Do Unitarian-Universalists Think Less of People Who Use the Word “God”?

Unitarian-Universalist minister Rev. James Ford recently posted a nice essay on his blog, Monkeymind, about how he finds the terms “God” and “soul” useful despite being a religious liberal. Many UUs responded positively.  However, in the comments, one person had this to say:

“Appreciate the fact that if you use the G-word many UUs will think less of you. The Seven Principles very pointedly do not mention this word.”

Is that true? Do “many” UUs really think less of people who “use the G-word?” And if they do, is this the sort of mature spiritual thinking that Unitarian-Universalists wish to promote?

The reference to the Seven Principles seems to be a bit off-base here. After all, they’re not any sort of creed, just one formulation that the UUA put together a while back. No individual UU is required to pay them any attention at all. Besides, leaving “the G-word” out of the principles wasn’t because the formulators of that document thought less of other UUs who use it. The text is a statement of values, not beliefs. And it is actually a two-parter, with the second half, the Sources, explicitly referencing God as understood in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

Here’s a chance for an informal poll of UU readers: Do you think less of other UUs who use the word God? Why, exactly? How much does use of this word lower them in your eyes? Do you feel your judgment of them is in keeping with UU values? Do you feel their use of the word God violated UU values? How do you relate to your Unitarian and Universalist ancestors, whose belief in God led them to create the liberal religion you enjoy today? Is it specifically UU usage of the word God that you disparage, or do you also think less of non-UUs who use that word? Here is an opportunity to express your feelings.



Filed under Unitarian-Universalism

7 responses to “Do Unitarian-Universalists Think Less of People Who Use the Word “God”?

  1. No, I don’t think less of UUs who use the word God. It certainly doesn’t violate any major UU values to use the word God.

    Unfortunately, I don’t relate very much to my Unitarian and Universalist ancestors. At least, not as much as I’d like.

  2. My Church’s covenant from 1842,

    Being desirous of promoting practical goodness in the world, and of aiding each other in our moral and religious improvement, we have associated ourselves together—not as agreeing in opinion, not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after truth and goodness.

    Part of associating not having agreend in opinion, ornot having attained universal truth in belief, is to avoiding disparaging another’s expression of that unagreed belief.

    I’ll share my thoughts though and and will make a judgement of sorts e.g. to those who disdain naming God, I’d suggest they ask does God disdain theirs. That’s more important.

    I’d like to think God open minded about it all, as I would hope UU’s would be about God.

  3. Jeff

    Bill, that covenant is pretty cool. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. he finds the terms “God” and “soul” useful despite being a religious liberal.

    The way you write this makes it sound as if “God” and “soul” are antithetical to liberal religion — Unitarian Universalism’s cousins in the United Church of Christ might have something to say about that.

    Personally, I find the reclaiming of both of these words to be essential to Unitarian Universalist growth and our ability to stay in the religious dialogues that are happening all over this country and the world. By avoiding such words, we abandon their power to those who would misuse them.

    Rev. Michael Dowd is doing a lot with this — I wrote on my impressions of him here. Also, the UU Blog Carnival (now unfortunately defunct) looked at a quote from theologian James Luther Adams regarding atheism and its relationship to religion that I discussed here.

  5. I addressed your question on my own blog,

  6. I have no problems with the term “God” or “Soul.” Then again, I tend to make that abundantly clear on my website…

    I think one of the things that we tend to do in UUism is be inclusive rather than exclusive. We don’t want to exclude humanists, atheists, agnostics or other non-theists from our congregation, so we avoid using that term when possible. However, this may also be at the risk of alienating the theists among us, so it’s a difficult balance to maintain.


  7. leewiesphoto

    I grew up in the UU church with an wonderful Reverend named Clair Petersburger, and she always was very much a theist minister. In this respect we practiced with UU transcendental principles which exercised a personal relationship with a higher power that is directly linked with the cosmos.

    When she eventually left our church, several non-theists in our community decided that a minister was not needed and that they would take turns with sermons, which led to an ultimate breakdown of our church. I lost interest in attending because it had seemed that the inmates were now controlling the asylum, where no g rules applied. These meetings seemed to lack of wonder and critical thinking. I ultimately left that congregation, and haven’t returned to any other UU congregation (although I consider myself more a UU than any other practice). I constantly look for new congregations that practice (or at least debate) theism in the church, but have found few where I now live.

    Growing up in the UU church, I found it an open church that made no pretension of attempting to know the true nature of a higher power, and in that innability we look to the world (cosmos) to seek meaning.

    Although I haven’t actively sought out a new UU congregation recently, I have stayed away from the church because of my issues discussed above, and can go to no other church because of their strict dogmas, so in the meantime I remain independent and read boatloads.

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