This is a satirical video. For those too unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalism to realize this, I’ll explain below. Cults normally have active recruiting, cult leaders, control over the members, dogmas, discouragement of critical thinking, and an us vs. them mentality. Unitarian Universalism has none of this. It is not a cult. Walter Martin is not an expert on cults. The idea that cults are non-Biblical and small is just stupid. That’s not what makes something a cult, but it is the criteria he applies, because he is coming from the perspective that his Bible-based religion is the one true religion, and he would like to denigrate other religions as cults.
Here are the main things that distinguish Unitarian Universalism. It is an umbrella denomination for people who (1) do not have the option of attending a church of people who all believe the same as them, and (2) are non-fanatical enough in their beliefs to accept and tolerate people with different beliefs without trying to impose their beliefs on them. Consequently, UUs include people of varying beliefs, such as Christians, non-Christian theists, Jews, Humanists, Buddhists, Pagans, Spiritualists, etc. What UUs agree upon is a set of values, described in the Principles and Purposes:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The Unitarian Universalist denomination formed from the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist Christian denominations. Both denominations denied the idea of eternal damnation, and this led them to let go of the need to hold on to entrenched dogmas like it was life or death. No longer believing that what they believed in this life determined their eternal status in an afterlife, they were free to consider other ideas and to accept members with a wider variety of beliefs. Both denominations became more liberal and inclusive, eventually including people who did not consider themselves Christians. At this point, there was no substantial difference between the two denominations, and they merged into one.
That is the very opposite of how a cult is formed. A cult normally splinters off from another group, because it claims to have the one true path to eternal salvation. It insists that it’s members all believe the same, and it may use threats of excommunication or damnation to control its members.
While cults normally claim to have the TRUTH, Unitarian Universalism focuses more on the search for truth than on the claim to have it, and it recognizes a variety of sources, including these:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
While there is a mention of God here, and a belief in God is common among UUs, it is not required to be a UU. But there is generally the idea that if there is a God, he is a loving God of the sort described by Universalism. There also isn’t agreement among UUs on what God is. For some, God may be much like the Biblical God without all the bad stuff, and for others, God may be a universal force or a symbolic idea. The bottom line is that Unitarian Universalism is an eclectic, non-dogmatic, non-fanatical approach to spirituality and religious beliefs, united more by shared values than by shared beliefs.