was one of four mini-sermons delivered on 7 March 1999 at the
Unitarian Universalist Meeting House in Provincetown. The service
that Sunday was led by members of the class, “A Chosen Faith”,
which had been conducted by the Rev. William Leggett, Interim Senior
Place at the Table for Humanists
morning. I'm John Lauritsen: a recent member, a writer, and a
humanist. It seems unreal speaking in a house of worship, since I've
been polemicizing against religion for a good quarter of a century.
But anyway, here I am.
the class I was especially impressed by the inclusiveness of
Unitarian-Universalism, which now has humanists as well as many kinds
Humanist movement began in 14th century Italy, as part of the
Renaissance. But the philosophy of humanism goes back to Ancient
Greece, the birthplace of democracy and Western Civilization —
the country where, 25 centuries ago, a way of life arose based on the
freedom of the individual.
As good a definition as any is the statement of Protagoras, “Man
is the measure of all things”. The concern here is with human
standards, the cultivation of excellence in body and mind. The Greeks
regarded physical fitness as a sacred obligation. The men exercised
under the aegis of Zeus and other gods, and the women, under the
aegis of Hera and other goddesses.
Greeks valued Reason and Moderation. On Apollo's temple at Delphi
were the sayings: “Know thyself” and “Nothing in
is a primary humanist virtue, as expressed by the credo of Terrence:
I am a man, and hold nothing human
alien to me. (ca. 160 BC)
a gay man I owe special allegiance to humanism. When I came out, a
long time ago, the circumstances were not ideal, but the experience
to me was beautiful. I knew then that male love is good. If the world
condemned it, then the world was wrong. But I did my homework and
found that, in historical perspective, condemnation was far from
universal. The Greeks had accepted male love as a part of life and
granted it a place of honor. The Greek gods themselves had male
condemnation of male love stems from the Holiness Code of
Leviticus, formulated 2500 years ago. Because of a sexual
contained in the prohibitionist gobbledygook of Leviticus, gay men
over the centuries have suffered dishonor, imprisonment, torture, and
the Jewish and Christian religions had declared war on me, I declared
war on them, and joined the Gay Liberation Movement in 1969. In 1974
I produced a pamphlet, Religious
Roots of the Taboo on
Homosexuality, and began writing for the British monthly, The
Freethinker. I'm still at it. My most recent book, published last
year, celebrates male love and anathematizes the Judeo-Christian
the UU paradigm seems to be a theological smorgasbord, where we pick
and choose, taking a few good things from each of the religions.
That's nice, but humanists also have to look at the bad things.
Believing that the human mind and body are good, we reject religious
traditions which regard the human intellect as dangerous and the
human body as shameful. Believing that ethics should be based on
Reason, we reject ethics based on primitive
moral code, which condemns men to death for loving each other, is a
vicious and evil moral code. It should be fought tooth and nail.
those are battles to be fought outside the Meeting House. Here I am
grateful that it's possible for people with different outlooks to
find fellowship. I'm grateful there's a place at the table for
pondering the apparent contradictions of the UU experience, I'm
reminded of the Shakespeare couplet:
do as adversaries do in law,
mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
Taming of the Shrew, Act II Scene 1)
# # #