One of the difficulties of moving to a new place is meeting people. This difficulty is heightened in a large city like New York, and heightened even more if (like my wife) you’re not working. We’re also expecting a baby at the end of September, and we’re well aware that having a baby can lead you to feel yet more isolated.
With this in mind, my wife in particular has been making various efforts recently to meet new people. And one thing she’s suggested is joining a Unitarian Church. She’s pointed out many times before (and I’m inclined to agree) that religious groups offer something that is not inherently religious, but which is hard to find elsewhere: a community of people of all ages and backgrounds, who meet once a week and do things together that encourage cohesion and bonding (choral singing, reciting, rituals etc.). Humanist groups should be able to offer this, but I have to admit that I haven’t found that they do as good a job as one might hope. They tend towards being discussion groups, which doesn’t quite achieve the same goals. This is partly because many Humanists understandably get really put off by anything that looks a bit too religious (I’ve mentioned this before). The problem is that many of these things that aren’t religious but look it really work for a lot of people (including my wife) who don’t want to get them bundled up with things she doesn’t see any reason to believe in. Now, I do hold out hope that Humanism can genuinely offer people the good things of religion with the superstitions and the deities and the fairytales taken out, and that it will one day do this properly. But it would be nice to have an alternative in the short term.
Which is why my wife’s been looking into Unitarian-Universalist churches. A friend of ours has had a good experience with them elsewhere, and I’m also keen to find out what they can offer. As I understand it, modern Unitarian Universalism is more or less Christianity with the God taken out (somewhat like Anglicanism, but more so). It sounds rather like Humanism with more ritual, though also with more readiness to consider that there might be deities and other supernatural entities and so on. My main concern is that this readiness may not translate so much into the good kind of open-mindedness, as into an ill-defined “spirituality” that is annoying and anti-rational. But that may well be pessimistic on my part. I’m sure there will be people like that (I’ve met people like that in Humanist groups, after all), but I think it’s reasonable to hope this won’t be the overwhelming tone.
But what have other people found? I’d love to hear your experiences of Unitarian Universalism, of Humanism (does your group do things others don’t?), or of other communities that offer something similar to what I’m talking about.