Unitarian Universalist FAQ
We’re Glad You Asked!
What do Unitarian Universalists believe?”
We believe in the freedom of religious expression. All individuals should be encouraged to develop their own personal theology, and to present openly their religious opinions without fear of censure or reprisal. We believe in the toleration of religious ideas. All religions, in every age and culture, possess not only an intrinsic merit, but also a potential value for those who have learned the art of listening. We believe in the authority of reason and conscience. The ultimate arbiter in religion is not a church, or a document, or an official, but the personal choice and decision of the individual. We believe in the never-ending search for truth. If the mind and heart are truly free and open, the revelations which appear to the human spirit are infinitely numerous, eternally fruitful, and wondrously exciting. 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, since they all have their source in the same reality.
We believe in the worth and dignity of each human being. All people on earth have an equal claim to life, liberty and justice-and no idea, ideal or philosophy is superior to a single human life.
We believe in the ethical application of religion. Good works are the natural products of a good faith, the evidence of an inner grace that finds completion in social and community involvement.
We believe in the motivating force of love. The governing principle in human relationships is the principle of love, which always seeks the welfare of others and never seeks 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. The validation of experience requires the confirmation of peers, who provide a critical platform along with a network of mutual support.
From Rev. David O. Rankin
“How is Unitarian Universalism distinctive from other traditions?”
We teach that your faith is not measured by how hard you believe, but by how closely your actions match your beliefs. One’s character is the real test of one’s faith. We are a church in which the scientist and the mystic can find a common sense of the holy, and agree that knowledge of the natural world can enhance one’s sense of the spiritual. We teach that Jesus, Moses, Buddha, and Mohammed, among others, were great spiritual leaders because of the ethics they taught and lived. We are a congregation which teaches that doubt, skepticism, and rigorous inquiry are tools of faith, not barriers to faith. We believe love, nurture, self-respect, and kindness are the best tools for producing moral and ethical behavior in children.
We are required by our faith to be socially responsible.
We affirm your right to choose the spiritual path that speaks to your heart.
We reject any form of discrimination that punishes or excludes people based on race, religion, gender, age, disability, class, or affectional orientation.
We believe that the insights of science, psychology, and sociology as well as the beauty and wisdom found in art, poetry, music, literature, and world religions deepen and strengthen our moral and spiritual lives.
We teach that human beings have free will and the capacity to choose between good and evil. We also believe that we should support institutions that encourage and enable people to choose the good.
We teach that death is a natural phenomenon; not punishment for our sins.
We teach that while all of the great religious are expressions of the truth, no religion, not even ours, can claim to be in sole possession of the truth.
We teach that there is ample reason for hope and optimism. That’s why we form faith communities of memory and hope, to keep optimism alive and to pass it on to our children.
Rev. Suzanne Meyer created this list describing our healing and transforming vision
“Are Unitarian Universalists Christian?”
Yes and no! Yes, some Unitarian Universalists are Christian. Personal encounter with the spirit of Jesus as the Christ may richly inform their religious lives, or they may be inspired by the teachings of Jesus that call us to just and peaceful living, and to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves. But, no, Unitarian Universalists are not Christian, if by Christian you mean those who think that acceptance of a creedal belief is necessary for salvation, or that Jesus is the only way to the Divine. Unitarian Universalists are often considered heretics by those orthodox Christians who claim none but Christians are “saved.” (Fortunately, not all orthodox Christian groups make that claim.)Then again, yes, Unitarian Universalists are Christian in the sense that both Unitarian and Universalist history are part of Christian history. Our core principles and practices were first articulated and established by liberal Christians beginning in the 1600s.However, a number of Unitarian Universalists no longer claim Christian identity, for though they may acknowledge the Christian history of our faith, the Christian stories and symbols are no longer primary for them. Instead, they draw their personal faith from other sources: nature, intuition, other cultures and religions, science, civil liberation movements, and so on.
Adapted from Rev. Alice Blair Wesley
“I’ve heard the Unitarian Universalists can believe anything they want. Is that true?”
No. It might be better to say we believe what we must. Our spiritual vision is guided by the capacity for reason, an openness to scientific insight and knowledge, and a concern for making human relations as peaceful, just and equitable as possible. We accept free will and the inherent worth of all human beings. We see that the world requires first and foremost cooperation and compromise, and ethical and loving relationships. We see that human existence is dependent upon careful stewardship of the planet. That leaves a lot of room for expressing personal spirituality in different ways, but it does preclude certain things. One could not be considered a Unitarian Universalist and believe that subscription to specific doctrines or creeds are necessary for access to God, or to express authentic spirituality, or to enjoy membership in this congregation. A Unitarian Universalist could not believe that God favors any group of people based on any inherent qualities, such as skin color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, and so on — or that any group of people is more worthy of access to opportunities than any other as a result of these qualities. We don’t believe that autocratic, undemocratic or overly hierarchical systems are appropriate methods of organizing our congregations or the larger society. Finally, we don’t believe that humanity has the right or moral authority to exploit the environment or other life forms with whom we share this planet.
Adapted from Rev. Alice Blair Wesley
What does Unitarian Universalism mean?
Unitarian Universalism is historically rooted in Christianity. The term "Unitarian" is used in contrast to "Trinitarian" (though we do have members who say they're both), "Universal" salvation as opposed to "salvation of the elect". The Universalist Church of America was founded in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association in 1825. In 1961, these denominations consolidated to form the new religion of Unitarian Universalism. Today, we recognize many other sources of wisdom and many UU's would not identify themselves as Christian.
“Why join a Unitarian Universalist congregation?”
To join with open hearts and minds to worship together, seeking what is sacred among us. To honor and welcome diverse people and views. To share in a long, liberal tradition of reason and tolerance, of hope and liberation. To honor the best of our Jewish and Christian roots, and also reach out to know the great truths found in other religious traditions. To grow the whole self — mind, body and spirit working together.
Adapted from Revs. Barbara and Bill Hamilton-Holway, and Mark Harris