Nineteenth birthday

On February 22, 2005, I sat in my office at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva (Illinois), and wrote my very first blog post, “Requiring the seven principles.” There were already forty or so other UU blogs out there. So I was a latecomer to Unitarian Universalist (UU) blogging. This was enormously freeing for me. The other UU blogs could do the heavy lifting of representing Unitarian Universalism to the world. I could just sit back and write whatever I wanted to write.

That was then. There have been huge changes in intervening nineteen years.

The peak of UU blogging was probably around 2007. (My blog peaked at about 3,600 unique visitors a month in May, 2007.) Then came a long slow decline, as people turned to commercial social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. By 2020, most Unitarian Universalists had migrated to commercial social media.

Today, UU blogging in the United States appears moribund. I believe that I’m now the only U.S. UU blogger still posting at least once a week. It’s hard to be sure because unfortunately UUpdater, a site that used to track UU blogs online, has ceased operations. Blogger Scott Wells — one of the last of the regular UU bloggers, and a smarter and better blogger than I’ll ever be — has dropped to an irregular schedule. Patrick Murfin is still blogging daily, but most of his posts are on history, not UUism. Outside the U.S., the United Kingdom still has a few Unitarian bloggers who post regularly. I follow Still I Am One, where there are links to a couple of other still-current blogs.

Given that UU blogging is moribund, why should I continue with this blog? I guess because blogging turns out to be a good medium for some of the things that most interest me. I’ll give a couple of examples, so you can see what I mean. I’m interested in the history of local congregations—but local history holds little interest to serious scholars of UU history (and rightly so), so really the only publishing outlet for local history research is on the web. I’m interested in the ongoing saga of misconduct by clergy and lay leaders within Unitarian Universalism—but this is a topic that is mostly avoided elsewhere (we UUs are willing to take on racism and anti-LGBTQ+ bias in our midst, but not so willing to take on misconduct by our leaders), so again the only publishing outlet for reporting on misconduct is on the web.

In addition, there are a few other topics which interest me where web publishing is the best option for my writing. Mind you, I won’t promise another nineteen years of blogging, but I do plan to stick around. And I’m grateful to all of you who continue to read this blog.

See you here at least a couple of times week — as long as the creek don’t rise, and the good Lord’s willing, and there ain’t no meltdown.

Screenshot of this blog as it appeared back on the old AOL blogging platform
(from the Wayback Machine)

Sweet sixteen

I completely forgot that February 22 was the sixteenth birthday of this blog. So here, a week and a half late, is this blog’s sixteenth birthday post.

Blogging is completely different now than it was on February 22, 2005, when this blog started. Back then, blogs were social media; there was no other social media to speak of. Back then, blogs were mostly run by individuals who were willing to learn how to install cranky software on remote servers, and social media was mostly a labor of love. Now, social media is dominated by big corporations like Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube, which seem bent on destroying democracy. Now, social media is a big business where your data is the product that’s being sold. So now that “social media” is a dirty word, I’m proud to say this blog can no longer be considered social media.

Other things have changed over the years. Back in 2007, I attended Podcamp Boston and learned from innovative people called “vloggers” who were using videos to blog. So for the next twelve months, I uploaded a weekly video to my blog; the videos were hosted on a service called, which went defunct a few years later, taking all fifty-plus of my videos with it when it died. (And it’s just as well those old videos are gone: I still have files for one or two of them, and they were pretty crude.) To produce online videos in 2007, I had to purchase a fancy camcorder, edit the video footage on my laptop, make sure the encoding wouldn’t choke the host service, then upload it to the host. But today, people can shoot video with their phone and upload it directly to TikTok or Youtube.

And I’ve watched the audience for this blog change over the years. In 2005, my readers were the forty other UU bloggers, plus some tech-savvy people who thought to do a Web search for “UU blog.” By 2008, the peak of blogging was over; Facebook had begun its climb to dominance of social media; Twitter was just starting to become popular with what was then known as “microblogging”; and Youtube was becoming a destination on its own rather than just a host for video content. I had already begun to see a shift in who was visiting my blog. Half the traffic to my blog was readers looking at the front page to read the most recent posts; but half the traffic was through Web searches that found older posts. Today, most of my visitors are going directly to older posts.

But I still have a few regular readers who stop at the front page to check out the latest posts. I hope I continue to publish material that’s interesting enough that you, dear readers, continue to return here for another sixteen years.

