Universalist “conversion” experience

Turns out Julia Ward Howe was emotionally a universalist, and had a fairly emotional “conversion experience”. When she recalled the moment when she discovered liberal religion, she emphasized the joy she found in the universalism of her Unitarian faith:

“Who can say what joy there is in the rehabilitation of human nature, which is one essential condition of the liberal Christian faith? I had been trained to think that all mankind were by nature low, vile, and wicked. Only a chosen few, by a rare and difficult spiritual operation, could be rescued from the doom of a perpetual dwelling with the enemies of God, a perpetual participation in the torments ‘prepared for them from the beginning of the world.’ The rapture of this new freedom [i.e., her new Unitarian faith] of this enlarged brotherhood, which made all men akin to the Divine Father of all, every religion, however ignorant, the expression of a sincere and availing worship, might well produce in the neophyte an exhilaration bordering upon ecstasy. The exclusive doctrine which had made Christianity, and special forms of it, the only way of spiritual redemption, now appeared to me to commend itself as little to human reason as to human affection. I felt that we could not rightly honor our dear Christ by immolating at his shrine the souls of myriads of our fellows born under the widely diverse influences which could not be thought of as existing unwilled by the supreme Providence.” [Reminiscences: 1819-1899, p. 207; gender-specific language in the original, obviously.]

One last comment: I believe that many newcomers to Unitarian Universalism today experience the same kind of joy at their discovery of this liberal faith as did Julia Ward Howe. Theological details may differ, but the joy at realizing that no one is going to be damned to eternal punishment still remains fresh.