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Unitarian Universalist: Beliefs, Symbols & Quotes

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Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

In this lesson, we'll explore the beliefs and symbol of the Unitarian Universalists, punctuated with accompanying quotes. We'll learn what unifies their diverse religion and the history of their symbol with its legacy of service and sacrifice. Updated: 08/30/2022

The Unitarian Universalists

You may have heard of the Unitarian Universalist Church. You might even be familiar with their flame and chalice symbol from signs out front of their meeting halls. However, if you've never visited the congregation, you might not know much else about them. They don't seem to profess following a particular religious tradition or deity, but how can they be a religion if they don't? By taking a close look at their beliefs and at what their symbol represents, we might shed some light on what might seem like a paradox at first glance.

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  • 0:04 The Unitarian Universalists
  • 0:37 Beliefs
  • 1:56 The Seven Principles
  • 3:33 Chalice and Flame Symbol
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Beliefs

''We have religion when we look upon people with all their failings, and still find them good.'' - Ralph N. Helverson (Unitarian Universalist Minister)

Some mistakenly believe that Unitarian Universalists are atheists, or people who don't believe in god or a higher power of any kind. While some members may follow that belief, the religion does not require members to believe in any particular deity or any deity at all. However, Unitarian Universalists believe in the sacred, regardless of what name to call it, and draw inspiration from all religious scriptures, enlightened writers, and great philosophers. Likewise, members express a wide variety of beliefs regarding life after death, but the majority reject the idea of divine judgment, which has been a position of the church since the beginning of the Unitarians and the Universalists.

''I have told stories and read poetry from the Bible throughout the twenty-one years of my Unitarian Universalist ministry. Yet the Bible remains for me but one rich source among many human records that speak to us of the joys and challenges of being alive.'' - Rev. Donna Morrison-Reed

The Seven Principles

What do Unitarian Universalists believe? Well, let's look at this quote to start off:

''Church is a place where you get to practice what it means to be human.'' - James Luther Adams (Unitarian Universalist Association)

So if the Unitarian Universalists don't share a common belief in a higher power or what happens after death, what do they share in common to unify their organization? The answer to that lies in the Seven Principles that all members are asked to practice in their journey through light and in their search for religious fulfillment. According to the Unitarian Universalist Association, they include the following:

  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

This quote sums up the principles quite nicely:

''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'' - Rev. Barbara Wells

Chalice and Flame Symbol

''May your life preach more loudly than your lips.'' - William Ellery Channing

What you might be most familiar with regarding the Unitarian Universalist Church is the symbol of a chalice, a type of cup, and a flame. Austrian artist Hans Deutsch created the flame and chalice symbol for the Unitarian Service Committee (or USC) in 1941. Known for drawing political cartoons mocking Hitler, Deutsch had to flee Paris when the Nazis invaded. He soon met Rev. Dr. Charles Rhind Joy, director of the Lisbon, Portugal, office for the USC who worked to help refugees escape Hitler's grasp.

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