What’s a UU?


A flame within a chalice is a well-known symbol of Unitarian Universalism. (Learn more.)

All Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote 7 common principles:

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

The living tradition we share draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to renewal of 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.

Read below to find answers to some common questions about Unitarian Universalism:

Is UU a new religion?

No, we belong to a worldwide religious movement tracing its roots back over 400 years. Our earliest roots reach back thousands of years to the Hebrew prophets, the Socratic tradition, and the teachings of Jesus. More recently, earth-centered spirituality, Eastern traditions such as Buddhism, and secular humanist ideals have also greatly influenced our development as a religious community.

Contemporary and historical figures known for original thinking and prophetic social action have drawn inspiration from their UU roots. Among them are:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Albert Schweitzer
  • Margaret Sanger
  • Joseph Priestly
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Clara Barton
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • e.e. Cummings
  • Rev. Robert Fulghum
  • Louisa May Alcott
  • Buckminster Fuller
  • Florence Nightingale
  • Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne

Where does our name come from?

  • The word Unitarian, which came into use in early 16th century Transylvania, was a term used to designate a number of groups that had pledged themselves not to persecute one another and who wished to emphasize the unity or oneness of god as distinct from the traditional Trinitarian formulation.
  • The word Universalist, also born in the post-Reformation world, defined those people who were opposed to the cruel doctrine that only the elect of humankind will be saved. On the contrary, they said, salvation is universal for the “whole family of humankind.”

In the U.S., our movement had 2 roots: late 18th-century New England and mid-Atlantic Unitarian thought and practice, which affirmed the unity of the divine, and American Universalism, which affirmed for all people the transforming power of universal love. These two liberal traditions officially merged in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Do Unitarian Universalists have a set belief system, or dogma?

No. While our religious movement’s origins were mainly influenced by Hebrew Scriptures and the moral teachings of Jesus and pre-establishment Christianity, we have grown to see how creeds limit our spiritual vision.  We affirm with Francis David, the protestant leader of 16th century Unitarianism:  “We need not think alike to love alike.”

What do Unitarian Universalists believe about god?

Concepts about god vary widely among us. For some, god represents the creative process; for others, the personification of the spiritual, or the sense of unity with the universe. Others do not find “god” a useful word at all. We affirm the right of individuals to believe about god whatever seems to them to be true and meaningful.

How do Unitarian Universalists commonly think about Jesus?

Traditionally, we have found the life and ethics of Jesus to be of more value than the dogma that has accumulated around him. We accept Jesus as an important prophet and spiritual leader without denying the importance of religious teachers from other traditions and cultures. We affirm that the transcendent is revealed in and through us and within our experiences of becoming the beloved community, and that the sacred is alive within and expressed through nature.

How do Unitarian Universalists understand the Bible?

The Bible is a collection of books, letters and poetry, written by many authors and brought into its current form(s) over a period of 1,300 years. It represents a treasury of religious searchings for the meaning and purpose of life and humanity’s relationship with the divine. We interpret the Bible — and other religious texts — critically, as potentially inspiring and inspired human-generated documents that have much to teach us about becoming better people, and a community that is committed to creating  a better world.

How do Unitarian Universalists understand sin and salvation?

We tend to understand sin in the biblical sense of “missing the mark.” It is failing to live responsibly with ourselves, others, and the earth, our home. For us, if we talk about salvation at all, it usually refers to our becoming healthy and whole people and reflects the process of fulfilling our human potential in the service of a freer and more loving society.

What is the purpose of a Unitarian Universalist congregation?

Our congregations are living communities gathered to provide understanding, support, and food for the spirit. We look to one another for intellectual and emotional encouragement, and sharing in the celebration of what is spiritual and holy in life. We value concerted action for social justice, realizing that together we can accomplish a great deal more by working together as we seek to “be the change” we would like to see in the world.

How are Unitarian Universalist churches organized?

Each church or fellowship operates under congregational polity, being democratic and autonomous, but intentional about making and maintaining communications with other UU congregations. Our ministers are ordained and installed by the individual churches after completing graduate-level theological training and receiving fellowship in the Unitarian Universalist Association.

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