Ignorant Faith Is Dangerous…or Until You Know Who Origen Is pt. 2

The charge has been leveled against my last post that it is an “elitist piece of crap” (I believe I’m quoting that right.) Since I know that what I wrote wasn’t any such thing, I went to the dictionary to look up the definition. Here it is:


[ih-lee-tiz-uhm, ey-lee-]



practice of or belief in rule by an elite.


consciousness of or pride in belonging to a select or favored group.
So…using that definition, what part of the last post was “an elitist piece of crap?” Did I say that only certain people should KNOW something and then hang it over anybody? No. What I said was that before you read AND comment on Rob Bell’s universalism, you ought to know something about universalism. And if all you know about universalism is that the name of your church is Podunk Unitarian Universalist, how can you say whether Rob Bell is or isn’t a Christian universalist? It isn’t elitism to say that you ought to know something of which you speak before you speak.
Anyway…I’m going to quote somebody else from our movement on our movement. For those of you who were at the Minns lectures, you will remember hearing these words spoken by the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt. She says, in more eloquent words than I can at the moment, what I think needs to be said.
     And we could do more. Many of us could embrace our intellectual life, the underpinnings of our faith tradition, and renew it for this new age. We could return to the religious marketplace of ideas, re-engage our sister and brother faiths not just in the streets and the courthouses and the sanctuaries, but also in the classrooms and in the libraries. It has become fashionable to decry the deep well of intellect from which we have always drawn, and we have joked for decades about being terminally overeducated. But that is hardly a fault in a world overrun with ignorant religiosity. It has never been okay to be dumb and in these times, an ignorant faith is dangerous. Somebody ought to know something about who and what we are as a religious people; somebody-a lot of somebodies–should be asking the same questions we are, then writing and teaching others about the answers they get. And it is never okay to leave your religious legacy to be interpreted only by others, however brilliant or sympathetic they might be.  

2 thoughts on “Ignorant Faith Is Dangerous…or Until You Know Who Origen Is pt. 2

  1. This is a sad evolution in Unitarian Universalism. In the past we used to be the most learned among all denominations. Now, as in society at large, being ignorant (and proud of it) is cool.

  2. Kim – I don’t want to sound like a “tone troll” or “concern troll” (a person who is concerned about the tone of online discourse and wants everyone to be “nice”). But are you really surprised that some folks didn’t read your original post as elitist and insulting.

    As a non-theist Unitarian Universalist, I find the whole Rob Bell “is there a Hell?” discussion a bit amusing.

    First, our theological tradition rejected eternal damnation over 200 years ago in its North American Protestant context. Is there really anything that needs to be said about Hell that wasn’t said already.

    Second, I suspect that even traditional clergy are not embracing the idea of hell that much. On Hemant Mehta’s “Friendly Atheist” blog, he quotes a funeral home director who had attended over 3000 funerals in his professional capacity:

    Do Pastors Really Believe in Hell?

    Here is a quote from the funeral director:

    “I have worked about 3,000 funerals in my 10 years as a funeral director and I have NEVER heard a pastor state conclusively that the person they are memorializing is going to hell… although I’ve heard thousands of messages that state CONCLUSIVELY that the deceased is in heaven!!!

    There’s been some fancy preachwork done by pastors for those who lived less than clean, God honoring lives. I remember one pastor saying about a man who blatantly hated God, ‘This man didn’t like God, but he was a man who loved the outdoors. And anybody who loves the outdoors is like a lover of God because God created the outdoors.'”

    Apparently, the idea of hellfire and brimstone is fine in the abstract but not when presiding over the funeral of an apostate with loved ones in the room. It must be a lack of courage of holding one’s religious convictions for these ministers.

    Third, the Time magazine cover asked the question “What If Hell Doesn’t Exist?” Other than existing as a metaphor in religious “fan fiction” written over the centuries like the Bible and other works and as a metaphor, we have no evidence that Hell exists at all. We have the same amount of evidence that the Klingon Empire exists as anything other than a metaphor.

    Philosophy, theology, and all that are nice things to study … but if the topic of one’s study doesn’t exist outside the metaphorical realm, it may not be anti-intellectualism for not doing all of the theological study prerequisites. It may simply be a lack of time and interest. This is no more “anti-intellectual” than not immersing oneself into any other collection of fan fiction and its associated analysis.

    If you want to see an excellent example of anti-intellectualism in religion, you should check out this criticism of the “Evolution Sunday” project:

    “By their fruits you shall know them”

    Evolutionary biology really does exist and many of the sermons collected by this project show that religious leaders are anti-intellectuals who don’t fully grasp the theological implications of evolutionary biology — namely that natural selection is a materialistic, blind, undirected, and purposeless process as far as we can tell from our observations (this characterization would be taught in most college-level biology classes).

    The wonder and the beauty of this blind and materialistic process is that it has produced people like you and me who can contemplate the meaning of existence and more.

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