Keith Olbermann’s (former) Religion: Unitarian Universalism

Easy to have missed this sleeper during all the General Assembly hubbub…

Keith Olbermann discussed his UU roots…

From UU World:

MSNBC “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann mentioned his Unitarian upbringing in an interview with actors Jason Bateman and David Cross. When Cross jokes that he and Bateman are getting married in a Unitarian church in California, Olbermann responds: “Oh, good! I was raised in that faith. “

It doesn’t sound like Keith’s been to a Unitarian Universalist church in a while, though as he continues on to SLAM our churches for our lack of attention to the nurturing/healing power of community…  something I blogged about here.

Olbermann’s quote continues: “…there’s just a lot of political talk, there’s no actual religion involved there. Okay, that’s going to get me in trouble with my ancestors.

Mentions like this from Olbermann – even in an unflattering light- seem to be growing more and more obscure. Rather than being the ‘political church’ or the ‘believe anything you want’ church (we are neither), we need to focus our message into an affirming statement of strength.

All UUs agree on the necessity of the personal journey toward understanding truth, love, and compassion. We choose to describe this belief, however in the negative: a lack of creeds.

See the below UU Affirmation. I think UUs are more accurately defined as the ‘church of personal growth’. Or the ‘religion of choice’. All that’s missing is our ability to embrace the language and embody the spirit more fully.

Considering his feelings on the church he attended, we can forgive Olbermann for straying. The latest UUWorld Magazine discusses the shocking percentage of UU’s that are not members of any church.

A quick look at the numbers reported through UUWorld:

Two previous national surveys, in 1990 and 2001, reported the number of self-identified Unitarians at three times the official UUA count at the time. In 2001, ARIS estimated 629,000 Unitarian Universalists.


The UUA’s 1,018 congregations in the United States counted just over 158,000 members in 2006.

Fortunately, the current foremost topic debated by the UUA Presidential Candidates is growth. Take part in your views on how to grow our powerful and important (but tiny) religion of UUism here.

Find out more about Unitarian Universalism and its Seven Principles here.

Hat tip to UUWorld for the video of Mr. Olbermann:



I believe in my right to search for the good, to choose it for myself, and hold it in my heart.

I affirm this right in you as well.

Together we share in the joy of community, the power of reverence, and the responsibilities of freedom.

This is the promise of my heart extended to you, as we walk on separate paths, together.


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4 Responses to “Keith Olbermann’s (former) Religion: Unitarian Universalism”

  1. Elz Says:

    I have come to believe that congregational participation is for our adherents what celibacy is for the Roman Catholic clergy — an ideal which inspires an energized few and excludes a busy, loving, committed potential majority.

    We need a lot more back pews and a culture which accepts shouting “amen” (or applauding) as an adequate testimony of faithfulness for those who live according to the general ethical guidelines.

  2. John Russell Says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with the above comments. I’m a former Catholic who became a UU in my late 40s. Yes, there is lots of talk about politics, social activism, community building, etc. — much more than I was used to hearing in church. But there are also wonderful, challenging religious messages, week after week after week. These include everything from the nature of God to the possibility of an afterlife to the compatibility between religion and science.

    As for elitism, I just haven’t felt it. I am less educated than many others in my congregation (just a bachelor’s degree) but feel like a full participant whose views and perspective are valued. I’ve given a sermon. I’ve served on committees. I’ve organized projects. I’ve been asked to attend conferences. I’ve made dozens of friends at church. Sorry to hear your experience wasn’t the same.

  3. Bob Gibson Says:

    As a blue collar (cannery mechanic) member of the Fresno congregation my experiences are more in line with Mr. Russell than with Mr. Steinke. I have been a member for five years and have always felt inclusion at the church. We are a congregation mostly made up of professionals with a scattering of business and blue collar members. I actually came to this site by searching “working class and Unitarian” because our pastor asked me to give the sermon for one of our summer services based on the idea of “UU and the working class.” So far I have found several sermons and articles dealing with this exact subject. It will be an interesting project.
    Peace to all,
    Bob Gibson

  4. Jonathan Steinke Says:

    Here we go. I’m talking about the LEVEL of working class and the level of education it takes people in that level of working class to have gotten there.

    You wouldn’t want to have been caught dead at the UU church I used to attend in Alton, Illinois, during the mid 90’s if you were on the homeless side or (as I later found out about the second person) a sanitation worker. The homeless individual I’d seen entering First Unitarian Church was curiously ushered out within a minute or two of having entered…and NOT because the person ushering him out told him she’d give him an address or two for shelters. And the man who worked in sanitation was, except by me, flatly ignored. He couldn’t approach anyone nor get anyone to approach him if he’d been Henry David Thoreau himself. He slugged down his coffee and left.

    I’m not talking about working class UU’s who thrive on discussions of “compatibility between religion and science” or whose “views and perspective are valued”. I’m talking about working class UU’s who are left out of those discussions and whose views are NOT valued because they don’t possess the same education and intellectual curiosity or wherewithal.

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