What exactly do they believe?
What exactly do they believe?
Anything they want.
There is no Trinity in any meaningful way;
Christ is not Divine and any redemption through Him is purely symbolic;
There is no Hell and likely no heaven;
All religions are equally valid but none hold any supernatural truth;
Faith is not required for religious expression; and
Justice can only be achieved through local, entirely subjective means.
Today, Unitarians no longer have any significant influence in the religious tapestry of the United States or Protestantism in general (although they very much did 150 years ago). Many of the churches have closed or merged, the demographics are skewed pretty radically at the moment (much older, much whiter, and much more female than other denominations), and the church "presence" is found mostly in urban areas around colleges or art districts.
A typical Unitarian service today (and I've been to more than one) will include a performance piece involving dance, poetry, drama, or a dramatic reading, a sermonette on some aspect of social justice or topical politics, a period of silence for the few who wish to pray for special intentions, and a chatty after service coffee hour. Unitarians are very open to inviting others to their services to perform various religious acts. So, even though Unitarians themselves don't give much credence to divinity, they enjoy watching Native Americans, Buddhists, Hindus, pagans and others go about their own religious work.
There are a couple of larger Unitarian congregations still in existence that may have a more coherent type of service but that's outside my experience. Noonwitch will have some insight into those organizations.
I attended a UU church when I live in Raleigh for a *short* while. My understanding of it was that it was inclusive of anybody of any religion or lack of. It was more like a social club than anything else. Their main beliefs seemed to be that you should be willing to help others. While I agreed with the idea of helping others and accepting others, I couldn't help but think something was missing. Oh yeah, God. I had met somebody there who had been a member of that church for 20 or more years. I just couldn't figure out why somebody could want to stay there that long.
I was raised Unitarian going to their church in Evanston IL. For those of who aren't familiar with Evanston, its one of the few places in the country that fits the broad liberal stereotype on CU.
There are some pretty weird people in there, a ton of lesbian couples and from what I've heard the sermons are now delivered by a lesbian pair. Lots of old hippies too. Their skepticism towards religions political intrusion and the rejection of organized religious groups is something that I think is a positive. Though they could easily preach ideologies that would resonate with the people there they never really did, it was all about questioning faith and trying to figure out what it meant to you. There was no concern for any broader picture, whether it dealt with politics or god, it was just a way for people who rejected the role religions like Christianity and Islam have accepted as political institutions to get some spirituality in their lives.
I couldn't care less about religion so I stopped going once my parents stopped making me, but I do have some decent memories of the place and I feel like they grasp what religion should be more than anyone else.
Unitarianism is an offshoot of the writings of Emerson and Thoreau. They believe that God is in everything, including and especially nature. I went to the UU church in Detroit for a few months in the early 90s, when I was practicing wicca. They had a wiccan group that met at their church during the week.
The services were pretty boring. They take the tunes from traditional christian hymns and put their own words to them. The one I attended had a terrible choir, too. The church itself is a beautiful old building, but has no religious symbols or anything in the sanctuary.