Can a Unitarian Universalist believe in a fiery hell?

I’m not a UU, and am woefully ignorant about the church (which is why I’m starting this thread). However, I’ve been to a few UU services and have always been struck by the niceness of their preaching. Everyone seems certain that a happy afterlife will come for all (if individual members believe in an afterlife), and that God/Invisible Pink Unicorn/My Uncle Fred would never make people suffer. My question is this: what would happen to a UU who believed in the notion of eternal damnation? Would he be shunned, made unwelcome? Or would members of the church nonetheless tolerate him and accept him as part of the community.

I’ve heard a few complaints by Christian UUs that the church is not accepting of Christians (I recall reading of a group that formed a UU offshoot several years back over just this issue), so I’m hoping to hear from any UU members about how their church would handle someone talking about burning torment.


Most UUs I know would be fine with it . . . but someone who believed strongly in hellfire and eternal damnation would not be comfortable in the UU congregations I know.

Too, it would also depend on what the person believes to be the cause of the eternal punishment. UUs are not generally too pleased with the “one Jesus, one Salvation” idea, and would react fairly negatively to that.

Well, the term “Universalist” in fact refers to the doctrine of salvation for all. Of course, the Unitarian Universalists have long since gone beyond simply being a really liberal Protestant church which rejects the Trinity and the doctrine of eternal damnation, to being a post-Christian religious group which is totally free of “dogma” in the traditional sense.

Hmmm…“We believe that each and every person will be saved by the Grace of God, and if you reject this doctrine, then you will be doomed to burn in the lake of fire for all eternity!”

Seriously, I guess a UU who wanted to be cute (maybe a Christian-flavored UU who still considers the Bible or at least the alleged words of Jesus therefrom to be authoritative) might come back with the old “I believe there’s a hell, but I don’t believe anyone is actually in it” line.

UU here, though fairly new (I’ve been attending the local church for the last couple of years).

As far as I know, one can be a UU and believe anything as long as it adheres to the seven principles:

(from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s home page at

(Keeping in mind, of course, that getting UUs to agree on anything is kind of like herding cats.)

So I suppose a Christian UU could believe in a firey hell, but it seems pretty darned unlikely.

Also, see MEB’s post above for details about Universalism. Unitarianism, of course, is the heretical belief that the Trinity that the Nicean (sp?) Council settled on is hogwash. :slight_smile:

The UU church I belong to has few, if any, “born-again” Christians. I would hope, however, that we wouldn’t shun them.

Now problems would arise if the Christian UU began claiming that the only means of salvation is through Jesus. And the idea of a hell where souls are eternally tormented - that’s would get even less acceptance. Who would be damned? All non-Christians? That idea would really generate some debate. Whether it ended up as GD or the BBQ pit would really depend on the personalities of the people debating, not on their ideologies.

I like the fact that UU’s don’t have any official theological dogma. But I can’t honestly say that my congregation would tolerate any ideology. We can get a little too self-righteous about putting down fundamentalists. (Irony duly noted.)

Upon re-reading, I want to clarify

I didn’t mean that we reject all ideologies. I meant that there are some ideologies that we wouldn’t tolerate.

You’re absolutely correct. The whole point of being a UU member is that you accept not only your own views, but the views of others. I’ve known both Jewish UU’s and converted Baptist UU’s. Hell is a personal concept, and it is not mocked or denied (rather it shouldn’t be) in a traditional UU congregation.

UUer checking in.

The members of the congregation are free to believe whatever it is they choose to believe, and they are free to espouse whatever it is they choose to espouse (provided they do so within the context of seven principles).

The whole point of UUism (as I understand it), is that we (the members of the congregation) are all along for the same ride and are all searching for some understanding of our existence and our role. I’ll learn from you, you’ll learn from me, we’ll teach each other (knowing that we can’t ever hope to know the absolute truth - we’ll try and get as close as we can). If your thining on the issue has led you to the belief in hell and eternal damnation, I’d like to hear about that. You should also be open to hearing and discussing my beliefs on why we’re all going to get the after-this-life (as opposed to an afterlife) that reflects how we lived THIS life.

