Thursday, January 26, 2006

It's an Aquarian!

My newest nephew, Jason Daniel Andrix, was born January 25th.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fix UUism Entries

Rewrite the Principles and Purposes
It has been decades since our congregations adopted the Principles and Purposes. It is my understanding that these are supposed to be revised from time to time, and I think it is time to start. This s something it may not be best for the UUA itself to do. To me, the Principles feel like they were written by a committee. Don't get me wrong, I like them, but I think it would be nice to have what we stand for stated in a way I can comfortably quote in an elevator speech. People find "Unitarian Universalist" intimidating and "The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large" is not much more comforting. I do not think that this is the best way to present to people the higher, abstract concept that that principle represents.
The best religious guidance is simple and clear. Generally, this is done by individuals. Some editing would probably be needed for wide acceptance, but this should ideally be done by the individual or small group that wrote the original.
The UUA should encourage UU's to begin thinking seriously and writing about 'What UU's believe' with an eye towards a revision of the Principles and Purposes. YOU need to start writing. Someone will create a new document that resonates with us.
Regardless of the method used, we need to talk a good look at our current document, and find ways it can be improved upon.

Inreach to the "Unchurched"
Somewhere around two-thirds of Unitarian Universalists are not members of UUA congregations. Some of these are probably active but not 'signed-the-book' members, but why aren't the rest coming in? We need to find out what is keeping these people away, change it, and let them know. These are people who already consider themselves UU, they should require relatively little convincing. This could be an easy way to triple our numbers.
Yes, it is herding cats, but that just means we need a can-opener.

Abandon our History
Wicca started out in 1954 when Gerald Gardner published the book Witchcraft Today. It has since grown dynamically and is (for better or worse) a cultural icon. Some would argue that Wicca is in fact much older, but this is not relevant to my point because Wicca ACTS like a new religion. It spreads quickly from person to person, it adapts and mutates easily, it knows how to handle being a minority religion, and it doesn't have a centralized bureaucracy.
Unitarianism started in the 1500's, and Universalism in 1793. Both claimed roots back to Jesus. Most Unitarian-Universalists think that we are an old religion with a rich history. For this reason we ACT like an old religion. We are hard to explain, and slow to change. We lost our minority religion stance when we had Unitarian Presidents, and we are centered in Boston. These things need to change.
Unitarian-Universalism was created in 1961. It is vastly different from any religion that has come before. It is accepted by less than one half of one percent of the population of America, and is virtually unheard of elsewhere in the world. We are a new and small religion, and we need to act like it. We need to simplify our message, so that people can learn about us more easily. We need to be less attached to traditions, and more encouraging of adaptations. (And more apt to adopt adaptations) We need to learn to use our smallness, instaed of trying to bark like a big dog. We need to remember that Unitarian Universalism is not owned by the UUA, and should exist and thrive even where the UUA is uninvolved.

Real Outreach
Unitarian Universalism needs to start seriously evangelizing. I'm not talking about ads in Times Square, or 'Principles' wallet cards. We need to give every person in America a basic idea of what we are about, as a first step. This would require much more advertising, or very much more personal effort. I don't think going door to door is in the cards, we need to find our own style, but we need to do it in bulk. This is worth a whole other brainstorming contest.
Then we need to start being present and talking to people about why the things that we value are important, and why a church is a good way to promote those values. We need to look to groups that would be sympathetic (homosexuals, minority religion members, environmentalists, etc.), and also to groups that we have not appealed to in the past. (The poor, the uneducated, the bigoted, and even the fundamentalists.) We need to give everyone in America a Personalized 'Elevator Speech' as a second step.
Then we will be ready to start a real outreach.
While we are doing that, we can use what we are learning to look into evangelizing overseas. Of course, we should NOT link our charitable services with conversion, or probably even evangelism, but that does not mean we can't present our faith as an option to people overseas, and help them establish churches. Unitarian Universalism is about some very powerful and useful ideas. People dedicated to those ideas being present woudl be very helpful to the rest of the world.
During WWII Unitarians in Germany adopted the Flaming Chalice as a secret symbol to help Jews and others escape. Unitarian Universalist can not help people escape genocide if there are no Unitarian Universalists in the country.

We are not good at evangelism, and many of us don't even like the idea, but it will give us new blood, more numbers, a better presence, and a stronger voice. We can promote our principles without violating them.

Now that is a Pro-Life message

Friday, January 20, 2006


ChaliceChick is having a Contest to fix UUism
On of her suggestions is:
Don't forget church polity. Don't suggest something that the UUA can't do.
I honestly don't think that the UUA is the best agent for change here. I think that looking to the the UUA for leadership slows down the kind of dynamic growth we need. (in both size and maturity)
Somewhere around two-thirds of people who call themselves Unitarian Universalists aren't members of UUA member congregations. Any move by the UUA is by default a minority move. The first step to fixing Unitarian Universalism is to remember that the UUA doesn't own it.

