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Kuntz: Gaining community

BY KATIE KUNTZ | OCTOBER 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City said that its membership is once again on the rise.

This organization offers a service that many who found themselves denying or at least questioning the existence of a God lacked: that of community.

“We are a church, but we are a safe community for people who have diverse spirituality,” said Minister Steven Protzman of the Unitarian Universalist Society.

Throughout the United States, more and more people do not identify with a religion. In fact, the Pew Research Center released a report this month showing that one in five Americans no longer see themselves as religious.

Even despite these trends, religion has an enormous and undeniable effect on the nation and on nations throughout the world.

These effects are not always positive, as a study by the journal Phi Delta Kappan shows, non-Christians face challenges to their development and academic performance in schools.

However, having a sense of community can be very beneficial to people, even without a religious influence.
A recent study from the American Journal of Community Psychology finds that participation in community efforts is positively correlated with interpersonal empowerment for individuals across income levels.

In a country founded on a search for religious freedom, those who choose not to believe have often found themselves isolated, if not persecuted. The Unitarian Universalist Society offers a safe haven to discuss meaningful ways people may live their lives without naming and worshipping a higher power.

“I preach a lot about social justice and the importance of community,” Protzman said. “We come together to share our diversity and ask the questions of what does it mean to be human.”

The Unitarian church offers space for those who are devoted to such things as individual dignity, respect, justice, and peace but are unsure of the rest of the doctrines that run many American lives. People need community, and the Unitarians offer that and a sense of direction for a nation that may be losing its religions.


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