Is Unitarian-Universalism a religion? In 1961 the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America, two religious organizations that were not themselves religions, consolidated into a single entity, the Unitarian Universalist Association. The UUA is a collection of congregations, most of which belonged to the Unitarian or Universalist denominations/religions. Today, most member congregations of that association affiliate themselves historically with Unitarianism or Universalism or both, as well as in a few cases with Congregationalism, Humanism, Neo-Paganism, or some other variety of liberal religion.
The question is, when and how did the religion Unitarian-Universalism come about? Was it instantly wished into existence when these two organizations–neither of them fully representative of their respective denominations/religions–merged? Did it develop later, out of the shared post-1961 history of Unitarianism and Universalism, such that they become intertwined and basically united? Did it happen when people began to conceptualize themselves as not Unitarian or Universalists, but as Unitarian-Universalists? Or has it not yet happened–is it actually simply that there is a large association of congregations called the UUA, within which are various Unitarian and Universalist congregations?
It was by no means inevitable that we would come to think of there being a definable religion called Unitarian-Universalism. We might have just as easily gone on about our business of being Unitarians or Universalists, who happened to share leadership and organization at the top level of bureaucracy for expediency’s sake. It’s worth pondering the choices that were made to follow this path, to recognize that perhaps improbably the weight of a whole new religion has been asked to balance on a mere hyphen.