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What Makes a Religion?

2016 07 05

Dear Editor, National Post

The article in your paper on Unitarianism expresses a deep ignorance of the true nature of religion. While many religions, especially most versions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, do profess belief in a supreme being, many others do not make this the centre of their beliefs (including some of the oldest religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism.) The root of the word religion is, according to the Oxford dictionary,“obscure.” The Rev. Phillip Hewett suggests, “The most plausible root is the Latin religare, which means to bind together and to me suggests wholeness, not only within the community, but within the individual and in our connection to all that is.“

People who share similar values come together to worship, (reflect on and celebrate what has true value in life), celebrate together life’s great passages and events (births, weddings, memorial service, significant events), and support one another to live an ethical life and build a better community (within the religious group and in society at large.)

The Unitarian passion for justice is inspired by our tradition’s fight for religious tolerance since the period of the Reformation, and by the prophetic tradition within the Hebrew Scriptures. Our community mores are inspired by the Christian tradition of Covenant and by the command of Jesus to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Our vision is the unity of all and that all people and all life are our neighbours. We do not anticipate that God will intervene on earth to bring about the beloved community. That work is ours to do. And please don’t put down the Unitarian charitable work. Congregations across Canada are doing refugee work, supporting shelters for women and the homeless, sponsoring and building low-cost housing, and working for improved conditions for children and families around the world through USC Canada, Childhaven International, the UU United Nations Office, and the International Council for Unitarians and Universalists.

When you do this kind of work you find out how the poor are affected by society's structures both in Canada and around the world. So we work for change, to bring us a little closer to worth and dignity for every person in an interdependent world where suffering in one place affects us all. We only need to look to the Syrian refugee crisis to see the truth of our radical interdependence with all beings.

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