UU: What Makes It A Religion?

Last Sunday, I attended a class at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fayetteville entitled “UU: What Makes It A Religion?” I was excited to attend, because I feel this is one of the most difficult questions to answer when describing Unitarian Universalism to people who are unfamiliar with the group, or even to people who are familiar with the principles, but do not see how such an open faith practice would qualify as a religion.

Rev. Dave Hunter led the class, opening with the following responsive reading (which he originally created in June 2010):

“Here is what a religious community can provide:

a place to contemplate the miracle of existence – why am I alive, here and now?

why does anything esist at all? what meaning can I give to my inevitable death?

A religious community can be with you when you are going through hard times –

someone to hold your hand in the hospital waiting room.

A religious community can give you the opportunity to participate in beautiful music and to be moved by a prophetic voice.

Working together and with others of like mind, members of a religious community can help make our society and the world more just, peaceful, and sustainable.

A religious community need not ask you to believe “what you know ain’t so,”

but can challenge you to test your beliefs agains the conclusions of reason and the wisdom of tradition

and can remind you that the search for and discovery of truth did not end two thousand years ago.

And what about the children?

A religious community can feed their inquiring minds and hands, and introduce them to the great stories, and help them internalize the requirements of living together in community.

Yes, religion can mean different things to different people,

and no, there is no one correct definition of religion,

but we humans have not yet outgrown our need for religion.

Perhaps we never will.”


I feel like that responsive reading encapsulated the rest of our discussion on the topic. Those of us in attendence were able to share our understandings of religion and spirituality, along with our understandings of Unitarian Universalism.

Interestingly, we spent a lot more time discussing facets of Unitarian Universalism than we did discussing what constitutes a religion, and what makes Unitarian Universalism a religion. Dealing with ultimate questions (such as why is there something instead of nothing, what happens when we die, and how does that affect how we live), being bound together in community, and having a shared tradition were a few of the things we communally identified as qualifying Unitarian Universalism as a religion. However, we did not fully explore the topic.

The second half of the class takes place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fayetteville at 9AM on March 6th. All are welcome to attend, even if they did not attend the first half of the class. I am interested to see how we further explore the topic of Unitarian Universalism as a religion.