Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Two More Thoughts about Universism

What disappoints me most about Universism is the near-total absence of modesty on the part of its founders.

As I understand it, skepticism is really just a kind of modesty, a willingness always to question our own most cherished assumptions and (to use Sextus' words), to continue the inquiry. Serious and enduring doubts about all claims regarding transcendence or the divine seem to come with the territory.

The meaning and importance of faith in human life is something always in question, though, not to be settled easily. When we discuss such matters with others, skeptics should ask tough questions, but we should also bring with us a degree of respect for those who do have faith in some version or other of transcendent reality. We don't have to agree with them, and we should expect a measure of respect in return, but such is the human condition that we should allow others the benefit of the doubt: maybe, just maybe, they're on to something. Maybe, just maybe, they have a right as well as a will to believe.

What I see in Ford Vox and the other Universists is an arrogance that is incompatible with skepticism: "We are right, and they are deluded, and that's all there is to it."

What disturbs me most about Universism is that an arrogant ideological agenda is coupled with middle-of-the-road niceties that would appeal to a lot of people in my situation: skeptics or atheists who have no other opportunities for the kind of involved community life that comes along with organized religion. Vox and the others also talk a good talk about standing in awe before the profound mystery of the universe.

Unless they look carefully, new converts to Universism will never notice that they are buying into and supporting a movement founded in contempt and intolerance, which stereotypes and scapegoats anyone who professes any sort of faith.

Well, I think that’s enough about Universism for now. Time to get on to the main business of this blog. The first order of business, of course, is to figure out what this blog is about . . .

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