Harry Holleywood is an astute observer of life from a spiritual, psychological, and sociological perspective. He specializes in ethical concerns and offers encouragement to the confused, perplexed, curious, and seeking. Today there is a new category being inaugurated on this blog tagged "Ask Harry". If you have questions or topics for Harry leave a comment.
Question: Harry, why is Unitarian Universalism such a small denomination and why does it seem to be dying?
Answer: Have you noticed that human beings seem to more highly value things that are in short supply? You recall the economic principle of supply and demand? When things are in demand but the supply is small the value rises, right? When things are in high supply and demand falls, the value decreases. It seems that Unitarian Universalism is too easy a religion. It requires very little from its adherents and so it is perceived as having very little value. In other words Unitarian Universalism is a cheap religion which anybody can join and it asks very little, almost nothing, from you. Therefore, it holds very little attraction and offers very little benefit for members.
Other religions promise God's love, economic benefits in this life, heaven in the next life, liberation from guilt and shame, and quick and easy instructions for a better life. How does Unitarian Universalism compete with that?
Some UUs say that the answer to the dwindling numbers is what they call "Radical Hospitality" but this is illusory because what are we inviting people to join into? Hospitality to what? Nobody seems to know or if they know they can't articulate it very well.
So if people ask, and its an appropriate question, "What is Unitarian Universalism?", nobody can say. It's anything from Atheism to Christianity, from Earth religions to consumerism. People who want to know walk away confused.
Unitarian Universalism is dying because it doesn't really stand for anything. As the bumper sticker says, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." We are living in a difficult and confusing time in human history. Things are changing very rapidly. Many people are scared and they don't even know what to be scared of. The insecure and those who feel inferior are looking for answers, they are looking for orderly principles to use to organize their lives in times of great social transition. Religion provides the answers to life's big questions. UU seems to have little to offer and so it is dying. Other religions have their iconic gurus whether it's Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, or Mammon. Unitarian Universalism is sorely lacking. People are thrown back on their own devices and in their terror they want reassurance from some authority figure who promises to take care of them and solve their problems.
So, my friend, UUs are orphans in the world, wandering aimlessly looking for answers and waiting for the next thing to happen. With so little to offer, there are very few buyers. Why are you surprised at this?