Unitarianism and Mr. Daiches
To the Editor:
As a Unitarian I could not help being amused at Mr. David Daiches in his excellent letter to COMMENTARY (November 1951). Perhaps his observations on Unitarians apply to those in England, but not to those in America.
Mr. Daiches speaks of what “the Unitarian believes.” There is nothing that can be called “the” Unitarian belief on religion; there are only beliefs of various Unitarians. Specifically, he maintains that all one requires to be a Unitarian is a belief in one God. Perish the thought!
Unitarianism is a non-creedal faith which, it happens, did have its origin in a dispute over whether God is Three or One; but this question has not-bothered American Unitarians for a century or so. Among our number are included theists, naturalists, humanists, and self-proclaimed atheists. Instead of rallying around a creed—a group of fixed and final answers—as do most other Christians, we rally about a process by which each individual Unitarian arrives at his own answers according to his knowledge, background, conscience, and personal experience. We do not necessarily consider our beliefs a modification of Christianity. Some regard their beliefs as a return to the basic beliefs of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus; while others—including myself—do not care whether we are called Christian or not.
But what most amused me was Mr. Daiches’s proclamation that our first duty to ourselves and to others is intellectual honesty divorced from self-love or pride, and statement that he is in the deepest sense an agnostic. Bravo! This, it strikes me, is much more in the Unitarian tradition (though by no means exclusively Unitarian) than the question of the unity versus the trinity of the Godhead. Mr. Daiches, were it not for his Jewish heritage and his admirable love for that heritage, would doubtless make a good Unitarian.
COMMENTARY continues excellent. Please keep it that way.
J. H. Penix