Unitarian Universalism, or Unitarianism, is a liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed, but are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. The roots of Unitarian Universalism are in liberal Christianity, specifically Christian Unitarianism and Christian Universalism; from these traditions comes a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love, so that currently individual congregations and members actively seek inspiration in and derive spiritual practices from all major world religions. The theology of individual Unitarian Universalists ranges widely and most draw wisdom from various religions and philosophies, including Humanism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Pantheism, Deism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Neopaganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and many more. The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a major association of Unitarian Universalist congregations formed originally by the consolidation in 1961 of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.
- See also:
Unitarian Universalist Principles and Purposes
- The first version of the Principles and Purposes was adopted by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1960, and the modern form, including the 7th principle, was adopted in 1984. They were amended once again in 1995 to include the 6th source. Official documentation is at Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources
- Unitarian Universalist congregations together affirm and promote seven Principles. We also share a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from many sources. 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.
- Unitarian Universalists hold the Principles as strong values and moral teachings. 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.”
- The Principles and purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association
- "We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote"
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
- "The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:"
- 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 women and men 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.
- "Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support."
- The Purposes of the Unitarian Universalist Association
- The Unitarian Universalist Association shall devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational and humanitarian purposes. The primary purpose of the Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its principles.
- The Association declares and affirms its special responsibility, and that of its member societies and organizations, to promote the full participation of persons in all of its and their activities and in the full range of human endeavor without regard to race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, or national origin and without requiring adherence to any particular interpretation of religion or to any particular religious belief or creed.
- Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any society unless such is used as a creedal test.
The Seven Unitarian Principles
- Very slight stylistic variant used by the Unitarian congregations in South Africa: The Seven Unitarian Principles
- We uphold
- the inherent worth and dignity of every human being;
- justice, equity and compassion in all human relations;
- a free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth in our congregations;
- honest open discussion, the right of conscience, and the use of democratic processes within our congregations and in society at large;
- the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; and
- respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which all living things are a part.
- In Boston one has to be something and Unitarian is the least you can be.
- Fanny Bowditch Dixwell Holmes, wife of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., to w:Thomas Gardiner Corcoran (1926). Lash, JP, Dealers and Dreamers (Doubleday 1988).
- It gives me a moral compass. I often refer to Abe Lincoln, who said, "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that is my religion." I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don't know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do. The Unitarian believes that God is good, and believes that God believes that man is good. Inherently. The Unitarian God is not a God of vengeance. And that is something I can appreciate.
- Christopher Reeve, on joining the Unitarian Universalist Association, in an interview with Reader's Digest (October 2004)
- What do I believe? As an American I believe in generosity, in liberty, in the rights of man. These are social and political faiths that are part of me, as they are, I suppose, part of all of us. Such beliefs are easy to express. But part of me too is my relation to all life, my religion. And this is not so easy to talk about. Religious experience is highly intimate and, for me, ready words are not at hand. I am profoundly aware of the magnitude of the universe, that all is ruled by law, including my finite person. I believe in the infinite wisdom that envelops and embraces me and from which I take direction, purpose, strength.
- Adlai Stevenson, as a Unitarian, prior to the union of Unitarian and Universalist traditions into the UUA, in which he participated, in This I Believe : 2 (1952) edited by Edward R. Murrow, p. 142
- I think that one of our most important tasks is to convince others that there's nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics without which life would become meaningless. Here lies the power of the liberal way: not in making the whole world Unitarian, but in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one's own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination.
- Adlai Stevenson, as quoted in Challenge of a Liberal Faith (1988), by George N. Marshall, Ch. 3 : A Contemporary Religion, p. 34
- By the mid-century many of the younger educated ministers prided themselves on their broad-minded rational theology. The Calvinist self-righteousness of the persecuted sect was left behind, and they gravitated through Arian and Socinian "heresy" towards Unitarianism. From Unitarianism it was only a further step to Deism, although few took this step until the 1790s; and even fewer in the second half of the 18th century wished or dared to make a public avowal of scepticism—in 1763 the seventy-year-old schoolmaster, Peter Annet, was imprisoned and stocked for translating Voltaire and for publishing "free-thinking" tracts in popular form, while shortly afterwards the sceptical Robin Hood debating society was closed down. It was from Socinian or Unitarian positions that liberal principles were argued: the famous figures are Dr. Price, whose Observations on Civil Liberty (1776) at the time of the American War achieved the remarkable sale of 60,000 within a few months, and who lived to enrage Burke by his sermon in welcome to the French Revolution; Dr. Priestley himself; and a score of lesser figures, several of whom— Thomas Cooper of Bolton and William Frend of Cambridge— took an active part in the reform agitation of the 1790s.
- E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963), p. 27
- I don’t like to belong to one religious community as I don’t want people to feel excluded from asking for my help or learning with me. It’s all about bringing people together to celebrate their various interpretations of scripture. I am a Muslim and I worship in mosques when I am in Pakistan. I also worship in Unitarian churches when I’m in the US. Such spiritual freedom is very important to me.
- Dawud Wharnsby, as quoted in "Global citizen", in Scouts (July/August 2010), p. 41