Well, it was sort of fun while it lasted, belonging to the “faithless” religion of Universism. But the Universist Movement is acting too much like a traditional religion for my taste, so I’m jumping ship.
I just deleted the Universist banner on this blog. A symbolic gesture that definitely won’t go down in history along with Luther’s pinning of his Ninety-Five Theses to a cathedral door but, hey, it’s a statement.
It seems that whenever an independent, free-thinking, counterculture movement gets organized, it starts to take on the qualities of whatever it is rebelling against. By all accounts Christianity was cool so long as it just consisted of Jesus and a handful of disciples.
But look at it now. Rigid, dogmatic, judgmental, controlling, hierarchical, divisive. I’d hoped that the Universist Movement would be different, but trolling through the Universist Forum yesterday I read about a pissing match between Universist leaders (Ford Vox, mainly) and a bunch of freethinkers.
I didn’t have time to read all of the posts thoroughly, so copied the URLs of the most relevant pages concerning this controversy for reference today. If you click on this link you’ll see what I found when I went back to those pages just now:
“This menu has been disabled.” I recall that one of the gripes the freethinkers had about Vox and his management style was that he doesn’t like criticism and tries to stifle opposing views. Guess they were right.
The criticisms of the freethinkers are still reflected on The Freethought Fellowship forum in the “Is Universism a Failure?” and “What is ‘universizm’…really?” topics. I don’t claim to understand the ins and outs of this split between the freethinkers and the Universists. What bothers me is that there would be any controversy of this sort at all.
With some reservations I signed up for Universism last July, calling it a kindred unfaith. At the time I wrote that I sympathized with John Horgan’s decision not to join the Universists or any other areligious group. In an essay called “Keeping the Faith in My Doubt” Horgan said:
First of all, I’m just not a joiner, more out of laziness than anything else; I avoid commitments that might jeopardize my sports- or sitcom-watching time. An organization for freethinkers--one of the Universists self-definitions--also strikes me as oxymoronic, like an anarchist government. Isn’t the point of being a free-thinker eschewing categories like Satanist, Scientologist or Universist?Yes, it is. Still, I enjoyed my six months as a Universist. Learned how to set up a Salem Universists MeetUp group (which needs a new organizer now). Met some nice people who I still want to stay in contact with. Had some interesting conversations at our Salem Universists meetings.
But now I feel that there already is too much religious divisiveness in the world. I don’t want to add to it by supporting the Universist Movement’s rather heavy handed attempts to become a non-religious organized religion.
I’ve come to agree with Horgan. Here’s how he ended his essay:
Instead of banding together, maybe we unbelievers should set an example by going in the opposite direction. We should renounce all isms that claim to speak for our most profound personal beliefs. Or rather, since we seem to be headed in this direction anyway, each unbeliever could create his or her personal ism with its own name. Since Universism is taken, I’ll call mine “Horganism.” You can revile it, admire it, or ignore it, but you can’t join it.
OK. I’ll become a fervent believer in “Hinesism.”
Sorry to hear about your disappointment. It’s unfortunate that even a congregation of free thinkers, when grouped together, tends to draw toward commonalities. Then it seems inevitable that the “believers” segregate themselves from the non-believers. I suspect it’s just part of our tribal human nature.
I don’t know much about Universism, but it’s always a let down when you invest yourself into a group then it goes an unexpected direction.
Hinesism sounds like a worthy pursuit. My own branch of Smithism is doing well – I’d invite you to attend, but I can’t risk tainting the sanctity of Smithism with the presence of any Hinesist infidels. Sorry, nothing personal.
Michael (grand poo-bah of Smithism)
Posted by: Michael | March 10, 2006 at 10:25 PM
Michael, I appreciate your commiseration. I'm not losing much, if anything, by renouncing my Universistness though.
Mainly, I'll be losing the "joy" of going through the trouble of reserving room at a Salem coffee house for a meeting, announcing this to the 23 members of the group, and then finding that only one or two people show up.
(Does this sound like any of your campaign rallies?)
No offense taken to your wanting to keep Smithism for yourself. Makes perfect sense. Myself, I find that my divinity is more highly realized when I'm entirely occupied within my own mind.
For example, I'll be happily musing, "I am the master of my realm, the Alpha of all Alphas, not even close to Omega." Then I'll hear my wife yelling, "Are you ever going to get away from that damn computer and install the weatherstripping that's been sitting by the front door for weeks?!"
"Yes, dear. Coming." She is not yet (nor, sadly, ever will be) an obedient devotee of Hinesism. Unless it be her own variety, since we share a last name.
Posted by: Brian | March 11, 2006 at 10:46 AM
In computer games like Myst or Time Traveler, the player needs to move through scenes and solve puzzles. This often entails discovering "hotspots" in the program, and clicking on a graphic representation of a device, a button, a loose rock on a wall. Often, the player becomes frustrated by the puzzle, a will begin clicking all objects in the visual field, in the hopes of finding a clue, or opening a secret door. In my house, we call this "bad art," because it is only background and not a "hotspot."
