Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Religious Philosophy

Religious philosophy is the attempt of gaining understanding of a culture or region regarding its specific religious point of view, reason for being and way of life. 

Throughout this course program, I have gained a better understanding of the many different cultures throughout the world that practice some type of religious belief or another and where it comes from, how it relates and why it is necessary in its given society. From the ecclesiastical religions which have their assemblies that both perform as well as govern their services and philosophies to the more indigenous faiths that are more than just ceremonies but a true way of life such as the Hopi peoples who use their customs as a means of expressing the very beliefs they all share for the betterment of their existence. Whether being an enhancement to some lifestyles while being the very purpose of others, religious beliefs have served both primitive and modern cultures as a means to understand and integrate what they perceive to be truth. However some cultures use the absence of religion as a means to infiltrate social or political agendas that they may believe to be a threat to the overall fabric of a society as stated by Karl Marx who stated religion as “the opiate of society”. This type of oppression usually sends those committed to those beliefs into a state of hiding in order to continue practicing their religious convictions. 

Another social view of religion has been its being criticized as evidence of psychological disconnect from reality and therefore not a true function in the development of positive mental health or reasoning. Such opinions were described in studies by Sigmund Freud who, like most scientists, could not see the beneficial validity of religion as he believed that there was neither evidence in the physical proof of theophony nor any resulting gnosis to give resulting scientific merit. In response to what I believe to be a lack of psychological approach to religion, the Gnostic scientists fail to see what I believe to be proof of what was exhibited in the studies of such religious philosophy experts as Bertrand Russell and his “great problems of life” and that religious philosophical truth was proven through the further social studies of Hutson Smith. Both found that the social, natural and psychological problems not only have a place in religion but religion itself can lend remedies to treat and in some cases, depending on the involvement of the religious belief, cure many of the issues that may plague individual spiritual instability. 

In response to an opinion I disagreed with regarding the philosophies of some religions, I do feel that within the religious philosophy course there was an unfair view of some religions’ place in society as well as the specific view it is portrayed as having in society. Being a Christian, I do not hold fast to many of the views thought to be part of mainstream Christianity; one of which being the unnecessary and bullish styles of some fundamentalist sects regarding conversion. I believe that all religions, to some degree or another, have polar opposite philosophies not so much of the religion itself as in the presentation or application of the faith. I personally have never agreed with any type of “white-man’s burden” as I believe that a culture has no desire to learn of another until there is proof of a mutuality of the two to benefit from each other. As the philosophy of the Universal Life Seminary holds fast to: “we are one”, this belief is also the viewpoint of those Christians who adopt the Bible as the inspired word of God and that all are in need of God’s qualities in their individual lives. None is seen as being any better or more forgiven than another. But like one who is invited to a meal and chooses to not attend, they cannot receive the benefits of experiencing what is offered unless they choose to partake. It is not an “us and them” situation but more like “those who have chosen to be a part and those who have not”. No religion can say that is it is for all if it exercises any degree of exclusivity. In the case of my religion, there are those who would disagree with me but in response I would in turn disagree with them as well though we may tend towards the same biblical teachings. 

In conclusion, I believe that I have gained a very strong and thoroughly beneficial view along with very insightful instruction regarding the major known religions of the world as well as their religious view points and practices. I further feel that, in exploring these religions and even their individual sects within, we as a world can see some that have a viewpoint that would prove to be either an enhancement or even an improvement to the practice of a specific spiritual philosophy as a whole that can also show a view point or truth either not previously invested in the faith or possibly not ever even considered though the faith exhibits similar ties and, thus, can adopt and add to the facets of religious philosophy. Regardless of one’s faith, spiritual orientation or cultural background, all should agree that there is none who cannot benefit from either the inclusion or subjection of religious thought. Even those who rally against religious expression, for they themselves must have a belief though it may be to be against any and all religions. The very fact that those without a religious point of view must also have a belief system to which they hold true to and, thus, they themselves prove that religious expression and the study of the philosophies involved are both necessary and proper to the spiritual well-being of humankind. We all recognize that there is more to life than just us and that what we are looking for is somewhere. We must never stop looking and encourage others to do so as well.

 Rev. Matthew Allen Butler

The Universal Life Church offers free online ordination and an extensive seminary program where we offer a course in Wiccan Studies, one on the Four Gospels, several courses that are based on A Course in Miracles, several Christian Studies courses and a variety of courses on Spiritual Awareness and Spiritual Development.

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