Principles and Sources
As Unitarian Universalists we are guided to live by our seven Principles. We covenant to affirm and promote
- 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 inter-dependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.
The living tradition 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 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 transcending 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 neighbours 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 teaching of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with rhythms of nature.
Brief Reflections on the Seven Unitarian Universalist Principles
by Rev. Debra Faulk
Preamble: These seven principles were crafted by a committee with input invited from the entire continental membership. The wording went through a multi-year process before final acceptance in 1985. They are currently under review in both Canada and the United States for we truly recognize the dynamic nature of religious community which requires constant evaluation and re-affirmation. These principles are not a creed. They are meant to be guiding statements, that when posed to ourselves as questions, can clarify our ethical stand in the world.
The 1st Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” Simple and perhaps obvious at first reading -- enacting it can be a challenge. What of the person we perceive committing injustice or undermining the dignity of another, do we affirm their inherent worth? Would doing so equate to supporting their actions? Acceptance of a person’s potential is not acceptance of abusive behaviour.
This principle is a demand to justice. As guiding principle it calls us to action, to work for issues of equality and anti-oppression - social, economic or political. It requires that we honour individual choice, ever aware of the influence of the individual on the wider society. It requires that we recognize our own inherent worth as well.
The 2nd Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”
To be a justice seeking person requires a core of self-acceptance, a sense of personal dignity that translates into the recognition of the worth and dignity in every one else. It has been said that justice is love at a distance. This love causes internal unrest in the face of inequity. Compassion literally means “to suffer with”. Living out of the capacity for compassion involves the willingness to witness pain in the world, be with it and not paralyzed by it. The call to justice and equity means to take an ethical stand in the face of injustice with compassion.
The 3rd Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual grown in our congregations.”
The spiritual dimension of an individual or a community is vital and changing. At its best it deepens and grows. With the acceptance of this aspect of growth we express our willingness to explore new ideas, to expand our perceptions and to suspend judgment – this is challenging and meaningful work.
The 4th Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” In this statement is found the essence of our liberal faith tradition. We are each responsible for engaging in the quest to deepen our understanding of what is meaningful and true to us personally as well as communally. This is a dynamic and lifelong process, enhanced by having like-valued people to accompany us on the journey.
The 5th Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of democratic process within our congregations and the society at large.”
The 5th Unitarian Universalist principle offers a succinct expression of the importance of the individual in the context of community. The demand is to search one’s own conscience and then to contribute to the community. Participation, engagement and action are our responsibility if we strive to enact justice in the world.
The 6th Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.” It has been said that for peace to exist it must begin within the heart of each person. Peace is more than an absence of war; it is the presences of justice, equity for all persons. In community we find support to be agents of this kind of transformation in the world.
The 7th Unitarian Universalist principle states that “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” The recognition of our place as merely a strand in the web of life invites us to be planetary stewards. As individuals and congregations we reflect on how we can live as sustainably as possible and then put it into action.
Some Famous Unitarians and Universalists
|John Adams||1735-1826||Second President of United States|
|John Quincy Adams||1767-1848||Sixth President of United States|
|Horatio Alger||1832-1899||Writer of rags-to-riches books for boys.|
|Louisa May Alcott||1832-1888||Author of Little Women and other books|
|Susan B. Anthony||1820-1906||Organizer of women's suffrage movement.|
|P. T. Barnum||1810-1891||Owner of Barnum & Bailey Circus, founder of Tufts University|
|Bela Bartok||1881-1945||Hungarian composer|
|Clara Barton||1821-1912||Founder of the American Red Cross|
|Alexander Graham Bell||1847-1922||Inventor of the telephone, founder of Bell Telephone Company|
|Ray Bradbury||Science fiction writer|
|Luther Burbank||1849-1926||American botanist of the early 20th century|
|Robert Burns||1759-1796||Scottish poet and song writer|
|e.e. cummings||1894-1962||20th century American poet|
|Charles Darwin||1809-1882||Scientist and evolutionist, author of Origin of Species|
|Charles Dickens||1809-1882||English novelist|
|Ralph Waldo Emerson||1803-1882||Unitarian minister, essayist, philosopher|
|Benjamin Franklin||1706-1790||Scientist, writer, statesman|
|Nathaniel Hawthorne||1804-1864||American novelist, author of The Scarlet Letter|
|Julia Ward Howe||1819-1910||Composer of Battle Hymn of the Republic|
|Thomas Jefferson||1743-1826||Third President of United States and author of the Declaration of Independence|
|Arthur Lissmer||1847-1922||Canadian artist, member of the Group of Seven|
|Henry Wadsworth Longfellow||1807-1882||American writer, author of The Song of Hiawatha|
|Thomas Masaryk||1850-1937||First president of Czechoslovakia in 1920, proponent of democracy and social justice|
|Herman Melville||1791-1872||Writer, author of Moby Dick|
|Samuel Morse||1791-1872||Inventor of the telegraph and Morse code|
|Florence Nightingale||1820-1910||British nurse and hospital reformer|
|Linus Pauling||1901-1994||Chemist, won Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962|
|Beatrix Potter||1866-1943||Author of Peter Rabbit and other children's stories|
|Joseph Priestly||1733-1804||Discoverer of oxygen, Unitarian minister|
|Paul Revere||1735-1818||Silversmith and colonial patriot or revolutionary depending on your point of view|
|Carl Sandburg||1878-1967||American poet, won Pulitzer Prize for biography of Abraham Lincoln|
|Albert Schweitzer||1875-1965||Theologian and physician|
|Adlai Stevenson||1900-1965||Governor of Illinois, candidate for President and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.|
|William Howard Taft||1857-1930||27th President of United States and tenth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court|
|Dr. Emily Stowe||1831-1903||Canada's first female doctor, and founder of first woman suffrage society in Canada|
|Henry David Thoreau||1817-1862||Essayist and naturalist, author of Walden Pond|
|Kurt Vonnegut Jr.||Writer, author of Slaughterhouse-Five|
|Frank Lloyd Wright||1869-1959||Architect|
|Whitney Young||1921-1971||Head of the Urban League|