Frequently Asked Questions
Definitely not. We are committed to pluralism and communities of love and respect that value differences of belief. Our congregations can be a model and training ground for how to do this in wider society.
Some of us (proudly) are, and some of us don’t take that identity. Our philosophy is naturalistic, which means we concern ourselves with this life and this world. We are, however, committed to fighting the unfair stigmatization of atheists as untrustworthy (in this country) and to fighting the shocking persecution of atheists around the world.
Yes. If your concept of god(s) is naturalistic, but more importantly, your ethics can be humanistic if you put human* needs and human agency at the center of concern. (*Where human needs include our planet’s and other species’ needs as well.)
TL;DR version: Yes, if your definition of “religious” requires supernaturalism. No if you define religion, as we do, as concerns about meaning and purpose carried out in community with the intent of bringing more justice, love and peace into the world.
These days a majority of people equate religion with theism and Humanism with atheism, so it would seem so. Historically, though, Humanism grew out of liberal religion, as evidenced by the religious language in the Humanist Manifesto I. There are also many examples of nontheistic religion, such as secular Buddhism. The International Humanist and Ethical Union would prefer us to use no adjectives with Humanism for some compelling reasons, but the UU Humanist Association continues to do so. Why? It all comes down to your definition of "religious". For a religious Humanist, religion is an appreciation of a particular type of community that shares certain practices and traditions, and, for some, a recognition of the "sacredness" of nature.
There is general agreement within the Humanist movement on the need for Humanist community. What the movement doesn't agree on is the form that community should take. Some, such as Greg Epstein, a Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and British philosopher Alain de Botton, believe that religion can be a good model. (Ethical Societies and Humanistic Judaism are other examples of religious Humanist communities.) Other people, such as PZ Meyers, blogger at FreeThoughtBlogs, disagree. The UU Humanist Association, being concerned with promoting Humanism within an existing religious institution, the Unitarian Universalist Association, obviously agrees that religion can be a good model for community and, since a large percentage (40 - 60%) of UUs do not believe in a god or gods, we agree that religion can be non-theistic. We do not think that all Humanist community should be religious, but we think there is room for ritual, ceremonies, singing, Sunday services and religious education and other practices commonly associated with religion in the Humanist world.
The concept of the "sacredness" of nature, or religious naturalism, is a bit more controversial. All Humanists are naturalists, as opposed to supernaturalists -- we believe that nature is all there is that is real and that we are fully part of nature. The "sacredness", in quotes, reflects that religious Humanists place ultimate value in nature and our human part in it. For more, see our About Religious Humanism page.
Some (but not all) UU Humanists are uncomfortable with religious language. We ask UUs to be sensitive to the reasons for that and to try to be inclusive, for instance by explicitly stating that we intend liberal definitions of traditional religious terms, and yes, by using different terms (like Sunday Services instead of Worship) when there are good alternatives.
Ah, the UU stereotype. Sometimes there is some reality because our congregations do not see or attract the beautiful diversity of passionate, creative, and energetic Humanists of all ages, gender identities, and colors. They are growing in number but going elsewhere for or going without true community.
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HUE * YOU * manists
We know it is hard to pronounce, which is why we recently changed our name to the UU Humanist Association -- more prosaic but easier to say.