Reason and the Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning – Niell (amendment to Article II, which will be placed on the final agenda)

After Line 44 and inclusive communities

[INSERT: Reason. We search for truth and meaning, informed by reason, evidence, and the results of science, motivated by wonder, curiosity, and compassion.

We covenant to listen to and respect the views of others, and to remain open to new ideas.]

After Line 21 Shared Unitarian Universalist Values
[INSERT: The UUA Board and staff will develop procedures for updating the graphic as needed.]

Clean version:
After Line 44

Reason. We search for truth and meaning, informed by reason, evidence, and the results of science, motivated by wonder, curiosity, and compassion.

We covenant to listen to and respect the views of others, and to remain open to new ideas.

Our UU commitment to a responsible search for truth and meaning sets us apart from other denominations. We are free of dogma. The open-mindedness we espouse in our 4th principle is what drew many of us to become UUs; it has guided youth and members in developing their faith; and it could be a key factor in attracting new members over the coming years. If our values are now to be the public face of our faith, as the principles have been, then our traditional value of reason should be among them.

Page 8 of the report states that the document should be inclusive. We need to be inclusive of our continuing members as well as the new and potential new members we welcome to our widening circle. In addition, page 10 states the Commission should reach out to the numerous stakeholders, which include philosophical and theological groups, such as UU Humanists. Whether or not they identify with one of those groups, members are stakeholders and many of them value reason and the search greatly. The current Proposed Revision to Article II de-emphasizes the role of the search and reason. It does state, in the Pluralism value, “We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Learning from one another is of great benefit, but it is only one part of a responsible search. We can be more inclusive of our stakeholders by adding the value of Reason which is so important to so many of them.


The part that’s especially moving to me here is the way the Reason Value draws connections between reason, evidence, the results of science, all of which are values and pursuits of a conceptual nature (I think), and the emotions of wonder, curiosity, and compassion… It makes me think of the notion that humans, and other creatures as well, use emotions to focus attention on what’s important, whether within the organism (aiding perception, deliberation, conceptualization, etc.) or in communicating to others what’s important–well, if that notion (which I understand only in the most sketchy way!) makes sense, it’s quite wonderfully expressed here. :heart: :heart:

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In our congregational meeting about this, it was felt that this concept was already spread out throughout the other values and in the Inspirations section.


I am so heartened to see that this amendment has made it to this stage! Speaking as a convert to UUism from a faith tradition that required me to ignore science and check my thinking cap at the door, it was refreshing to discover that UUism values reason. I have felt welcome in the UU community precisely because, as this proposed amendment states,

Thank you to LeRae Niell, UUCLB, and all of those whose effort and energy went into clarifying that Reason is an essential UU Value to be included among the proposed Shared Unitarian Universalist Values.


When I read the final draft of Article II, I clearly see reason and the influence of humanism in the words that are already there. I see no need to add more bulk to the text by including this amendment. The amendments sentiments are in line with my values and the values I see in the Article II draft.

  1. In the opening paragraph of the final draft of Section C-2.2. - “We draw from our heritages of freedom, reason, hope, and courage, building on the foundation of love.” Reason is getting a prime position in the listing of UU heritage. No deist faith is mentioned as part of the heritage.
  2. As part of Pluralism - “We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” - This statement assumes that we as UUs are participating in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. It is not limited to only learning from one another. We covenant to be open-minded and to try to learn from others.
  3. Transformation - “Openness to change is fundamental” - Surely, this value speaks to scientific discovery and curiosity.
  4. Section C-2.3. Inspirations - “We draw upon, and are inspired by, sacred, secular, and scientific understandings” - Science is specifically mentioned as a source of inspiration. Clearly a nod to humanism and again no other historical religion gets a specific mention in the inspirations section.

Hi. I appreciate the desire to frame reason and science as a special call-out in terms of UU core principles. However, FWIIW I would be more comfortable if the wording was slightly different. Reason and evidence are indeed critical, but through unintentional mistakes and/or corrupt manipulation, incorrect/biased reasoning and bad science has lead to catastrophic mistakes. The above wording seems to perhaps elevate science to ‘idol’ or special dogma status (thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh’s 1st principle of interbeing).

If there is to be an amendment, perhaps something more along of the following lines?

Reason. We search for truth and meaning, informed by both reason and love, acknowledging both the primacy of unbiased reasoning and science as well as the sacrosanctity of the universal love centered heart, where neither are ignored.

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As I understand the amendment process adopted for 2024, amendments up for a vote at GA this year have been through a process of gaining the support of at least 15 congregations, as-is, as far as the wording is concerned. LeRae Niell and the folks proposing this amendment exceeded that multi-congregational support quota with the present wording, which they finessed and honed for nearly a year. Last year’s Article II Forum was filled with spirited debates over the wording of amendments which, despite the dedicated efforts of many, never made it to this stage in the amendment process. This proposed amendment represents hours upon hours of consideration and dedication from its authors, whose work I see as valuable.


