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Unitarian Universalism takes its origin from the merger in 1961 of the Universalist Church of America (organized in 1779), and the American Unitarian Association (founded in 1823), although both Unitarianism and Universalism date back further as theologies. In the United States, many early universalists and unitarians were liberal members of christian denominations. These religions attracted increasingly diverse congregations as they emphasized tolerance, open-mindedness, and reason.
As many atheists sought humanist fellowship in Unitarian congregations earlier in the 20th century, many congregations grew very secular. Some congregations had speeches followed by discussions rather than sermons and ceased singing hymns. In recent decades, many Unitarian Universalist congregations have increased an emphasis on spirituality, drawing from many traditions.
Today's Unitarian Universalists include some christians, but also include atheists, theists, humanists, agnostics, etc. (Note that unitarian christians differ significantly from most christians as described at the external link below.) Unitarian Universalists refer to themselves as UUs.
UUs profess no creed, but are affirm seven general principles, including free thought as indicated in the fourth principle:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
UUs have strong social, ethical concerns, and emphasize the search for spirituality through freedom of belief.
They are making efforts to create a worldwide interfaith religious community. Many members come from other denominations and religions.
Unitarian Universalist congregations vary quite significantly. Any one congregation cannot represent the full range: from unitarian universalist christians to quite secular organizations.
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