Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ethical Society, Unitarianism, Trinitarianism

Irene and I have applied to join the Ethical Society, which is sort of an engineers' religion.

"Deed before creed" is the motto; what we believe is less important to us than our actions and their consequences in the world.
...each of those religions, these value systems, have two principles they share in common: tzedakah and tikkun olam, and the two principles started with monotheism and the Jews. Tzedakah means generally that we must treat each other as brother and sister. We should show one another respect and dignity because we are like things; we are human beings in a world that has nothing else like us, and we ought to treat each other with love, charity, use your own words. And the second principle is, "Well, what do you do with this relationship?" Well, we don't know exactly how we got here and why we are here, etc. etc.; that's for minds larger than our own. But we do know that we are like kinds, and we should work together to make this as good an experience as possible: tikkun olam -"let us repair the universe." Now, Islam believes that, and Buddhism that has no god believes it. Every Ethical Humanist I ever met believes it. Those two principles: We're supposed to love one another and we're supposed to work together to make the experience better. That's all the religion you need, really, to make a success of this planet...

-Mario Cuomo
That said, today's meeting was all about comparing the ethical society to other comparable groups. It's sort of droll to consider myself an apostate Unitarian. Garrison Keillor has many jokes about Unitarians but I only remember this one. Forgive me if you;ve heard it before.

"Did you hear about the Jehovah's Witness who converted to Unitarianism? He went around the neighborhood ringing doorbells for no particular reason." I myself have written a Unitarian hymn. It's called "To Whom It May Concern". What I like about the ethicists is that they don't feel compelled to pretend to be protestants during their meetings. The superficial resemblance to a protestant service does nothing at all for me.

The discussion of the history of Unitarianism showed that it arose as an alternative to Trinitarianism. We also discussed atheism and agnosticism and the fine distinctions between them. Most of us feel that agreeing on what you disbelieve is almost as bad as agreeing on what you pretend to believe as an organizing model for a community.

When it comes to Trinitarianism, though, agnostic doesn't begin to capture my philosophical response. I simply don't get it. I have never had the slightes clue who the Holy Ghost was supposed to be. Everyone I've asked has failed to come up with a coherent answer. I am certainly Unitarian as opposed to atheistic or agnostic, myself. I can't begin to express an opinion on the Trinity though. It simply baffles me who the third guy is. I am not so much atheistic or agnostic when it comes to the trinity as baffled. Call me an acomprehensive.

I've been hearing this stuff all my life and I just don't get it. Somehow polytheism is heresy unless the number of gods is three? Three shall be the number of gods, not two nor four? Five is right out? I'm still waiting for something to wrap my head around. I sort of understand the savior thing though it doesn't ring true for me but I just don't get it about the ghost.

Anyway I am down with the unity of the universe, and perfectly comfortable with calling it God and taking an attitude of deep gratitude to that God for what seems to me the astonishing miracle of life.

The only reason I'm a Unitarian apostate is because the services are silly.

Good night and God bless.


Anonymous said...

As a (now former) Southern Baptist, I always understood the trinity to be 3 entities (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) each comprised of the same essence (whatever makes up "God") but with three different functions.

I found it easiest to think of God in terms of cookie dough: You get one batch of cookie dough, separate it into three parts, and do something different with each part. You might bake one batch (cooked), put one batch in ice cream (frozen), and pop one batch right into your mouth (raw). Essentially, it's all still cookie dough, and it's all serving the same purpose - getting into my belly - but going about it in different ways. Or something like that. ;)


Michael Tobis said...

Yeah, I suppose that's one approach but it doesn't help me at all with my question.

What attributes is the third cookie supposed to have? I can pretty much understand father/creator/judge and son/hero/advocate though it seems a strange way to parse the world to me. What is ghost?

I simply don't know what they are trying to say. Sometimes it seems to me like they need the ghost to make it come out to three.

Your cookie recipe is like that too.