Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Religious Humanists & Secular Ones: The Difference?

Religious Humanists and Secular Ones

From the interim minister’s sermon for UU Association Sunday,

October 14, 2007, Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship, Bloomington, Minnesota

I would say that a religion is a set of beliefs, practices, and institutions. The diverse members of our many Unitarian Universalist congregations practice their beliefs, observe common rituals, and support and care for their institution.

Many of the longer-term members of this Fellowship may not identify as religious, but I think they are.  They are humanists, to be sure, but religious humanists.  I can think of no other term for the commitment I’ve seen to their values and their congregation than a religious one. 

What’s the difference between a religious humanist and a secular one?  A religious humanist goes to church!  And a secular one has little use for it.  A religious humanist says things like:  this community has been my lifeline.  A religious one says: the people in my congregation are a source of inspiration to me, and a source of love.  A religious one stands up for humanistic values with the joy and commitment of any person of deep and sincere faith. 

The early members of this Fellowship established a pattern of devotion and care for their church home and congregational family.  This culture lives among the current members—so many more people than the Fellowship had in the early years. 

I learned about this church’s culture of devotion and enthusiasm this on my first Sunday on the job.  I rose early, reviewed my sermon, had breakfast, cleaned up, and headed over here.  I arrived more than an hour before church, expecting to impress you when my car was the first one in the parking lot.  Well, when I got here at 9:30 the lot was over half full.  And one person was speeding off after having come to start the coffee.  Volunteers and staff were setting up display tables.  The choir was in rehearsal, the basement was buzzing with children, parents and teachers. 

The only latecomers we had were a few members and first time guests—by latecomers, I mean they arrived 10 minutes before the service.  Such interest in the church, such curiosity and joy in seeking, such devotion, gratitude and care—I call these impulses religious.  I say we’ve got religion!  And it’s pretty darn wonderful.  And to that I say, Amen.  This congregation makes me proud to be part of our religious movement. 

In my view, the purpose of religion—good religion—is connection.    We exist to connect with our innermost selves and with others.  We stretch to connect with those who think differently as well as with those who think like us.  We encourage connections with the natural world, with the spirit of life and the call to compassion.   We help one another to connect with our personal courage and our imagination and hope.  This is our work–religious work.

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