Are you a Universalist?

What, precisely, does it mean to be a Universalist? Contrary to popular belief, a Universalist is not by definition a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church although certainly an estimated ten percent of UUs hold Universalist beliefs. The Unitarian Universalist Association is a liberal organization whose congregation does not subscribe to any single creed and one’s belief in the actual existence of God does not  prohibit membrship. It was formed in 1961 with the merger of two separate religious traditions. While we support and respect the UU tradition, Universalism as an independent religious philosophy is far older, tracing back to the second century C.E.

Universalists are united in the belief that religion is an inherent quality of humanity and that we as a species share one common living truth that crosses cultural boundaries and penetrates all societies without regard to geographic distance. Unlike UUA members however, all Universalists have at minimum two very specific beliefs:

  1. We believe in the existence of God. It is impossible for an individual with an atheist worldview to also believe in universalism. All Universalists are theists, although our personal traditions often vary in significant ways.
  2. We believe in the concept of Universal Reconciliation, defined as the process by which the human soul is unconditionally reconciled to God, through divine love and mercy, after the onset of biological death.

Various studies have shown that there are approximately thirty-five million people in the United States alone that believe in Universalism but do not have a spiritual home, preferring to be labeled as spiritual but not religious or counted among the so called ‘unchurched’ rather than pretending to fit in with established Christian churches that preach the constant need for the repentance of sin.

We are not a minority as many assume but because we do not fall within the parameters set by modern theological scholars in defining the major religions of the world our theological position is often marginalized or simply ignored. Universalists are not lacking in piety – not only do we believe in God, we usually remain quite devout in our faith. Many of us simply choose to keep silent, believing that no one has the authority to deny our relationship with God. Are you a Universalist? Only you can answer that question.

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21 Responses to Are you a Universalist?

  1. Pingback: Properly defining religion and identifying universal morality | I Have Seen God

  2. Laughing Dragon says:

    It’s funny to me that I have actually been like this my whole life and through the last few years have actually practiced learning a bit from all religions only to find out now that it has an official title. I think I can finally speak to others without saying that I have no religion. Nothing has really changed, I don’t have a religion, I have a way of thinking, and a lifestyle.

    • William says:

      Indeed, you seem to share a similiar perspective with those who follow the Buddhist lifestye. I think it is important to note that although many Buddhists do not consider their practices to be religious, by general consensus human society still broadly considers them to be members of the “Buddhist Religion”.

      • Laughing Dragon says:

        Thats what most appear to relate my experiences to. I found solace in buddha. I know that I can choose to be my buddha hood any time. I think thats what I found to be the most important aspect of all spiritual texts and doctrines. You are no less nor any greater than any leader. You yourself are a leader. Should you follow others you are simply following yourself. (I think I’m gonna post something on that)
        I love your posts though simply for their earnest feel. You seem very open. I’ve only met one other person who was so at peace with themselves as well as others. I am very passionate, and this passion can sometimes overwhelm those with different perspectives. Sometimes I have trouble listening. For now thats what I’m practicing, and not only to those around me, but to myself as well.

  3. Thanks for your support and information.

  4. sofiasiberia says:

    Well I am definitely a universalist, it actually resonates a lot with theosophy! “There is no religion higher than the Truth”. Even in a theosophic society there were people of various denominations united under the same idea of universal religion and a free choice.
    I love the ideas of equality, unconditional love and a free choice of denomination, or rather a resort to spirituality, and one can be whatever he likes to be – a buddhist, a christian etc.
    I personally find a lot of wisdom in each religion and pick the best concepts of each for my own believes and way of life – because in different languages or rituals they all have much resemblance. In the end there is only one Universal religion above all…
    Uff, sorry for a long comment, but the subject is really interesting! 🙂

    • William says:

      Please don’t worry about lengthy comments. I appreciate your opinion and place great value on any comment that contributes to a meaningful discussion of spiritual truth, whether I personally agree with the subject matter or not. That being said, I do in fact agree with the main doctrinal points of contemporary theosophy and additionally have been a vocal proponent of perennialism for many years. I sincerely hope that the America’s current predilection for open tolerance and dare I say respect toward diverse spiritual practices continues to grow exponentially. The practice of love and acceptance is always preferable to hatred and rejection.

  5. As someone who has labelled themselves as a Christian until recently, it unsettle me when people ask me what I believe only to answer… “not really sure.” I am now comfortable with saying that I am a Universalist, for now anyway.

    After separating myself from one specific belief and religion, I’m slowly finding my way.

    • William Knox says:

      It is extremely gratifying to hear that my writing has helped you find some measure of clarity. Following a path which comforts and supports you spiritually is certainly preferable to living with doubt and despair. I wish you well on your journey.

