What Do Unitarian Universalists Believe?

Explore Beliefs, Practices, and Background of the Unitarian Universalist Church

Unitarian Universalist Beliefs
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The Unitarian Universalists Association (UUA) encourages its members to search for truth in their own way, at their own pace.

Unitarian Universalism describes itself as one of the most liberal religions, embracing atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Christians, and members of all other faiths. Although Unitarian Universalist beliefs borrow from many faiths, the religion does not have a creed and avoids doctrinal requirements.

Unitarian Universalist Beliefs

Bible - Belief in the Bible is not required. "The Bible is a collection of profound insights from the men who wrote it but also reflects biases and cultural ideas from the times in which it was written and edited."

Communion - Each UUA congregation decides on how it will express the community sharing of food and drink. Some do it as an informal coffee hour after services, while others use a formal ceremony to recognize Jesus Christ's contributions.

Equality - The religion does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual preference, or national origin.

God - Some Unitarian Universalists believe in God; some do not. Belief in God is optional in this organization.

Heaven, Hell - Unitarian Universalism considers heaven and hell to be states of mind, created by individuals and expressed through their actions.

Jesus Christ - Jesus Christ was an outstanding human being, but divine only in the sense that all people possess a "divine spark," according to UUA.

The religion denies the Christian teaching that God required a sacrifice for the atonement of sin.

Prayer - Some members pray while others meditate. The religion sees the practice as spiritual or mental discipline.

Sin - While the UUA recognizes that human beings are capable of destructive behavior and that people are responsible for their actions, it rejects the belief that Christ died to redeem the human race from sin.

Unitarian Universalist Practices

Sacraments - Unitarian Universalist beliefs state that life itself is a sacrament, to be lived with justice and compassion. However, the religion recognizes that dedicating children, celebrating coming of age, joining in marriage, and commemorating the dead are important events and holds services for those occasions.

UUA Service - Held on Sunday morning and at various times during the week, services start with lighting of the flaming chalice, the Unitarian Universalism symbol of faith. Other parts of the service include vocal or instrumental music, prayer or meditation, and a sermon. Sermons may be about Unitarian Universalist beliefs, controversial social issues, or politics.

Unitarian Universalist Church Background

The UUA had its beginnings in Europe in 1569, when Transylvanian King John Sigismund issued an edict establishing religious freedom. Prominent founders have included Michael Servetus, Joseph Priestley, John Murray, and Hosea Ballou. 

The Universalists organized in the United States in 1793, with the Unitarians following in 1825. The consolidation of the Universalist Church of America with the American Unitarian Association created the UUA in 1961.

The UUA includes more than 1,040 congregations worldwide, served by more than 1,700 ministers with more than 221,000 members in the United States and abroad. Other Unitarian Universalist organizations in Canada, Europe, international groups, as well as people who informally identify themselves as Unitarian Universalists, bring the worldwide total to 800,000.  Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, the Unitarian Universalist Church calls itself the fastest growing liberal religion in North America.

Unitarian Universalist churches also can be found in Canada, Romania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, India, and several countries in Africa.

Member congregations within the UUA govern themselves independently. The greater UUA is governed by an elected Board of Trustees, chaired by an elected Moderator.

Administration duties are carried out by an elected president, three vice presidents, and five department directors.  In North America, the UUA is organized into 19 districts, served by a District Executive.

Over the years, noted Unitarian Universalists have included John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Florence Nightingale, P.T. Barnum, Alexander Graham Bell, Frank Lloyd Wright, Christopher Reeve, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Pete Seeger, Andre Braugher, and Keith Olbermann.

(Sources: uua.org, famousuus.com, Adherents.com, and Religions in America, edited by Leo Rosten.)