Has Scientific progress helped much in the way of promoting Universalism ?

Feb 2nd, 2013 | By Sid Ghosh, | Category: Featured Articles


Universalism, like any other ideological terminology, is hard to define precisely. And perhaps it makes little sense to define it precisely. But intuitively, it refers to a concept of putting universal and global concerns (like peace, well being, human rights and dignity) before one’s personal concerns. Even at times above local and national concerns.

One would have hoped that as our scientific worldview has progressed, a better understanding of our biology, environment and the vast beyond-ness, of space, would have produced a radical shift in our worldviews with regard to the universal nature of human concerns. As we become ‘aware of our relative insignificance of the vastness of existence.’ But the evidence for that having happened is sparse. We are still steeped in wars, violence, unrest, poverty and massive global inequality. It can be doubted whether anything has really changed from our earlier days when most societies were based on ‘theologically inspired’ models. Ideological differences has led to massive levels of violence in so-called ‘theologically liberated’ climates in the world wars and even beyond – communism vs the free world vs conflicts of interests.

Science without conscience is the soul’s perdition. ~Fran├žois Rabelais, Pantagruel, 1572

Perhaps, whats lies at the heart of Universalism is something which is worldview independent; irrespective of whether we believe in science, God, stay undecided or agnostic, or call ourselves humanists or secular or anything else at all. These are external concepts, which are often imposed upon us, or even adopted on the basis of social circumstances or as our personal understanding progresses. While they shape our thoughts, they dont influence our innate senses of justice, morality, truth, beauty and altruism. ‘Scientific’ opinion on this may be divided, but not everything needs ‘scientific’ validation to be held correct. Instances of pure altruism and sacrifice have been recorded in the animal world, in humans from their infancy; concomitantly with other instances of cruelty, violence and oppression. Whether our interests are linked to our own personal concerns only, that of our immediate social group, nation or even that of our notions of entire ‘humanity’ are often the product of complex interactions between our innate instincts, personal circumstances and moral choices alone. Our external beliefs have nothing to do with them fundamentally; although they are often used for purposes of justification of our actions and choices on an ad-hoc and post-hoc basis.

And in this context, arguments for and against science and religion are fruitless; arising out of a compulsion to support our worldviews, rather than deep, honest soul-searching. In the end, we ourselves are responsible for our moral actions, and defining the sphere of our morality.

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3 Comments to “Has Scientific progress helped much in the way of promoting Universalism ?”

  1. Chendhuran says:

    Which came first, the problem or the soontilu? Luckily it doesn’t matter.

  2. Marvon says:

    Kinsi, I am enjoying your seeirs even when I disagree with you.When it comes to ranking of religions, whatever else we bring into the comparative evaluations, we always need to ask, Better for whom? I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Unitarian Universalism is the best religion for me at this point in my life. But it wouldn’t have been the best religion for me at age 20 when religion had only one meaning for me: evading the hell and attaining the heaven that would be assigned by a theistic God named Yahweh after I died. UU couldn’t have met my needs then because it wouldn’t have met my then definition of religion itself.And UU definitely is not the best religion for my parents, whose psyches have great need of a theology grounded in a framework of theistic absolutes and supernatural intervention in the world. They would not be able to live their lives without that.I could say, though, that their religion’s refusal to to respect sexualities and relationships other than heterosexuality in church-and-state sanctioned marriage is an area where it is not as good as UU. And I would be right at least so far as we are talking about human rights and human dignity. I could say that their religion’s inflexible, literalist, fundamentalist approach to scripture makes their religion less able to deal realistically, fairly, and ethically with life’s complexities and ambiguities than UU. And I would be right. But it is still the religion that is right for my parents based on their history and their current psychology.So the best religion for them for now (and, in all likelihood, for as along as they live) is, on various less subjective grounds, not as good as UU is. In fact, their religion has some distinct drawbacks and failings.I would agree with you, then, that UU is not THE best religion. But not because all religions are ultimately about or reaching for the same thing or because they are as good as each other but, rather, because people are at different places and can only deal with what they can deal with using the tools that they have learned to use.But no matter where people are, regarding beliefs and following a particular religion, actions have effects that are not mitigated by motivations. To use the example that came up above, human sacrifice is always wrong, for example, whether it is immolation of the firstborn to Baal, or sending a nation’s young into a non-defensive war, or killing a doctor who performs abortions, or, more mundanely and quite commonly, grinding one’s fellow humans into the literal or figurative dust to feed one’s ego, quest for power, or desire for wealth.

  3. Mayara says:

    , the Pew polls bear out the fact that people DO chgnae religions fairly easily nowadays at least in comparison to the bulk of human history, including our separation-of-church-and-state US history. If we couldn’t, UU churches would be very different. And smaller. But here or elsewhere, in addition to people who choose, there are those who follow along because they are weak-willed, don’t give a damn, don’t want to lose the extra hour with family (as if), or some other reason I don’t know.Just my hare-brained guess I don’t think all -or even most- religions are the same at their core. All are contingent and arise in specific cultures and circumstances. Each is unique. However, the more of the culture that is lifted away, the more the pure philosophy is stripped of anything the faithful recognize as their religion, the fewer differences there are within wider swaths of religions.Or, I could be wrong. All this said, I don’t give a damn about people’s motivations. Actions matter. How people justify them does not interest me so much. If they come to burn me at the stake I don’t care whether they are godless commies or Born Again Christians who pray for me as they kill me. Dead is dead. Tortured is tortured.

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