Long story fairyly short - UUers aren’t judgemental of other’s thoughts or beliefs and if you want to believe that Satan’s going to poke your in the ribs with a pitchfork and make you eat molten lead if you aren’t a good person then please feel free to believe that. I don’t happen to agree with you, but that isn’t important. What’s important is that you believe it and how you relate to your fellow man as a result.

Part of the issue, I believe, is the “Universalist” in Unitarian-Universalist. That is, a large part of the religious background of the UU faith is intertwined with the idea of universal salvation, and that doesn’t synch too well with with preaching hellfire and eternal damnation.

I don’t see why UUs would intentionally try to keep a Christian out of their church, but I’m sure they would feel it appropriate to disagree with the person. That’s part of the reason that I have been so impressed with UUs (to the point of considering myself one over a relatively short period of time). Christians aren’t unwelcome, but they have to realize that the vast majority of UUs do not believe in judgement and Hell.

The lack of a set dogma allows a lot of flexibility. On the other hand, UUs are not going to be very receptive to Christians who want to convert them or to tell them that their beliefs are the only way to salvation. The entire point of UU is that exploring religious ideas and critical thinking are positive, and that – naturally – given this, people will end up at different conclusions about spiritual truth. If your philosophy disagrees, then UU isn’t really the place for you.

I imagine that there is an additional possibility – many UUs, in my experience, are ex-Christians. They do not want UU to become Christianity, as there are already quite a number of Christian denominations to choose from and they have already left Christianity (for whatever reason). Christianity and other religions don’t mix all that well.

This is not to say that there couldn’t be a UU with a major problem with Christians. I’m sure there are some. However, as an organization, I don’t think that UUs are anti-Christian by any means. After all, the Biblical tradition is a part of their faith (albeit a waning one in recent years).

If an individual came into a UU organization preaching fire and brimstone, I imagine that there would be a negative reaction from some individuals. However, I feel that reaction would be far, far less negative than if a Muslim came into a Christian organization in order to proselytize. While UUs have things in common with Christians – just as Muslims do – UU is not a Christian denomination (at least in the strict sense of the term) and while strict interpretations of the Bible are certainly recognized, they don’t necessarily jibe with UU beliefs. Still, UUs are about the most tolerant and open religious organization I’ve ever experienced.

Read the 7 beliefs that SisterCoyote posted – they’re about the closest to a creed UU gets to. However, I don’t think that a Christian who believes in hellfire and damnation could agree with all of these. Specifically, UUs encourage acceptance of the religious beliefs of others. Christians who believe that other religions are a path to Hell do not practice such acceptance, and hence, beliefs along that line would not really be Unitarian-Universalist.

UU’er for over 15 years checking in. We don’t even have to believe in the 7 principles if we don’t want to. It’s a non-credo faith. It just tends to attract people who agree on general things like the 7 principles. Otherwise, why go there? But if a member says they don’t buy principle 4, that’s ok, too.

Qadgop - Hence my comment about “herding cats.” :wink:

Long-time UU here - was even a choir director for about seven years. :slight_smile: You want Christian UU’s? Move to Boston. :smiley:


A lapsed UUer here (lapsed only because man, I hate getting up that early on a Sunday. :wink: )

I am an atheist, and open about it, and felt very comfortable at a UU church.

I knew UUers that were everything from christians to pagans and they were all accepted at our church. We also openly welcomed homosexuals and I suspect that some of the homosexual members of the congregation would have been in a traditional fire and brimstone church (this being the bible belt) had they been welcome there. So yes, I’d say that some UUs believe in hell.

That is a good point, Arken, that I hadn’t thought of. UU churches are well known for their tolerance of gay folks and I can see why people would choose a UU church for thar reason and not necessarily because of the specific beliefs.

A couple of points:
-While an individual might choose to opt out of some of the Big 7, my understanding is that memeber congregatons covenant to affirm and promote all of them.
-Many UU congregations would say that “tolerance” of gays is insufficient. They and their unique contribution should be celebrated.
-I am an atheist/Humanist. Our church is in the process of calling a new minister, and the candidate appears to be a process theologian - a philosophy I cannot support, but which appears to be gaining popularity in UU as a whole. I fear I am being marginalized in my own congregation, and in the only religion that is an option for me.