Pan-compassionist Freethinker

So what is a pan-compassionist freethinker?!!

It’s what I seem to be at the moment, and it’s been holding for a few months….   It’s a miracle!  No telling where I’ll end up, but it’s a good feeling to be able to maybe put a foot down somewhere —  for the time being!

Pan-compassionist:  means I would like to be compassionate toward everything.   Tall order, guaranteeing falling short, but good to have an aim!!!

Freethinker:  means I stay open to revising my views.   My allegiances are to compassion and to fact, insofar as we can know them.   I respect the traditions I come out of —  Christianity, social democracy, etc —  and I evaluate them by compassion and fact, to the best of my understanding.

This blog is for thinking about what this means in my life & thinking (besides making me — and probably everybody! — a category of one!), and for collecting and celebrating my heroes and heroines (continually added to here),  It’s for conversation, if anyone wants to converse  :  )  !!!   Enjoy!!

~~ Web links here ~~



Intro’s  9/22/21

nights   9/18/21

New project  9/9/21

Freethinker  9/4/21  

The Pieta of Kabul  8/31/21

Being Peace  8/28/21

liminal  8/19/21

Open & Relational 8/15/21

Surprise! 6/19/21 

Update. 6/14/21

concept  10/30/19

Fresh Round  7/11/19

Agnostic  7/1/19

Thinking  6/29/19

speedbump  2/24/19

clarifying  2/21/19

restless  2/4/19

new group  2/1/19

becoming daisies  1/7/19

Construction 1/4/19

Grayling’s 10 Commandments 10/10/18 

Wisdom for the Journey 7/11/18 

“Atheists for Jesus” 6/15/18 

Jesus  — March 2013     talk at Lenten Luncheon

a step 6/10/18 

Social Righteousness 3/24/18      sermon

Heroes and Heroines 7/17/17


Just for fun, here’s my intro to the Cobb Institute zoom class I’m taking —

“Intro-wise, I’m ………….., retired hospice & long-term care chaplain, living in my rural NC home town. The question that led me to enroll is Why do we use the term “god”? I love the idea of Whitehead’s “great companion — the fellow-sufferer who understands,” and I know that he moved from atheism to using the term “God” in order for his metaphysics to work, but I haven’t understood him well enough to answer my question. As I’ve let go more and more of the conservative theology of my childhood, I find myself agreeing with “Friendly Freethinker” Chris Highland (who was a chaplain of the streets, Presbyterian) that there needn’t be an extra layer of glory for things to be ultimately meaningful. [blog: ] I’ve been thinking of myself as an engaged pan-compassionist freethinker. : ) Usually where you’re aiming starting out is quite different from where you find yourself afterward, so thanks so much for all the thoughts and friendship along the way!”



moon, jupiter, saturn

What beautiful nights…..

moving diagonally upward from moon is jupiter, then saturn….

Until covid, I haven’t paid much attention to the nights, just enjoyed them….

now it’s exploring them…. mind-opening, thinking of what those distances mean….

: )

New project

Words & Stories: I’m going to try assembling the words and stories attributed to or told about Jesus that have been an inspiration. My problem has been that I don’t think anyone can be sure which actually originated with the historical Jesus… so I’m abandoning that idea and collecting what’s come down in the tradition that I admire and would like to affirm. Sort of like the Jefferson bible, I guess : ) How this relates to the historical figure (adopting the conclusion of Ehrman & Crossan that there was such a figure), I don’t know.


welcome to visit here… will be adding for a while!!


Thich Nhat Hahn’s Being Peace is reminding me I’m not an absolute “freethinker” — my thoughts spring from my heritage, all the ways of thinking that have been passed down to me by family, educators, books. I may claim to be free to choose to follow compassion and fact, but —

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,  60
        Hath had elsewhere its setting, 
          And cometh from afar: 
        Not in entire forgetfulness, 
        And not in utter nakedness, 
But trailing clouds of glory do we come….

…not exactly Wordsworth’s idea, but still, we grow out of all that has come before us and that is impinging on us….

Makes me think how individualistic I tend to be.

