About Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism creates change: in ourselves, and in the world.
Seven days a week, UUs live their faith by doing. Whether in community with others or as an individual, we know that active, tangible expressions of love, justice, and peace are what make a difference.
Unitarian Universalist congregations are committed to seven Principles (link opens in new window) that include the worth of each person, the need for justice and compassion, and the right to choose one’s own beliefs. Our congregations and faith communities promote these principles through regular worship, learning and personal growth, shared connection and care, social justice and service, celebration of life’s transitions, and much more.
Our faith tradition is diverse and inclusive. We grew from the union of two radical Christian groups: the Universalists, who organized in 1793, and the Unitarians, who organized in 1825. They joined to become the UUA in 1961. Both groups trace their roots in North America to the early Massachusetts settlers and the Framers of the Constitution. Across the globe, our legacy reaches back centuries to liberal religious pioneers in England, Poland, and Transylvania. Today, Unitarian Universalists include people of many beliefs (link opens in new window) who share UU values of peace, love, and understanding. We are creators of positive change in people and in the world.
UU Principles and Sources
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides.
As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.” They are:
- 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.
We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience:
- 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.
These seven Principles and six Sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) (link opens in new window) grew out of the grassroots of our tradition, were affirmed democratically, and are part of who we are.
History of Unitarian Universalism
Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religious tradition that 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 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” (link opens in new window).
Since the merger of the two denominations in 1961, Unitarian Universalism has nurtured its Unitarian and Universalist heritages to provide a strong voice for social justice and liberal religion.
PHOTO: UUA President Dana McLean Greeley, second from right, joined other religious leaders and many UU ministers and laypeople in the civil rights demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 (UUA Archives).
Our Symbol: The Flaming Chalice
…photo of Flaming Chalice
A flame within a chalice (a cup with a stem and foot) is a primary symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith tradition. Many of our congregations kindle a flaming chalice in gatherings and worships and feature the chalice symbol prominently.
Hans Deutsch, an Austrian artist, first brought together the chalice and the flame as a Unitarian symbol during his work with the Unitarian Service Committee during World War II. To Deutsch, the image had connotations of sacrifice and love.
To Unitarian Universalists today the flaming chalice is a symbol of hope, the sacred, the quest for truth, the warmth of community, the light of reason, and more.
We light a flaming chalice in worship to create a reverent space for reflection, prayer, meditation, and singing.
Unitarian Universalists have many ways of articulating our seven Principles in simpler language. Here’s the way our Tapestry of Faith children’s programs describe them:
- We believe that each and every person is important.
- We believe that all people should be treated fairly and kindly.
- We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together.
- We believe that each person must be free to search for what is true and right in life.
- We believe that all persons should have a vote about the things that concern them.
- We believe in working for a peaceful, fair, and free world.
- We believe in caring for our planet Earth, the home we share with all living things.