I would have liked to see the UUA operate in good faith by keeping this portal open between GA 2023 and now. As it is, I honor all the work done by amendment proposers and their teams and am pleased to support the results, even if I don’t think they are perfect.


As a lifelong UU, I cannot imagine the revision to Article 2 without this amendment.


The petals are like banners and yes, I agree, reason needs to be one of our banners.

Thank you for your contribution, but no further editing was allowed after posting a proposed amendment.

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I support this amendment because reason is a defining and distinctive feature of the liberal UU faith, and it belongs among our core values. It’s true that reason gets mentioned or perhaps implied elsewhere in Article II, but reason is important enough to deserve top billing along with the other core values listed. These days, plenty of people on the left & right oppose liberalism & reason, but we’re a liberal faith that values reason, and we should make that abundantly clear.


As a UU Humanist and Atheist, I appreciate that our denomination has a place for me. Gratitude to the folks who worked on this amendment. The place that is a sticking point for me, though, is that I do not (and won’t), “covenant to listen to and respect the views of [all] others.” (I intentionally added “all” because it is, unfortunately, implied by the omission of any qualification.) There are views that I’m not interested in making space for. There are views that, when given space in our congregations, could and would make people unsafe. I understand that the intention here is probably to encourage having open minds and open hearts to good faith differences, but the proof is in the pudding that language like this does, in actual fact, make space for supremacist world views within UUism, and I think we have to be so very cautious about that. Or maybe I’m missing something?

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It can be a slippery slope, Rachel. I am willing to take the risk, however. One of the complaints of the UU opponents of the Art 2 changes has been that their voices have been dismissed, called racist, and they (some longtime UUs active in social justice) have been ostracized from the conversation. I support the changes, but I have seen how poorly the dissenters have been treated. I think this amendment is necessary to remind us that we don’t all have to agree with everything the leadership says or does to be UUs worthy of having our views heard and respected.

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I don’t read the amendment as being about reminding “us” (who is the “us” here?) about any role we may or may not have with regard to leadership (what leadership? The UUA? congregational leadership?). I’m taking it at its face value, that it is intended to both articulate our values as a faith community and name our aspirations as we look ahead. I like the part about Reason as a value. It’s the part particularly about respecting the views of others that I absolutely do not agree with, and don’t think is something that we should even aspire to. There are views that are abhorrent enough that they have no place in our faith spaces. That’s not even a slippery slope–we’re opening the door wide to it and saying “bring your fascism in–we’ll make space for it!” Nope. Nope nope nope.

@RachelRott reading the specific language of this Amendment in the context of its whole, do you seriously think that the value of (true) reason could be used to uphold, for example, fascist views?

[ETA: Only the above line was addressed to @RachelRott , re her comments. Below follows my general thoughts about this amendment and responses I have seen.]

My general comments:

I would personally vote against the Revisions passing without this amendment. As someone who has suffered marginalization over the past 20+ years (and also countless “MeToo” moments throughout my life), I find reason a defense against, not a weapon of, the kind of injustices Article II revisions have specifically been raising up.

Listening is what I use to try to understand my fellow congregants, especially those who have not been listened to enough in the past, and reason is what I use to oppose especially destructive actions and to try to analyze and distinguish the components of problems so that we might create more effective congregational processes.

As has been pointed out, Article II references congregations. Thus, the “we” who listen does not mean that each person “must” listen to each other, in my view. For example, no one who has experienced harassment in a context of discussions on race, disability, gender/sexual orientation/trans rights, etc. is obliged to listen to these views themselves.

However, the way we reach a congregational agreement on the policies and processes needed for a healthy community and effective conflict resolution is by open discussion. Without such discussion and listening by SOMEONE to really understand the many and varied different views, decision-makers will simplify, caricaturize, and distort the nature of the problem and create theoretical responses that may fall short, fall flat, or backfire.

Without the listening part (which might just mean the Board or a particular committee holding and evaluating whole-congregation polls on right relations policies, for example, before just imposing a few people’s ideas) we are flying blind, and we are destined to repeat similar kinds of conflicts in different configurations. In my congregation, if we had not tried our best to listen to and understand different reasons people left, we could not have expanded our ideas about (1) the many different components in a congregational conflict and how they may interact over time and (2) different, additional, more expansive processes for resolving conflicts in a healthy way that promotes congregational growth rather than a “win/lose” scenario.

I do not disagree that the word or claim of “reason” could be subject to misuse. However, the same is true of “accountability” and “covenant.” These claims and goals may also be misused, along with right relations and disruptive persons policies. These have even been poorly applied in apparently opposite directions within the same congregation depending on who holds decision-making power. Someone who is on board with employing a “disruptive person” policy for someone else may find the idea oppressive when they are on the other side of the argument.

