Unitarianism Universalism is often considered an unusual religious organization, or at the very least, an unorthodox one. Unlike many religions in North America, we do not require adherents to profess a specific creed or set of beliefs. Our members and friends include individuals who identify themselves as Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Humanists, Wiccans, and many other religious traditions. Many interfaith couples find it a comfortable religious home.
Unitarian Universalists hold seven Principles as strong values and moral teachings. 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.” We share a living tradition of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from many sources. The seven Principles and six Sources of the Unitarian Universalist Association grew out of the grassroots inquiries of our faith communities, were affirmed democratically, and are part of who we are. UUA has an excellent section on its website explaining what we believe and who we are.
THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
The inherent worth and dignity of every person
Reverence and respect for human nature is at the core of Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith. We believe that all the dimensions of our being carry the potential to do good. We celebrate the gifts of being human: our intelligence and capacity for observation and reason, our senses and ability to appreciate beauty, our creativity, our feelings and emotions. We cherish our bodies as well as our souls. We can use our gifts to offer love, to work for justice, to heal injury, to create pleasure for ourselves and others.
"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy," the great twentieth-century Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote. Unitarian Universalists affirm the inherent worth and dignity of each person as a given of faith—an unshakeable conviction calling us to self-respect and respect for others.
—Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker
Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations
Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations points us toward something beyond inherent worth and dignity. This principle points us to the larger community. It gets at collective responsibility. It reminds us that treating people as human beings is not simply something we do one-on-one, but something that has systemic implications and can inform our entire cultural way of being.
Compassion is something that we can easily act on individually. We can demonstrate openness, give people respect, and treat people with kindness on our own. But we need one another to achieve equity and justice.
Justice, equity, and compassion are all part of the same package. Just as the second Principle overlaps with the first, so it is related to the seventh Principle—the interdependent web of all existence.
—Rev. Emily Gage
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
Spiritual growth isn't about a vertical ascent to heaven but about growth in every dimension at once. It's spirituality in 3-D. Growth in spirit doesn't measure one's proximity to a God above, but rather the spaciousness of one's own soul—its volume, its capacity, its size.
We need souls that can take in the world in all its complexity and diversity, yet still maintain our integrity. And we need souls that can love and be in relationship with all of this complexity. Instead of fight or flight, we need a spiritual posture of embrace.
—Rev. Rob Hardies
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
As responsible religious seekers, we recognize that we are privileged to be free, to have resources to pursue life beyond mere survival, to continually search for truth and meaning, to exist beyond bonds of dogma and oppression, and to wrestle freely with truth and meaning as they evolve.
This privilege calls us not to be isolated and self-centered, believing that our single perspective trumps all others, but rather to be humble, to be open to the great mysteries of truth and meaning that life offers. And those mysteries may speak to us through our own intuition and experience—but also through tradition, community, conflict, nature, and relationships.
As a faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism makes sacred the right and responsibility to engage in this free and responsible quest as an act of religious devotion. Institutionally, we have left open the questions of what truth and meaning are, acknowledging that mindful people will, in every age, discover new insights.
—Rev. Paige Getty
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
In our religious lives, the democratic process requires trust in the development of each individual conscience—a belief that such development is possible for each of us, as well as a commitment to cultivate our own conscience. We could call it a commitment to the value of each person. In the words of Theodore Parker, "Democracy means not 'I am as good as you are,' but 'You are as good as I am.'" My connection with the sacred is only as precious as my willingness to acknowledge the same connection in others.
—Rev. Parisa Parsa
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
The sixth Principle seems extravagant in its hopefulness and improbable in its prospects. Can we continue to say we want "world community"? "Peace, liberty, and justice for all"? The world is full of genocide, abuse, terror, and war. What have we gotten ourselves into?
As naïve or impossible as the sixth Principle may seem, I'm not willing to give up on it. In the face of our culture's apathy and fear, I want to imagine and help create a powerful vision of peace by peaceful means, liberty by liberatory means, justice by just means. I want us to believe—and to live as if we believe—that a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all is possible. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but I can assure you that we will improve ourselves and improve the world by trying.
—Rev. Sean Parker Dennison
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
Our seventh Principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence, is a glorious statement. Yet we make a profound mistake when we limit it to merely an environmental idea. It is so much more. It is our response to the great dangers of both individualism and oppression. It is our solution to the seeming conflict between the individual and the group.
Our seventh Principle may be our Unitarian Universalist way of coming to fully embrace something greater than ourselves. The interdependent web—expressed as the spirit of life, the ground of all being, the oneness of all existence, the community-forming power, the process of life, the creative force, even God—can help us develop that social understanding of ourselves that we and our culture so desperately need. It is a source of meaning to which we can dedicate our lives.
—Rev. Forrest Gilmore
Sources of Our Living Tradition
- 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.