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What is Unitarian Universalism?

Unitarian Universalism formed from the consolidation of two different religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. Both have roots stretching back hundreds of years to Europe. In the United States, the Universalist Church of America was founded in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association in 1825. In 1961, these two movements became the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

Unitarianism is about much more than denying the necessity of believing in a Trinitarian conception of God. Early Unitarian beliefs also taught the importance of rational thinking, the humanity of Jesus, and that we humans should seek to fulfill our potential to change the world for the better. Universalists originally were those who rejected the idea of hell in a next world, but over time the focus turned more toward "loving the hell out of this world."

Although the roots of both Unitarianism and Universalism are in European Christian traditions, twenty-first century Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith which allows individual Unitarian Universalists the freedom to search for truth on many paths. In the words of a former president of the UUA, “the memory we seek to embody is of forebears wise enough to put aside the creedal question…‘What do we all believe in common?” for more profound, covenantal questions: ‘How shall we treat and help one another here? What hopes might we share? What promises shall we make to help deepen one another's lives in the time we have?’” You will find Unitarian Universalists, who identify with and draw inspiration from Atheism and Agnosticism, Buddhism, Christianity, Humanism, Judaism, Paganism, and other religious or philosophical traditions.

Unitarian Universalists need not agree on the specifics of our theologies. We may believe differently about the sacred, about what happens after we die, about the role of Jesus, Buddha, and other prophets. But we are united in our acceptance of one another, our conviction that our lives on this earth matter, and our belief that truth is revealed in many different ways.

One contemporary attempt to name some core characteristics of Unitarian Universalism is that,

  • It's a blessing each of us was born;
  • It matters what we do with our lives;
  • What each of us knows about god is a piece of the truth;
  • We don't have to do it alone (by Laila Ibrahim)

Learn more about the history of Unitarian Universalism. You may also be interested in some of Rev. Carl's blog posts about UU history:

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