Unlike most other religious groups in the world,
Unitarian Universalism is made up mostly of people
who began their religious lives in some other tradition.
We UUs usually take this for granted,
but if we think deeply about it,
this fact that most of us have migrated from elsewhere
makes our gathering of like-minded people
very different from every
other religion in the world.
Many of the world's religions
are strongly identified with one
If we know the ethnic background of a family,
we can often guess their religion.
The 'followers' of most religions just grew up
with that faith
—much as they just grew up speaking
a particular language.
In other words, most other religions
depend on human conformity
for their continued existence.
Probably no other religious movement with such a
(UUs have been around for over 200 years)
has such a high proportion of people
who as adults have voluntarily
chosen to join.
Also UUism is not an evangelical religion.
We were not drawn into this movement
because someone persuaded us to join.
Rather, we just discovered it
—each person in his or her own way.
The believers belonging to other traditions
usually just inherited 'their' religion.
Perhaps they questioned what they were supposed to believe,
but many stayed with the faith in which they were raised.
But UUism does
not teach people what to believe
—either as children or as adults.
We have no creed to
which people are supposed to subscribe.
We are a gathering of people engaged in free religious quest.
I am one of the many people who have freely
to become a Unitarian Universalists as an adult.
I was raised in the United Methodist Church,
which is a main-stream Protestant denomination,
definitely part of the Christian church,
altho not as dogmatic as many other parts.
I became involved in my local UU congregation
first of all by being invited to give a talk
and later to offer adult education classes.
Because there were a good number of people
interested in the classes I offered,
I eventually decided to make UUism my own religious home.
UUism allows freedom of belief,
without the necessity of basing each belief in a given
look back on my years as a Christian,
I find it very refreshing that
I am no longer tied to a belief system I did not invent.
I was still a Christian,
have even written a small book
other Christians would usually expect me to show
how a certain belief was based in the Bible
—especially the New Testament.
In many cases, this was not a problem.
which illustrates how existential spirituality
was first created by the apostle Paul:
An Existential Interpretation of Paul's Letter to the Romans:
This book represents my views at that time in my life,
spiritual insights found in this document from the first century,
but I do not feel tied to the Bible as a source of truth.
fact, one of my most important
theological fathers is Rudolf Bultmann
—the New Testament scholar who
Most Christian churches have never heard of his work,
since it does not suit their ways of believing.
as a Unitarian Universalist,
have in fact developed my own belief system: "existential spirituality".
I am completely free to develop my own forms of spirituality
without having to show how it is based in any given religious
It does have its roots in such Christian thinkers as
Paul, Søren Kierkegaard, & Rudolf Bultmann.
But existential spirituality is not limited to what these thinkers
Here is another
cyber-sermon which explains more fully:
"Introducing Existential Spirituality":
And here is a complete
bibliography of this spiritual movement:
a tiny number of present-day Unitarian Universalists
know anything about existential spirituality.
But that does not matter.
Ours is not a top-down
in which the leaders at the top have all knowledge,
which they pass down to the people below.
people who choose to become Unitarian Universalists
(as well as all who grew up within UUism)
have the freedom to create their own belief systems.
When new spiritual paths are opened,
others are then welcome
to try those forms of spirituality for themselves.
This is how we make spiritual progress.
spiritual insights will not occur
until hundreds of years from
But if such new insights can be rationally defended,
they will find a home within the UU movement.
UUism looks forward more than it looks back.
Unitarian Universalists do have some religious traditions we affirm,
but we are not limited
to those traditions.
As a creed-free movement,
we are free to disagree with any of our traditions from the past.
of the other religious movements of the world
are basically backward-looking:
Each has a strong religious tradition around which that faith is
Some affirm a sacred text.
Sometimes a religion was founded by a single person.
When a religious movement is anchored in a
it usually becomes a backward-looking
The basic 'truths' of that faith are found in the past.
But Unitarian Universalism at its best
is a forward-looking religious movement.
Because we are not tied to any sacred text or person,
we are open to new spiritual discoveries.
Because of this openness to all forms of spirituality
that will submit themselves to the tests of reason,
the Unitarian Universalist movement
(or whatever it might be called in future centuries)
will continue to become a spiritual home
for persons of spirit who have new insights.
ever the world's religious climate becomes more rational,
then we can expect the anti-rational religions to decline.
But Unitarian Universalism will continue and prosper
because we welcome new
—instead of testing any new
against an established tradition of 'truth'.
if no human being has ever had such insights before,
if new forms of spirituality can be explained
and if open-minded people find them useful,
then they can become new parts of the UU movement.
forward-orientation also applies to the beliefs of individual UUs.
Each of us is free to grow and develop spiritually
in whatever ways seem best to us.
We can change our own
religious beliefs without changing churches.
UUism attracts intelligent people.
first became involved in the UU movement
(as a teacher of adult education classes),
I was impressed by the level of intelligence within our movement.
And finding other good thinkers has continued to be
a solid reason to remain a Unitarian Universalist.
Because we are open-minded,
we do occasionally attract people who have beliefs
that fall apart when critically examined.
But these fringe believers usually drop out after
since we UUs are not easily convinced to follow foolish ideas.
For the rest of the history of the human race,
whenever new intelligent persons of spirit emerge,
they will often rebel against
the religious traditions in which they were raised.
And if the UU movement is still in existence
and if it still welcomes insightful people,
these most intelligent religious persons
should be able to find a spiritual home within our movement.
As long as we remain open to new ideas,
intelligent persons of all religious backgrounds
will continue to find a good spiritual home within Unitarian
These are three reasons I am a Unitarian Universalist.
Others are hereby invited to offer their reasons.
If we explain why we remain within this movement,
others who are not yet Unitarian Universalists
might identify with our explanations
and decide that they have similar reasons
for choosing Unitarian Universalism as their spiritual home.
draft Oct. 2002, sixth revision 10-20-2002; seventh revision 4-5-2003;
eighth revision 6-28-2005; 11-2-2006;
5-20-2009; 4-3-2010; 3-3-2011; 12-13-2012
James Park has been a member of
the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis since 1980.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s he was a paid staff member
of the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Campus Ministries,
the UU presence on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
In 1999 he started Heart, Mind, & Spirit
—an electronic magazine for UUs on
He now serves as webmaster and editor for HMS.
Several other dimensions of his UU connections
will be found here:
He is also an existential philosopher
and author of five books in existential spirituality,
all of which will be found in the Existential Spirituality
(This bibliography also reviews
the classic texts of existential spirituality,
especially the relevant works of Søren Kierkegaard.)
Much more information about James Park
will be found on his home page:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum:
About half of the 'rooms' in this museum
are devoted to UUism—over 500 files.