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Universism: A progressive natural philosophy.

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bullet Universism "focuses on faith in reason, inspiration in nature, and hope in progress."

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Universism was a progressive natural philosophy. As of mid-2007. it has disbanded and is no longer active. We are retaining this essay because it was once an honest effort to unite five traditional freethinking approaches to religious questions:

bullet Atheism – There is no God. Or, the question is irrelevant.
bullet Deism – There is a God, and I can determine this through reason.
bullet Pantheism – God and the Universe are the same.
bullet Agnosticism – People cannot rationally determine whether there is a God or not, so it is pointless to even try.
bullet Transcendentalism – God or transcendent ultimate reality can be understood intuitively through experiencing nature and art.

All of these approaches center on your personal view of God. The Universist Alternative places emphasis on the attitude and spirit in which you address religious questions, and the tools you use to do so, rather than focusing on any conclusions that you may arrive at.

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Universist Ways of Knowing:

bullet Personal reason – This is ideally an inductive process of assessing your own knowledge and understanding of the universe. You should seek to continually refine your views and be willing to change them as you learn more throughout your life. Personal reason can involve intuition based on a projection of your certain understandings about physical reality.
bullet Personal experience – Personal experiences are a valid source of knowledge for the individual, though they may not serve as certain sources of knowledge for others who have had different experiences in life. Personal experience can also involve intuition based on a projection of your personal physical experiences.

Universists apply personal reason and experience to the fundamental questions of human existence. These questions include:

bullet Who am I?
bullet Why am I here?
bullet What does it mean to be human?
bullet Does God exist?
bullet If it does, what are its intentions for the Universe and for me?
bullet What is right for me? What is wrong for me?

Universism does not answer these questions. Universism elevates these questions and proclaims that the search itself is paramount to our existence. Therefore Universists reject faith, revelation, and dogma as valid ways of knowing.

A person's perception of reason is relative. Each mind is a unique combination of the myriad forces of biological evolution, the physical laws of nature, their unique personal experiences and the environment. Thus, there cannot be any uniform belief about the ultimate nature of existence. There is no set creed, no dogma, and there are no religious authorities who dictate beliefs or behavior in Universism. Individual Universists explore these questions within their mind, and also through discussion, dialogue, and debate with others.

Universists are inspired by our evolution as conscious beings in a universe of matter and energy. There is nothing holding us back from either eventually working our way towards utopia, or destroying everything. Universists believe that we have both ultimate power and ultimate uncertainty.

Uncertainty is the core of the human experience, and to remove it, as almost all other faith groups do, is to do humanity a grave detriment.

bullet Some faiths demand unreasonable submission to unknown unseen forces.
bullet Most importantly all faiths, by offering up unquestionable "truths," remove the drive from millions to constantly consider the enormous questions implied by our very existence. We need to consider these questions. They provide us with motivations and perspectives that will lead us to the ideas and technologies necessary to continue evolving.
bullet Further, a faith-based worldview divides the world between those who know the "truth" and others who do not. This often leads to division, conflict, and hate among persons with different faiths.

In a Universist worldview, no one can claim knowledge to certain truth. This means that each person's efforts at the search are respected.

The Universist Alternative can be summarized in one statement:

"Universists apply personal reason and experience to the fundamental questions of human existence, derive inspiration from the natural uncertainty of the human state, and deny the validity of revelation, faith and dogma."

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Universist principles:

They include the following

bullet The most important thing is the search for meaning and purpose, as in relationships and love, understanding and knowledge, experiences and emotions, etc.
bullet There is no absolute truth that applies to all people. Ultimate knowledge of the nature of existence cannot be communicated; it can only be reasoned or experienced personally. The natural state of most individuals is uncertainty. This generates curiosity, open-mindedness and appreciation for the experiences and thoughts of other beings.
bullet Morality is relative to individual circumstances and relationships. Any action's ultimate rightness or wrongness can only be determined by those involved in the action. Good and evil are ideas that can be useful, but are inaccurate if used to describe the nature of the universe.
bullet Social structures such as governments and institutions are useful insofar as they help individuals to flourish - that is, become and remain healthy, happy and able to work toward their goals that do not interfere with the rights of other individuals to work toward their own goals.
bullet All life is free to develop in the universe, limited in potential only by the physical laws of nature.

Universism addresses religious truth, not objective, physical truth.

bullet Religious truths include the ultimate nature of existence, the meaning of life, and the nature of the metaphysical.
bullet There also exists an objective reality; science is the tool to decipher it. That reality also applies to the nature of the human animal. As Edward O. Wilson wrote in Consilience, "The human condition is the most important frontier of the natural sciences." Whereas faith-based religions make claims on physical reality, Universism hands this area off to science.

Universism is the religious convergence of the two world-shaping and contradictory intellectual movements since the Enlightenment: Modernism and Postmodernism. Science works in the physical universe, and is respected and celebrated. But in terms of the metaphysical, science does not apply. Instead, personal reason, intuition, experiences and perceived environment come into play. These are valid sources for developing one's personal religious views. They are much more valid than claims to authority from revealed sources. Modernism has come and gone, and in the academic community postmodernism has come and gone as well. We have learned from both movements. Universism attempts to take what is best from both and apply it to religion:

bullet There is the modernist passion for the search, the eternal optimism.
bullet Yet there is the postmodernist recognition of uncertainty and a desire to appreciate that as part of the human experience, as a motivation, and as a force for good in promoting respect among all fellow seekers.

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Edited from the now inactive Universist web site. Used by permission.
First posted: 2003-OCT-10
Latest update: 2007-JUL-29
Author: Ford Vox.

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