What is Unitarian Universalism? And: The Seven Principles
Unitarian Universalism embraces truth from many religious and spiritual traditions, which nurture the spirit and help us find meaning in life. Our faith is a liberal one, which means it is a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with throughout history. Unitarian Universalism does not ask anyone to ascribe to a creed but rather to live our beliefs through deeds.
Spiritual vs Religious?
Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz discusses the difference between the two and explains why Unitarian Universalism is an organized religion and why those words, "organized religion," should be embraced and not rejected. Please see her sermon, "Spiritual vs Religious."
What do Unitarian Universalists believe?
We believe that all individuals should be encouraged to develop a personal theology, and to express openly their opinions without fear of rejection, reprisal or censure. The arbiter in religion is not a church or a document. It's not an official. It's the individual.
We have many beliefs. Chief among them is that we believe deeply that love can transform the world. Our shared values and ethics guide us in how we live and work. In times of need, they help us find the courage to carry on.
We believe in the power of love to conquer hate and strife. We believe that love is the governing principle in human relationships, and that it always seeks the welfare of others and never seeks to hurt or destroy. 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 human life has meaning, that the high purposes of humanity may be achieved and the spiritual nature of humanity indicates something about humankind and the cosmos as well.
We believe in a 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 that human beings collectively can tell the difference between truth, falsehood, and error. Yet we know that human beings are fallible. We know individuals make mistakes. We believe that humankind can find truth, know the right, and do good together, with each checked against all the rest.
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.
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 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.
It is not easy to be a Unitarian Universalist. It is not a comfortable religion that asks little of you. It is a way to find meaning in your life if you devote time, in spiritual practice; in worship; in small group ministries; in reading, study and reflection; in using your gifts to help your congregation thrive; in spreading love; and in transforming your community.
Unitarian Universalism calls you to give time and money to transform the world with love. We believe that our movement and religion are worth supporting financially. Our congregations offer guidelines to members for figuring out pledge amounts. One way to look at it is that the pledge could be two times the amount now spent each year on, for example, movies, electronics gadgets, and Starbucks coffee, combined. In addition, that same amount should be given directly to charity.
Finally, Unitarian Universalism is a way to find meaning in your life. It’s a way to transform the world. It’s a way to transform yourself. That’s what we believe.
Adapted from “What Do YOU Believe?” a pamphlet by Rev. Duncan Howlett (1967) of th First Unitarian in New Bedford, Mass. in the 1930’s and from statements by Rev. David O. Rankin, minister of the First Unitarian in New Bedford 1968-1970; and also the writings of Rev. Daniel Harper, a current minister at the New Bedford congregation.
The Seven UU Principles
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.
Unitarian Universalism (UU) 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.
These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.
Believe Statements: Throughout the year, members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington stand before the congregation and talk about their individual beliefs. You can read some of them here.
UUs are spiritual in their individual practice and religious in their works done together in community through the institution of UUism. These videos explore the difference between the meanings of these two words.