Thankful for Brother Thay’s “interbeing”

Being Peace

During these horrible days of military withdrawal from Afghanistan, re-reading Thich Nhat Hahn’s 1987 Being Peace is striking in its contemporaneity! He has lived and been peace through days like these… in “engaged Buddhism.”

& it’s such a neat surprise to see his description of the heart of Buddhism succinctly describing my “Pan-Compassionist Freethinker”!

…the two promises for children. These two promises envelop all the mindfulness trainings of the adults. The first promise is: ‘I vow to develop my compassion in order to love and protect the life of people, animals, and plants.’ The second promise is: ‘I vow to develop understanding in order to be able to love and to live in harmony with people, animals, and plants.’ So the two promises are compassion, or love, and understanding. They are the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.” [88]

And the Second Precept:

Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid becoming narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints…. Be ready to learn throughout your entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.” [90] ….Adding later, “It it the spirit of free inquiry.” [91]

I notice that the Principle in the 2005 edition is worded a little differently, and the children’s promises add “minerals” to “protect the life of people, animals, and plants” … which I think is a great amplification : )

What a fun discovery!!

Now to think about the light shed on our awful reality, reading about his experience in Vietnam….


Probably all of us are changing now.

Yesterday the dentist asked, “What are you up to these days?” I said, “Hiding under a rock.” He said, “I think I’m under the same rock,” adding, “I thought we were getting out there for a little bit.”

Later I reflected that I really am “up to” something… not creating a steamboat model like my spouse, or teaching or vetting like our kids… but I am changing, metamorphing. I’m reading that many are, during these upended days of pandemic… and I feel it too.

For me, it’s a chance to step away from church-going and think more uninterruptedly about my relation to Christianity and how I would like to invest my time.

I feel very “liminal” — I don’t like the feeling of doing “nothing” — not having my shoulder to the wheel to help steer in a good direction…. but deep down I think that continuing to try to figure all this out may really be “something” … one additional person’s conclusion after a lifetime of thinking. A drop in the ocean, as they say, but o well : )

Today I was thinking how it seems odd that there’s no one in this community I’ve found to talk to about my “work.” It’s people on line and family far away. I am thankful for them!!!! At the same time, it’s a little daunting that one or two have visited these pages…. it’s not just me plus an imaginary reader now but maybe a real live person to think about!!!! yikes!!!!!!! Any kindred spirit reader, welcome and thanks for companionship : )

Open & relational

Recently noticed the Open Horizons web magazine — “exploring open and relational (process) outlooks on life and ways of living in the world.” This is another summary of perspectives I am liking —

​”an informal, international, multifaith community
of people around the world who visit the site regularly and partake of its general attitude toward life,

an attitude toward life
emphasizing respect and care for the community of life, trust in the efficacy of beauty, the universe as a network of inter-becoming, openness to fresh possibilities, delight in diversity, and a special care for the vulnerable.

a feeling or intuition
that the whole universe is embraced by a horizon of love and beauty which, though not all powerful, is a source of fresh possibilities for healing, wholeness and creativity.”

And I really like too the way Jay McDaniel writes there, in “Four Hopes of the Process Movement” 7/7/21

Avoid cliches and jargon

“Avoid process jargon to the best of your ability. Use only when necessary. It’s alright [sic] to say ‘actual entities’ every once in a while, but also just say moments of experience. It’s alright [sic] to say ‘eternal objects’ every once in a while, but also just say the pure potentials. It’s alright [sic] to say ‘the consequent nature of God,’ but also just say God’s tenderness or the deep Listening. It’s alright [sic] to speak of ‘creative transformation,’ but also say, with Gerard Manley Hopkins, the freshness deep down. Don’t fall into what Whitehead calls the fallacy of the perfect dictionary. Create your own dictionary.”


I especially like “the freshness deep down”!

Something to that… Whitehead’s & Kaufman’s “creativity” …. neat : )


I discover that I really like this batch of descriptions of UUs. My first impulse was to say Yay! I’ve finally found where I fit! But as I read different descriptions on the web I realized that as in every group, it all depends on which person or subgroup is doing the describing : ) So…. I guess for now I stay where I am and just count this as one of the writeups that I pretty thoroughly endorse!!

