“My religion is humanity…”

Alice Locke Park, pacifist and early feminist, was a member of the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto from 1907 to 1920. Alice resigned from the church in 1920 in protest of the way some people in the church supported the the First World War; she was probably referring to people like Rev. Bradley Gilman and George Fullerton Evans, both of them saber-rattlers who spouted pro-war “propaganda” (in the words of another pacifist in that congregation). She later joined the Quakers. But she was a Unitarian for 13 years, and some of her writings seem to me to encapsulate a very contemporary Unitarian Universalist worldview—like this statement:

My religion is humanity—humanitarianism—confident that the present time is all that we are sure of, and [that] our duty, our progress and our usefulness are all here and now—If we think earnestly of the present and try to do all we can right here and now—we are at least sure of immediate results. My religion is boundless—Nothing human is alien to me. [quoted in Eunice Eichelberger, “‘Hearts Brimming with Patriotism,’” ed. Robert W. Cherny, California Women and Politics: From the Gold Rush to the Great Depression, Univ. Neb. Press, 2011, pp. 321-332.]

I think this would make a good responsive reading, if you arranged it something like this:

My religion is humanity—humanitarianism—

Confident that the present time is all that we are sure of, and that our duty, our progress, and our usefulness are all here and now—

If we think earnestly of the present and try to do all we can right here and now, we are at least sure of immediate results.

My religion is boundless—Nothing human is alien to me.

Not that this is some final definition of religion, some kind of dogma. By the end of his life, my father had become such a strong environmentalist that he refused to call himself a humanist any more, and I can imagine his criticisms of this reading. Nevertheless, the call to action and the appeal to a wide humanitarianism should be pleasing (if not definitive) to most.

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