Beliefs about Life and Death in Unitarian Universalism

A bridge to Ferry Beach and two people having conversation while sun rises.

Two of the big questions religions have sought to answer over the years are: “Why does life exist as we know it?” and “What happens after we die?” Unitarian Universalism won’t promise you ironclad answers to these questions. But we will promise you a community of learning and support to explore what matters most.

At the beginning of life, we welcome children with ceremonies of Child Dedication, in which we affirm the goodness and the blessing in every human life. You could say we believe in “original blessing” rather than “original sin.” Families and congregations dedicate themselves to look after the well-being of the child, because we take to heart the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.” We embrace and celebrate the miracle that is each person’s unique and unrepeatable life, and uphold our interdependence with every life.

At the end of life, we offer communities of care and support. We companion dying people and their loved ones through the sad journey of saying goodbye, and the long journey of grief.

Unitarian Universalist views about life after death are informed by both science and spiritual traditions. Many of us live with the assumption that life does not continue after death, and many of us hold it as an open question, wondering if our minds will have any awareness when we are no longer living. Few of us believe in divine judgment after death. It’s in our religious DNA: the Universalist side of our tradition broke with mainstream Christianity by rejecting the idea of eternal damnation.

Unitarian Universalist memorial services and funerals are moving occasions. Because our tradition has no “one way” of doing funerals, our ministers are able to create personalized services that mourn and celebrate the unique individual who has died. Friends and loved ones of the deceased work closely with the presiding minister in creating the service. If you would like arrange such a service, please contact a congregation near you.


While Still There Is Light Writings from a Minister Facing Death

By Nancy Shaffer, Mary McKinnon Ganz

From Skinner House Books

In 2011, Nancy Shaffer's life suddenly changed when she was diagnosed with what would be a fatal brain tumor.

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

By Mark Belletini

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In 22 simple yet profound reflections, seasoned minister Mark Belletini explores the many and varied forms of grief.

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Rev. Dr. Forrest Church

Unitarian Universalist minister Dr. Forrest Church described religion as "our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die." After his diagnosis with terminal cancer, he wrote poignantly about the meaning of life and death in Love and Death: My Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow.

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