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Jesus and Buddha Bully Out Diversity From Unitarian Universalist Association

Last Sunday, I conducted a survey of the bookshelves of one Unitarian Universalist congregation library, and found that, instead of the diversity of “world religions” that Unitarian Universalism pledges to honor, almost all the books referred to Christian religion.

Jim added to the analysis with a search of the bookstore of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the official organization of Unitarian Universalism. He found a bias similar to what I had seen on the bookshelves of that single congregation. Books promoting Christian religious beliefs far outnumbered books representing non-Christian religions. In fact, the Unitarian Universalist Association bookstore does not have any items at all representing most of the world’s religious traditions.

Of course, these analyses focus on books. It could be that there’s a bias in Unitarian Universalist authors or publishers that does not exist within the rest of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

This hypothesis is easy to test. Instead of simply searching the UUA bookstore, we can search the entire UUA web site, and see whether there’s more diversity there. This morning, I’ve gone ahead and conducted this larger survey. I decided to conduct a search for the historical founders or leaders of different traditions, and see how often they were mentioned by the Unitarian Universalist Association.

I searched the Unitarian Universalist Association web site, using Google, for the following names:

Jesus, representing Christians
Mohammed, representing Muslims
Bertrand Russell, representing atheists
Krishna, representing Hindus
Lao Tzu, representing Taoists
Confucious, representing followers of Chinese ethical philosophy
Buddha, representing Buddhists
Bahá’u’lláh, representing Bahais
Guru Nanak, representing Sikhs
Joseph Smith, representing Mormons
Zoroaster, representing Zoroastrians
Starhawk, representing neopagans

The following chart represents these results:

christian dominance of the unitarian universalist association

As you can see, in the Unitarian Universalist Association, Jesus stands high above all other historical religious figures. Guru Nanak, even though he was the founder of a major religious tradition, is mentioned online only four times by anyone at the Unitarian Universalist Association, and three of those mentions were merely multiple copies of a single document.

The Buddha is the only non-Christian religious leader who was mentioned more than a few times. The Buddha seems to be the Unitarian Universalist poster boy of religious diversity. Whenever the Unitarian Universalist Association wants to create the appearance of diversity in its ideas and practices, it brings up the Buddha. Still, the Buddha is relegated to the sidekick of the UU Jesus bully boy, mentioned less than a forth of the amount that Jesus comes up.

Unitarian Universalism is a dwindling religious tradition in the United States. There are probably many reasons for the UU decline, but it’s plausible to suggest that among the more serious Unitarian Universalist problems is that UU organizations promise to expose people to a broad variety of religious traditions, but then fail to live up to that promise.

16 comments to Jesus and Buddha Bully Out Diversity From Unitarian Universalist Association

  • Ralph

    Well, everybody knows that the Buddha is fron the East and Jesus is fron the West. Therefore Buddha is the opposite of Jesus in every way. It follows that if there is something we wish Christianity were but it is not, we can be certain that Buddhism IS that thing. With Buddhism and Christianity, we have both sides of religion, and therefore we have a complete understanding of world religion. Any questions?

    • I have a question: How can it be that the Buddha is from the East, when everyone knows he’s from California?

      • Ralph

        Ah, Grasshopper. The longest day of the year is the beginning of the descent into darkness. When one reaches the extreme of East, one finds oneself at the extreme of West. At the farthest point of North, one reaches South. Well, not really with North and South, but, y’know.

  • UUs are in decline- like most of the traditional denominations that were once “mainstream” but are being replaced by evangelical or fundamentalist megachurches. I’ve attended 3 UU churches and a lot of members described themselves as “recovering Catholics,” atheists, pagans or UU Christians. Occasionally you’ll even discover a political conservative.

  • Joel W

    I think you would see a similar graph in the number of English language books about the respective world religions. Also, Unitarian Universalism is rooted in Christianity and is still the main source of our theology. I teach youth RE at a UU fellowship, I think the main problem with UU is that we teach more about world religions than we do about what Unitarian Universalism is.