  6. briankaam says:

    So do you have to hold both beliefs of the Universalism to be considered a universalist? I personally am uncertain about the biological death part. I always tag myself “Christian” because I know very well it’s scriptures and teachings, and it’s a good way to evade craziness with pious people, and even sometimes communicate in terms that they understand. However, personally I am even starting the question the nature, or rather, the concept, of God (or goddess…or It with a capital “i”). In any case, thank you for sharing this information! If anything, at least I know that at one point I was a universalist, lol.

    • William Knox says:

      A Universalist will almost always support religious pluralism, believing in the living truth common among various spiritual traditions. Theologically speaking, we also recognize that the spiritual nature of humanity is a universal quality independent of doctrine.

      I would add that questioning the nature of reality is a perfectly normal and acceptable practice. If you do not subscribe to a specific tradition and in fact question the basic definition of divinity itself then you have clearly decided to view the subject of religion from the agnostic perspective.

      Out of the three possible approaches to God, stated as ‘God exists’, ‘God doesn’t exist’, and ‘I don’t know if God exists or not’, the agnostic view is perhaps the most reasonable. If you cannot prove or disprove a position through logic and faith does not satisfy your heart, the only rational response is to accept that you just don’t know the answer.

      • briankaam says:

        Thanks for your reply! It’s really weird, because to be pinned as an agnostic kind of makes me uncomfortable, even though it makes perfect sense. I just have a hard time believing in a deity being the sole cause of blessings and catastrophes (The devil destroyed x, y or z, the devil made me do it, thank God for giving you your job, or your messing up because God isn’t in your life, etc etc).

        There are a lot of things that I also enjoy that I don’t know how to fit into my spirituality at the same time. It really is complicated.

        Anyways, your blog is awesome! Thank you for creating it. I also like the Pagan Society website that you, or someone, created. The background is really beautiful and inspiring artistically. 🙂

      • William Knox says:

        Deciding on which spiritual tradition you agree with, if any, can indeed be a difficult choice. On the surface, each religion appears to be relatively simple – pray this way, mold your actions around whatever brand of moral compass is supplied and carry on. The truth is, spirituality is rather more involved than this and there are no simple answers available for one seeking wisdom rather than basic knowledge.

        If you truly want to develop a deep and abiding connection with the Divine, the first thing you must contemplate is how you personally conceive of God’s nature; that perspective is the foundation upon which your individual approach to religion must ultimately be based. You are absolutely correct that this is can be a terribly complex subject to delve into. The study of religious philosophy is a lifelong endeavor for those of us who have taken up the task.

        It is gratifying that you find my blog useful and thank you for the compliment on the website. I look forward to your commentary in the days ahead. May the Gods stand between you and harm, in all the empty places you must walk.

  7. Hando says:

    Hi William
    Good to meet you. I am very new to this blogging, 3 or 4 days new, but I am fascinated by the process and connections. It seems to operate similar to the brain, a veritable neural network where someone sparks in the states and generates similar sparks right across the world.

    I am a universalist although my involvement in Christian ministry prevents me from stating it publicly. I deeply believe that if we accept that “original sin” is not about petty sins but about a relational shift away from God and our true spiritual self towards finding our source in our mental understanding and that salvation/consciousness is an act of grace that God initiates then the only conclusion I can come to is that both the conscious and the unconscious serve God’s purposes, Rom. 9.

    It then follows that when the body dies all that remains is the true, spiritual self that cannot be separated from God.

    I look forward to following your blog.

    Yours in Christ,
    Hando

    • William Knox says:

      I very much appreciate your point of view and look forward to your future comments. With that in mind, I would find it personally distressful if you suffered undue persecution based on your interaction with my blog. If you are prohibited from publically assuming a Universalist position and fear that such statements could potentially jeopardize your position within the church I caution you to proceed carefully in your interactions with the blogosphere. May peace be with you.

  8. Hando says:

    Dear William
    Thank you for your concern. What I meant was that when I teach in church I avoid using terms that would prevent people from “hearing” the message. I find that terms such as universalist or consciousness evokes such strong reactions that emotions tend to drown out whatever else you are saying.
    Yours in Christ,
    Hando

    • briankaam says:

      Not to butt in on a conversation, but I just wanted you to know that I totally understand what you are talking about.

      • Hando says:

        No Problem. I think butting in is sort of the idea. I noticed that you covered your face, could you tell me why?

      • briankaam says:

        I was taking pictures of myself for references for an art series idea. That one idea was to create a self portrait, but then I also thought that I would create the message that I love spirituality, trying to understand where I belong in the universe, etc. And so, the idea came that everywhere that there was fabric, I would make it look like stars and the like. It’s a bit complicated because there’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist. I figured it would be nice to have this avatar, and whenever I make the piece and show it to the world, people would say “Ah ha! So THAT was why she was hidden in her avatar!”.

        🙂

  9. Hando says:

    Fascinating, wish I was more creative. Good luck!

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