Saturday, May 03, 2008

Room for different beliefs?

I found this banner outside a Unitarian Universalist church I pass on my way to work.

The sign is a logical contradiction. I'm tempted to stop by and ask them if they have room for beliefs that don't have room for different beliefs!

"We are a welcoming faith, " says Rev. Jim Eller, a UU Pastor. "We do not have one set of beliefs....We welcome agnostics, atheists, humanists, pagans, Buddhists, Christians and theists. All are welcome."

Oh? Would they welcome Nazis? Would they welcome racists? Child abusers? Biblical Fundamentalists? No, especially not Biblical Fundamentalists.

Sadly, this sign is typical of today's thinking. Or, should I say non-thinking?


  1. I think the banner would only be a logical contradiction if it said "Room for all beliefs." As it is in your photograph it can be interpreted to mean room for various beliefs. Or it could be interpreted as meaning that what you believe doesn't matter, again not a logical contradiction, but indeed controversial.

    I've seen signs out in front of other churches that say, "Visitors Welcome." Pastor Jim Eller said, "All are welcome." Saying that all beliefs are true would have been a logical contradiction, but he didn't say that in your quote.

  2. The word "Yours" makes it a contradiction. If they had stopped after "Room for different beliefs," they would have been OK. Well, logically OK.

    But they clearly do not have room for my beliefs, nor do they have room for any belief that does not have room for different beliefs.

    When Pastor Eller said, "We welcome agnostics, atheists, humanists, pagans, Buddhists, Christians and theists. All are welcome," he didn't leave much out. And, according to the sermon, they have room not just for those people, but for those beliefs.

    If the sign said, "All beliefs are true," that would be more a more obvious contradiction, but it wouldn't sound right. This sign has that feel-good quality about it. Also, I suspect they have some issues with the concept of "true."

    Now, if you interpret the sign to mean that what you believe doesn't matter, well, that would be another contradiction, because that's a belief! And there are other beliefs that believe that what you believe does matter.

  3. But really, what's the point of such a place?

    You might as well go to St Arbucks.

  4. When I said that beliefs don't matter, I meant that they don't affect where you will spend eternity.

  5. Evidently they do believe that beliefs don't affect where you will spend eternity. But, according to the sign, they have room for beliefs that believe that beliefs do affect where you will spend eternity! Another contradiction.

    You're right, Becky. At least at St. Arbucks you can get a nice cup of coffee. Believe it or not ;-)

  6. To eliminate the contradiction it could say, "We have room for most beliefs. And probably Yours, too."

  7. I just realized that the contradiction is reader dependent. If a Hindu reads the banner there is no contradiction. If a Nazi reads the banner there is a contradiction, unless the Unitarians secretly approve of Nazism (sp?).

  8. They probably do welcome child abusers and racists. I'm sure you can find those types in pretty much any religious congregation.

    I'm not exactly seeing the logical contradiction. I read the sign to mean that you can believe whatever you want and still be part of their church. If you believe that you don't believe other people should have different beliefs, they would still let you in to their church. Nothing in the signs says that any individual's beliefs will affect anyone else's beliefs.

  9. Dedwarmo,
    If the sign were intended only for Hindus, for example, I agree there would be no contradiction. But the fact that it mentions "different beliefs," and "yours" proves that it is not intended for one particular group. The nature of the sign is that it is intended for everyone who reads it.

    If the sign said something like, "Room for different people," I would agree with you. Or maybe even, "Room for people with different beliefs." But it doesn't say that. It says "Room for different beliefs" The obvious implication is that the beliefs themselves are accepted, or at least tolerated. However, they do not tolerate beliefs that do not tolerate different beliefs. Hence, the contradiction.

  10. That's pretty said... denying the exclusivity of Christ is denying Christianity's most fundamental doctrine.

    Another case of Oprah Winfrey....

  11. You're right, Pevensie15. And many churches try to maintain the name "Christian" while denying the claims of Christ! "I am the way, the truth, and the life" is a pretty exclusive claim! What many forget is that any claim to truth is exclusive by definition.

  12. There isn't a logical contradiction in the sign. There's just a lack of understanding about the basic nature of any monotheistic religion: some people must go to Hell, otherwise how will the winning side know they're right? Christianity, by nature, is intolerant. But it's besides the point: Unitarian Universalism is a denomination that allows different belief systems, and I don't think that Nazism is a religion. In fact, the Nazis were avowed Catholics, blessed by the Pope himself. They needed to be in order to properly demonize Judaism. The intolerance of Christianity is what allowed them to kill Jews like animals.

  13. Jamesia, thanks for stopping by and contributing. As a Christian, I agree with you that Christianity is not "tolerant," if by that you mean it teaches that some beliefs are wrong and others are right. If, on the other hand, tolerance means respecting the beliefs themselves, I am gladly labeled intolerant. There are some beliefs that I don't respect, and apparently you don't either. You and I both would be intolerant of Nazism as a belief system.

    I think that Unitarian Universalism tends toward the latter view, since their sign says, "Room for different beliefs. I think it is reasonable to assume they are talking about the beliefs themselves."

    So, you are correct to say that they allow different belief systems. But they don't allow mine. There's the contradiction.

    Do you tolerate Christianity?

    I'm not a Catholic, but I found an interesting article about the Catholic church and the Holocaust here: