To be a Unitarian is both a blessing and a curse. By the way I'm not just talking about denominational politics here. No what I mean by this is that to be a Unitarian religiously is not easy. To believe in and follow the Unitarian religious ethos is not the easier softer option. Far from it!
As Burdette Backus said "We sometimes hear it said by some of our own members that you can believe whatever you please. Actually we are confronted with a paradox; we are not free to believe what we please, we are free to believe what we must."
Yes we do believe that everyone has the right to seek truth and meaning for themselves and that each individual’s life experience and their reflections upon these experiences must form their own understanding of their own truth. Our communities accept people as they are warts and all and beauty spots too. That said to truly call yourself a Unitarian is not just to believe whatever you like. We as individuals must stand by what we believe. Reason and rationality are as much cornerstones of our tradition as are freedom and tolerance.
So where does this leave us with regard to ethical issues? That impact on all of us and the society in which we live. How do we as individuals and religious communities come to conclusions about these things? After all we do not have Creeds, or Bishops. No one has authority over anyone else in our communities. Not even ministers. As a minister I am granted the freedom of the pulpit, I create worship as my conscience dictates but if the congregations I serve find my ministry unpalatable they have the freedom to reject it.
The Unitarian tradition is non-creedal, we do not have statements of belief that congregational members must adhere to. We come from a variety of religious beliefs and doubts. Some have rejected the whole concept of religion in a traditional sense . I am happy to use the word religious, others prefer spiritual and they are free to do so. For me to live religiously does not mean the same as conforming and following the rules of a specific belief system, instead it’s about living in community with others who may see the world differently and it’s also about how I live out my spirituality.
Unitarians reach our conclusions by searching our own lives and our own individual spiritual insights and we discuss what we have unearthed in open dialogue. We learn form one another and we experience together. To me this is true religion, free religion. One does not have to think alike to love alike, as our heritage has proven.
It is not easy being a Unitarian, but then who ever claimed that life was meant to be that way. That said it can be incredibly rewarding because to me it's the only way I've found that can reveal what I would describe as acceptable truth.