Here we go again. In the newest issue of the UU World, UUA President Peter Morales writes an opinion piece which is headlined “Belief is the Enemy of Faith”. Before I get to the heart of my fundamental disagreement with Peter’s thesis, there is one minor point which I think I need to bring up.
To quote Peter’s opinion piece:
Young people are rejecting all religion in numbers we have never seen before.
This is true, for certain groups of young people. When you start looking at the numbers as they are, certain things become apparent. Young people of color are NOT “rejecting religion in numbers we have never seen before.” And as long as the talk continues to lump all “young people” together, nobody will address what the religious landscape of the US really looks like. That, however, is another post for another time.
Anyway…the main point of Peter’s opinion piece seems to be that “belief” is a bad thing and that the mission of Unitarian Universalism in this time is to usher in a new age of freedom from belief. Well, I call bullshit.
It matters what we believe.
Some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusiveness, and the feeling of being especially privileged.
Other beliefs are expansive and lead the way into wider and deeper sympathies.
Some beliefs are like shadows, clouding [children’s] days with fears of unknown calamities.
Other beliefs are like sunshine, blessing [children] with the warmth of happiness.
Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved, friends from enemies.
Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern.
Some beliefs are like blinders, shutting off the power to choose one’s own direction.
Other beliefs are like gateways opening wide vistas for exploration.
Some beliefs weaken a person’s selfhood. They blight the growth of resourcefulness.
Other beliefs nurture self-confidence and ignite the feeling of personal worth.
Some beliefs are rigid, like the body of death, impotent in a changing world.
Other beliefs are pliable, like the young sapling, ever growing with the upward thrust of life.
-Sophia Lyon Fahs
At some point, my dear UU friends, UUism must stop being a negative religion and actually articulate a positive vision. When will we (as a collective) start to celebrate/encourage belief in the same way that we celebrate/encourage doubt (anybody else remember the “when in doubt—pray, when in prayer—doubt” mess)? If doubt is an important companion to faith, why isn’t belief just as an important companion?
It matters what we believe my friends. What we believe about humanity and its ultimate end matters. If you have no beliefs about humanity and its ultimate end, then why work for justice/peace/tolerance/freedom/etc.? To work for those means that you BELIEVE something.
Belief is the enemy of faith only when the belief brings more destruction (thanatos) into the world instead of more creativity (eros).
It matters what we believe.