What's Wrong with the "Beliefs" of the Universal Life Church

If you want to be a minister, the Universal Life Church will print you out a certificate in a little over a minute. With this certificate, you are supposedly a registered minister who can perform weddings. Michael Newdow, atheist legal advocate, holds one of these certificates and claims, as a result, to be a minister.

Legally, a person who holds one of these certificates may be considered a minister. (I have not taken the time to look into the question from a legal standpoint.) But in the real world where words have meaning, a holder of this certificate is not a minister in any traditional sense of the word. A minister, as far as I am concerned, is a person who has received training in his faith from others who have earlier received such training, such that he is able to speak out rationally about the faith and expound upon its tenets. A certificate printed out in a matter of seconds is hardly training.

More importantly, the Universal Life Church has no real tenets that can be upheld and taught because its very base is relativism. According to the ULC's website:

We believe you, we believe in you, we accept you - we offer our hand to you to share respect, wealth, power and influence in the world through the power of God as you believe; your beliefs count in the ULC.

We ask only that you promote the freedom of religion and do that which is right. It is up to the individual to determine what is right as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others and is within the law. That is as close to the Golden Rule as one can come.

The teaching of this "church" is essentially "do what is right." A lofty and admirable goal. But, of course, the real question is "how does one know what is right?" According to the ULC, it is up to the individual to determine right and wrong. On what basis do they determine this? The ULC only gives two limitations: your actions cannot infringe upon the rights of others, and it must be within the law. The church compares this teaching to the Golden Rule, i.e., do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

How do I know when my actions infringe upon the rights of others? What if my religious belief is that the law is wrong? To these questions, the church gives no assistance. Each person, being armed as a moral lawgiver to themselves, is apparently free to determine these things independent of any governing authority beyond the secular authority of the state. This is the madness that is relativism.

Relativism suffers from many problems, but these problems are compounded when morality is reduced to independent personal morality. First and foremost, in a relativistic moral culture, each man (and woman) becomes their own islands of morality where it is not possible to tell someone else that they are doing wrong. Now, this is not much of a problem when you have an issue of right or wrong that we can all agree as right or wrong--like murder. But when you get to more controversial issues, such as racism, then there are no guiding principles which can be used to determine whether one person's moral position is better than another's moral position.

The ULC would undoubtedly say "but we say that you cannot inflict on the rights of others or do what's illegal, therefore, racism would be wrong." But what if we lived 100 years ago when "separate but equal" accommodations were seen as acceptable and Jim Crow laws institutionalized racism? In that society, it was not inflicting on the "legal" rights of others to treat African-Americans as sub-humans, and it certainly wasn't illegal. So, on what basis would the relativism of the ULC have anything to say against racism under those circumstances?

Maybe the ULC would argue that "rights" of others are not merely legal rights, but much more. Okay, I agree that the rights people hold aren't limited to legal rights. But I have a basis for saying that. I believe that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights as the result of our having been made in the image of God. Since every person has that image, it is not appropriate or deprive them of an equal position on the basis of their skin color--a reather innocuous trait. But in the relativism accepted by the ULC we are back to the earlier question: on what basis do you determine what is another person's rights in order to know whether you are infringing on those rights? Relativism cannot provide any answer.

In fact, in the view of the relativist, there is no such thing as moral improvement. How can a person become a better person if what is moral is left to whatever they decide on the particular day? If I am a racist one day and then decide racism is wrong, a relativist church cannot say that I am a better person as a result. All the church can say is that I changed my moral position. Even worse, if I decide to become a racist, they cannot say that my views have gotten worse--only changed.

Even if the state recognizes the ULC as a legitimate church, I don't. Churches need to take stands on the moral issues of the day or they are little more than fronts so that people can gather, collect money and spend money without tax consequences.


Anonymous said…
I am a ULC Minister living in Canada, and it's the narrowminded views of people like the Athiest who believes just having the paper makes him a Minister. It's also people like you who make it hard for people who seriously believe to be accepted. I was looking for useful information about progress in being fully recognized in Canada, and have come across your blog.

I am glad we live in a world where people can express their opinions and beliefs without fear of predjustice and attack. Aren't you?

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