Temple of Reason

To Universists, nothing is beyond a doubt
Friday, January 06, 2006
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
WILL SHILLING FOR THE DISPATCH
David Rutland of Upper Arlington is one of a growing number of Universists.

 

One thing in life that is certain is uncertainty, David Rutland believes.

To the Upper Arlington resident, it is the only way to live.

"Being uncertain to me is good because it removes the fear of life itself. Certainty brings with it absolutism, and that leads to, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong,’ " Rutland said.

Universism — a new movement espousing that everyone must determine his or her own moral way — frees people from the control of the world’s traditional religions, he said.

"I don’t approach life with fear," Rutland said. "I approach it with hope. I approach it with joy. I approach it with an open mind and an open heart."

Universism is the brainchild of Ford Vox, a 28-year-old medical student at the University of Alabama. He said his online creation is the halfway point between secularists and those who cling to religious faith.

To him, religious truth is arrived at through each person’s spiritual journey.

"It’s a matter of looking at it not as a transcendent truth that is timeless, that is immutable," Vox said. "Our central tenet is that truth is mutable and changes and depends on our own perception."

Multiple moralities
 

In recent years, religious leaders — most notably Pope Benedict XVI — have blamed many of the world’s ills on moral relativism, which dismisses the notion of objective moral standards by which all must live.

But Vox said moral relativism is not a dirty phrase to Universists.

"I think it’s funny in America today, liberals are afraid to be called liberals," he said. "Apparently people who are moral relativists are afraid to be called moral relativists. We’re not."

Universism was founded in 2003 as a spinoff of a Web page Vox started that offered information on deism, or a belief in God through reason. It emerged from the varied religious views that thousands of people shared through the Web site, he said.

Today, its official online membership is about 9,000, with fewer than 200 in Ohio. Universists have local meetings but often exchange ideas in online forums; participants include deists, pantheists, transcendentalists, agnostics and atheists.

The movement ordains ministers to perform marriages and funerals and to provide spiritual counseling. Ordinations are a practical matter, Vox said, because states require religious affiliation for licensing.

The only "rule" of Universism, he said, is "Do no harm to one another." Murder, for instance, would be wrong because it deprives a person of the ability to control his or her life, not because it is a moral transgression, he said.

Society needs laws to maintain order, Vox said, but they don’t have to be based on religious thought, as he believes is now the case.

The Universist message isn’t new, said Douglas Cowan, an expert on emerging religions. For years, some quickie ordination services have boasted that they don’t require anyone to believe a certain doctrine, he said.

Cowan, who teaches religious studies at Renison College/University of Waterloo in Canada, said many experts concluded that people were becoming less religious as church attendance declined through the 1960s into the ’70s.

In fact, he said, the world was becoming "religiously different": Many people turned to more orthodox faith; others joined breakaway Christian groups, or other faiths, such as Buddhism. Universism is "riding the wave" of that trend, Cowan said.

He agreed with Universists that the world is full of uncertainty.

"The religious institutions that have traditionally provided answers, the answers appear to a lot of people now to be platitudes," Cowan said. "And I think that’s one of the things that has sent people on a religious search outside what we might call traditional boundaries."

Those subscribing to Universism likely get something out of it, he said. But a key for the movement will be where it is in 10 years, Cowan said.

"One of the problems groups like this face is that they’re what we call ‘free-rider groups.’ It’s so easy to be a member, and it’s really easy not to be a member," he said.

Diverse and nonjudgmental
 

The Internet is where Teresa Mock of Waverly said she connected with Universism.

"The thing I like is they appreciate all people," she said. "No matter what your beliefs are, no matter what your religion is, they’re very accepting. . . . I like the fact that they don’t dictate how you should live your life."

Mock, 36, grew up attending a Baptist church. Her mother was Baptist and her father was Mormon, but neither was active in their faith.

She fell away from religion while in college, but later, while living in Columbus, began exploring various faiths. Eventually, Mock became what she calls a "Christian Buddhist," which includes her daily meditation.

Mock has never been to a Universism group meeting but participates in online discussions.

Her children are an example of the diversity she believes in: Her 15-yearold daughter is a Buddhist, and her 11-year-old son attends a Baptist church.

Mock said she doesn’t think of Universism as a religion. "I consider it a way to meet other people who have different beliefs," she said.

Rutland, like Mock, has tested various religious waters. He had a Christian phase but soured on it because he felt many were "half-Christians."

"They were into the practice of it or into the church attendance but they weren’t into transforming themselves," he said. "They weren’t into taking the next step and really, like Jesus said, die to yourself and use him as an example.

