Who is the great believer in atheism?

Between pantheism and atheism

Can there be a religious community that transcends all denominational boundaries? What is difficult to imagine, especially for followers of the great book religions, the Unitarians are trying to realize. You are a worldwide movement. There is also a small Unitarian community in Germany.

"We believe that everything that is forms a whole."

This sentence can be found in the so-called "Basic Thoughts" of the German Unitarians - a document which is not a creed, but which records the fundamental beliefs and principles of the Unitarians on which all members could agree. And in fact the statement that everything that is forms a whole forms the core of Unitarian thinking. Hence the name: "Unitarian": The word is derived from the Latin "unitas", which translates as "unity". The idea behind this is that there is no separation between a here and a hereafter. Instead, Unitarians believe in all-embracing creative forces that express themselves in all things.

"Many Unitarians would understand their religion as a form of pantheism - the idea that God and the world are inextricably linked. But these Unitarians would not speak of God - the God - either, they would rather say that there are creative forces , divine powers. "

Dorothea Kaufmann is a member of the spiritual council of the German Unitarian religious community. Among other things, this body is responsible for formulating common beliefs. Their careful choice of words makes it clear: Unitarians do not know any generally applicable teaching content. Everyone is called to find their own religious beliefs. That is why Unitarians disagree as to whether they want to use the term divine at all. In the basic idea it says:

"In and around us we experience the same creative powers that many experience as divine."

This vague formulation is deliberately chosen, explains Dorothea Kaufmann:

"This experience, both inside and outside of me - you could also say, such a mystery that there is such a thing as life at all, the secret of one's own existence - people can experience that very intensely without having one The interpretation is that it comes from God, or that it must necessarily be divine. "

Unitarian belief can therefore show itself in very different ways. This gives the believer great freedom to find his own way. At the same time, Unitarians emphasize time and again that this freedom also entails a great deal of personal responsibility. For RĂ¼diger von Gizycki almost 30 years ago this was the main reason to join the Unitarians:

"So it was very important for me that I take responsibility myself for what I feel, what I think, and then I felt that I had to take responsibility for these things myself. But That of course also means that if I have to take responsibility myself, then I have to be free and I mustn't be dictated to - regardless of whether I make mistakes or not. I also have to take responsibility for my mistakes. "

RĂ¼diger von Gyzicki met around 50 like-minded people at the headquarters of the German Unitarian Religious Community in Kassel to celebrate Thanksgiving. The Unitarians do not know any church services, but they do know so-called celebrations - for example for festivals in the annual cycle that know all cultures. The responsibility of the individual is also the focus during the ceremony.

"Every morning you face a new act. Conquer your worries and seek advice for yourself."

"And seek advice yourself." It is this line of text that defines Unitarian thinking. Unitarians do not expect help from God. Rather, they seek food for thought in the religious traditions of different cultures during their celebrations - or in non-religious texts such as fairy tales or poems. There can be a quote from the Old Testament next to an excerpt from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

However, the Unitarians did not shape this openness to religious traditions from a wide variety of cultures from the start. They have their origins in the anti-Trinitarian movement of the 16th century. For although the denial of the Trinity was punished with death at that time, small groups formed everywhere during the Reformation that questioned the doctrine of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Instead, they represented the doctrine of a unified divine being and henceforth called themselves Unitarians. On the one hand, they referred to the Christian Arians in late antiquity, who had rejected the Trinity as early as the third and fourth centuries. On the other hand, the early Unitarians borrowed from contemporary humanist scholars such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Michel Servet, who was burned alive at the stake in Geneva in 1553 for denying the Trinity.

The early Unitarians spread mainly in Poland and Transylvania in what is now Romania, where - unlike in large parts of Europe - they were state-tolerated. Unitarian churches also sprang up in North America. These Free Protestant Unitarians saw themselves explicitly as Christians. It was not until the 19th century, especially in the USA, that some Unitarian congregations broke away more and more from the Christian religion. This allowed German free Protestant congregations in Rheinhessen to be influenced by this in the first half of the 20th century. Dorothea Kaufmann:

"A pastor at the time, Pastor Walbaum, met American Unitarians at an international conference at the beginning of the 20th century, was very impressed and saw a lot in common, which is why he gave the community the subtitle 'German Unitarians'."

At the latest since the end of the Second World War, the German Unitarians expressly no longer see themselves as a Christian religious community. However, this made them attractive in the post-war years for folk-oriented followers of a neo-Germanic religion who had already tried to gain influence over the Unitarians during the Nazi era. The followers of this movement saw the Unitarians in the tradition of a supposedly "species-appropriate" European-Germanic understanding of religion in contrast to the Asian-African thinking of Christianity. This racist view was represented by the long-time vice-president of the German Unitarian religious community, Sigrid Hunke, in the mid-1970s. Even if this ethnic tendency never represented the majority among the Unitarians: The final break with it did not occur until 1989, when the ethnic-oriented members left the community and founded their own association. Since then, the German Unitarian religious community has officially distanced itself from this group and its ideas several times. Dorothea Kaufmann:

"I understand it to mean that after the collapse of the Third Reich there was a great need in Germany as a whole, and that affected both those who perhaps recognized early on that National Socialism had led to great crimes, but also of course those who did who believed in it and who have now been looking for new interpretations of meaning. And of course there were also those who still adhered to this fundamental ethnic orientation. "

Most recently, in a declaration in 2011, the German Unitarians clearly distanced themselves from all ethnic and racist ideas. In doing so, they tie in with their three most important guiding principles, which Unitarians have represented since the Enlightenment: use of reason, personal freedom and tolerance towards those who think differently. In doing so, they also reject missionary work, explains Dorothea Kaufmann:

"Missionary, that would be understood in a narrower sense as people who may already have an attitude that are trying to poach away. Well, that is completely alien to us, because we want someone to find their own religiosity. And if someone, for example, is very closely connected to a Christian or a Muslim - or whatever - understanding of religion, then nothing would be further than to dissuade them. "