The Unitarian Universalist Association was formed by the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist denominations in the late 60's.
Both denominations had moved away from prescriptive creeds, doctrines, and tests of faith. They emphasized individual freedom of personal belief, individual responsibility to synthesize one's own religious philosophy and personal spiritual practices, the importance of social justice and social change, in cooperation and communion with one another.
The UUA also maintains the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a church by mail, for UUS who are not able to attend churches. Albert Schweitzer was a member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship while he worked in Africa.
As might be expected in a non-creedal religion, there is a wide range of philosophies and practices among UUs. Some are aligned in theology and practice as Christian, some as Deist (e.g. Thomas Jefferson), some as Transcendentalist (e.g. Thoreau), some as Buddhist, some as Taoist, some as Neo-Pagan, some as Humanist, and others in many other varieties. Their political and social alignments also range (at least) from conservative to liberal.
UUISM'S OLDER ROOTS
Unitarian Universalism has a rich religious heritage, with historic roots set deep in the Judeo Christian tradition and more recently drawing heavily from other religious movements around the world, as well.
Some Unitarians think of their roots as the early monotheism of Ahknaton, pharoh of Egypt. More salient are Judaism and the debates which raged in the Catholic church from the early centuries of the Common Era and arose again and again over the centuries.
The Unitarian doctrine (the Unitarian heresy, according to those who believe in the divinity of Jesus) is the belief that God is one, and that Jesus is a man but not god. The Universalist doctrine (the "Universalist heresy, according to those who believe that some souls are doomed to eternity in Hell) was the belief that a kind and loving God, like a kind and loving parent, would not condemn any person to eternal damnation, but that all souls would, at least eventually, go to heaven (the doctrine of Universal Salvation).
The Unitarian Heresy resurfaced during the latter part of the Protestant Reformation, and churches whose history is rooted in this period are found throughout Europe.
UUism IN THE US
Unitarianism came to the US from England, and the Universalist church started here when minister John Murray was shipwrecked in the 1800s. The Unitarian church in the US was generally more intellectual and its membership drew from the upper middle and the privileged class.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Universalist church in the US was more of a populist religious movement, with a membership drawing more from the middle class and the working class. Each emphasized social change to increase social justice, and each formed a Service Committee to help their members to participate with money and energy on a worldwide basis, such as relief efforts in Europe after the World Wars. This tradition continues today, with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee's work around the world.
Acknowledgement: Alan Hamilton
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