Pagan Thoughts on Unitarian Sources

December 1, 2015 at 4:05 am Leave a comment

In a comment on her blog, my blogging colleague Trellia asked me what UUism is like- how does it fit for a polytheist when it tends to be based in monotheism?

Here’s a short answer from a UU joke-

After the secular humanists came along, we said that UUs believe in One God – at Most.
Now, what with the 6th Source and the pagans, we say that UUs believe in One God – More or Less.

I made a comment about the generic Divinity of UUism being rather like that in Alcoholics Anonymous- what I meant by that is that in AA there is this concept of a “Higher Power”, and while it tends to skew towards evangelical Christianity in its “default setting theology” officially they emphasize that the Higher Power can be whatever works for you and helps you in your recovery, the point is just to believe in Something.

Traditional Unitarianism was a Deist style of Christian theology- God was there, but very transcendent. Jesus was a wise teacher with moral teachings, and we should follow in his footsteps- but not the son of God or savior. Humans are born with an “original blessing” so to speak, and redeem the world themselves- the world isn’t seen as “fallen” so much as imperfect, our mission as our Jewish friends would say is tikkun olam- to repair the world. Transylvanian Unitarianism still holds this theology, and it is one of the sources of our tradition.


  • 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;

(To me this kind of implies a “there is one God/Force/Divine Source, and many paths to God” which is a recurring motif in many UU sermons and teachings, but it also says “an openness to the forces (plural) which create and uphold life” This second part can be seen as fitting with animism and polytheism.

  • 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;

This includes both religious and non-religious prophets- in Celtic/Druid traditions this overlaps a lot with the role of the bard or fili

  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

We do encourage mindful & respectful cultural exchange/interaction, not cherry-picking and pirating!

  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Note that as with the Abrahamic religions, most polytheistic religions place an emphasis on hospitality- gods wandering around disguised as beggars motif pops up in many mythologies

  • 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;

Worth mentioning that many humanist teachings have their roots in Greco-Roman philosophy, as did the beginnings of scientific thought. To me the idolatries of the mind and spirit part warns about becoming so stuck on a certain idea, ideology, practice or belief that you miss the bigger picture, and possibly neglect other areas of your life.

  • 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.

This is the sixth source mentioned above, as women’s spirituality and environmentalism became influences in UUism, Paganism made its way into the UU tent. I will add though, that I often see an oversimplified Paganism = Nature is Sacred mentality promoting both within greater Neo-Pagandom and UUism. Earth-based or Earth-centered is a common self-identifier for many UUs, and this overlaps with, but is not the same as Pagan.

I would say that UUism gives me an ethical & spiritual philosophy that deals more with humans in a modern pluralist society while polytheism gives me a practice, a mythic cosmology, older but timeless virtue ethics and cultural roots.


Entry filed under: Unitarian Universalism.

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