Unitarian Universalism-Part 5

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2006
Unitarian Universalism claims that it upholds the ideals of integrity, tolerance, scholarship, reason and support of truth. The problem with these fine ideals is that they are undermined by UU prejudices. In this article the authors discuss “Hypocrisy and the Self-Refuting Nature of Unitarian Universalist Ideals.”

Critique (con’t)

Hypocrisy and the Self-Refuting Nature of Unitarian Universalist Ideals

Unitarian Universalism [UU] claims that it upholds the ideals of integrity, tolerance, scholarship, reason and support of truth. UUs are “guided by whatever is noble, true and just”; they “support the free and disciplined search for truth as the foundation of religious fellowship”; and “this church insists that intellectual honesty, moral progress and spiritual growth in religion are dependent upon each person being receptive to all pronouncements of truth.”[1]

The problem with these fine ideals is that they are undermined by UU prejudices. When UU people speak of upholding “reason,” they mean reason employed in the defense of the false presuppositions of rationalism and humanism. When they speak of “moral freedom,” they mean freedom to choose one’s own morality autono­mously, which often results in moral license. When they speak of “intellectual hon­esty,” they mean freedom to believe whatever one wants to believe, regardless of contrary evidence or the cost to society. When they refer to “perversion of truth,” it is a perversion of their total faith in humanity.

If UU believers truly encouraged integrity, tolerance, reason and an independent search for the truth, they would not be subject to critics’ charges, which even they confess to. Ed Atkinson writes, “Sometimes our beliefs are logical and consistent. Sometimes they are contradictory.”[2] UU minister R. N. Halverson admits that UU adherents are “often prejudiced and irrational.”[3] For example, they claim that they are “deeply respectful towards the individuality of other persons,”[4] and they extol “the right of every person to make up his own mind about what he believes,”[5] yet they show no respect at all for the individuality of Christians or their beliefs. Reverend Thomas Owen-Towle, who is “suspicious of tombs of theology,” is bold to say, “Let the gaps and inconsistencies of my spiritual pilgrimage shine forth.”[6] And shine forth they do.

Writing in the Journal of Christian Apologetics, theology professor Alan Gomes, points out that the “corrosive effects” of UU ideology “are manifest and legion” in our society. He also discusses the illogical and self-refuting nature of basic UU philoso­phy, which stresses an alleged claim to freedom, tolerance and pluralism. “Free­dom, tolerance, and pluralism truly are the UUs ‘triune God’ (if by ‘God’ we mean whatever is most ultimate). For UUs, this is a Trinity than which no greater can be conceived.”[7]

This UU “deity,” however, is seriously flawed. Gomes points out that as far as their first principle, religious freedom, is concerned, there is more here than meets the eye. Religious freedom is already embraced by almost everyone in America, so why do UUs preach to the choir and proclaim it so adamantly that an outside ob­server might suspect that we live in a totalitarian society? The reason is because, for UUs, “religious freedom” requires support for religious diversity based on the premise that all truth is relative. Since truth is relative and not absolute, it must change over time. By definition then, no religion can logically claim absolute truth, and equally valid religious truth can be found in all religions. Christianity is made wrong and demonized merely because it claims absolute truth. The evidence for such a claim is never fairly considered, only the truth of UU premises. Citing well-known UU author Philip Hewett, in The Unitarian Way (Toronto: Canadian Unitarian Council 1985, p. 89), “No person, no faith, no one book, no one institution has all the answers, nor ever any patent on the way of finding answers.” “Another major Unitar­ian affirmation is a belief in universality, which excludes all exclusivism.”[8]

Thus, hidden in the UU concept of “religious freedom” is the expectation and even the requirement that everyone else accept the “truth” concerning UU views of relativism and pluralism. Gomes points out:

It seems to me that UUs confuse their right to believe with the expectation that others must respect the validity and correctness of UU beliefs, particularly their belief in religious pluralism. Though UUs do have a right to believe whatever they want to… it does not follow that they have a “right” to demand that non-UUs embrace their beliefs or even take these beliefs seriously. This is particularly true since Unitarian Universalism is fraught with logical and theological difficulties….[9]

Consider the UU attack against religious exclusivism. The truth is that every religion claims to be the truth, therefore every religion is exclusivistic. Further, for UU pluralism to “exclude all exclusiveness,” that is, to exclude all exclusivistic positions, is impossible “since the very act of excluding these positions is in itself an act of exclusivism.”[10] Their attack on Christian exclusivism is thus nullified as contradictory, illogical and self-refuting:

