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:
- 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.
- 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.