About Unitarian Universalism

Note: This video was made in the US, but the spirit also applies to Canadian Unitarian Universalism.

What holds Unitarian Universalists together?

Seven 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 inter-dependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.

Read more about our 7 principles here.

The living tradition we share draws from many sources:

Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of 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 transcending 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 neighbours 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 teaching of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Where does the name “Unitarian Universalist” come from?

The word “Unitarian” comes from a distinguishing belief its founders held four centuries ago in the unity of God, in contrast to the Christian belief in the Trinity, God in three persons.

While Unitarianism was known for its denial of one Christian doctrine, the Trinity, it was from the first much broader. It was a comprehensive movement for religious reform, rooted in humanism and the Radical Reformation.

The word “Universalist” comes from a belief in universal salvation: Universalists became popularly known as “the no hell church.”

What do Unitarian Universalists believe?

This is adapted from a pamphlet written by Rev. Charles Eddis, published by the Canadian Unitarian Council/Conseil unitarien du Canada. 

Unitarian and Universalist views have evolved under the impact of science, philosophy and encounters with world religions. Although many Unitarians and Universalists come from a Christian background, our numbers today include people raised in most of the major world religions and in other traditions. Some describe themselves as theists. Others call themselves humanists, others pagans. Many feel uncomfortable with labels, whether Christian or other.

If you ask Unitarians and Universalists what they believe, you may find them stumped for an answer. If you were to conclude from this and from our diversity and freedom that we don’t know what we think, or that one can believe anything one likes and be a Unitarian or a Universalist, or as some say, a Unitarian Universalist, you would be mistaken. In spite of appearances, we are remarkably united in our basic values and beliefs.

I have never known a Unitarian or a Universalist who did not accept the findings of science. I have never known a Unitarian or a Universalist who did not affirm the importance of this life, of living well in the here and now as opposed to preparing now for a life to come. Unitarians and Universalists hold that living well now is the only possible preparation for whatever may come after death – if anything. Life is a gift, a mystery to be respected and lived.

I have never known a Unitarian or a Universalist who did not feel a sense of personal responsibility for how he or she lived his or her life and for what happened to society and the world. I have never known a Unitarian or a Universalist who did not insist on the right to make up her or his own mind, rather than being told what to believe.

I have never known a Unitarian or a Universalist who did not believe that Jesus was the son of normal human parents, conceived and born as you and I were. I know no Unitarian or Universalist who regards the world as a puppet stage over which some higher inscrutable power from time to time pulls strings.

I cannot be sure no Unitarian or Universalist will contradict me on some of this, but I venture to say that Unitarian and Universalist agreement on these matters is as close to unanimity as you will find in any religious movement. We Unitarians and Universalists are not distinguished by one or two simple points of belief. The question “What do Unitarians and Universalists believe?” is almost too broad to answer. Ask what we believe, for instance, about God or human destiny and you will get many answers to that one question. The answers will vary. It will be clear that our beliefs are still evolving…

There is a wealth of additional material on the CUC website and in our church library.