Quotes from Unitarian Universalists
Famous people from our past include notable thinkers and doers: President John Adams, essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, abolition advocate Theodore Parker, civil rights advocate, Susan B. Anthony, author and jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, founder of the Red Cross Clara Barton, scientist Charles Darwin, songwriter Malvina Reynolds and statesman Adlai Stevenson. For more, see: Famous UUs and the Famous UUs section of our online bookstore.
"The freedom of the mind is the beginning of all other freedoms." - Clinton Lee Scott
"May your life preach more loudly than your lips." - William Ellery Channing
"You need not think alike to love alike." - Francis David
"Church is a place where you get to practice what it means to be human." - James Luther Adams
"We Unitarian Universalists have inherited a magnificent theological legacy. In a sweeping answer to creeds that divide the human family, Unitarianism proclaims that we spring from a common source; Universalism, that we share a common destiny."
- Forrest Church
"Faith is a commitment to live as if certain things are true, and thereby help to make them so. Faith is a commitment to live as if life is a wondrous mystery, as if life is good, as if love is divine, as if we are responsible for the well-being of those around us.... Faith is a leap of the moral imagination that connects the world as it is to the world as it might become."
- Galen Guengrich
"Our kindred hearts and minds unite us to build a church that shall be free - free from the bonds that bind the mind to narrow thought and lifeless creed; free from a social code that fails to serve the cause of human need: a freedom that reveres the past, but trusts the dawning future more; and bids the soul, in search of truth, adventure boldly and explore."
- Marion Franklin Ham, "As Tranquil Streams" Hymn 145.
"An idea is a curious thing. It will not work unless you do." - Jaeger's Facts
"The Church of Tomorrow will not be of uniform doctrine or of identical organization. There will be unity of spirit, but not uniformity of creed or rite or polity. There will be variety, but not intolerance. There will be cooperation for holiness, but not conformity of theological opinion. There will be identity of ethical enthusiasm but diversity of administrations."
- Florence Kollock Crooker (Universalist minister, from "The Church of Tomorrow," 1911)
"Unitarian Universalism offers us a faith that challenges our energy usage and confronts us with hunger and injustice around the world without giving inadequate simplistic answers. It offers the harder path of respect for all beings and for the Earth, and calls us to be accountable for our actions. We are responsible for our own spirituality, our own salvation, and for doing all that we can to make the world better. "
- UU minister Rev. Bob Klein
"Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the attendant of truth. Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery. A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error, for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief. Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid which eats away the false. Let no one fear for the truth, that doubt may consume it; for doubt is the testing of belief. The truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by the testing."
- Robert T. Weston
"I think one of our most important tasks is to convince others that there’s nothing to fear in difference; that difference, in fact, is one of the healthiest and most invigorating of human characteristics without which life would become meaningless. Here lies the power of the liberal way: not in making the whole world Unitarian, but in helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one’s own; in encouraging the free interchange of ideas; in welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; in urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination."
- Adlai Stevenson, Statesman and Unitarian layperson
"We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent upon its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace, preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half-fortunate, half-miserable, and half-free in the liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all."
- Adlai Stevenson, Statesman and Unitarian layperson
"I call that mind free which guards its intellectual rights and powers, which
- does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith,
- opens itself to receive new truth as an angel from heaven,
- is not the creature of accidental impulse,
- does not cower to human opinion,
- which resists the bondage of habit,
- sets no bounds to its love,
- delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering,
- casts out all fear save that of wrongdoing."
- William Ellery Channing
"I call that church free which enters into the covenant with the ultimate source of existence. It binds together families and generations, protecting against the idolatry of any human claim to absolute truth or authority."
- James Luther Adams
"Our generation has a mission, a clear and evident one; we have a compelling moral purpose which can direct our lives and our energies—literally, we are about saving the world. These days of challenge call us to put aside our pettiness and our little quarrels, our theological differences, and to focus on the larger issues. You don’t talk about the color of the drapes when the house is burning down."