"And to me, that was the whole point. And if you failed to do that, then you’re just caught up in dogma."

Rutland, 48, said Universism helped him to be "more open, loving, caring and forgiving of people around me," because it showed him how to have empathy for others.

Traditional religions often emphasize the hereafter, he said, causing many to miss the wonders of life.

Rutland said he sees himself as part of the universe, trying to be of service to others.

"It doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be a smile, it can be just a helping hand somewhere," he said.

"I’m always on the lookout for those kinds of ways to be of use. That’s my way of worshipping, of being spiritual."

LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
REBUTTING "UNIVERSISTS"
"nothing is beyond a doubt"

WHAT THEY DON'T TELL YOU IS:

Surely the first things "universists should doubt is "Universists" and the egoistic ambitions of their self appointed leaders, after reading some Chares Dickens on Social responsibility and "Liberalism".

There are many different forms of perspectives regarding social responsibility, read the article that began "To Universists, nothing is beyond a doubt Friday, January 06, 2006 Dennis M . Mahoney THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH" that raised an alarm and we are allerted by the vague implied irresponsible generalities of our times. Those today irresponsible in administrations of positions of power surpass the irresponsibility of their counterparts in past times, in that those ills continue except now we export them as matters of convienence to other countries where we DUMP what we wouldn't dare dumping here in this country.
 
The interests of this country have been betrayed by an array of vile interests under different labels what the above article reminded me of was the libertarian strain of social irresponsibility generally, that specifically they feign representing rational thought when actually far from it they do not, but instead represent their own selfish personal interests.
 
I suggest that Charles Dickens is an excellent reference to consider "Universism" as it sells all things to all people, propmising everything to every one demogogicly selling what some wish to believe that supposedly saying:
"espousing that everyone must determine his or her own moral way — frees people from the control of the world’s traditional religions, he said"
I feel the writer should of pointed this out but which I am forced to indicate as the piece was written as if it was a fluff piece comparing the Roman Catholic Church to a sect of "libertarians" rather than a serious exposition of the ideas involved:
 
Because in the folly of those times created all the errors that followed from the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 1840s to the present. I would not dare to suggest that people should be required as others do on most matters of personal concern where else where they may be required, but I take issue with what Ford Vox allegedly said (How could I tell as the writer didn't quote but wrote as if it was a fact [the quotation marks are mine]):
 
"Our central tenet is that truth is mutable and changes and depends on our own perception."; and.
so he states that the truth today is not true tommarrow and by his own definition betrays it by stating he and those who would agree with him in moments of convenience will change what they say is true and false.
As the article stated that "In recent years, religious leaders — most notably Pope Benedict XVI — have blamed many of the world’s ills on moral relativism, which dismisses the notion of objective moral standards by which all must live.", and "moral relativism is not a dirty phrase to Universists" as an active Deist and "liberal", though I am not inclined to agree with Pope Benedict XVI I must for what he allegedly said was true.

But actually in a meeting of sorts in that the Roman Catholic Church (and most of mainstream religion) has not abandoned its belief in the supernatural I would say that they have been attacked by individuals and groups attempting to develop niche markets in the realm of religion, when those opponents claim distinctions that are in reality not there but merely issues of personality.

Vox stated "I think it’s funny in America today, liberals are afraid to be called liberals," he said. "Apparently people who are moral relativists are afraid to be called moral relativists."

We’re not so how dare you say that as if it were true?

As one who doesn't mind being called "a liberal" except liberals aren't "liberal" enough, nor a "moral relativists" though I do not think "moral relativists" are not morally relatvist enough I think that those who presuppose that they are "Universists" and distinct so as to be better than others is arrogant, pompous, agressive and ignorant.

The story written claimed "its official online membership is about 9,000, with fewer than 200 in Ohio" which I challenge as bogus as perhaps including every hit their site gets and then some, as I see them as representing just another scam foisted on the public as what the Ford Vox suggests is a physical impossiblity, and another that untimately must be considered a cover for social irresponsibility. I also challenge the Ford Vox to debate as not only do I see his representatuion as bogus but him as bogus as I also find his "Universist" concept bogus, further more when Atheists, and Humanists are pitted against one another for the sake of rating what is missing are the views of Deists easily can oppose both as often they seem to be playing to the audience not based on facts but ratings.

It is a shame i the present state of journalism public relations suffices for journalism as it did in that article that glossed over the inconsistencies of Mr. Ford Vox and "Universists".

Temple of Reason (Deists)
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Altoona, Pa 16603

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