What is Unitarian Universalism?
Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion that draws inspiration from many of the world’s religions and other sources. We believe no single religion has all the answers, but there is wisdom in each of them. We believe in equality and in each person’s responsibility to develop his or her own personal faith. The merger of the Unitarian faith which began in Europe in the mid 1500s with the Universalist faith which came into being in Europe in the 1700s produced the religion known as Unitarian Universalism in 1961.
We have a long history of social justice activism, including civil rights and equal rights for women. Half of the ministers in our denomination are women. We are welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. There is also a strong environmental aspect to Unitarian Universalism. We believe in living responsibly upon the earth so that future generations may also live.
What are your church services like?
They are Protestant in format, with hymns, readings, and a sermon. Our services are about an hour in length. Our readings may come from poetry, the Bible, other spiritual texts, or essays about nature. We embrace many types of music, both instrumental and vocal.
What do you believe about God?
God means different things to each of us. Few of us would say we believe in a grandfather-god who would save some people and condemn others or intercede in our lives or in the world. Many of us believe in a god who is more of a universal spirit or who is in each of us. Some of us do not believe in a god.
What about the Bible and Jesus?
The Bible is one of many sources of inspiration for us. We are also inspired by poetry, literature, other religious texts, and music. None of these are the final authority for us, but we learn from all of them. We believe that Truth is not absolute. It changes over time. We take more inspiration from Jesus’ life than from his death. We regard Jesus as one of several important moral and ethical teachers who have shown humans how to live a life of love, service, and compassion.
With so many different beliefs, what holds you together?
Unitarian Universalism is a WAY of being religious rather than embracing a specific religious doctrine. For us, religion is an ongoing search for meaning, purpose, value, and spiritual depth in one’s life. Our creed is not doctrinal, but moral: to love your neighbor, work for a better world, and search for truth with an open mind. We come together in community to support each other as we explore our own truths.
What do you teach children?
In addition to learning about the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition, children in our religious education classes learn about the beliefs and practices of the world’s major religions. They learn Bible stories and how to think for themselves about religion, ethics, and living responsibly in the world. We have an award-winning denominational sex education program for our youth. We believe in helping our children become moral and responsible citizens.
Why have I not heard of your religion?
It’s fairly small, about 250,000 members and, frankly, we don’t spread the word as well as we should. That may be because we don’t have simple answers. But we DO have great questions! If you haven’t heard of the religion, you probably HAVE heard of some of the people who have been Unitarians or Universalists. People such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Charles Darwin, Beatrix Potter, Paul Revere, Susan B. Anthony, Isaac Newton, Albert Schweitzer, and Clara Barton. And you’ve heard about some of the causes we’ve been involved with. Our denomination has been active in advocating for equal rights for people of color and women, challenging oppression around the world, working for world peace, and in supporting environmental causes. We look not toward a perfect heaven, but a good earth.