What Do We Believe About God?
Unitarian Universalists have many ways of naming what is sacred. Some believe in a God; some don’t believe in a God. Some believe in a sacred force at work in the world, and call it “love,” “mystery,” “source of all” or “spirit of life.” We are thousands of individuals of all ages, each influenced by our cultures and life experiences to understand “the ground of our being” in our own way. Unitarian Universalists are agnostic, theist, atheist, and everything in between.

We join together not because we have a shared concept of the divine. Rather we gather knowing that life is richer in community than when we go it alone. We gather to know and be known, to comfort and be comforted, to celebrate the mystery that binds us, each to all.

We welcome you in the fullness of your beliefs. Join us in exploring life’s deepest questions in a spiritually diverse, supportive, and challenging community. We are excited to meet you where you are, and see how we can all learn and grow together.

The Seven Principles
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience.

As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.”

1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The seven Principles and six Sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association grew out of the grassroots of our communities, were affirmed democratically, and are part of who we are. Read them as they are written in our UUA Bylaws.

Sacred Texts
One might say that life is our scripture. While Unitarianism and Universalism both have roots in the Protestant Christian tradition, where the Bible is the sacred text, we now look to additional sources for religious and moral inspiration. Over two centuries, our religious tradition, a “living tradition,” has branched out from its roots. We celebrate the spiritual insights of the world’s religions, recognizing wisdom in many scriptures.

When we read scripture in worship, whether it is the Bible, the Dhammapada, or the Tao Te-Ching, we interpret it as a product of its time and its place. There is wisdom there, and there are inspiring stories, but scripture is not to be interpreted narrowly or oppressively. It can be beautiful, inspirational and wise. But in our tradition, scripture is never the only word, or the final word.

From the beginning we have trusted in the human capacity to use reason and draw conclusions about religion. Influenced by experience, culture, and community, each of us ultimately chooses what is sacred to us.

I have told stories and read poetry from the Bible throughout the twenty-one years of my Unitarian Universalist ministry. Yet the Bible remains for me but one rich source among many human records that speak to us of the joys and challenges of being alive.

– Rev. Donna Morrison-Reed

Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience.

These are the six sources our congregations affirm and promote:

•Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

•Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

•Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

•Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

•Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;

•Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Rev. Kathleen Rolenz said, “Throughout history, we have moved to the rhythms of mystery and wonder, prophecy, wisdom, teachings from ancient and modern sources, and nature herself.”

Who Are We?
We are brave, curious, and compassionate thinkers and doers. We are diverse in faith, ethnicity, history and spirituality, but aligned in our desire to make a difference for the good. We have a track record of standing on the side of love, justice, and peace.

We have radical roots and a history as self-motivated spiritual people: we think for ourselves and recognize that life experience influences our beliefs more than anything.

We need not think alike to love alike. We are people of many beliefs and backgrounds: people with a religious background, people with none, people who believe in a God, people who don’t, and people who let the mystery be.

We are Unitarian Universalist and BuddhistChristianHinduHumanistJewishMuslimPaganatheist and agnosticbelievers in God, and more.

On the forefront of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer inclusion for more than 40 years, we are people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

We seek to welcome you: your whole self, with all your truths and your doubts, your worries and your hopes. Join us on this extraordinary adventure of faith. Get involved!


Influenced by tradition grew up in. Ratify some of it, reject other parts.

Am in one of the Jesus traditions.

Don’t know which of the reports of Jesus’ teaching are historical. I select my own selection, and honor him as possible source:

speak truth to power, secular and religious

help the poor

love your enemies

welcome the stranger

I choose to give credence to Ehrman’s view that a Jesus existed & was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

I choose to prefer Crossan’s construction of events about Jesus’ death.

I assume the historical Jesus believed in a personal God who intervenes in the universe. [Dawkins says given Jesus’ independent approach, today he would likely be an atheist.] I am agnostic but lean heavily toward No because of all the evil in the world and all the people that god has evidently not spoken to. At most I think there may be something unimaginable, like another dimension, that we somehow connect with mentally and are comforted by. But because of all the evil, I lean toward either no god or that that “dimension” has limited power to counteract evil [Oord’s God Can’t]. Since I am in a Jesus tradition and do not know about a god for a fact, then if leading worship probably can justify praying as Jesus did.