Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why My Family Attends a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

This is how I inoculate my children against the glittering false promise of eternal life and the frightening empty threat of eternal torture.

There's a lot of people in the atheist community who bristle at anything which resembles a church. And I can sympathize with those feelings. However, since my wife and I have different religious views, it's important that I remain at least a little respectful towards the "I believe it because it makes me feel good" perspective.

My wife wanted a community where our kids would learn about different religions, where acceptance of all people would be a standard value that's taught.

On our first visit, the minister Amy, approached us and welcomed us to the community. She asked what we were specifically looking for, and my wife described our differing religious views. When my wife mentioned that I am an atheist, Amy said that this particular service included some prayer from the Christian tradition, and she hoped it wouldn't be off-putting for me. The mere thought of receiving such a warm welcome at my parents' Presbyterian Church is laughable.

During social time after the service, I have met a great many welcoming people of a wide range of faith traditions. All Have been welcoming of my atheist / humanist views, and a significant fraction share them. This isn't the "welcome" I might get from my parents' Presbyterian church, which is more of a "your wrong beliefs are welcome so we can try to fix them". Rather a sincere welcome as I am. Without the slightest inference there's anything wrong or that needs to be changed. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is a small island where I can be open and honest about my views deep in the heart of the Ohio Bible belt.

When there was interest in volunteers to teach Sunday school, I was skeptical that out atheist such as myself would be welcome teaching religious education courses. My contributions were warmly welcomed, and I was pleasantly surprised by the particular curriculum being taught. There was no dogmatic "one true answer", rather there was a concerted effort to teach a broad range of different religious beliefs. This, in my view, it is one of the strongest defenses I can provide my children against the irrational beliefs of the various Christian (mostly) theologies that surround them here in Southwest Ohio.

After Sunday school, I discuss the lessons with my kids. We talk honestly about what was good and what wasn't. We talk about why some people believe and why other people don't. We talk about the failure of faith to result in consistent worldviews between the thousands of religions around the world and throughout time.

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