UU Minute #121

People With Different Beliefs

Let’s recap: as the civil war ended in 1865, Unitarianism, which had been stagnant for decades, got a boost from holding its first ever national convention. Almost immediately, a conflict broke out when delegates adopted a constitution, the preamble of which expressed a creed.

In response, the Free Religious Association formed to fight against creeds, and, almost 30 years later, the 1894 Saratoga Compromise did remove the creedal language.

Then in the late 19-teens and 1920s, Humanism emerged, led by Unitarian ministers John Dietrich and Curtis Reese, and the Humanist-Theist Controversy ensued, with renewed efforts from the theists to adopt a Unitarian creed.

The 1933 Humanist Manifesto, coming in the midst of the depression, affirmed a new hope.

By the 1930s, the theists were no longer lobbying for a theist creed, and by the end of the 1930s, the humanist-theist controversy had petered out. Most Unitarians had come to see that the once-heated conflict should be regarded as history.

The issue continued to be discussed, more or less calmly, as we continued to process it. A very widely distributed pamphlet first published in 1954 was titled, “Why the Humanism-Theism Controversy is Out of Date.”

What was ultimately so persuasive was not any argument in a Unitarian periodical or from a Unitarian pulpit, but the simple fact that humanists and theists really could sit side by side in our pews and committee meetings, stand side by side in social action projects. Our denomination had learned again what we periodically must re-learn: "We need not think alike to love alike." And: "people with different beliefs can come together in one faith."

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