...Who doesn’t want that open secret to come into focus; that sense of tender, compassionate self-awareness and rock-bottom peace; that return to a wholeness that cannot be achieved, but is there all along, no matter what? This is not the opposite of the hope for growth that the heroes of honor call us to. Indeed, the foundation of all ethics is to be loyal to the truth we know, to the justice and mercy we cannot help but love. How do you become that person, the one who rises intuitively to the demands of the good, who lives in the heaven of the present, who is fed by the beauty of creation? Not, it seems to me, by abandoning skepticism; not by taking someone else’s word for what life means and how we are supposed to live. The skeptic’s path is its own journey, and it can be just as rich in reverence as any more conventional religious structure.
The task of our liberal religious communities is to share the adventure and help each other remember the open secret of our unconditional worth and dignity, even when we doubt it most; and to grow together toward the ideals that arise out of our reverence for the good. Just as we grow and mature physically, and keep ourselves healthy with regular exercise; just as we grow and mature mentally, and develop our minds through learning; just as we grow and mature emotionally, and deepen our relationships by sharing ourselves with others; just as we grow and mature ethically, and build moral character from the values to which we are loyal; so I am persuaded that we also grow and mature spiritually. Religious community exists to help us deepen and celebrate and be nourished by our authentic experiences of reverence.
We gather not because we think we can force those experiences to happen on demand at 11:00 on a Sunday morning—sometimes they do, although you can’t count on it—but rather because we want to remember and affirm them; we want to testify that we are the kind of beings who have such experiences, and that they change us for the better, and give shape to the larger meaning of our lives. It’s one thing to have the night sky take your breath away and leave you feeling both exhilarated and humbled; it’s even better when someone else says, “I know what you mean; I’ve had that feeling, too.” It’s one thing to contemplate with poignant gratitude the sacrifices that were made for the sake of your freedom; it’s something different when a whole community remembers and gives thanks together.
We come together because we are creatures who are fundamentally, physiologically incomplete. As much as our individuality defines us, we also need other people to make our limbic circuits function the way evolution has built us. To the core of our chemistry and our neural networks, we are a social species. Our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being depends on our connections—both to the world of nature, and to our fellow humans. If we are not part of a con-spiracy, a breathing together, to live and thrive in community on this planet, some essential part of us shrivels up and slowly dies. Spirituality for skeptics is about keeping alive that connective tissue that makes us who we are and enables us to imagine what we might yet become. Some of that work we do alone, in moments of inspiration or insight, but more of it happens in the company of other seekers, those who share the skeptical path with us, insisting on the freedom of conscience and the integrity of doubt. We do it by grappling with the deep questions and the big ideas. We do it simply, by sitting next to each other, by speaking forth our joys and sorrows, by sharing soup, by lifting our hearts in praise of this amazing earth and our astonishing lives, by making music with our blended voices. So let us sing.
UU World's first "seeker issue" is designed specifically as an introduction to Unitarian Universalism. The 32-page magazine is an anthology of articles and photographs originally published in UU World and other sources, organized in four sections: Who We Are, What We Believe, How We Gather, and What We Do. Featuring Melissa Harris-Perry, Galen Guengerich, Gail Geisenhainer, Kendyl Gibbons, and more. The seeker issue is suitable for use in path to membership classes and congregational or individual outreach to people interested in learning more about Unitarian Universalism.