- Rev. Marilyn Sewell of First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, from a sermon October 2006 on “The Moral Dimensions of Global Warming”
"Every religious tradition on which we draw has a reverence for life. We are a part of an intricate web of life. Every tradition on which we draw teaches that the ultimate expression of our spirituality is our action. Deep spirituality leads to action in the world. A deep reverence for life, love of nature's complex beauty and sense of intimate connection with the cosmos leads inevitably to a commitment to work for environmental and social justice." - Peter Morales
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do." - Edward Everett Hale
"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences." - Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
Unitarian Universalism is not a rock to hold onto. It is a river to swim in.
If you want a set of beliefs to hold onto, if you want rules to guide your life in all situations, if you want a foundation for a spiritual fortress, you will probably be disappointed with us. However, if you want to dive into the river and explore, if you think that what you experience and what you do is more important than what you believe, if you want to be with people who engage in this world to promote well being for all, we may have something to offer. Life itself is more like a river than a rock. Life is in flux, it changes, twists and turns, ebbs and flows. When a river encounters a boulder, the boulder may win for a while. But eventually, even the most massive stone is worn away by the currents of time.
Unitarian Universalism is about learning to swim in the river rather than climbing out of it onto a rock. - Rev. Doug Kraft, Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento
"If you accept that God created everything, you have to accept that she created a universe with a great deal of diversity, with many, many ways of getting the same job done. I can look out my window and see literally hundreds of species of plants, dozens of species of birds, at night you can see big stars, little stars, and so on. Would it make sense, then, that that same God would turn around and say "you can only know me this one way, you must worship with only these sets of words, you must do things this way and no other"? I'm still thinking about that..." - Bluejay Adametz
“Theology is the reflection upon and criticism of meanings, values, and convictions. One person with a conviction is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only beliefs or feelings. Conviction … combines reason and feeling with the will to act.” - Rev. Richard S. Gilbert (In Introduction to Building Your Own Theology
"The reading which I love best is the scriptures of the several nations, though it happens that I am better acquainted with those of the Hindoos, the Chinese, and the Persians, than of the Hebrews, which I have come to last. Give me one of these bibles, and you have silenced me for awhile."
- Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1:72)
"I do not prefer one religion or philosophy to another. I have no sympathy with the bigotry and ignorance which make transient and partial and puerile distinctions between one man's faith or form of faith and another's - as Christian and heathen, I pray to be delivered from narrowness, partiality, exaggeration, bigotry. To the philosopher all sects, all nations, are alike. I like Brahma, Hari, Buddha, the Great Spirit, as well as God."
- Henry David Thoreau, Journal 1850.
"I am convinced that what is life-denying, what is repressive and false, will be known as such, and people, who are basically good, will follow a new way. Let us be some of those who step out and lead the way, who dare to be the Light that blesses the world, that all the earth may be fair, and all her people one."
- Marilyn Sewell
"To find your religion, it's not enough just to open one's mind and think deeply. Each of us must also open all of our senses and experience the world. Religion grows from the heart as much as the head, and it cries out to fuse body and mind. Faith is an orientation of the whole personality, a total response. It's not just a belief-the holding of certain ideas--which is a function of the mind alone. Beliefs can be expressed in propositional form to which adjectives true and false may be attached. Faith, by contrast, is the opposite of nihilism and despair. It may or may not include beliefs, but it is much larger; it is the ability to experience the universe as meaningful. Having faith means that our lives hold together and make sense at a deeper level. Rather than seeming absurd. Therefore your religion is something you not only think about but also sing, dance, eat, paint, and sculpt. To find your religion you must engage all of your senses. You should feel it as well as explain it, hear it as well as see it. Taste it as well as smell it."
- Scotty McLennan
"We accept the world for the joyous place it was meant to be. We like it, despite the fact that belated theologians look upon it with inherited suspicion. It is not longer "the world, the flesh and the devil," but "the world, the flesh and God." The dominant motive [of modern religion], therefore, is no longer to escape from earthly existence, but to make earthly existence as abundant and happy as it can be made. Modern religion ... must glorify, spiritualize, sanctify the world."
