UUA chalice artWith its historical roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions, Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion — that is, a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with in all times and places. We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves. We are a “non-creedal” religion: we do not ask anyone to subscribe to a creed.

Our congregations are self-governing. Authority and responsibility are vested in the membership of the congregation. Each Unitarian Universalist congregation is involved in many kinds of programs. Worship is held regularly, the insights of the past and the present are shared with those who will create the future, service to the community is undertaken, and friendships are made. A visitor to a UU congregation will very likely find events and activities such as church school, day-care centers, lectures and forums, support groups, poetry festivals, family events, adult education classes and study groups.

Understanding UUism

Understanding Unitarian Universalism is a bit tricky because many people approach it from an experience in the Christian or Jewish faiths. As a result, they have certain assumptions about what a religion is, but unfortunately these assumptions don’t easily fit into Unitarian Universalism. For this reason it is helpful when explaining our faith to start by looking at some basics about religion.

Most religions have two types of beliefs. There are the theological beliefs which address such issues as what is the nature of the ultimate reality, what happens after death, and why do things happen as they do; and there are the relational beliefs concerned with how we should live together in the here and now in a holy/wholly way. Examples of relational beliefs include the Golden Rule (which is found in most religions), and many of the Ten Commandments.

Customarily religions have a set of theological beliefs and a set of relational beliefs that all members supposedly hold in common. This is to a large degree how they define themselves. In Unitarian Universalism, though, there is no set of theological beliefs that all members hold. Instead of prescribing a theology we encourage each other to make a free, reasoned and open search for a theology which fits the individual. This means that within any Unitarian Universalist church there is a broad spectrum of theological beliefs.

What Unitarian Universalists do hold in common is a set of relational beliefs outlined in the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association. These principles are concerned with:

  • 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 Universalists are people who promote these principles in the world and join in community with other like minded people.

It is often asked if Unitarian Universalism is then a religion since it doesn’t have a set of core theological beliefs. The answer to this question is "yes" if one understands the word "religion" to refer to a system of practices and beliefs which assist an individual come to terms with the ultimate reality (that which some call God) and find meaning in life. Many UUs believe this is the core of religion, and this is the focus of our faith.

Principles and Purposes

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:

  • 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.

The living tradition which 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 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.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

Unitarian Universalist Association

The Unitarian Universalist Association shall devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational and humanitarian purposes. The primary purpose of the Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its principles.

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

The Association declares and affirms its special responsibility, and that of its member societies and organizations, to promote the full participation of persons in all of its and their activities and in the full range of human endeavor without regard to race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, or national origin and without requiring adherence to any particular interpretation of religion or to any particular religious belief or creed.

Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any society unless such is used as a creedal test.

(Excerpts from “We Are Unitarian Universalists”, pamphlet #3047 © Unitarian Universalist Association, 1995)