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:
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.