On the Island

Letter to My Fellow UU Humanists by Rev. Patrice Curtis

This piece is an excerpt from It Is Time Now: Offerings from the Beloved Community Project, an educational resource produced in 2019 as part of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project. The Star Island Beloved Community Project is a journey SIC has begun as an organization to create a more inclusive and intentional community, to help spread more empathy and understanding in the world, and to become a more welcoming place for all people. We recognize and affirm that many have been on this journey for a long time, and we are excited to listen and learn as we continue on this important journey.


Dear Fellow UU Humanists,

This letter is to you the humanist who does not believe in God, or Gods. You may also call yourself an atheist or non-theist or something else altogether. No matter; what you believe in is that from goodness and glory and compassion and love, we people can create a community of true beloveds on earth. If this is you, your dream, I invite you to read on in the spirit of a heart-to-heart conversation, and not scholarly commentary.

I am going to take it as a given that as a humanist you believe you have great power within you (though no more so than any other person). This does not mean you are not humble, nor that you are full of your own ego (though you may be seduced by this darkness from time to time). I am also going to take it as a given that we have won a rightful place in the family of religious and spiritual beliefs to follow our own paths of open-heartedness; no one will be successful in silencing us as “nonbelievers” and indeed, we may now choose to be identified as what we are, rather than what we are not (but that is for another time).

Now, then, is the time for us to take the energy we have used to proclaim “we are here” and instead use it to claim a place with others who are building a beloved community.

To consider this, we need to face some truths. We must admit that though we are powerful, we have not activated that power for good. It is true we have accomplished good in the world: slavery is no longer legal anywhere (yet it continues to flourish as modern-day sailor slaves and sex-trafficked women and children; and through migrant workers who pick our fruits and vegetables). We are partially to blame for the manmade island of a disgusting and growing pile of plastic human detritus, now floating in the Pacific Ocean.

We have turned our backs against the possibility of a supernatural force that will save us from any of this and worse; that will save us from ourselves, or from each other. We have thrown our lot in with each other. We are left, powerfully, with the simple idea that we must get busy if we want to see a different world than the one we have now. In other words, upon our shoulders is the weight of the human world.

We must therefore vow to see the best in each other. If you are white, male, financially comfortable, and educated, this will be easiest; indeed, you may have never thought about what it would be like to have to believe in humanism day after day in the face of evidence to the contrary. Imagine moving through a city of people who point at or avert their eyes from your hijab; or question why you wear your kinked and wild hair high like a crown rather than smoothed down flat; or have strangers stare, rudely, then ask what you are, either implicitly or with malice attempting to strip you of your humanity; or have your body parts grabbed in a subway, on a bus, or at a party.

How do we live this faith in humanity? We might do so by honoring and learning from the strength of humanists who, in the face of racist and misogynist cuts day after day after day, still yet awaken in the mornings renewing their humanist vows. The Beloved Community means all are centered.

My people, my dear humanists, my central thought is this: you and I have chosen a long, and hard, and potentially incredibly enriching road to walk. The tasks needed to reach our destination of a Beloved Community are mine, and yours, to do.

It is up to us to provide fishes and loaves, and clean water. It is up to us to provide good health care and to clothe each other; to clean up our environment; to treat well our neighbors and colleagues and co-congregants, the ones we dislike too; and more. Disregarding the Bible does not mean we get to disregard the reported words of that social justice activist, Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, we have chosen to take the weight of his charge to create Beloved Community upon our own shoulders, to hold our heads high, to be willing to be poked with thorns when we speak truth to power.

We also must acknowledge that some of us will be poked with the biggest thorns, while some will be treated with such deference that the thorns never come. If you have been gifted with such deference, then I wish to demand of you that you use that power to make a discernible difference with a greater number of people than someone who must fight their way simply to survive.

We have fallen, are falling short; yet we have not fallen catastrophically. Hope is alive. We can see it in our movement, though at the moment we chafe at change. We will get there when we find a way to center all voices equally. That seems to mean decentering voices currently taking up all the space in the middle to create space for other voices or finding a way to make that middle larger.

In close, dear ones, we have considered the capacities humans desire in and from God, and have chosen to have faith that humans can offer the same to each other, such as grace; forgiveness for the most heinous evil acts (while holding evil-doers accountable); kindness to all things and people unconditionally; love to those who are different; and more. You may see God as myth, as do I, but we must admit, acknowledge, and embrace that those desires attributed to living in covenant with a god resonate as some of humanity’s deepest desires. May our humanist faith give us strength to help build the Beloved Community.

Yours in the struggle,