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Unitarian Universalism


Unitarian Universalist Flaming Chalice
Catherine Noble Beyer/About.com

The Unitarian Universalists, or UUs, are the product of two separate but similar movements, the Unitarians and the Universalists. This officially occurred in 1961 through the formation of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

While both previous groups commonly identified themselves as Christian, Unitarian Universalism considers itself a separate religion in which belief in a higher power is optional and teachings focus instead on the inherent worth of all human beings, religious tolerance, rationality, advancing truth, and ethical living.


The Unitarians emerged as a radical branch of Protestantism during the Reformation. Being non-trinitarian, the Unitarians believed in a single, indivisible God. Jesus was not recognized as divine, although his teachings were still held as important. The stressed rationality over mystical experience, and they frequently denied doctrines such as predestination, damnation, and original sin.


Universalism holds that all souls will eventually be reunited with God. While behavior in life does lead to consequences, it does not lead to eternal damnation. Universalism teaches universal salvation, where reuniting with God does not depend upon the individual's faith.

Notions of Universalism have been around since almost the beginning of Christianity, often being ruled heretical. It did not organize into a formal group until the 1700s.

Major Influences:

Members of all religions are welcome to attend UU services, and the perspectives of other religions frequently influence UU outlooks. Teachings involving love, compassion, human worth, harmony and justice are most strongly stressed.

UU literature cites three primary current sources of inspiration:

  • The ethical teachings of Christianity
  • The teachings of "earth-centered religions" regarding the cycle of life and living in harmony with nature
  • Humanism, which emphasizes science, rationality, and the inherent worth of humanity

Major Principles:

The Unitarian Universalist Association identifies Seven Guiding Principles of their organization, around which UU activities and teachings are centered.

Plurality of Beliefs:

Beyond the general principles guiding UUs, believers can have a very wide range of beliefs. They may be monotheists, polytheists, or atheists; may or may not believe in the divinity of Jesus; may believe in reincarnation, Heaven and Hell, the Summerlands, or other life after death belief, or they may have no life after death belief; may or many not believe in angels, spirits, or ghosts; and so forth.

Sexuality and Marriage:

UUs welcome all people regardless of sexual orientation. In the United States, UU churches offer non-legal marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in states that do not legally recognize such unions. These ceremonies allow couples to express their devotion to each other in front of friends and family just like traditional marriages.

In addition, many interfaith couples find UU churches to be welcome option in locating a venue for marriage, as UU churches have no religious requirements for couples.

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