From the Meet the Author Forum
On September 16, 2022, the Fifth Principle Project sponsored a Meet the Author forum with David Cycleback author the of recently published book Against Illiberalism: A critique of illiberal trends in liberal institutions, with a focus on Unitarian Universalism. We have provided below David’s opening comments from that forum.
About Against Illiberalism
This book examines recent illiberal trends in traditionally liberal American institutions. It focuses on Unitarian Universalism, a historically liberal church whose national leadership has adopted an extreme authoritarian version of anti-racism as a “theological mandate,” causing strife and division.
Inequalities, unfairness, and prejudices are problems in all societies throughout human history. Stereotyping, unconscious bias, and tribalism are innate in human psychology and society. There is no single or objectively correct answer to addressing disparities. There is also no single or objectively correct way to organize societies, communities, and organizations.
While the various racial injustice models offer important insights into race and society, the author believes in classical liberalism, freedom of speech, and the free exchange of ideas, things that many extreme social justice movements and activists groups oppose. Freedom of speech and expression and the respectful exchange of ideas inherently support diversity and multiculturalism. Illiberalism, dogmatism, censorship, and authoritarianism are oppressive of all groups, minority and majority, and should be rejected wherever they appear.
As there are no simple or objective answers, this book encourages discussion. The most intolerable aspect of recent illiberal trends, and a key reason for the author writing this book, are the attempts to suppress the open exchange of ideas.
About the Author
David Cycleback, PH.D. is Director of the Center for Artifact Studies and a member of the British Royal Institute of Philosophy. He is the author of ten university textbooks in cognitive science and philosophy, including Cognitive Science of Religion and Belief Systems, Nature Limits of Human Knowledge, and Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence.
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I think this is a valuable informed and succinct perspective on recent history with UU. I used to be UU. I love many who taught me and inspired me about myself and a growing soul. I love the work and respect the information. I find Unity works for me to be more mystical and also serve in this world. The personal work and soul work is a fit for me. And I will never join another church tho I support with funds, other. This is congruent with my work serving people for forty years and my family culture reality. Blessed… Read more »
I would be interested to know if the UUA still uses the phrase “creedless religion” in its printed literature, since “theological mandate” is basically a fancy term for a creed. I very much enjoyed the zoom meeting (Had to leave toward the end, but got most of it)
I enjoyed viewing Dr. Cycleback’s presentation & will share his info with fellow UU’s in my area. Down the road, I hope the UUA & UU fellowships that have felt they have been ostracized, can find some common ground.
I have bought the book and I look forward to reading it. I always find David’s work to be incisive and thoughtful. It gives me hope that there are still voices of reason who will stand up to the duplicity of the leadership of our failing denomination. My future as a UU is uncertain but it is good to be part of a community of sympathetic people even if is only virtual.
On another note, the thing that bothers me the most about the way that the UU ministers chastised Rev. Eklof was their cavalier, almost contemptuous, dismissal of logic and reason. We have a Fifth Principle Project, maybe we could use a Fifth Source Project too.
I watched this talk and found it well informed and fascinating. I’m wondering if anyone can remind me of what David say about most minorities not appreciating the work the UUA is doing (or something like that) I want to understand his point and what is being done and why POC are offended? thanks.
Reading David’s book can answer those questions. I would also recommend John McWhorter’s book “Woke Racism” if you want a prominent Black thinker’s perspective.
David speaks for himself and does not represent the views of minorities at our congregation, which are mixed.
I referred to our congregation, the one we both attend.
To clarify, I haven’t finished the book, so I can’t comment on it overall. My response, Lauren, is to your referring to “most minorities not appreciating the work the UUA is doing” and “POC being offended” claims by David. Again, David speaks for himself and does not represent the views of our congregation, nor of “most minorities,” which, as indeed he points out, are varied. I see a difference between stating that views are varied (and should be treated as such) and stating that most views are one way and thus a certain course of action is prescribed. While I… Read more »
David Cycleback: It’s come to my attention that you’ve referred back on Facebook to this post and described my referencing it, in the context of your book here, as “calling out.” That’s one way to see it–you disagreed with what you perceive and label as trends at our congregation, and I called you out. Or alternatively, you publicly called out (because this was a public post) people who see things differently than you and called them names, and I disagreed with you publicly (the very kind of disagreement that many “pro free speech” folks defend).. I see you’ve also characterized… Read more »