The Unitarian Universalist faith is an eclectic mix. Some believe in God, some do not. Some are Jewish, some are Christian, some are Buddhist, Taoist, and every other form of worship. My experience has been that it is truly pluralistic.
Universalists have always wanted to stress that God’s love is for all, regardless of belief or non-belief. There is a tendency to stress community, action and service over adherence to dogma or doctrine.
Unitarians have always wanted to stress religious skepticism, to question authority. Initially that questioning came as they challenged the concept of the Trinity as being found in scripture. But they also led the way in separating church and state.
Figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller were persuaded by the Unitarian way of thinking and have shaped American thought from its inception.
Unitarians and Universalists have been around since the founding of the country. (They joined as one body in 1961.) Both groups have always believed that as long as there is a free and reasoned search for truth, we do not have to fear what we may discover.
UU’s were the first to ordain women and continue to have the largest percentage of women clergy today. UU’s are at the forefront of social justice and civil rights issues including LGBTQ, criminal justice reform, environmental protection, and many other causes.
There are seven principles that 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.
UU’s walk the talk! My experience has been that each of these principles is embodied and (dare I use the word) incarnate, as each has had substantial focus and concrete execution in the congregations I have been a part of.
To go a little bit deeper, here are ten beliefs shared by many UU’s, as outlined by Rev. David Rankin of Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids Michigan, and quoted in A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism.
- We believe in the freedom of religious expression. All individuals should be encouraged to develop a personal theology, and to openly present their religious opinions without fear of censure or reprisal.
- We believe in tolerance of religious ideas. The religions of every age and culture have something to teach those who listen.
- We believe in the authority of reason and conscience. The ultimate arbiter in religion is not a church, a document, or an official, but the personal choice and decision of the individual.
- We believe in the search for truth. With an open mind and heart, their is no end to the fruitful and exciting revelations that the human spirit can find.
- We believe in the unity of experience. There is no fundamental conflict between faith and knowledge; religion and the world; the sacred and the secular.
- We believe in the worth and dignity of each human being. All people on earth have an equal claim to life, liberty, and justice; no idea, ideal, or philosophy is superior to a single human life.
- We believe in the ethical application of religion. Inner grace and faith finds completion in social and community involvement.
- We believe in the force of love, that the governing principle in human relationships is the principle of love, which seeks to help and heal, never to hurt or destroy.
- We believe in the necessity of the democratic process. Records are open to scrutiny, elections are open to members, and ideas are open to criticism, so that people might govern themselves.
- We believe in the importance of a religious community. Peers confirm and validate experience and provide a critical platform, as well as a network of mutual support.