Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Category Archives: Defining Religious Langauge

Free Speech, Responsibility, and Religious Violence

Freedom is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the United States, and perhaps in the world.  Be it Religious Freedom, or Freedom of Speech, or the Freedom of the Press, the Freedom of Association, or any of the common conceptions of freedom that we experience in the United States, Read more →

The Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how Read more →

Faith is Hard… and Liberal Religion Needs Some

One of the earliest articles I wrote here at Celestial Lands is one where I seek to define, for myself, the meaning of faith (that faith is not belief, it is “sacred trust”). I sometimes think we Unitarian Universalists and others of Liberal Religion have a harder time coping with Read more →

Religions of Differentiation

At around 18 years old I decided I was no longer a Southern Baptist. There were many reasons for that decision. At the time I would have said that I just could no longer accept the contradictions inherent in accepting the Bible as literal truth, or that the hypocrisy I Read more →

On Being a Murphyist

I have spent the last five years in the occasional study of a religious system that I believe has always existed, but has never been academically defined (except perhaps in secret by some graduate engineering students). My interest in this religious system is that my wife is an adherent, and Read more →

Einstein’s Library and The Power of Defining Reality

Whenever I begin thinking and writing about issues relating to what we conceive of as reality, I always know that I’m going to catch “push-back”, and yet in theology, cosmology, and philosophy I do not think there is a more important topic. The issue of what constitutes reality is, at Read more →

Why I’m not a “Progressive”

I remember a conversation with a religiously and politically conservative U.S. Army Chaplain while I was at the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. This Chaplain had found Celestial Lands, and had specifically read the article entitled “Unitarian Universalism and Military Chaplaincy“.  About two days into the two-week course, Read more →

On the Origin and Nature of Evil

It is surprising to me when someone one asks me whether or not I believe in evil. I can see how someone can begin to learn about my theology and come to that question, but it surprises me every time. It is surprising to me because I know exactly how Read more →

Defining Religious Language: Tolerance and Engagement

Tolerance is a word that gets used a lot, often by people who have not thought through the implications of the word. When we say that we are tolerant of someone, or that we practice tolerance, or that we believe in religious tolerance… what we are really doing is reinforcing Read more →

Defining Religious Language: God

Some words have so many meanings that they become near incomprehensible, and almost unusable. When I use the generic word “meditation”, I usually mean Zazen meditation, or sitting on a cushion and following my breath. But “meditation” means about a thousand different things, from concentration on a passage of scripture Read more →

Defining Religious Language: Salvation

I am a Unitarian Universalist who believes deeply that salvation is an inherent aspect of my faith. Not just my own personal salvation, though through this faith that has happened, but the salvation of the world. My faith is not about the salvation of individual souls for a perceived afterlife. Read more →

Defining Religious Language: Good and Evil

Good and Evil are reflections of human perception, through a particular lens of human moral judgment. There is no universal metaphysical nature to Good and Evil. They do not equate to divine beings. They do not have metaphysical locations (i.e. Heaven and Hell). They do not inherently have divine nature. Read more →

Defining Religious Language: War and Peace

War simply is. It is not a choice, it is not a spectrum between pacifism and Just War theory. It is a basic fact of human existence, and will be so until human nature evolves. War is the result of a need for conflict that lies deep within human nature. Read more →

Defining Religious Language: Faith

Faith is not about belief. Faith in fact has very little to do with what beliefs you hold, other than that it allows you to hold them.  Faith is a sacred, deep, emotionally involved kind of trust. Faith is the kind of trust that you enter into with your whole Read more →

Defining Religious Language: Crucifixion and Resurrection

Of all of the religious language that I have worked over the past few years to define for myself, these two words and concepts have by far been the hardest. I think there are three reasons for that. First, they are probably the two most sensitive words in the Christian Read more →

Defining Religious Language: Atonement, Redemption, and Sin

I remember in the Baptist church I grew up in that, as Easter got closer, the sermons about sin would become more and more strident. We all sinned, or violated God’s laws for us… and it was only through the cross that we fallen humans could be redeemed from that Read more →