Furthermore, the UU attack against “religious exclusivism” based on thenotion that “truth is not absolute” is offered as absolutely true. This statement refutes itself. Second, if we should not make exclusivistic claims because “truth changes over time” then what if one of the “truths” that “changes over time” turns out to be the “truth” that “truth changes over time”? Or the “truth” that exclusivism is bad and pluralism is good? Are UUs willing to allow that tomorrow’s UU “truth” might be that pluralism is no longer good, and that members of the “religious right,” who they regard as hateful, narrow-minded, and exclusivistic, are correct after all? Certainly they are not willing to admit any of these things… they have in the same breath undermined the foundation for the very pluralism they espouse.[11]

Further, the UU concept of tolerance is flawed because it is self-serving. UU is not unique; it behaves like every other belief system, excluding some beliefs while affirming others. Thus, “UUs are ‘free’ to believe anything they want, so long as it does not contradict what UUs are allowed to believe! How this differs from other belief systems—including that of the dreaded ‘religious right’—is difficult to see.”[12]

In other words, UUs are not quite so tolerant as they would have us believe. Their tolerance is limited to that which doesn’t offend them. On the one hand, they proudly assert, “We are tolerant of all beliefs,” and that UUs are free to believe whatever they wish. But they simultaneously stress UUs are not free to believe anything they wish. For instance, the fact that UU Elizabeth May Strong felt it important to write Can I Believe Anything I Want? is to the point. She concludes, “Unitarian Universal­ism is not the freedom to believe anything or nothing.”[13] One’s beliefs then, must stay within the confines of, forgive the term, “acceptable dogma.”

The truth is that UU followers are especially intolerant of religious exclusivism, in particular Christianity, labeling it hateful, divisive and narrow. In the words of James Luther Adams, “It [Unitarianism] protests against the idolatry of any human claim to absolute truth or authority.”[14] But UUs are just as 1) hateful, 2) divisive and 3) narrow for 1) attacking absolute truth claims unmercifully, 2) describing believers in absolute truth with such negative terms and then excluding them from the community of the tolerant, and 3) proscribing all belief in absolute truth and ruling it void by mere preference. Really on what basis, other than personal subjective preference, are some beliefs excluded and others accepted?

Regardless, if it is arrogant and intolerant to believe one is right and others wrong, UUs are just as arrogant and intolerant as they believe Christians to be, since they believe that they are right and Christianity is wrong. “Arrogance” is not the issue with exclusive truth claims, only whether those claims are true. When Christ claimed that He was the only way to God, this is either true or false. If it is true, when Christians affirm it they are telling the truth. If it is not true, Christians, as Gomes points out, are guilty of having been deceived, but hardly of arrogance. If Jesus’ claims are true, then UUs are condemning themselves and being exclusivistic:

…for excluding the possibility that what Jesus revealed about himself is true…. They do not even consider the possibility that this revelation might be true. So much for being “open to every revelation,” contrary to the admission of past president Schultz, cited earlier.[15]
Contrary to the UU assertion that conservative Christians are hateful, divisive and narrow because they believe that those who reject Christ—including UUs— will be damned, Christians are actually “inclusive” in the sense that they want all people to join them as part of God’s family. That is, true, biblical Christians are inclusivistic because they desire all people to be saved, even though they are not pluralistic about the way in which one must be saved. If evangelical Christians genuinely were divisive and narrow, as UU writers say, they would ignore UUs and other unbelievers, rejoicing in their sure damnation apart from Christ.[16]

Concern for the salvation of all people is a biblical mandate[17] because the evi­dence for an eternal hell is no less persuasive than that for Christ’s resurrection.[18]

UU does not even have a logical basis for its cherished social programs. Chris­tianity, which UU condemns as hateful and divisive, has done far more for the world than UU ever will. Indeed, the social benefits alone that Christianity has given the world are in almost infinite excess to those of UU. (See for example D. James Kennedy, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?) Christian social action is powerful and permanent because it does have a logical, objective basis for condemning many of the same social evils UU does—racism, hatred, violence and so on. How­ever, because UUs teach (as an absolute truth) that all truth is relative, its moral condemnation is powerless in that it can only be based upon an individual subjec­tive preference. As Gomes points out, there is a great difference between being able to objectively declare something morally wrong and merely personally finding something reprehensible.

Further, UU has to admit that the very ideals it now cherishes as absolutes — even though absolutes do not exist — may one day be rejected by UU on the basis of expediency. Certainly, one could envision a time when its current “tolerance” of Christianity would, given the proper social climate, succumb to hated persecution. Because UU ideals are not based in absolutes, they are permanently subject to the vagaries of social convention or “political correctness.” But politically correct views are only infrequently life-affirming; to the contrary, they are often repressive “politi­cally correct death,” whether it results from abortion, sexual license or religious persecution, it is in no one’s — least of all society’s — best interests.

