Unitarianism vs Unitarian Universalism

So what is the larger organization of the church that your family participates in? When I look at the wiki page for Unitarianism to see what the name of the church in the US that has the belief in Unitarianism it points me at the UUA.

Started a new thread because this was very off-topic but interesting.

Evidently, the larger organization encompasses both…

“Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations. It was formed in 1961 by the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. Both of these predecessor organizations began as Christian denominations of the Unitarian and Universalist varieties respectively.”

It looks like they fall under the same umbrella organization, but, as I understand it, individual churches still largely follow either the American Unitarian Association (Unitarian) or the Universalist Church of America (Unitarian Universalism). I will have to ask my relatives more about their churches, because I myself had only ever heard the terms “Universalist” or “Unitarian” separately, and I had no idea they were conflated.

Internationally, it looks like they also fall under the same umbrella organization, though it really does look to me like different religions (or at least denominations) brought together at the organizational level for the sake of convenience.


the universalist umbrella covers unitarians who believe in one god which separates them from most mainline and fundamentalist groups who hold trinitarian beliefs but it also covers nontheistic groups as well. see this from a bbc guide to world religions:



Was it always that way though? My understanding has always been that Unitarians are diestic Christians who reject the Trinity and embrace the humanity (rather than the divinity) of Christ, but Universalism seems much more recent and expansive.

Does Unitarianism still exist as a distinct sect of Christianity or have the two schools been thoroughly merged?

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Speaking as a (Trinitarian Christian) layman, I don’t quite see how you can have a Christian sect that doesn’t see Christ as divine.


I’m responding in this thread because it’s somewhat off-topic and yet interesting and I started this thread to continue the talk about religion from the Duggar thread.

I guess my position (insert “it’s not about you” gif) on the morality of religion is that there seems to be a correspondence between my own perception of a religion as being “bad” and the degree to which the religion is focused on separating in-group from out-group. It’s hard to find fault with religions like the UUA, who are inclusive enough to allow people who describe themselves with such variety. Christians who believe that Jesus saved everybody regardless of their belief in him don’t seem like the problem.

The religions that seem problematic to me are those that are focused on intolerance of and dehumanization of members of the out-group. If a religion says, “You have to believe X, Y and Z otherwise God hates you and you will suffer for eternity” then it makes it really easy to see others as being unworthy of compassion. I guess that might even go as far as making it such that you could enjoy seeing the suffering of children who you believe are not saved. I feel like there is almost a built-in moral problem with such religions that is hard to get around.


I didn’t mean to imply that they don’t see him as divine, just that they focus on the human aspect of Christ as the (temporarily) mortal son of god.

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So you wouldn’t call someone who believes that Jesus was a human being who was God’s son but not some aspect of God and who died and was resurrected a Christian? What do you mean by “divine”?

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the deistic unitarian branch of universalism considers jesus an important prophet and teacher but not divine holding much the same position as moses.


So, first, thanks for making this a separate thread. Cool topic.

I’ll summarize something that I posted a few months back. My experience with college young 'uns in the USAn South is that many of them don’t much understand the Christianity they claim to practice. They believe they’re saved because they believe. They know they “sin” according to their religion, but it’s not a big deal because they’ve “accepted Christ.” It’s an incredibly narrow view of their own religion. Despite being Southern Baptists, and claiming that faith in the death and resurrection is the key, they mostly operate under the concept of a covenant of works–you have to go to church and do some other things or you won’t “get into” heaven.

At the same time, the young 'uns don’t have the rabid homophobia of the older generation. They are generally more tolerant, though they’re certain “those people” are going to hell.


Ah, gotcha!