Sounds like you ran into some bad art. The puzzle is somewhere else.
Posted by: Edward | March 11, 2006 at 02:07 PM
you know brian, i don't read this site much because i'm pretty stupid but, you've been sounding weird.
truth is pathless, you sound like a guy who could get a little something out of krishnamurti thinking.
Posted by: justanidiot | March 12, 2006 at 07:54 AM
"The core of Krishnamurti's teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said: 'Truth is a pathless land'. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection. Man has built in himself images as a fence of security - religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man's thinking, his relationships and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind. The content of his consciousness is his entire existence. This content is common to all humanity. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all mankind. So he is not an individual."
some link i found...
Posted by: JAI | March 12, 2006 at 08:00 AM
Couldn't agree with you more, justanidiot, I have been sounding weird lately. What's even weirder is that when I write something, I consciously try to tone down the weirdness that I'm aware of inside myself. So the situation with me is even weirder than it appears. Weird.
I've read some of Krishnamurti. I've read some of almost everybody. I like what he says, but his style and tone didn't resonate much with me. I got the feeling that this is a guy who can talk a good metaphysical game but hasn't really been able to play it.
Of course, I could be wrong. I have no idea what Krishnamurti was like, deep down. I just know that when I read some writings I feel a tingle of "Oh yeah, that's it!" and when I read other writings I don't. Krishmaturti's book was in the last category.
Posted by: Brian | March 12, 2006 at 10:53 AM
No offense but from what I understand you've quit your religion more because there was a controversy, and less because one side or the other was necessarily right. Were you expecting that no one would ever oppose it?
Posted by: Ends | March 12, 2006 at 03:16 PM
Ends, you've got it backward. I don't mind controversy. But I do mind a religion (or anyone else) trying to stifle controversy by shutting off debate and acting imperiously. And that seems to be what the Universist Movement did.
For a "religion" that prides itself on supposedly being non-dogmatic and open, this was just too much hypocrisy for me. I expect some hypocrisy from any person or group, because none of us can be consistent all of the time.
However, given that a core value of Universism is free discussion, the Movement and Ford Vox should have welcomed criticism. Deleting the critical comments was an indication that the Universist Movement has become as orthodox as the traditional religions it protests.
Posted by: Brian | March 12, 2006 at 07:13 PM
I've always been leery of Universism for pretty much the same reason. It's not that they stifle controversy, but that they dogmatically assert how things CAN'T be done. Ends up being precisely the same thing as saying restrictively how it CAN ONLY be done...
Posted by: Tim Boucher | March 13, 2006 at 04:04 PM
Unfortunately you simply joined the wrong religion. So the next time you get the urge to join something, why not try my own favorite: Its called "ITYS" (I Told You So). However, we currently only have space for two members: I and You. And since I have already joined, the "I" membership is already taken. But the "You" membership is still available. The benefit is that as soon as you join, you will be eligible to start another branch of your own as an "I". This is a very well established religion with a long and illustrious history. We also include a life-time guanantee that "WE told you so".
Posted by: tao | March 13, 2006 at 06:16 PM
I just happened by this blog, (It's pretty good!) and the situation you're describing in Universism sounds a lot like a term I remember from college history class: "the Thermidor Reaction."
For anyone who doesn't know about it, the Thermidor Reaction is what often (usually) happens when a despotic regime is overthrown and is replaced by a "kinder, gentler" regime: the "kinder, gentler" regime soon takes on the same (or similar) despotic characteristics as the original (and despised) regime it overthrew!
Maybe the Thermidor Reaction was at work in Ford Vox and his movement when they tried to overthrow the oppresive regime of "faith-based" religion. "We found the enemy, and it is 'us.'"
"Us" or "ego" anyway…
Just a thought.
Posted by: Brett | March 26, 2006 at 04:24 PM
Well, it looks like you jumped the Universism ship, none too soon. You see, it just sank.
Universism is dead. It was killed by its founder after setting up a new president. The site is down and the word given is that private individuals will get together and strangers are not allowed (my comment).
Some have suggested that organizations have spats and get over them. But you see . . . .. Universism was becoming publically known. CNN, LA Times, Anderson360, and more reviewed and interviewed head people. Now its all gone. NEVERMIND! : -) Its posters of the forum have gone elsewhere.
So, even if it is stared up again, it would be just a shell of its former self, ready to be deflated on a moments notice just like before. Now you may not like the catholic church, you may even hate it, but would you think it would just go away cause the Pope got pissed off one day???? : -)
So, a moments silence, please. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..
It was a good thought, an interesting idea, but its gone. Too bad. :-(
Posted by: Elder Norm | March 27, 2006 at 03:03 PM
FWIW, a lot of the other jumped-ship-Universists have congregated at the Freethought Fellowship:
Posted by: Creosote | April 04, 2006 at 08:20 PM
I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one. I left Universism about a year ago for the same reasons - it had become less "freethought" than an ever constricted idea of what "freethought" is. Kind of sad, but I guess it was ineveitable.
Posted by: DK713 | April 11, 2006 at 07:55 PM