality, this policy requires that Universists give great thought to the meaning of behaving ethically. We live by the spirit of ethical behavior rather than by the letter of religious law.
Universists understand that moral systems have arisen as a social contract intended to help people live together without interfering with each other's goals, but they have often proven a hindrance to that end. Too often conventional moralities have zealously limited our freedom and encouraged us to inappropriately judge one another. Above all else, Universism values the search, which necessitates the freedom and opportunity to gain broad life experiences.
What does Universism have against
Universism does not oppose the type of "faith" one has in humanity or the type of "faith" one has in the future, which is really another way
to say trust in humanity and hope for the future. It confuses the issue to use the word faith as synonymous for concepts such as trust, hope and love, so we advocate using those words directly for such concepts. Universism only opposes religious faith, which is belief without continuing efforts to seek out, understand, and weigh evidence.
Religious faith maintains certainty about highly important matters without bending to accommodate reason or evidence, meaning that conflicts will inevitably arise and prove irresolvable. As science and technology have become increasingly important to our lives and how we understand the world, faith based religions have tried to defend their dogmas using science as justification wherever possible. However, the rationale in such apologetics is always deductive, marshalling whatever facts are available to shore up the theological position. In its individualistic, relativist approach to metaphysics, Universism encourages inductive reasoning. When we base our beliefs on our ever-changing life experience, we
better understand our fallibility and are more willing to admit error. Religious faith thus harms not only society, which becomes mired in conflict, but the faithful themselves, who are inhibited from allowing new ideas and experiences to fully impact their being.
Why should I be a Universist?
Because Universism is committed to making religion a vehicle for social progress and self-discovery rather than merely a belief one adheres to without reason. If you share our goals, there are few better uses for your time than to join in, work for the cause, and enjoy our growing community!
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