14th birthday

14 years ago yesterday, on February 22, 2005, I published my first blog post. I didn’t tell anyone about my blog, but within a couple of days it had been found by the other Unitarian Universalist bloggers. There were maybe 40 explicitly Unitarian Universalist bloggers in 2005. Not many of those people are still writing UU blogs: Scott Wells and Vicky Weinstein are the only ones who come to mind.

This has been the most difficult year I’ve had since I started this blog. I developed a pulmonary embolism in mid-February, 2018, which didn’t get diagnosed until mid-April. That illness left me with little energy, and for much of the past twelve months about all I’ve been doing is sleeping and going to work (trust me, a pulmonary embolism is not something you ever want to have). As a result, I haven’t been putting much energy into this blog.

Another thing that made it hard for me to write blog posts: the reality of my father’s death finally sank in sometime in the last year. Since 2005, I’ve been writing blog posts primarily with my dad in mind. Mind you, he became incapable of reading in November, 2014 (he died in April, 2016), so the reality is that he hasn’t been reading this blog for nearly three years. Yeah, I know I’m a little slow on the uptake here. But I only recently figured out that I’m no longer sure who it is I’m writing for.

An interesting moment in my blogging year came in early August after my post Boomers, step away from the power structure. I heard from a number of UU Millennials that they were so pleased that a Baby Boomer named something that they’ve been seeing for quite some time: that we Baby Boomers are clinging to power within Unitarian Universalism. I also got some very thoughtful replies from Gen-Xers generally agreeing with me, but also offering nuanced critiques. And I also received a number of very vituperative replies from my fellow Boomers telling me what a jerk I was for saying that (and a couple that accused me of being — gasp! — a Millennial); a few Boomers got so out of hand that I had to remove the post and ban a couple of people from ever commenting on this blog again.

One of the interesting things about blogging these days is that I no longer expect many comments; my best posts these days are longer, more thoughtful pieces where I try to present well-researched information that will be of interest over the long term. Here are some examples of such longer posts from the past year:

Deities of non-binary gender, posted in January, is probably going to turn into an ongoing series; I’m curious about the many deities around the world with what we Westerners would call non-binary gender (although other cultures have different terminology), and I want to do some more research on the topic. In Decline, or… I proposed that demographics and finances are the two biggest challenges facing UUism today: money is tight, we’re too damn white; this is a theme I probably be returning to. In October, I posted a retelling of a classic Buddhist story, The Tale of the Dhak Tree, which is better known in the West in the form of the blind men who argue about what an elephant is; this is part of a multi-year series of stories for kids from various religious traditions. September saw a post on Global vs. local atheisms in which I point out that a concept in Indian philosophy has relevance to us today. In July, I outlined the Principles behind Sunday school Ecojustice Class, for anyone thinking of adding ecojustice (which is different from upper middle class environmentalism) to their religious education programs.

So happy 14th birthday to this blog. I’m looking forward to another year of long thoughtful posts, along with the usual mix of polemics and fluff and fun. I hope you’ll keep on reading what I write!

Tenth anniversary

On February 22, 2005 — ten years ago today — I published the first post on my blog. If you want, you can read the first post here. I’ve posted a summary of how the blog started elsewhere, so no need to rehearse that history now.

Ten years is a long time in the world of social media. When I started this blog in 2005, blogs were about ten years old, and their popularity was still rising as we migrated away from the command-line interface of the old social networks like Usenet to the amazing world of the Web. In 2005, MySpace was arguably the coolest social network, LiveJournal had just been purchased by Six Apart, and Facebook was limited to students in Ivy League colleges. How things have changed.

We are in a vastly different social media landscape today. A great deal of social media now happens away from the Web, in the social universe of texting and phone apps. Web-based social media has become dominated by for-profit companies which are really in the advertising business, not in the social media business. Blogging itself has become dominated by for-profit publishing companies like the Huffington Post. A great many amateur bloggers have discovered that it’s much easier to put your thoughts out on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest.

Yet in spite of all the changes in the social media landscape in the last ten years, there still appears to be a place for blogs written by amateurs. Blogging continues to be a fairly interesting publishing platform, one that attracts some fairly interesting writers. With that in mind, what better way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this blog than by pointing you to some blogs that I continue to read:

Charlie’s Diary, written by SF writer Charles Stross, along with guest bloggers and a host of literate commenters, brings back the glory days of blogging — heck, this blog takes me back to the glory days of Usenet, when intelligence, snark, wit, and seriously geeky knowledge ruled social media. Still more fun than Facebook or Twitter.

