May 24, 2005

Religion without Absolutes?

Last weekend's Birmingham News ran a story about a young medical student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Ford Vox, who has started his own religion. The religion is called "Universism." It's major tenet: There are no absolute truths.

I don't know about you, but it is difficult to say the least that anyone would find a religion appealing which has at its core a blatant contradiction. Imbibing the postmodern distaste for "intolerance," Vox and his followers (yes, he has gained quite a following!) have created a religion in which everyone can have his cake and eat it too. According to Vox, "We absolutely reject absolute truth." Of course, he's lying (or else very seriously confused). No one can absolutely reject absolute truth. For in trying to do so one must, by the very nature of the case, embrace at least one absolute truth, namely, the truth that there are no absolute truths. Which of course is absurd. But, folks like Vox cannot seem to think clearly enough to see the inconsistency in their own thinking.

In fact, on close examination, one finds that universists actually embrace many absolute truths--that is, things that they believe to be true. Here is a sampling of statements from their website (

"Universism is the world's first rational religion."

"Reaching to the heart of humanity's religious impulse, we have uncovered not faith, but mystery."

"The meaning of your existence is yours to determine."

Perhaps I'm missing something, but these sound a lot like absolute truth claims. Not only that, but they are absolute religious truth claims. Can anyone out there, perhaps some Universists, tell me where I may have misunderstood them?


Anonymous said...

This new religion is nothing new. It goes back to the Garden of Eden

Adsum Peccavi said...

The Universist webpage states:

A person's perception of reason is relative. Each mind is a unique combination of the myriad forces of biological evolution, the physical laws of nature, unique personal experiences and environment. Thus, there is no uniform belief about the ultimate nature of existence. There is no set creed, no dogma, and there are no religious authorities who dictate beliefs or behavior in Universism. Each Universist explores these questions within their mind, and also through discussion and debate with others.

I think my head just exploded.

Consider the first sentence: A person's perception of reason is relative.

First, how does the Universist define "reason"? Second, while "perception" might be relative that does not mean that "reason" (valid logical construction) is relative. Third, if the Universist does not define "reason" as a logical premise / conclusion construction, then they should use a different word or at the least disclose how they define it. Forth, isn't this statement offering up unquestionable "Truths" for which they condemn faith-based religion ? Fifth, isn’t that statement itself a set creed, indeed a dogma?

It is interesting (actually it’s humorous) that the Universist uses two creedal / dogmatic statements to conclude that there is no set creed, no dogma for the organization. Furthermore, if the premise statements are not creedal, then there is no definite definition of what is means to be an Universist. Therefore, what in the definition of Universist would exclude a person who believes opposite its (Universism) own premises from being a Universist?

[Adsum places tongue firmly in cheek and voice drips with sarcasm…]

I think that my perception of reason tells me that that the unreasonably reasonable definition of Universism must include certainly uncertain non-creedal creedal statements offering up the questionally unquestionable truths of evangelical Christianity generally… and Calvinism, Amillenialism, and Classical Apologetics specifically.

Since my perception of reason is equally valid as Ford Vox’s perception of reason, I hereby declare that I am the new Pope of Universism. Henceforth, all Universists shall check by regularly to find out what you believe.

[Adsum Peccavi, the new Universist Pope, wanders away mumbling rationally irrational profanities and begins to wipe his own splattered brain matter from the walls.]

Jeremy Pierce said...

Universalism and absolutism are about different issues. Universalism is about whether there are general moral truths apply to everyone. Its opposite is relativism. Absolutism is about whether moral principles apply equally in every case, even for the same person. Its opposite is not relativism but simply recognizing something may be right or wrong depending on the circumstances. Christians should not be absolutists about every moral principle, e.g. killing is not always wrong because God sanctions it at least in holy war in the Old Testament and in capital punishment in the OT and the NT (Rom 13). That doesn't mean relativism is true. They're simply different issues. Relativism is about denying universal moral truths, not absolute moral principles.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I should add that this universism is far more confused than just on the issue I've identified, but this is one of my pet peeves about how relativism is framed, by Christians and non-Christians alike.

Dr. Steve Cowan said...

Jeremy Pierce's point about the distinction between universalism and absolutism is well-taken. Let me make it clear, however, that this "universism" is not unversalism. Universism, this quacky new religion, seems clearly relativistic, not only about morality, but about truth in general.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Since man cannot invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist trusts the 'dogma' that there are no absolutes.


Thus, trusting humanism is a foundational IQ Test: Pass/Fail. Any volunteers?

OK, you Fail.


Universal? That's a studio in Hollywood. Pass...