- Rev. Clarence Russell Skinner (1881 - 1949) - source: the Social Implications of Universalism (1915).
"We Unitarian Universalists rely on our reason in matters of faith more than most religious people. We reject the absurd. We welcome the insights of science and reason, and we use tools of reason when we encounter mystery. What we don’t do, we UUs, is bludgeon and shame persons who advance theories of mystery. We use those tools gently and humbly in our own thinking, and even more gently and humbly when we are conversing with others. It is our belief that reason is joined by other core values, such as tolerance and delight in diversity. if we don’t use the tools of reason gently, especially in conversation with others, we will never grow in spirit or find the truth of mystery. It’s those realms that make our lives rich. "
- Rev. Christine Robinson in Faith and Reason (May 18, 2008)
"Unitarian Universalists welcome worshippers of every age, color, sexual orientation, and religious belief (or unbelief). At First Parish in Cambridge, you’ll sit next to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, atheists, agnostics, and seekers of every variety. (No wonder we adapt our hymns!) We have only one absolute requirement: We covenant to treat each other with respect. As we call each other to spiritual growth, we also challenge each other to build Beloved Community—not just in our congregations, but in the wider world. We stand on the side of love—for marriage equality, for immigrant rights, for climate justice."
- Rev. Fred Small pastor of First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist, 12-23-09 from UU World.
Quotes from Others
"A closed mind is like a closed book, just a block of wood." - Chinese proverb
"Hatred never ceases by hatred; but by love alone is healed."
"Never lose a holy curiosity." - Albert Einstein
"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom."
- Albert Einstein
"The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most elementary forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life, and that of his fellow-creatures, as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life."
- Albert Einstein
"The Maxim [of the Golden Rule] does not imply that we should always do to others exactly that which we should wish under our own present circumstances (which may be quite different from theirs) to be done to us. What the maxim implies is that we are, as far as possible, to put ourselves in the place of others; to consider what we would wish to be done to us, were we in their circumstances." - W.A. Spooner
"We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all."
- John Muir (June 9, 1872 letter to Miss Catharine Merrill, from New Sentinel Hotel, Yosemite Valley, in Badè's Life and Letters of John Muir.
"God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason." - Dag Hammarskjold
"To be religious is not to feel, but to be." - Reinhold Niebuhr
"If you cannot find it in yourself, where will you go for it?" - Chinese proverb
"A judgmental attitude helps neither ourselves nor others. Arguing or preaching rarely changes other people. Even if our opinions are justified, criticizing others usually makes them wary and defensive. And it takes our attention away from our own lives, which we can change."
- Diane Dreher, The Tao of Inner Peace, p. 217.
"Unanswered questions are far less dangerous than unquestioned answers." - Anonymous
Heaven's here on earth
In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in
Peace and love and understanding."
- Tracy Chapman
"One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
"On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death...Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony."
- John Muir, in A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, p.41-42.
" Science and Religion are like two wings on a bird. To have one without the other is like a one winged bird that will never fly. Science without Religion is Materialism, and Religion without Science is Superstition. Anyone insisting that only the literal interpretation of the bible is correct, or that there is no God, is guilty of lazy thinking."
- Michael Jorgensen (posted on npr.org)
"The unwearied self-forgetful attention to every phase of the living universe reflected in our consciousness may be our appointed task on this earth."
- Joseph Conrad
"In the long run, you can never accomplish a worthy end with an unworthy means."
- Stephen Covey
"Our Mother, whose body is the Earth, Sacred is thy being. Thy gardens grow. Thy will be done in our cities, as it is in nature. Thanks be this day for food, and air, and water. Forgive us our sins against Earth, as we are learning to forgive one another. And surrender us not unto extinction, but deliver us from our folly. For thine is the beauty, and the power, and all life, from birth to death, from beginning to end. Amen. So be it. Forever. Blessed be."
- Henry Horton