Unitarian Universalism — Our Beliefs
Unitarian Universalism is a religiously liberal tradition. As UUs, we are encouraged to discover and follow our own spiritual path by asking questions and looking deep for answers, drawing wisdom from the world’s many religions, modern science, and the human experience.
Our faith has no formal creed or dogma, but we are united by our Seven Principles (see below), believing in what is good, what is decent, and what is just.
Our congregations are self-governing; authority and responsibility are vested in the membership of the congregation. Our place of worship is where we gather to learn, grow, nurture our spirits, and put our faith into action through social justice work in our communities and the wider world.
Newcomers to our faith and/or a congregation are always welcome, regardless of age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
There is no formal conversion process to become a Unitarian Universalist. It is simply a matter of self-identification. Membership is completely voluntary and does not require renouncing other religious affiliations or practices.
Our basic Unitarian Universalist tenet is freedom of belief. Unlike most other religious traditions, consent to a particular creed or statement of belief is not required. Instead, our religion maintains that each person has an obligation to seek truth, as best they understand, and to follow that truth wherever it may lead them.
Our faith has historic roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions. However, today’s UUs may identify with Atheism, Agnosticism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Humanism, Judaism, Paganism, Wicca or with other philosophical or religious traditions and hold wide-ranging opinions on topics like the afterlife, God, and scripture. What unites us is our acceptance of diverse spiritualities and our commitment to making the world a better place for every living thing.
In the words of a pamphlet published by the Unitarian Universalist Association, our churches are dedicated to human betterment “through religion, in accordance with the advancing knowledge and the growing vision of humankind. Bound by this common purpose and committed to freedom of belief, we hold in unity of spirit a diversity of convictions.”
Our Values: Seven Principles of UUism
While we have no creed that all members must adopt as their own spiritual belief, each member of the congregation supports and upholds these Principles, which draw from the six religious sources listed in the next section and form the backbone of our religious community.
(Youth version is shown in italics)
We affirm and promote:
- 1st: The inherent worth and dignity of every person (Respect all people and beings.)
- 2nd: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations (Be kind and fair to all.)
- 3rd: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations (Be accepting of others’ beliefs and learn from them.)
- 4th: A free, responsible search for truth and meaning (Search for what is true.)
- 5th: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large (Vote for what you believe in.)
- 6th: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all (Help build a free, fair, and peaceful world.)
- 7th: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part
(Value our Planet Earth and the connections between all living things.)
Read “How Our Principles Were Shaped“ in the UU World magazine
Our Sources of Faith
Unitarian Universalists draw upon 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.
Our Symbol: The Flaming Chalice
Many Unitarian Universalist congregations light a flame inside a chalice at the opening of worship services. The flaming chalice, the official symbol of our denomination, unites our members in worship and symbolizes the spirit of our work towards compassion, justice, and peace.Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame during World War II. When Nazis invaded Paris in 1940, Deutsch was forced to flee his home. He eventually ended up in Portugal, where he met the Reverend Charles Joy. Rev. Joy was the Executive Director of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC), which was founded to assist Eastern Europeans who needed to escape persecution.
During his work with the USC, Deutsch was asked by Rev. Joy to create a symbol for the organization, something to give dignity and importance to the organization and, at the same time, symbolize the spirit of its work. With pencil and ink he drew a chalice with a flame.
The story of Hans Deutsch reminds us that the symbol of a flaming chalice stood in the beginning for a life of service. When Deutsch designed the flaming chalice, he had never seen a Unitarian or Universalist church or heard a sermon. What he had seen was faith in action—people who were willing to risk all for others in a time of urgent need. To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love. Unitarian Universalists today have many different interpretations of the image.
The UUA: Our National Organization
Many Unitarian Universalist congregations are members of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. The primary purpose of the UU Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions, and implement its principles.Currently in the US, there are sixteen UUA Districts within five regions. The UUUS falls within the Florida District, which is part of the Southern Region. (as of Oct 2014)
Unitarian Universalism was formed from the consolidation of two religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. In America, the Universalist Church of America was founded in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825. After consolidating in 1961, these faiths became the new religion of Unitarian Universalism through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
Both religions have long histories and have contributed important theological concepts that remain central to Unitarian Universalism. To learn more about the history of Unitarian Universalism, please see the pamphlet, “Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith.”