Unitarianism is a personal approach to religion that promotes religious freedom and is open to various beliefs. With around 800,000 followers worldwide, Unitarianism stresses the oneness of God and the unity of all humans. Unitarianism includes people who believe in different religions like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Paganism and Atheism can follow Unitarianism.

History of Unitarianism

The Protestant Reformation resulted in the development of Unitarianism in Poland and Transylvania in the 1560s. Within a decade, Transylvania accepted Unitarianism as a recognized religion. Since Unitarians opposed the Christian concept of the Trinity, traditional Christianity rejected Unitarianism. Its followers were persecuted for centuries. Unitarianism spread to North America. Its ideas were welcome in reaction to the Calvinist concepts of the Great Awakening of the 1740s. In 1819 William Ellery Channing gave a sermon called "Unitarian Christianity" which was significant in the development of North American Unitarianism. The American Unitarian Association was founded in 1825. North American Unitarianism was more humanistic than its European counterpart. Among its influences were the Transcendentalist concepts of writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In 1961 the American Unitarian Association merged with the Universalist Church of America (established in 1793) to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Unitarianism Beliefs

While Unitarianism does not follow a specific set of beliefs and is tolerant, it does have general guidelines. Unitarians support personal and rational thinking to reach one's own conclusions. They welcome all questions and doubts, and are critical of systems with strict religious rules, scriptures, and conclusions. Unitarians believe that humans have the potential be good and that they are responsible for the evil in the world; therefore, humans are responsible for correcting their wrongdoing. They believe that religion should play a proactive role in the world. Thus, Unitarians often engage in community work. Unitarianism promotes diversity and believes that is necessary in the world. Human differences are creative, not destructive. Equality is practiced and women and homosexuals can become Unitarian ministers. Some Unitarians do not believe in God but many do. According to Unitarianism, God is one (the Mother or the Father) and is present in all things; Jesus is a simple man. God is not the union of three beings (God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit) that Christianity promotes. God is loving and compassionate, and not harsh as in other religions.

Unitarianism Customs

Since Unitarianism is an open and tolerant tradition, collective worship is designed in a way that all Unitarians with varying beliefs and differing relationships with God can feel welcome. Worship sometimes may simply focus on celebrating life, so that all followers present can participate. Unitarian collective worship lacks a formality and ritual, but includes readings, prayers, sermons, hymns, songs, and periods of silence. Because of the gender- and religion-inclusive nature of Unitarianism, the service uses language that is not based on a particular gender or religion. Actions speak volumes in Unitarianism; therefore, followers are usually involved in social initiatives and people who want to make social changes are often interested in joining the church.

By Ryan Brown