Please do not argue–at least on my behalf–that demoting reason and science “helps” marginalized or minority people. Scientific data (rigorously, honestly, and ethically used) is the foundation of, and actions guided by reason and compassion (rather than bias and mere self-interest) set us on the path to addressing, the worst problems in this troubled world, including so many like poverty, disease, armed conflicts, and climate change that impact people disproportionately.

When we realize that atrocities of the past misused claims of “science” and “reason,” where does that realization–as a society–come from? It is not just from people eloquently telling their stories and others having the grace and compassion to listen. It is also from guidance reason may give us to expose, uncover, and peel away the biases, bigotry, abuses, and misunderstandings of the past and use the improved knowledge as a foundation for changing not only attitudes but laws.

Moreover, trying to shoot down this amendment in my view is potentially destructive on a larger scale for two reasons. First, claiming that this value may be misused but ignoring that potential in others whose language sounds more “welcoming” to us would be gaslighting. To me,that demonstrates a sort of “bending-over-backwardness” that could torpedo these Revisions–either by actually defeating passage of the revised Article II or by undermining its credibility so much that we end up with a somewhat naked Emperor.

Second–and this is based on the past five years of doing my best to listen to UUs in a variety of spaces, discussion groups, etc.–this Article II revision is NOT yet balanced and thus does not really represent “our shared values.” It is heavily weighted towards communal, not individual values (every named Value has a relational aspect). It does not balance “liberal” and “liberating,” but places a greater emphasis on “liberating” couched in specific language that is not understood, agreed on, or shared by all.

Finally, I will close by quoting the case made for both the Reason and Peace amendments by the Racial Justice Task Force of another congregation (I will try to add a link to their full statement of support for the Article II revisions as a separate comment below). I think they simply and succinctly express my final point–that each of these pieces of Article II, including the proposed Amendments, should be understood in the context of a balanced whole.

“Regarding the additional two values proposed in the amendments:
We support the addition of Peace with the expectation that it won’t be used to push back on healthy discussions and action when there is conflict.
We support the addition of Reason with the expectation that it won’t be used to discredit people’s stories and lived experiences.
Change can be challenging, at the same time we firmly believe that social justice requires us to evolve and adapt to new ways of thinking and speaking. We are confident that these changes will help us create a more just and inclusive community.”

— Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church Racial Justice Task Force

Here is the link to the full statement mentioned above:
Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF) Endorsement for Article II March 2024

@cdenario and @Sally agreed. Last year’s Discuss board had hundreds of proposed amendments (though some were more like comments, just saying “don’t change it”). Of the 300-400 proposed amendments, only 15 were selected for presentation (by the Commission and/or Mods/Board, not by the delegates) and only 13 actually heard (@MacG 's Peace amendment for GA 2024 was one of the 2 left behind last year).

Despite the messaging about a vote to approve Article II being a vote to “continue the conversation,” the Discuss board was actually closed for comments shortly after GA 2023. (At the time, I made some final comments trying to help direct people to other venues where such discussion might take place.)

Thus, those trying to acquire the support of 15 congregations to bring their amendments before GA this year did not have the benefit of this discussion venue. Even once these few–only 5, this year–proposed Amendments had been posted on the Discuss board, discussion remained closed until AFTER the deadline for gaining the support of 15 congregations.

For people only now arriving to the discussions for these four proposed Amendments (the wording of which is now set in stone), I suggest reviewing the GA 2023 discussion threads if you want to see in-depth discussion on the issues.

You can also see discussion in two public Facebook groups (links below), the one created by @BekWheeler and @clandrum to workshop amendments for GA 2024, and the Blue Boat Passengers group created in December 2022 and reopened this year during the final part of the support-gathering process for the amendments when we realized the Discuss board was still closed for commenting.

GA 2024 A2 Amendments: Process, Procedures, Resources & Connections

If you go back and look at what I wrote, my concern is not about the value of reason, with which I agree wholeheartedly and it is a value that I share. The challenge for me in this amendment is the last line, about covenanting “to listen to and respect the views of others, and to remain open to new ideas.” That’s where I get stuck, because I have experienced having language like that open the door to the absolute worst things people want to bring into community.

I absolutely support listening, having a willingness to reconsider our views, and all of those things, of course!

What I am saying is I have serious misgivings about the way that last line is worded and the potential it creates for unintended consequences.

And I’m not arguing anything on your behalf, and never would. I am speaking for my self and only me, and from my own experience in my congregation, with real experience of how “everyone is welcome here” can backfire when people are not in community in good faith.

I’m also not trying to “shoot down” this amendment. I was under the impression that this was a public forum where I was welcome to engage along with others. I don’t have any power to shut down anything. I’m commenting here, like you and many others have, and doing so in good faith.

I could very well be wrong about my take on this. I’m completely open to hearing from someone who could help me understand how and why I’m wrong. But KM, you have not understood what I’ve said and have responded to things I didn’t write or intend.

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