What is Unitarianism?
Trying to define Unitarian philosophy is no simple task. Our very diversity ensures that there is healthy competion and evolution of our thoughts. Nevertheless, there are some basic principles which seem to be widespread among Unitarians as articulated by the North American Unitarian Universalist Association.
They are as follows:
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.
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the 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.
As there is no set creed or dogma in Unitarian churches, they develop differently — some retaining some orthodox beliefs and others becoming mostly Humanist. Although liberal in religious ideas, there can be a variety of opinions within any Unitarian church. Toleration has always been a characteristic of Unitarians from the 16th century to the present time. We recognise that truth cannot be imposed upon a person by others or by tradition.
Unitarians trace their history back to the courageous heretics who dared to apply reason to religion. Such men as Michael Servetus, Giorgio Biandrata, Faustus Socinus and Francis David. During the last one hundred and fifty years some outstanding Unitarians were Joseph Priestley, Theodore Parker, William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Schweitzer and Florence Nightingale.
Notable Australian Unitarians include Catherine Helen Spence ($5 note), Sir William A’Beckett and poet Bernard O’Dowd.
As Unitarians we believe that we must help to make this world a safer, more environmentally secure, more democratic and more inclusive place for all people. We believe mankind can make a better life, where all can reach their full potential; a life where each one works for the best welfare and greater happiness of all people.