Unitarian Universalism

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Flaming chalice with two interlocking circles

Unitarian Universalism is a religion with a liberal humanist worldview. One of its principles is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning.[1] Unlike most religions, however, it has no dogma or particular theology, but instead promotes tolerance, humanism, and reasonable discussion of religious matters. Perhaps as a result of this, many Unitarians are atheists, and few are Christian.[2]

A Unitarian Universalist place of worship is called a congregation. It is quite possibly the least dogmatic religion to come out of Western Christianity — a textbook example of a liberal religion. Seriously, they make the Anglicans look like rabid fundies. It was formed as a merger of the Unitarians and the Universalists, which were once two separate Christian movements, although since then it has largely split from key Christian beliefs and become a religion in its own right. The Unitarians arose in the 1500s, and originally were anti-trinitarian, believing that Jesus was not God. Universalism started in the late 1700s with the belief all people would be saved.

They are sometimes referred to by stricter dogmatists as "atheists,"[3] due to their very open-ended mission to provide a community for pursuit of faith and spirituality, and their remarked-upon debates a few years ago about whether to use the word "god" in their services. Unitarian Universalists may describe themselves as a humanist, agnostic, deist, atheist, pagan, monotheist, pantheist, polytheist, or no description.

There is a Unitarian Universalist house of fellowship in Portsmouth, NH, which ironically has a very large display of the Ten Commandments arrayed on each side of the pulpit ("stage") area set up by a previous sect which occupied the building. They have left it in place due to its historical importance[4] rather than for its religious significance. The letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, where he referred to "a wall of separation between church and state" in allaying the Baptists' fears of persecution at the hands of the local Puritans/Congregationalists, is on display at Danbury's Unitarian Universalist congregation.

Contents

[edit] History

Unitarianism is a historical movement within Christianity which rejects the Trinity (much like numerous other modern denominations, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses), and conceives of God as a single entity. None of this threefer "three-in-one" nonsense with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — that crap's just a figleaf for polytheism. One might applaud them for dispensing with two of three persons of the Trinity on the basis that the very idea just doesn't make sense. Historically, Unitarian Christians rejected the divinity of Jesus and suffered persecution at the hands of mainstream Christians. Unitarian Christian congregations still exist, mostly in Eastern Europe.

Universalism is a distinct Christian movement that rejects the concept of Hell in favour of universal salvation. Universalists either do not believe in Hell at all or they see hell as a kind of purgatory where souls stay for a time till they are reconciled with God. References to eternal Hell in the Bible are explained as mistranslations.[5][6] Like Unitarianism, Universalism is rejected by mainstream Christians.

Unitarianism grew in the United States during the 1700s and 1800s as a liberal Christian movement which included deists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Many American intellectuals during this time period were Unitarians, including John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Henry David Thoreau. During this time, Unitarianism moved away from Christian teachings while remaining nominally Christian.

In 1961, the two denominations merged and formed a governing body in the Unitarian Universalist Association. The UUA established itself as a humanist organization with no formal creed.

Since the formation of the UUA, UUs have moved away from their Christian roots. Today, only about 20% of UUs would consider themselves Christian or theist.[7] Because the church preaches no particular beliefs about gods or spirituality, modern Unitarian Universalists are humanists, pagans, deists, Christians, atheists, and of many different religious beliefs.

For UUs who can't attend a congregation, the UUA has founded the "Church of the Larger Fellowship" (CLF), which includes both Prison and Military ministries.

[edit] Beliefs

Unitarian Universalism is a remarkably difficult-to-define religion. The church tolerates a wide range of different beliefs regarding both theology and spirituality, but the vast majority (91%) say that they are, among other things, humanists, while those holding specifically Christian, "earth-centered", Buddhist, or Jewish beliefs are significant minorities.[8] Unitarian Universalists often adhere to seven "principles", sort of like the Ten Commandments, which can be summed up as belief in the value of:

How an individual reaches these conclusions, however, is entirely up to them.[9]

Though Unitarian Universalism takes no official stance on most current issues, its inclusive and pragmatic nature make it more appealing to liberals than to conservatives. In 1984, it became the first major church to recognize same-sex marriage,[10] and remains one of the most vocal religious supporters of it to this day. The Unitarian Universalist Church also strongly supports abortion rights.

[edit] Sources

Although Unitarianism and Universalism were both Christian theological movements, the current UUA recognizes six sources. In keeping with the spirit of free inquiry, no individual church or person need use any one of the sources, and anyone is free to use any other source that they wish to.

The six official sources are:

  • 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.[11]

[edit] Unitarian Universalist Christmas carol

Gods rest ye, Unitarians, let nothing you dismay;
Remember there's no evidence there was a Christmas Day;
When Christ was born is just not known, no matter what they say,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.
Our current Christmas Customs come from Persia and from Greece,[12]
From solstice celebrations of the ancient Middle East.
This whole darn Christmas spiel is just another pagan feast,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.
There was no star of Bethlehem, there was no angels' song;
There could not have been wise men for the trip would take too long.
The stories in the Bible are historically wrong,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact!

Lyrics by the Rev. Christopher Gist Raible of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester. This was posted to LiveJournal[13] and the UUs loved it.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. (The 4th principle of Unitarian Universalism)UUA.org Seven principles
  2. [1] Can an Atheist Be a Unitarian Universalist? Adam Lee, November 2011.
  3. Atheists and agnostics are a majority in the church, outnumbering Christians by 4 to 1.[2]
  4. The historical importance is as a display or work of art, and how it fits into the decor of the building, rather than as a set of laws
  5. Greater Reality Forum — Heaven and Hell
  6. Tentmaker — Jesus' teachings about hell
  7. [3] Surveys: 'UUism' unique Churchgoers from elsewhere, by John Dart, News Editor, Christian Century
  8. See above:Universalist Unitarian Association
  9. http://www.uua.org/visitors/6798.shtml
  10. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D05E0DB1539F93AA15755C0A962948260
  11. http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/sources
  12. Not to mention Germany, England, and Ireland.
  13. http://community.livejournal.com/chalice_circle/152100.html
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
support
Community
Tools