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Being Liberal in an Illiberal Age Why I Am a Unitarian Universalist Paperback – 1 Aug 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Skinner House Books; 2nd edition (1 Aug. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155896505X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558965058
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,748,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By calmly on 21 July 2008
Format: Paperback
I only became a member of a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation four months ago. This is the best book I've read to date to help me learn more about what being a UU means.

It's not that easy because UU's don't have a creed. There's nothing formulaic. No easy catechism. We do have a convenant of what we affirm and promote: it's quite accepting. It reminds me of what one of our ministers says at the beginning of each Sunday service: "We welcome you". It's an inclusive you: Among other affirmations, UU's affirm "the inherent worth and dignity of every person". It's no wonder that Mendelsohn in this book alludes to the 19th century Unitarian teaching of salvation by character. It's also no wonder that he notes the positive value of all spiritual paths, not just Christian but Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, the openness goes on and can be overwhelming.

The biggest stumbling block for UU's seem to be those who believe they have the only truth. Mendelsohn writes that "heretic" originally meant simply "able to choose": heretics are people who, by nature, question and test teachings and values for themselves, choosing what helps them and not denying the right of exploration of others. So one can be proud to be a heretic. One should be.

In that spirit, Mendelsohn presents Hebrew ethical religion, Classical philosophy and such open-minded Christian thinkers as Origen (whose followers accepted universal salvation) and Pelagius (who denied the doctrine of original sin) as a "bridge over orthodox Christianity" to contemporary liberal religions.

It's the value of the liberal spirit that is at the heart of this entire book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Without a creed 5 July 2008
By calmly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I only became a member of a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation four months ago. This is the best book I've read to date to help me learn more about what being a UU means.

It's not that easy because UU's don't have a creed. There's nothing formulaic. No easy catechism. We do have a convenant of what we affirm and promote: it's quite accepting. It reminds me of what one of our ministers says at the beginning of each Sunday service: "We welcome you". It's an inclusive you: Among other affirmations, UU's affirm "the inherent worth and dignity of every person". It's no wonder that Mendelsohn in this book alludes to the 19th century Unitarian teaching of salvation by character. It's also no wonder that he notes the positive value of all spiritual paths, not just Christian but Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, the openness goes on and can be overwhelming.

The biggest stumbling block for UU's seem to be those who believe they have the only truth. Mendelsohn writes that "heretic" originally meant simply "able to choose": heretics are people who, by nature, question and test teachings and values for themselves, choosing what helps them and not denying the right of exploration of others. So one can be proud to be a heretic. One should be.

In that spirit, Mendelsohn presents Hebrew ethical religion, Classical philosophy and such open-minded Christian thinkers as Origen (whose followers accepted universal salvation) and Pelagius (who denied the doctrine of original sin) as a "bridge over orthodox Christianity" to contemporary liberal religions.

It's the value of the liberal spirit that is at the heart of this entire book. That's the liberal spirit of Judith Sargent Murray, a Universalist who in 1790 published in an essay in a Massachusetts magazine entitles "On the Equality of the Sexes" from which Mendelsohn briefly quotes. It's the liberalism that in 1803 led U.S. Universalists to issue the Winchester Proclamation emphasizing God's love for all and the example of the life and leadership of Jesus. It is the liberalism of William Henry Channing, the Unitarian minister who refused to accept that God would govern as a tyrant, and the liberalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who asked Christians to move outside Christianity to recognize the value in other religions.

A concern of UU's is that religious belief not become a weapon to justify bad behavior. Mendelsohn thinks of himself as both a humanist and a theist, noting as a theist he does not want to abandon imaginary conversations between himself and that ultimate other in nature he refers to as God, or he adds now, as God/ess.

He closes by acknowledging that his ministry is primarily with those who cannot accept a Christian faith in an afterlife but instead seek something more suited to their present situation ... with others.

It's a book I have already found worth returning to. Mendelsohn's long service within UU makes him special in being able to affirm religious liberalism.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Primer for deeper UU study 4 Dec. 2006
By Kirwan O' Reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Here's what you get with this book:

- Excellent, expert exposition of Unitarian Universalist history from ancient Greek and Roman thinkers, Eastern European thinkers to colonial American UU ancestors.

- Real-life proposals on how UUism complements contemporary moral and religious seeking.

- Academic examination on what makes UUism deeper than the politically correct reaction to religious fundamentalism that some might feel it is when they first come to the movement.

I gave this book a "middle" rating because it can, at times, soar over your head and become a little academic. Overall, though, the book is a wonder source for a covenant group or adult Religious Education course.
27 of 36 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Introduction To The Keys Of Liberal Faith 5 Oct. 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
An excellent introduction to the keys of liberal faith, Mendelsohn provides arguments aplenty and suceeds in his goal to inspire and fortify. Once read, you'll have to act.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A great book on Unitarianism. 6 Sept. 2007
By Atlantic Aviator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very readable book on a religion of great beauty. An ethics focused religion of personal responsibility rather than doctrinal belief is always harder for people to grasp, but Mendelsohn pulls it all together.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
nice exposure 28 Jan. 2013
By Lilo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It left me a lil' more informed about the Unitiarian Universalist world. I do think additional books are needed to get a fuller picture.
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