Universism: A progressive natural philosophy.
|Universism "focuses on faith in reason, inspiration in nature,
and hope in progress."|
Universism was a progressive natural philosophy. As of mid-2007. it has
disbanded and is no longer active. We are retaining this essay because it was
once an honest effort to unite five traditional freethinking approaches to religious questions:
|Atheism – There is no God. Or, the question is irrelevant.|
|Deism – There is a God, and I can determine this through reason.|
|Pantheism – God and the Universe are the same.|
|Agnosticism – People cannot rationally determine whether there is a God or not,
so it is pointless to even try.|
|Transcendentalism – God or transcendent ultimate reality can be understood
intuitively through experiencing nature and art.|
All of these approaches center on your personal view of God. The Universist Alternative places emphasis on the attitude and spirit in which you address religious
questions, and the tools you use to do so, rather than focusing on any
conclusions that you may arrive at.
Universist Ways of Knowing:
|Personal reason – This is ideally an inductive process of assessing your own knowledge
and understanding of the universe. You should seek to continually refine your views
and be willing to change them as you learn more throughout your life. Personal
reason can involve intuition based on a projection of your certain
understandings about physical reality.|
|Personal experience – Personal experiences are a valid source of knowledge for
the individual, though they may not serve as certain sources of knowledge for
others who have had different experiences in life. Personal experience can also involve
intuition based on a projection of your personal physical experiences.|
Universists apply personal reason and experience to the fundamental questions of
human existence. These questions include:
|Who am I?|
|Why am I here?|
|What does it mean to be human?|
|Does God exist?|
|If it does, what are its intentions for the Universe and for me?|
|What is right for me? What is wrong for me?|
Universism does not answer these questions. Universism elevates these questions
and proclaims that the search itself is paramount to our existence. Therefore Universists reject
faith, revelation, and dogma as valid ways of knowing.
A person's perception of reason is relative. Each mind is a unique combination
of the myriad forces of biological evolution, the physical laws of nature,
their unique personal experiences and the environment. Thus, there cannot be any uniform belief
about the ultimate nature of existence. There is no set creed, no dogma, and
there are no religious authorities who dictate beliefs or behavior in Universism.
Individual Universists explore these questions within their mind, and also through
discussion, dialogue, and debate with others.
Universists are inspired by our evolution as conscious beings in a universe of
matter and energy. There is nothing holding us back from either eventually working our way
towards utopia, or destroying everything. Universists believe that we have
both ultimate power and ultimate uncertainty.
Uncertainty is the core of the human experience, and to remove it, as
almost all other faith groups do, is to do humanity a grave detriment.
demand unreasonable submission to unknown unseen forces.|
all faiths, by offering up unquestionable "truths," remove the drive from
millions to constantly consider the enormous questions implied by our very
existence. We need to consider these questions. They provide us with motivations and perspectives that
will lead us to the ideas and technologies necessary to continue evolving. |
|Further, a faith-based worldview divides the world between those who know the
others who do not. This often leads to division, conflict, and hate among
persons with different faiths. |
In a Universist
worldview, no one can claim knowledge to certain truth. This means that each person's
efforts at the search are respected.
The Universist Alternative can be summarized in one statement:
"Universists apply personal reason and experience to the fundamental questions of
human existence, derive inspiration from the natural uncertainty of the human
state, and deny the validity of revelation, faith and dogma."
They include the following
|The most important thing is the search for meaning and purpose, as in
relationships and love, understanding and knowledge, experiences and emotions,
|There is no absolute truth that applies to all people.
Ultimate knowledge of
the nature of existence cannot be communicated; it can only be reasoned or
experienced personally. The natural state of most individuals is uncertainty.
This generates curiosity, open-mindedness and appreciation for the experiences and
thoughts of other beings.|
|Morality is relative to individual circumstances and relationships. Any
action's ultimate rightness or wrongness can only be determined by those
involved in the action. Good and evil are ideas that can be useful, but are
inaccurate if used to describe the nature of the universe.|
|Social structures such as governments and institutions are useful insofar as
they help individuals to flourish - that is, become and remain healthy, happy
and able to work toward their goals that do not interfere with the rights of
other individuals to work toward their own goals.|
|All life is free to develop in the universe, limited in potential only by the physical
laws of nature.|
Universism addresses religious truth, not objective, physical truth.
include the ultimate nature of existence, the meaning of life, and the nature of
the metaphysical. |
|There also exists an objective reality; science is the tool to
decipher it. That reality also applies to the nature of the human animal. As
Edward O. Wilson wrote in Consilience, "The human condition is the most
important frontier of the natural sciences." Whereas faith-based religions make
claims on physical reality, Universism hands this area off to science.|
Universism is the religious convergence of the two world-shaping and
contradictory intellectual movements since the Enlightenment: Modernism and
Postmodernism. Science works in the physical universe, and is respected and
celebrated. But in terms of the metaphysical, science does not apply. Instead,
personal reason, intuition, experiences and perceived environment come into play.
These are valid sources for developing one's personal religious views. They are much more valid than
claims to authority from revealed sources. Modernism has come and gone, and in
the academic community postmodernism has come and gone as well. We have learned
from both movements. Universism attempts to take what is best from both and
apply it to religion:
|There is the modernist passion for the search, the eternal
|Yet there is the postmodernist recognition of uncertainty and a desire to
appreciate that as part of the human experience, as a motivation, and as a force
for good in promoting respect among all fellow seekers.|
Edited from the now inactive Universist web site. Used by permission.
First posted: 2003-OCT-10
Latest update: 2007-JUL-29
Author: Ford Vox.