    • Joel, if you teach UU youth, then you need to do some more review. Christianity is only one of many sources of Unitarian Universalism. Unitarian Universalism is supposed to be rooted in the entire world of tradition and thought, humanist as well as religious, atheist as well as theist, and not just in the English language either!

      Do you think Unitarian Universalism ought to to reinforce the cultural narrowness of English-speaking culture?

      Clearly, if you’re a teacher of UU youth and have such misconceptions, Unitarian Universalism in action isn’t what it claims to be.

  • And NO Flying Spaghetti Monster!

    His noodly appendages quiver.

  • I’m not sure about your search methodology. Why search for particular figures? This search gives a somewhat different result:

    Christianity: 1,990 (albeit “Christian” gets you more than 5,000 results — but then about 71 of those hits are actually for me, since that’s my name)
    Islam: 681
    Atheism: 660
    Hindu: 578
    Taoism: 122
    Confucianism: 56
    Buddhism: 720
    Bahai: 99
    Sikh: 90
    Mormon: 217
    Zoroastrian: 27
    Pagan: 613

    With my search, Christian-related items are still leading the pack, but not nearly by as much.

    • You fiddled around until you got slightly better results, and then this is the best you could do? These statistics still show an overwhelming dominance by Christianity over other traditions – not the diversity that Unitarian Universalism promises. I’m not impressed.

      • Fair enough — we could swap search results for years, I’m sure. I just question the entire enterprise. It seems to me that 578 hits about Hinduism is probably enough for someone to get something about that religion — at least as a starting point. And being open to wisdom from many sources isn’t the same as having some quota for how much we should reference each world faith. How many hits would be enough? Or are you just saying that we talk about Christianity too much?

        • And as long as we’re playing the counting the hits game, “humanism” gets you 1,120, for whatever that’s worth.

          • This is not a “game” Christian. It’s a serious problem in which the Unitarian Universalist Association is engaged in a deceptive concealment of its overwhelmingly Christian content. it’s an abusive practice.

            You want to talk about humanism? Okay, Christian.

            Jesus gets 5,280 hits
            Robert Ingersoll gets 7
            Bertrand Russell gets 96
            Carl Sagan gets 10

            How can you define this as an equal footing for humanism within Unitarian Universalism? Humanists are shoved off into a tiny little corner by the UUA.

        • Search for “Jesus”, and then search for any other divinity or spiritual leader.

          Jesus: 5,280
          Buddha: 1,110
          Zoroaster: 37
          Confucious: 132
          Mohammed: 201
          Lao Tzu: 114
          Black Elk: 38
          Hiawatha: 5
          Ganesha: 61

          You get the picture, Christian. This isn’t about having a particular threshold of representation, or a specific quota system. It’s about the fact that the different religious traditions aren’t anywhere close to Christianity. From the low levels of other traditions to Christianity, it’s a huge quantum leap.

          It’s a bait and switch. There’s a promise of diversity from Unitarian Universalists, and then whenever there’s anything specific, it’s almost always Christianity.

          As a result, Unitarian Universalism ends up being a deceptive promotion of soft core Christianity. It causes a lot of anger and resentment, and distrust. It’s not honest. It’s not respectful.

          I don’t see how you can justify this kind of abusive behavior.

      • SDH de Lorge

        Dude, relaax! UUA is a limited institution existing in the base realities of historicity, not an ideal construct of a committee of futurists.

        My own comment below was going to satisfice, until I paused to breeze through your dialogues. Bait and switch? Get real! How could a group like that pull off such a conspiracy?

        Have you any acquaintance with UU, or are you just operating on gratuitous theory? Is Irreg Times a hotbed of such absurdity? I had got my hopes up that I might have stumbled on a home for deep reason, but the present crap just looks like one more outfit potentially on my side but unfortunately driven over the loony top. Society is real. It needs deep critique. It endangers us as it forms us. There are no perfect alternatives to evolving reality and its randomizations. UUA has arrived as it is through explicable sociohistorical processes. Of course most of its material derives from its parent culture. That doesn’t make it a deliberate subterfuge to undermine and Westernize other cultures. It just shows that the folks who go there understand imperfectly. Many of them try hard to respect other cultures and optimize relations, not subvert them. If you want to contribute, show them how to do it better; tearing them a new assh0le creates nothing.