• I’ve been reading Hoarded Ordinaries off and on for over a decade. Sometimes the subject matter is trivial (this happens to every periodical; even Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote some real crap for The Rambler); sometimes the writing sounds a little too much like the creative nonfiction I used to hear in writing workshops. But Hoarded Ordinaries remains a fine example of the best of amateur blogging, and I keep going back every few months to check in.

• Scott Wells is still writing about religion at Boy in the Bands, and after more than a decade of reading him I still find it worthwhile to listen to what he has to say. This is one of the few religion blogs that I read regularly. I’ll admit my bias: Scott’s one of the few Universalists on the Web, and sometimes I read his blog just to get my fix of Universalism.

• Another religion blog that I read regularly is Roy King’s Mediterranean Wisdom. Roy’s training as a psychiatrist (and former professor of psychiatry at Stanford) and his training as a minister informs his writing about religion, which makes for some interesting reading. Since Roy is also a Universalist, I’m probably biased in his favor, but I can still recommend his blog.

A final note: It’s thanks to readers like you that amateur blogs remain viable. Thank you for supporting these independent voices!


Back on February 22, 2005, I wrote the first post on a blog I called “Yet Another Unitarian Universalist Blog.” And here I am, eight years later, still writing.

The online world has changed drastically in those eight years. In 2005, blogging was still cutting edge social media, Facebook was still restricted to users with a .edu email address, and the big social networking site was MySpace. In the first few years of this blog, there were so few UU bloggers that we’d go out of our way to visit one another so we could have face-to-face meetings, and there were even UU blogger picnics.

For a few years, a lot Unitarian Universalists paid a lot of attention to the few Unitarian Universalist blogs. There were only about fifty of us, and we all had a wide audience. I still remember a meeting at General Assembly where members of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees sat a bunch of us bloggers down and asked how they could get their message out on our blogs.

Twitter came along. Youtube took off. Facebook got big, then huge, then ridiculously ginormous. Many of the conversations that were happening on blogs went over to other social media platforms. These days, the best bloggers are typically paid, or they’re professional writers blogging for exposure on commercial or paid sites. The transformation of Chris Walton, perhaps the best UU blogger ever, can be taken as a representative case: he wound up running UU World, the UUA’s official periodical; moved UUWorld into blogging; dropped his long-running personal blog “Philocrites”; and now he posts his personal thoughts on Facebook.

While the social media field has grown ever larger, ever more dominated by bigger and bigger players, I have kept on with this tiny little blog, with its tiny readership of ten thousand unique visitors a month (the Huffington Post gets more than three times that many unique visitors in one hour), many of which appear to be meaningless visits from questionable IP addresses in Russia and China. While more and more people turn to social media to carry on their online conversations, I stick with the outdated blogging format.

But then, I started my publishing career back in the 1980s, writing a fanzine that had a circulation of less than twenty people. I’m still a zine writer who wound up writing a religion blog by mistake. A zine writer is always looking for readers beyond his or her narrow social circle, which means Facebook will always feel restrictive. A zine writer is, by definition, long-winded, which means that Twitter will never offer enough space. A zine writer feels fondness towards outmoded publishing techniques, like cut-and-paste photocopying and hectographs, and by contrast feels little fondness for the newest and shiniest social media platform.

Finally, a zine writer publishes because he or she is expecting readers to write back. And you, dear readers, do write back — you write comments, you send email, sometimes you send me notes and books and dogtags and old magazines with interesting articles. Blogger and author John Scalzi sneers at tiny blogs like this (he really does; I went to a presentation he gave and heard him do so). Whatever. You, the readers, make this all worth while. Thank you for eight great years.

Sixth anniversary

Six years ago, I posted my first entry on this blog, using AOL’s old blogging service. Within a year, I had moved the blog to my own Web site. And now that I’ve just had a complete meltdown of that blog installation, I’m rebuilding the whole blog once again. I was planning a complete rebuild anyway, so this has been a great way to force me to buckle down and actually do it.

You’ll notice that I’ve changed the look of this blog, with a new design. The header photo is a photograph I took from a steep hillside in redwood country, in Camp Meeker, California. Over the next few days, I’ll be moving posts from the past two months into this blog, reinstalling the blogroll, and refining the internal navigation. As I fine-tune this rebuild, your comments and ideas, as always, will be gratefully accepted.

Some things won’t change — I’ll still be writing six or seven times a week, I’ll still be focusing on liberal religion and all the topics I’ve always focused on. But I hope you enjoy this sixth anniversary blog makeover.