That said, I'll probably be making an entry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Intelligent Design (1)

If you are walking in the desert, and you see five similar stones all lined up in a row, evenly spaced, then you know someone has been there and done that. What are the odds that random forces of nature would set not just threee or four, but five rocks to be be in a line? The chances are astronomical.
A similar question:
You see five similar stones all lined up in a row, on Mars. You, as far as you know, are the first person to set foot there. Was someone there before you? Aliens? The analysis is very different now, and it is an important question. Maybe it won't be a face or pyramids, but I'm sure we will eventually find something on mars that looks amazingly artificial. What is the difference?
For the five stones in the desert, we can safely presuppose the existence of human who might have done it. We know other humans exist, and we know they can go to the desert and move rocks. Even if it is unlikely that any individual would do so in such a way, it is far more likely that some individual would, than that the rocks would find their way into a line by chance.
On Mars, we are fairly certain humans have NOT been there before, and we know of no other entity with such volition and intelligence. It is our habit, our natural inclination to assume the presence of another entitity. We are surrounded by entities, but not martians. We can NOT safely presuppose the existence of entities on Mars. We must assume random natural processes, however unlikely.

There is however another possibility. Perhaps the processes are not entirely random. There may be something about the rocks or their surroundings that lend themselves to becoming so ordered. If such a a process could be found, it would significantly increase the chances of finding those five stones in a line.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Morning Conversations.

Discussion with Kim:
"Do Unitarians discuss the concept of grace? or is that a taboo subject?"
"No, we can..."
"Well, can and do are two different things..."
"...but we don't. Why?" (Kim is working on an adult sunday school class with a book titled What's So Amazing About Grace?")
"I realized that Unitarians are good at showing grace to people. Nobody would bat an eyelash if you showed up to church in a rock band T-shirt, whereas some churches won't let you in if you aren't dressed right."

Later I spoke on the phone with another friend who has decided that 'UUism is a nice support group but people who call it a religion are "hiding" ' grrrr.

4 year old:
"Didn't your mother tell you to get out of your bathing suit?"
"I forgot"
"Oh really..."
"She's not here now, and I forgot"
"Well, what you do think you should do now that you remember?"
"Keep on forgetting! "

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Repeal a bad law

Help repeal the DMCA, see EFF site. Support H.R.1201 -aka DMCRA

Have you ever ben playing a DVD, and the previews come on, and you try to fast forard through them, but you can't? This is because the movie companies set certain permissions on the disc, and the law says that the DVD player has to honor them. It is effectively illegal to make a DVD player that fast forwards through these ads.
Under copyright law, you have 'fair use' rights to copy works. for example quoting an excerpt from a book. Most copy-prevention systems ignore this, and because it is illegal to circumvent them, these systems hinder the rights of consumers.

If you've just crawled out from under a rock, you might not be aware of the Sony rootkit fiasco. H.R. 1201 would also force record companies to label CD's that use copy protection.

Finally, H.R.1201 would establish a legal standard that creators of software are not responsible for copyright by it's users. (In the same way the makers of VCR's should not be held responsible for bootleg movies.)

H.R. 1201 is an important reform.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Definition of Heresiology

From time to time I get hits from people searching for heresiology, but I don't talk about heresiology all that much, so I thought I'd make a definitions page of sorts.

Heresy, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a "theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained in opposition, or held to be contrary, to the catholic or orthodox doctrine of the Christian Church, or, by extension, to that of any church, creed, or religious system, considered as orthodox. By extension, [heresy is an] opinion or doctrine in philosophy, politics, science, art, etc., at variance with those generally accepted as authoritative." (WikiPedia)
Heresiology is the study of heresies.
A Heresiologist is a person who studies heresies.

I chose the name heresiology for my blog because I am contrarian, I like to play around with ideas and twist established notions.(obscure notions too) It helps the unitarianism, universalism, and unitarian universalism are all largely heretical.

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The Decline of Western Civilzation

A british TV show, Derren Brown: The Heist is showing how normal people can be led into deviant behavior, such as stealing candy, or armed robbery.
"At other times it's more disturbing. The re-creation of the Stanley Milgram test, for instance, in which Vicky and Phil and the rest of our middle-management business people are made to think they are administering excruciating electric shocks to someone. It's a well-known experiment to show that people will do outrageous things just because a person in authority has told them to. Some of them are quite happy to carry on upping the voltage, even though the victim has apparently passed out from the pain."
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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


TEA and Will were talking about truth and belief, and it brought to mind this Beliefnet discussion I had. I start posting at post 23 (as James123). The important bit here is my discussion with runegurl.
I was taking the position that truth is truth, and doesn't vary from person to person.

This is from her post 35, starting out quoting me:
I don't understand 'What's true for me may not be true for you'. Where 'I don't understand' means 'I don't know what these words mean'

in terms of belief, what you believe to be true may very well work, for you, because it's internally consistent with what you believe otherwise about life and the world and gods and etc. there is always a subjective element to belief, and there will always be. so believing that your personal beliefs are the "right" and "true" ones for every other person on the planet, or even just for me, ignores my own subjective reality and my own similar truth.

i'm not talking about "beliefs" that are objective facts here, like the sun coming up tomorrow, etc., which are the same for all of us. i'm talking about the subjective. the level of faith.

Later on, I touch on some old-school Universalism. ("Belief in the eventual salvation of everyone, including Satan and demons is called Apocatastasis.")

What got to me in this was the phrase 'a subjective element to belief'. What I relate to there is that some things I believe independently of logic or experience. I am a theist, but I wouldn't even try to make a case that God exists. My belief is entirely irrational in origin. It is reflexive, like flinching when jabbed in the eye.
So in perhaps many cases, it is as pointless to to try to talk someone into a belief as it would be to talk them out of flinching when jabbed in the eye.
They just believe.

This is in agreement with findings that there is a genetic component to belief or relgiosity.

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