George Will's recent column mentioning Unitarianism has me thinking about Louisa May Alcott.
Specifically, Will's description of "the Emersonian faith that we please God by pleasing ourselves."
Well, I can't claim to be an expert on Emerson, but that doesn't ring true to me. And, as I said, it has me thinking about Alcott, a Unitarian of that time.
Her most famous book is, of course, Little Women. But for a taste of Unitarian ethics, I would guide you toward "Eight Cousins." It is a novel written for youth, but it is lovely. It is chock-a-block with lessons about diligence, the glory of hard work, exercise, whole foods, raising strong women and men ... and sacrifice.
A quote from that book, that I will admit to trotting past my own kids:
"It is necessary to do right. It is not necessary to be happy."
Gee, that doesn't sound like pleasing God to please ourselves.
The context of this quote is that the bachelor uncle, quietly, has ceased smoking, because he feels it's a bad influence on his teenage nephews. It leads to the heroine, his orphaned niece and ward, giving up her heart's desire of pierced ears in exchange for her cousins stopping smoking.
It's simple, sure. The best morality stories are.
To have this marvelous, moral religion reduced to, "If it feels good, do it," exposes the writer of the article as one whose theology most assuredly includes a belief that the only way we can keep from being monsters is to believe in a punishing God.
How dreadfully unnecessary.