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.”