Questions About the Western Religious Heritage of Unitarian Universalism for High School Youth
Truth and Meaning is a 25-Session curriculum designed for Unitarian Universalist high school religious education classes (9th to 12th grades).
Truth and Meaning acts upon the Unitarian Universalist principles calling for a covenant to affirm and promote encouragement to spiritual growth and a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Each Session works toward this purpose by:
- posing questions about the major Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) commonly asked by our youth in a manner that will help them find meaningful answers;
- relating these truths about these religions to our own Unitarian Universalist history and modern practice; and
- helping youth apply this knowledge and relevance to their own beliefs and, thereby, continue to grow spiritually.
Truth and Meaning Session topics are arranged into the following major units: Introduction to Major Western Religions and Their Primary Resource Documents (the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an); Religious Practices and Underlying Theological Concepts (the soul, sin and evil, and the sacraments of baptism, prayer, communion, and confession); Religious “Extremes” (cults, the “Religious Right,” paganism, and creationism); Life and Afterlife (Hell, salvation, and the millennium); The Roots of Religious Prejudice (holy war and prejudice based on sexual preference, gender, and race); and Dogma and Creeds (creedal beliefs, the Vatican, the purpose of a church).
UNIT ONE – Introduction to Major Western Religions and Their Primary Resource Documents
Session 1 – Why should I ask about other religions?
Session 2 – How much of the Bible and the Qur’an is actually true?
Session 3 – Are my friends right in calling me an atheist?
UNIT TWO – Religious Practices and Underlying Theological Concepts
Session 4 – Why is getting baptized such a big deal?
Session 5 – Do I have a Soul?
Session 6 – If God is all-knowing and omnipresent, why do people pray?
Session 7 – Is it wrong for me to take Communion if I don’t believe in Jesus?
Session 8 – Does confession mean that Catholics can do anything and get away with it?
Session 9 – Do people really think there is a Devil in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork?
UNIT THREE – Life and Afterlife
Session 10 – Am I going to Hell like my friends say I am?
Session 11 – Why don’t people just let me believe what I want and quit trying to convert me?
Session 12 – Is the world really going to end soon?
UNIT FOUR – Religious “Extremes”
Session 13 – Who is the “Religious Right” and why are they a threat to us?
Session 14 – What is a cult and how are they different from religions?
Session 15 – So why DO bad things happen to good people?
Session 16 – How can I explain our acceptance of pagans and witches?
Session 17 – How can people not believe in evolution when the evidence is overwhelming?
UNIT FIVE – The Roots of Religious Prejudice
Session 18 – Why don’t some other religions welcome gays, lesbians, and transsexuals?
Session 19 – Why are women treated like second class citizens in many religions?
Session 20 – Why do some other churches refuse to allow women to be leaders?
Session 21 – Why do whites and blacks have separate churches within the same religion?
Session 22 – Why do Jews, Christians, and Muslims hate and kill each other?
UNIT SIX – Dogma and Creeds
Session 23 – Why do people allow a dogma to define what they believe for themselves?
Session 24 – Why do millions of people believe that the Pope has some magical connection to God?
Session 25 – If we don’t believe in the Western God, then why do we go to church like other religions?
Youth enjoy an intellectual challenge, so long as it does not replicate the school experience they face throughout the week. Truth and Meaning focuses on issues rarely covered in school curricula and encourages youth to challenge their assumptions and assimilate new ideas into their own personal theology. The classroom technique most used is facilitated discussion prompted by brainstorming Sessions and questions to challenge thinking processes. Participants are empowered to take discussions where they lead.
Youth have the ability, the desire, and the scholastic background to discuss complicated issues of religion and philosophy. However, many of our youth suffer frustration when discussing these issues with friends. They are often the only Unitarian Universalist in their class, or even in their school. They sometimes have trouble getting their friends to understand the nature of a religion with no creed and no dogma. Truth and Meaning helps youth resolve these frustrations and understand better what they have in common with their friends and the reasons why they do not agree. Truth and Meaning assumes that it is the responsibility of our churches to help youth develop into adult Unitarian Universalists by expanding their intellectual horizons and helping them to develop spiritually.