Appeal to mind, education has drawing power

May 12, 1991|By Diane Winston

Intrigued by an invitation to hear two ministers debate the existence of God, Earl Goodman went back to church after 15 years.

"The debate was between two Unitarian ministers. One said, 'There is no God'; the other said, 'There is a God, but he's a son of a bitch,' " said Mr. Goodman, a 43-year-old businessman. "I was fascinated."

Raised in an African Methodist Episcopal church in Wilmington, N.C., Mr. Goodman had stopped attending church because he didn't believe in a deity, dogma or religious discipline. He liked Unitarian Universalism, however, because it challenged his mind and offered religious education, not indoctrination, for his two children.

"I go for the intellectual interaction with other people," said Mr. Goodman, explaining his membership in the All Souls Unitarian Universalist church in Tulsa, Okla.

"I have been involved in a 'Great Decisions' program, where you discuss foreign policy. I have led group discussions and brought in speakers on the Soviet Union and South Africa."

Mr. Goodman, who is black, said many of the members at All Souls aren't welcoming to newcomers -- black or white. He attends there because he believes in integration.

"If you find a niche, you'll be happy, but you can't expect people to grab you and hug you and to say they're happy you are around," he said.

"If you are proselytizing, you go after people. We need to learn to be more people-oriented."

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