On the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism

I don’t know them. I know what they generally entail, having heard sermons and read them. But I don’t know them, can’t recite them, don’t know what #4 says versus #5.

In some ways this reminds me of the fact that sixty percent of Americans, which has a majority Christian population, can’t name half of the Ten Commandments. Also a fun fact

50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.

Does my ignorance of what the exact definition of the seven principles make me the same as a Christian who can’t name the four gospels, or a Jew or Catholic who can’t name most of their own versions of the Ten Commandments? It’s an open question.

But the sixty percent statistic also has another side- that people from non Judeo-Christian backgrounds are likely equally if not more ignorant of teachings within Judaism and Christianity- or their own faiths. The crossover of people of one faith being ignorant of another is something I’d like to say I at least beat the spread on. I for instance, can name half of the Ten Commandments: kill, steal, parents, wife, goods, monotheism, graven images. That adds up, if we include the fact that some of that is often merged, we get to at least five.

So while I don’t know the seven principles particularly well, I do consider myself decently aware of other religions. Zoroastrianism is a term I get at some level. Jainism and Shinto are schools of thought I have some knowledge of. I took a year of Hebrew and Christian scriptures, as well as a year of world religions in secondary school. While I haven’t read in full a major religious text,I do have most of the Gita and parts of the Old and New Testament under my belt. I often flirt with having a minor in religion just to get to read more relevant texts- I prefer it to traditional philosophy, which I find much denser.

So I submit to the public- it’s not really important that you’ve got your own creed backwards and forwards, the key is to be well-versed in other creeds. For it’s not the lack of knowledge of what we believe that causes conflict- most often it is the lack of knowledge of what others believe. I think much of that is self-evident in the current conflict between Islamic governments and the secular/Judeo-Christian West- mutual intelligibility. Which is interesting in an of itself that most of the conflict is between countries with Abrahamic backgrounds- but I would compare it to bringing Julius Caeser back from the dead to talk to a modern day Latin professor. They both speak ostensibly similar things, but it is likely they would have serious issues understanding one another.

Author: AJM

Writer, sociologist, Unitarian Universalist.

2 thoughts on “On the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism”

  1. Sure, you are still a UU, but you might want to consider another look, anyway.

    You see, the by laws, which all members agree to, say that we, as an association, will Affirm and Promote those Principles. It helps to know what they are if you are going to make a promise like that.

    The wording stinks, though, and if you don’t have a law degree, it can be difficult to read casually. I seriously recommend looking for the kids versions, as they are much more plainly stated.

    No one expects anyone without Rev in front of their name to know them by rote, but it is good to know what we stand for. We need to know, and we need to be able to tell others. We are more than a social club; more than a place for people who don’t know what to believe. We have a theology and a purpose.

    As for Non-Christians and knowledge of the Bible, did you know that Atheists score better on Bible trivia, and often know more about the theology, than devout church-goers?


    1. I did know that atheists generally score better than devout members of many faiths in terms of overall scriptural knowledge- I myself went to a Catholic school and had a whole year of scriptural study- a semester on Hebrew scriptures, and a semester on the Christian side- mostly the four Gospels. Also, this was useful in that it was historical analysis, rather than what has become more of a norm in Christian circles- reading it without context as a literal word of God. We spent much time on the many German scholars to have unearthed the nuances of the Bible, as well as talked about the old codices and how the canon was formed.

      I have read and understand the Principles, but much like the Bill of Rights I accept them in all their vaugery. I wasn’t around in the 80s when they were finalized, much like I wasn’t around in 1790 when we banged out the first ten amendments. I’d do things differently (the interconnected web is a great concept, but I feel it takes the urgency out of what it represents; and the Second Amendment is so poorly worded most people ignore one clause or the other to suit their agenda).

      By becoming a dues-paying member of the congregation I attend the most, I attended enough service to have the principles read and analyzed more than once. But like most UUs, I showed up to the start of the game having promoted the Principles for most of my life. To most people of the UU persuasion, the Principles are if anything a statement of how the world works- and thus fairly self-evident.


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