Atheism and Unitarian Universalism: An Interlude

Apropos of my recent posts on whether Unitarian Universalism is welcoming to atheists, I just got the winter 2011 issue of UU World magazine. And guess who wrote the blurb in this book ad I saw on the front page (click the image on the left to enlarge and read the whole thing).

It says:

“Secularists, individuals, please take note! Encounters and dialogue between religiously motivated radicals and more secular activists remain important. America, ‘the nation with the soul of a church,’ cannot be changed by those who ignore or scorn religion. This book proves that in vitalizing stories.”

—John Buehrens, former President of the UUA and co-author of A House for Hope

This mean-spirited slur, similar to other caustic language we’ve heard from Buehrens, implies that atheists can never make meaningful contributions to any social reform effort. This is obviously false and historically ignorant: as I’ve mentioned before, American freethinkers have played a major part in the abolitionist movement, the battle for civil rights, the feminist movement – Margaret Sanger’s motto, after all, was “No Gods, No Masters” – and many more.

And then there’s the ongoing fight for marriage equality and other rights for gay people, a struggle where atheists are in the vanguard. As something who’s played an active role in that fight himself, Buehrens should be well aware of this; but evidently, his vision is so thickly clouded with religious privilege that he can easily ignore our contributions, if he’s not outright trying to erase us from the picture.

It’s worth noting that UU World ran an ad from the Freedom from Religion Foundation in 2009, and the ensuing storm of controversy compelled the editors to issue an apology. I intend to write and complain, and I encourage all of you to do so as well; but somehow, I doubt a similar apology will be forthcoming in this case. It’s still an open question just how high anti-atheist prejudice goes within the UUA, but this ad supplies another piece of evidence to add to the picture.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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