The other day, a Unitarian friend commented: "A religion or a faith (any faith, or any philosophy for that matter) that needs to be defended with aggression or arrogance is not a faith or religion that I recognise as true and it is not a 'strong' faith with a good foundation but a weak one that seeks to cover up its own shakiness."
In the light of recent terrorist activities around the globe, this really rang true with me. Although I would not describe the DAESH / ISIL terrorists as representing anything but their own extremist insecurities - they are certainly not representing Muslims. Practically every post I have seen on Facebook since the bombings in Paris and Beirut have sought to express the outrage that ordinary Muslims feel about these attacks, which are being perpetrated against everything they believe in.
But I think these words also have wisdom for my own Unitarian context. While Unitarians on different parts of the belief spectrum are not likely to descend to actual bodily violence against each other, there can be some pretty fierce altercations on Unitarian pages on Facebook.
Which I find very ironic, since, in the words of the founding father of Unitarianism in Transylvania, Francis David: "We need not think alike to love alike." Cliff Reed, Minister Emeritus at Ipswich, puts it this way;
" The Unitarians are a community of people who take their religion, or their spirituality, liberally. That is to say, we hold that all people have the right to believe what their own life-experience tells them is true; what the promptings of their own conscience tells them is right. We say that each person's spiritual or intuitive experience deserves respect; that everyone's deep reflection and reasoning on religious and ethical questions should be taken seriously.
Unitarians form a movement that tries to put these affirmations into practice. Our local religious communities offer a setting where people can worship, explore, and share faith together in an atmosphere of freedom and mutual respect."
A few years ago, I would have said that I agreed with Cliff's statement completely. But I now believe that while people have the right to *believe* what their life experience and conscience tells them to be true, it is *essential* that these ideas pass the Pagan test of "so long as they don't harm anyone else."
In other words, if anyone feels the need to defend their beliefs with aggression or arrogance, as my friend said, then perhaps they need to go back to the Golden Rule, and consider whether what they are writing or saying is likely to upset or offend others. This is not to say that people should not stand up for their beliefs, but that they should do so in a respectful manner.
We are all human beings - surely we can at least try to live together in peace?