How I Learned to Love My Religion
When I say I am a Unitarian Universalist, people usually say, “You’re a Uni-what?” I’ve been explaining my religion since I was in kindergarten. When I was little, I would say that it’s my church but we don’t believe in God. As I got older, my friends started asking how it was church if I didn’t believe in God.
Unitarian Universalism is a special religion. We don’t have a book of faith and we don’t believe in a higher power. Instead, we have our seven principles that start by stating the inherent worth and dignity of every person and end by saying we respect the interdependent web of all existence. As long as you support the seven principles, you can essentially believe whatever else you want. At my church, there are people who are everything from Christian to Atheist, but we all identify as UUs.
When I was little, I hated church. I didn't really have any friends there and it was a long drive, so I had to wake up early in the morning. Our church was small and we didn't have our own building. Instead, we met in the local senior center, a building that has been there for approximately a billion years and smelled weird. When I was 11, our minister left and we stopped going. I was thrilled. Although I hated church, I convinced my parents to send me to a UU sleep-away camp for a week in the summer. It was there that I slowly started to fall in love with being UU. At camp, I made friends who understood my religion and I started to see that it wasn't all old buildings and long, early morning drives. When I got older, I decided I wanted to be a Junior Counselor at camp on the application. It asked for a church reference. I hadn't attended church for three years and I wasn't particularly excited about going back, but nevertheless, I asked my parents to start making the 45-minute drive again every Sundaymorning.
The first time I went back to church, I was a little shocked. It wasn't like I remembered. One of my camp friends went to my church so I had her and the people were so nice. I’d feel the love and excitement just walking into the room. I started to make friends and get more involved in the UU community. I found a group of people, easily accessible to me, that I really fit into. At church now, I've been able to explore my beliefs and what is important to me, all the while having fun and fighting for what I believe in.
The first Sunday after the most recent U.S. presidential election, we went around the room and talked about what was going on. We talked about how many of us, as members of the LGBTQ+ community, as people of color, as females, as people with family members who fell into these categories, felt like our rights were being threatened. We talked about fighting back, and how we were not going to stay silent. And that's exactly what we did. There have been members from a UU Austin church at every major political rally or event in the city since the election. Even though most of us are too young to vote, we've written postcards, made phone calls, marched, and cheered.
At my church, I've found a people who accept me for who I am. I am a 15-year-old girl who has two moms and one dad. I split my time between my moms and dad. I have two sisters, one who’s 12 and one who’s 7 weeks old. I don't believe in God; I believe in science because science is concrete and definite, rather than the subjective matter of God. I believe in what I can see and touch, things that can be tested and proven by experiments. I am going to be a surgeon when I'm older and I should be paid the same as my male colleagues. I believe that my friends who have undocumented immigrants as parents, should be able to stay with their family. Church is the reason I know all this, because I am a Unitarian Universalist.
By Julia Heilrayne, 15