Between Us

In 2001 the eminent scholar of religion Huston Smith titled one of his last books “Why Religion Matters.” From his life-long study of world religions, he offered a clear perspective: that in a world dominated by materialism, consumerism, and divisions among people, being fully human requires what has always been called religion – an understanding of our essential connectedness to all that is. My study of religion has been in no way as thorough as his was, yet the older I become, the more I agree. I define religion in this way – as the human process of understanding the nature of our connectedness, especially to Self, Others, and Life. And it’s my conviction that when the process is intentional we have a chance to achieve its best aims, which are summarized in the phrase “to live in right relations.”

Without being overly simplistic, it seems to me that the most important aspect of the religious life is how it helps us treat all other living things with respect, compassion and kindness, at the very least. It helps us recognize the effects of our lives, our choices, our actions, on everything else, and motivates us to become more other-centered. To become more other-centered is to become less judgmental.

We love to talk about spirituality, about high ideals, about creating right relations, about big ideas of “truth”, yet day by day we are mostly caught up in being judgmental. We refer to others as “they” or “those people” or “people like that,” — all of which begin with judgment and categorizing. Here’s a small exercise to try: look at whatever you consider to be your religious beliefs or spiritual practices and be curious enough to figure out whether or not they have any effect on your habits of being judgmental. I suspect you’ll find there’s room for improvement, like I do most of the time.

There is no more important reason for being part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation than this – to help each other learn to be less judgmental. May we continue to help each other!