The Virtue of Skepticism and Openness to Liberal Religion

Carl Sagan once said “Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

Unitarian Universalism promises each of us a free search for truth and meaning but also warns us to be ready to be held responsible for our beliefs. In our sources, we recognize the need “to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science,” and to guard ourselves “against idolatries of the mind and spirit.” We are encouraged to keep up a healthy skepticism.

Skepticism, in healthy doses, is a virtue to Unitarian Universalists. We understand that society, and specifically religion, has held incorrect information up as truth in the past, and we know there is some chance that we are doing so today. The best guard against that, the way we are able to accept truth if new revelations do come, is to remain skeptical of the things we believe now. We should be ready to learn and to do better.

It isn’t always easy. It is often unsettling. Faith demands that we deal with our discomfort and accept that change is inevitable.  Our faith asks us to hear the truth when it is learned and be part of spreading it.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

We are always learning. Every experience is a lesson, even if most of them are pretty small. Many of them will confirm things we are pretty sure about; I can’t tell you how many times a day I see gravity at work. Every day, though, I learn something. Many days, more of them than I am comfortable admitting, I learn that I have been wrong about something. I try to remain skeptical, because I want to be open to truth when it is presented. I want to be better, to be my best self more often.

Our faith asks us to accept changes to our understanding of the universe. It warns us to be ready for them. You are welcome and loved for who you are today. Still, we will encourage growth and exploration and we hope you will be a better person (because most of us find there are moments when we are not our best).

Liberal religion holds that human understanding still has many, many gaps. UU theologian James Luther Adams said, “Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete, and thus nothing is exempt from criticism.” Our siblings in faith, the United Church of Christ, use the slogan “God is still speaking”. Whatever the word “god” means to you, we hope that you will keep listening. Remain skeptical even of those things you hold dear. Questioning them and finding that you are right will feel amazing; by keeping an open mind, finding that you were wrong will hurt a lot less.

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