Well, so do muslims. Jesus, by the name Isa, is one of the most important prophets in Islam. And yet, nobody (least of all the muslims) would say that makes Islam a Christian sect. :slight_smile:

This reminds me of a scene that appeared in a novel that I read many years ago. In the book, a Christian priest or pastor is watching a Shinto festival and a strange, otherworldly figure appears to him and taunts him by saying, “Look at them. Reveling, laughing and dancing. They are communing directly with the gods. That is real religion. Now look at your faith. You have all of these rules and dogma and teachings. Does it get you any closer to your god? All of that stuff is recent noise. What you are watching now is the original, true form of religion.” And the priest or pastor despairs because he feels in his heart that it is true. The whole scene (which is really just an aside in the novel) really stuck with me because it made me question just what religion is and where it came from and how it got to be the way that it is now.

More in response to your assessment of religion, I like to think of it more as a matter of the degree to which they impose their rules and beliefs on others. If people judge me and determine that I am going to hell, that does not really have any negative affect on me (even if they are right, I will not go to hell because they think so). However, if they try to punish me for breaking the rules of their religion (when there is otherwise no harm in my actions) or proselytize to me (which is damn annoying), that causes real-world harm. In that sense, animistic religions like Shinto (which doesn’t even really have a morality system in the sense that most other religions do) might just be the way to go.

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no, but islam did not arise as an offshoot of christianity the way unitarianism did.

within islam itself perhaps the closest analogue to unitarianism might be ahmadiyya branch which holds that mohammed was not the final prophet and the understanding of allah is ongoing.


I guess that hinges on whether you define “Christian” to mean “follower of Christ” or “subscriber to the Nicene Creed”.


It does if they think it that your going to hell makes it okay for them to treat you badly. If Duggar thinks, “It’s okay that these children are being abused because they are going to hell anyway.” it is a straight up evil belief.

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Do they think that it’s okay to mistreat people who are going to hell anyway? (I do know that Jonathan Edwards and Calvinists in general rejoiced in the fact that sinners were going to hell.) I think that they’re more likely to chalk it up to “the devil led me to sin” and “in any case, I am forgiven for it,” but the influence of Calvinism does remain to this day…


Yes, I guess the converse belief is just as insidious. “I am a member of this in-group and therefore my actions are not evil.” I do think that the biggest issue is dehumanization of outsiders though. It’s okay to think about shooting people because God will sort them out. People who are poor, are poor because God wants them that way. etc.

While Calvinism is the big source of this in contemporary Christianity, the in-group out-group dehumanization seems to be a feature of lots of religions. We think of Buddhism as being inclusive but Burmese Buddhist Priests are telling people that the Rhohingya “aren’t human”.


Buddhism is another interesting case. There are so many wide-ranging schools and sects of Buddhism that it makes Christianity look cohesive by comparison. There are proselytizing sects of Buddhism that only exist in Japan, and they really want to be your friend!

The “in-group, out-group” idea is interesting when you look at it in terms of religions that actively proselytize versus those that do not. Christians generally want people to join the club and are happy to welcome new converts, but may not be so open and welcoming to those who aren’t at all open to finding Jesus. On the other hand, Muslims don’t generally proselytize (at least not as actively and vociferously as many Christians do) and therefore draw a clearer line between believers and non-believers (in my view, anyway, as they are not trying to convert anyone) while taking a “live and let live” attitude toward other faiths (or at least faiths that they aren’t in conflict with for political reasons). Judaism is another good example of a religion that draws a clear distinction between its own faithful and followers of other religions while living largely in harmony with them (with the exception of the treatment of Palestinians by the modern state of Israel, though I see this more as a political issue than as a religious conflict).


there is also a sect of buddhism, generally called secular buddhism, which casts off the religious aspects of traditional buddhism with its focus on inevitable suffering and cutting through the endless cycle of death and rebirth along with the power structures arising from that and instead puts its foces on using buddhist teaching as a way of achieving human flourishing in this life and this world.


Dunno if this is weird, but I think the former definition is one to apply to people, while the latter is one to apply to religions. :slight_smile:

I’m not going to say someone identifying as a Christian isn’t one (though depending on how they act towards other people, I might call them a Christian doing it wrong), but I’m far more willing to judge the doctrine of a particular church or a sect. Does this make any sense?