Rigid, authoritarian, and emotionally abusive
Religion is not all bad, we’re told. Religion is often good, we’re told. Some atheists do nothing but bash religion, we’re told. Some atheists do nothing but bash “the religious,” we’re told.
Not all religions are literalist, we’re told. Not all religions are fundamentalist or theocratic or doctrinaire, we’re told. Unitarian Universalism, for instance, is liberal and swell, we’re told.
But some former Unitarian Universalists beg to differ.
There is a contrary trend, though, in many local UU congregations and in the national UU Association (“UUA”): extremely strong religious privilege and (largely as a consequence) severe distaste for open atheism and criticism of religion. Very few UUs believe in “God” as that term is broadly understood by theists (and atheists) the word over, but lots of UUs believe in “religion,” “faith,” “prayer,” “church,” and (indeed) “God” as terms and systems that deserve support and defense. Gnu-bashing is overwhelmingly common and accepted among UUs, especially clergy and denominational administrators, as I have documented repeatedly (several selected examples here).
In one of those selected examples we read
our Association is dotted by powerful ministers and administrators who regularly push outrageous and bigoted messages about atheists, agnostics, not-particularly-“spiritual” humanists, and anyone whose skepticism leads her to an outlook that is less pious than these figures would prefer. UU discourse about atheism and skepticism is riven with bigotry, disrespect, and ignorant stereotype–and the broader community’s reponse has been… for the most part utter silence.
This, depressingly, confirms what many of us already know: that atheists are the last (or almost the last) group (non-criminal group) it is not just ok but positively virtuous to malign.
My own minister has declared that I, and everyone who sees the world the way I do,
are often unaware of the sharp limits of their empathy and their abilities to construct and identify with the interior feelings and processes of others. Religiously, these persons are often drawn to the rigidities and seemingly unambiguous teachings of fundamentalism–and there are liberals and radical fundamentalist spirits. As spouses, parents and bosses, such persons are, at the best, insensitive, and at the worst, rigid, authoritarian, and emotionally abusive.
Read that last sentence with attention, and ponder it. That’s what putative liberal religions think of atheists.