        Why go so vicious after a litttle bunch of sort-of nonconformists as they try to light their candle in a dark world? They aren’t baiting anybody; they’re just staggering around trying to hold each other up.

        How can your depth of hostility be justified? Does it represent this organization?

        Dave
        Fresno

        • Dave,

          Your comment consists of you saying that there’s an explanation for the UUA’s overwhelming promotion of Christianity more than other religions… but the only explanation you eventually come up with is that by ignoring “OTHER” cultures, and presenting Christianity instead of them, it’s a sign of respect.

          But there you go, proving my point, Dave. In your very argument to defend the Unitarian Universalist Association, you’ve agreed to the idea that non-Christian religions are from “other” non-UU cultures, whereas Christianity is not “other”. I actually do know a lot about Unitarian Universalism, Dave, such as that it claims to have 7 sources, including all the religious traditions of the world, as well as humanism… but as I’ve shown, it’s just one of the 7 sources, and just half of that source, that gets almost all the promotion by the Unitarian Universalist Association.

          The Unitarian Universalists claim to embrace the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. They claim to support justice and the democratic process. If that’s the case, Dave, then they need to accept questioning criticism.

          Yet, you seem to want me simply not to question the UUA. You seem to want me to leave Unitarian Universalists alone, and not call into attention their serious faults.

          I do know a lot about Unitarian Universalism, Dave, and here’s one thing I know: This call to never criticize the faults of religion, and pretend that they don’t exist, is another serious failing of Unitarian Universalism. UU sermons often criticize skepticism as a negative state of mind. If Unitarian Universalists were serious about a responsible search for truth and meaning, they would embrace skepticism.

          It’s Unitarian Univeralism that ends up being hostile, in a passive aggressive kind of way, to the non-Christian, non-theistic members of its organizations. I know it’s not easy for you to hear this, but it’s a fact.

  • SDH de Lorge

    Maybe that’s why I stopped going to church.

    Really though, it’s not. I taught UU Sunday school for a couple years. A large curriculum has been developed specifically to present world religions to kids. We visited others sometimes, such as a local Hindu Temple. My primary religious activities were among the Earth-based (neo-pagan, Wiccan) interest groups. Passover, Christmas, Easter and suchlike big deals in the cultural lifes of the children focused on historical traditions of community celebration so nobody had to be a grinch to schoolmates or otherwise alienated and alienating, while the singing and candles and trees and recipes and such had more to do with age-old concern with solstices, equinoxes, the human predicament, and like that. That’s real life, not publication stats.

    Wasn’t UUA active in the move to get Wicca represented in the military chaplaincy and in the funeral ceremonies and symbols? Wasn’t UUA active in promoting interfaith representation across world religions in the US military?

    Look, the FBI used to snoop aound UUA congregations looking for Commies. Many UU congregations are small outposts in god bedeviled communities dominated by primitive neo-Christianity. They still use a hymnal in the congregationalist tradition, albeit without the supernatural razzledazzle and with adaptations from the world religions. People coming into it are mostly seeking sanctuary from development in Christian or Jewish families. Frequent use of sayings of Jesus and judicious use of bible-based snippets of wisdom may be reassuring to most concerned, especially hostile neighbors. My pastor was as likely to take from Sufi sources, although his personal leaning was Buddhist. (Last I knew, some 20% of UUs. identified themselves as theologically Christian. It’s a feature of cultural evolution.)

    Hey, I just stumbled on Irreg Times in acquainting myself with Adbuster. I care about my UUA. Your critique is entirely appropriate and deserves followup, but your tirade trashing the .sincere innocents helps nothing. Better to all start going to church and raising the rates of represtation of world traditions.

    Off to Adbusting. Hope I find reason to get engaged in Irreg Times.

    Dave
    Fresno

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