In essence, “one of the best techniques for dealing with the foundational UU errors is to apply their own statements to themselves. Unitarian Universalism is a self-destructive belief system, and this is best shown by advocating it with a thor­oughgoing consistency that UUs themselves are unwilling or unable to apply.”[19]

Although UU leaders have stated that “happiness is a by-product of having some understanding of the meaning of life,”[20] they reject the only basis for such meaning: knowing the absolute truth that a holy, loving, immutable and infinite-personal God loves us and has revealed Himself to us. The endless speculation in UU only leaves them admitting: “Indeed, sometimes we cannot even agree on what are the most important questions.”[21] The reason is evident. Their “faith” is as mercurial as their religion, because “as one’s experiences and ideas change, so may one’s faith.”[22] Faith in God in one era, faith in man in another, perhaps faith in the devil later. Even though William Channing was once “the colossus of American religious liberalism,” “many of his views are no longer central” to modern UU concerns.[23] What of “vital” UU beliefs and hopes in the present: are they also to be crushed on the rocks of time? Then of what value were they? Clearly UU has no consistent philosophy, no lasting faith, no answers, no hope to give us. It has no meaning, it offers no eternal life. This is the joy of liberal religion.

In light of the foregoing discussion, one might note some of the conclusions and recommendations of the 1975 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s “Commission on Priorities for Unitarian Universalist Advance.” We can perhaps understand why their first declaration was the unsurprising conclusion that: “Unitarian Universalists must be doing something wrong, or must not be doing something they should be doing, because after a period of phenomenal growth and extraordinary promise, the movement is declining in both adult and church school membership, financial support and morals in general.”[24]

Also, an inter-house poll among UU leaders determined that most believed top priority had to be given to determining just what UU does believe! Hence:

Top priority must be given now to the clarification and elaboration of Unitarian Universalist philosophy, goals, and beliefs. Until we know not only how but what we stand for as an identifiable group, we shall not be able to hold our old members or to attract and satisfy new members. Nor shall we know how to educate our children in our schools, develop religious education curriculum and directors, guide our fellowships or develop programs. Nor shall we know how to educate and choose our ministers. Nor shall we have any significant impact upon this frightened age.[25]

But in the subsequent two decades, more UU committees only ran into similar problems. Until they recognize that the real problem is their most cherished ideal, humanism, little will change. It will always be true that the “urge to save the world [socially] has cost many denominations dearly, and especially the Unitarian-Univer­salist Association.”[26]


  1. John Booth, “Introducing Unitarian Universalism,” UUA pamphlet, pp. 29. 12.
  2. Ed Atkinson, “Unitarian Universalism, An Invitation to Growth,” UUA pamphlet, p. 2.
  3. R. N. Halverson, “A Unitarian Universalist Paradigm,” p. 26 in Irving Murray, Highroad to Advance— Charting the Unitarian Universalist Future (Pacific Grove, CA: The Boxwood Press, 1976).
  4. Harry Meserve, Religion Without Dogma (The Unitarian Pocket Guide, 1954), p. 13.
  5. J. Mendelsohn, “Meet the Unitarian Universalist,” UUA Pamphlet, p. 3.
  6. Thomas Owen-Towle, “Both Forces Are Holy,” transcribed sermon, p. 2.
  7. Alan W. Gomes, “Tolerate This! Answering Unitarian Universalist Pluralism,” Journal of Christian Apologetics, Vol. 1, no. 2, p. 36.
  8. Ibid., p. 38.
  9. Ibid., p. 37.
  10. Ibid., p. 39.
  11. Ibid., p. 40.
  12. Ibid., p. 39.
  13. In ibid., p. 38.
  14. Cited in ibid., p. 38.
  15. Ibid., pp. 41-42.
  16. Ibid., p. 41.
  17. Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 10:13-15; 2 Timothy 2:10.
  18. Historical evidence proves that Jesus rose from the dead in proof of His claims to be God incarnate. As God, He is an infallible authority. In that role He spoke more of an eternal hell than of heaven. See our book The Facts on Near-Death Experiences.
  19. Gomes, p. 42.
  20. Donald Harrington, “Priorities for Unitarian Universalist Advance,” in Murray, Highroad to Advance: Charting the Unitarian Universalist Future, p. 6.
  21. Atkinson (ed.), “Unitarian Universalism,” p. 2.
  22. Marshall, “Unitarian Universalists Believe,” p. 6, UUA pamphlet.
  23. W. E. Channing, “The Free Mind,” p. 3, UUA pamphlet.
  24. Harrington, “Priorities for Unitarian Universalist Advance,” p. 48.
  25. Ibid., p. 52.
  26. Paul Beathie, “Can the Church Reform Society?” Highroad to Advance, op cit., p. 67.

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