Liberal Religion: Free and Responsible Faith

Many Unitarian Universalist will gladly give you a litany of things they do not believe. If asked about “Belief” in a religious context, some of us have a hard time committing. It’s a shame, really, because our willingness to commit to our beliefs about the world is crucial to manifesting them in the world.

Our covenant is to “affirm and promote” certain aspirations about the world. We cannot affirm them without believing in their truth, or at least believing that they should be true.

We profess the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We believe that compassion and justice should be the focus of relationships between people. These things not evident in the world we currently live in. They are currently just our best guess about what Beloved Community will look like. Our Principles have changed and will likely change again.

We seem to be ready to believe freely, but what does it mean to believe responsibly? If our beliefs are not rooted in absolutes, how do we discern them? William Schulz, former President of our Association, has said: Human Rights only exist if consensus creates them. They are not naturally occurring substances. They are clearly not enforced by divine intervention. It requires consensus, and that requires community.

We believe in universal justice and equality, though they have never been universal before. We believe in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning; no one has ever proven that anyone has definitively found truth or meaning, though. We must believe, anyway!

Our belief is essential in making it real.

Terry Pratchett once wrote, speaking as the character which embodies DEATH of his Discworld setting, that people need to practice believing in things like fairies and elves, so they can learn to believe in bigger things like love and justice. He says you can run the entire universe through your finest sieve and never find “one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy”. These are not tangible things; they do not exist naturally. But, in order to create them, we first have to believe and give them form.

We have to believe in things that we can’t measure in the world. Our belief in them is the first step in manifesting them and making them real. Belief in “God” isn’t required. One does need belief in an interdependent web of existence; something bigger than one’s self that one is responsible too. That web, in which we are inextricably bound, is the only manifestation of God needed to participate in the bigger discussion. Belief that we are part of something bigger than each of us, or maybe even all of us together. Belief that there are things that, against any current system of measurement, have value and substance. Believe in that, and we’re still in the game.

That faith is our religious claim. That is the core of our cultural power and authority.


Our mission is to make Unitarian Universalism easier to understand and share with the world. Liberal religion has a vital place in making the world more just and compassionate. The more people who know about our Principles and goals, the better for the world. If you believe we do a good job representing Unitarian Universalism, we need your support to keep doing so. Whether you can afford a few dollars at the end of the year or a few dollars a month, we appreciate your support.

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