3 Life, Death, Salvation, Sin

A Universalist minister of an obstreperous congregation became annoyed at the infighting during a meeting of the board. Interrupting them, he asked the board members what Universalism meant to them. On this one thing, they agreed, "Universalism means universal salvation; all of us are going to heaven when we die."

The minister said, "You know, if I were God, I'd put you guys in mansions right next to each other and make you live together for a million years or so until you learned to get along with each other."

How do you regard death and how does this affect the way you live?

Rev. F. Forrester Church has defined religion as "Our human response to the dual reality of being alive, and having to die." Most UUs regard death as the final and total end of our existence. Rather than seeing this in a morbid or despairing sense, we view the finality of death as a compelling reason to live life as fully as possible.

Although we regard death as the end of our conscious life, we hope that we will live on in the minds and hearts of those persons whose lives we enriched during our earthly life.

How do you regard sin?

We do not believe that a person is born and enslaved in the manner that the doctrine of Original Sin teaches.

We believe that people are punished by their sins, not for them, and that the evil people do lives with them. We also believe that we are enriched by our virtues and that the good we do lives with us and helps make the world better.

You could attend a UU church for years and seldom hear the word sin.

How do you explain evil?

We have no quick doctrine-based answers to explain evil, pain and suffering, and the fact that life can be hellish at times. For all our optimism, most of us acknowledge there is a broken, fragmented or fallen side to humanity, and in each of our lives. While we admit the existence of this negative side of life, we try not to give in to it.

You will find many UUs involved in efforts to make this a more just, peaceful, sane and livable world at local, national and global levels. We strive to act and think in ways that will allow all humans to reach their potential.

And even if we cannot explain why people suffer, we can try to help them when they do.

Can UUs go to heaven or hell?

Since there is no way to know for sure if we go any place when we die, very few, if any of us believe in the physical existence of a place called heaven or hell.

What about salvation? Can a UU be saved?

Salvation is not a word we use frequently.

We do not believe people are born into a state of sin from which they must be saved in order to avoid spending an eternity suffering in hell.

Since we believe in neither original sin nor hell, we do not feel a need to be saved from either.

Do you believe in a Redeemer?

No. We believe we should be judged by how well we live our lives and serve others, not in what a redeemer will do for us. We respect religious and spiritual leaders such as Jesus, Moses and Buddha for what they can teach us about living, not as redeemers in the traditional sense.

If you do not fear God, hell, or eternal damnation, what is your incentive to act morally and responsibly?

We feel that people who live moral and ethical lives usually do so because they have a sense of responsibility to themselves and to others. Our incentive is that we want to live in a more sane, peaceful, and just world than the one we have at present, and we wish to pass on a better world to succeeding generations.

To hold that moral and ethical living only occurs because people fear hell or damnation is to demean those who seek to lead morally and ethically responsible lives.

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