2 Definitions and Differences

2 Definitions and Differences

What is a favorite UU bumper sticker?

“To question is to answer!”

How do you think most churches would define a Christian?

Classical Christian doctrine would describe a Christian as a person who believes:

  • that God, the Ultimate, the Divine (call it what one wishes) was uniquely revealed to humans in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, also called Jesus the Christ.
  • that Jesus was God on Earth, who came to save human beings from the state of sin into which they were born (Original Sin) by his death on the cross (the Atonement), and then triumphed over death (the Resurrection). In response to this act of God, humans are to give thanks to Him, accept Jesus as their Savior and dedicate their life to Jesus by following his teachings and example.
  • that miracles can happen through a supernatural deity who can alter the workings of the natural world.

For Protestants, the authority for their religion is the Bible. For Catholics the authority is the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Liberal Christianity (from which the Unitarians and the Universalists evolved) either downplays or dismisses the idea of Original Sin, and sees Jesus as one sent from God to show us how to live better lives. Liberal Christians view God as a force for good rather than a supernatural being. They are more flexible in their interpretation of Scripture, reading it more in its historic context and giving symbolic rather than literal interpretation to many passages.

Are UUs Christian?

The answer to this question varies among UUs. Unitarians and Universalists, once liberal Protestant Christian denominations, drew away from their Christian base to embrace the principle of individual freedom of belief. Although some churches are still liberal Christian, today only about 20 percent of UUs would call themselves Christian. Thus Unitarian Universalism cannot be considered a totally Christian religion.

How do you differ from Christians?

A primary way we differ is that we do not regard Jesus as a unique revelation of God. Most UUs (even UU Christians) would reject a literal interpretation of accepted Christian beliefs such as the Virgin Birth, the miracles of Jesus and the Resurrection. While UU Christians would accept a symbolic interpretation of these events, most UUs view Jesus as a moral and ethical teacher and no more than that.

What do UUs and humanists have in common?

Because ours is a very humanistically-oriented religion, most UUs regard themselves as humanists in one sense or another. But, like the term God, humanism also means different things to different UUs.

Basically, humanism means that we humans are responsible for our destiny for better or worse and we cannot rely on an outside power or deity to determine our individual or collective fate. Humanism is also an affirmation of the power of the human mind and the human spirit.

There are both secular and religious humanists. Secular humanists do not believe in any kind of deity; they find little, if any, value in religious language, stories, myths or symbols of any religious tradition.

The religious humanist, while holding to the above definition of humanism, does not completely disavow the idea of God. Usually defining God as a power deep within themselves, they also find certain messages or themes in religious stories that provide them with understanding and guidelines for human living.

There are both secular and religious humanists within our church family, and we make room for both.

What is the difference between a Unitarian and a Universalist?

From an institutional perspective there has been no difference since 1961 when the Unitarians and Universalists merged.

What might be considered the watch words of Unitarian Universalism?

Traditionally they have been freedom, reason and tolerance. While today’s UUs still revere these three words, they have added three more words: spirit, grace and love.

What are some characteristics of UUs?

The typical UU is well-educated, moderately affluent, and professionally employed. Most of our local churches are working hard to attract a more diverse membership. We want to be welcoming congregations, free of economic, religious, racial, ethnic, or sexual discrimination.

Is Unitarian Universalism really a religion?

In dealing with beliefs and theology, it’s important to note that Unitarian Universalism is a way of being religious rather than a religious doctrine. For us, religion is an ongoing search for meaning, purpose, value and spiritual depth in one’s life. We believe that individuals are entitled to make their own search, and that not all persons (not even all UUs) are going to share the same beliefs.

Ours is a non-creedal, non-doctrinal religion which affirms the individual’s freedom of belief. For this reason it is not possible to give a blanket answer to whether or not UUs believe in God, Jesus, the Bible or life after death. Although we do not all believe the same thing about these and other matters, we do believe that each person has the integrity and the ability to come to terms with their religious beliefs in a way that is right for that person.

What is your attitude toward other religious faiths such as Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism?

We believe there is wisdom in most, if not all, of the world’s religions. We feel each is valuable for what it can tell us about ourselves and our world, and how its members find religious meaning and direction.

Do UUs believe in a universal religion?

We believe in the universality of religion in that we recognize all humans ask questions such as “Why am I here? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? Why do I have to die?” Realizing all religions seek to provide answers to questions like these, we think there is much wisdom in their many answers.

Few UUs contend that there is, or ever will be, a single universal religion that is right for everyone.

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