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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Unitarianism \U`ni*ta"ri*an*ism\, n. [Cf. F. unitairianisme.] The doctrines of Unitarians.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1690s, from unitarian + -ism.


n. The belief in a single God, not divided into any aspects, particularly when presented as a contrast to Christian trinitarianism.


Unitarianism is historically a Christian theological movement named for the affirmation that God is one entity, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism, which defines God as three persons in one being. Traditional Unitarians maintain that Jesus of Nazareth is in some sense the "son" of God (as all humans are children of the Creator), but that he is not the one God himself. They may believe that he was inspired by God in his moral teachings and can thus be considered a savior, but all Unitarians perceive Christ as human rather than a Deity. Unitarianism is also known for the rejection of several other Western Christian doctrines, including the soteriological doctrines of original sin and predestination, and, in more recent history, biblical inerrancy. Unitarians in previous centuries accepted the doctrine of punishment in an eternal hell, but few do today.

The Unitarian movement was not called "Unitarian" initially. It began almost simultaneously in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in Transylvania in the mid-16th century. Among the adherents were a significant number of Italians. In England, the first Unitarian Church was established in 1774 on Essex Street, London, where today's British Unitarian headquarters are still located. Since the theology was also perceived as deist, it began to attract many people from wealthy and educated backgrounds, although it was only at the late second half of the 18th century that it started to gain some wider traction within Christendom. In the United States, it spread first in New England, and the first official acceptance of the Unitarian faith on the part of a congregation in America was by King's Chapel in Boston, from where James Freeman began teaching Unitarian doctrine in 1784, and was appointed rector and revised the prayer book according to Unitarian doctrines in 1786. In J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions, it is classified among "the ' liberal' family of churches".

Usage examples of "unitarianism".

Harriet was already well along the road from her early primitive Unitarianism toward eventual, comfortable free-thought and Comtian positivism.

Unitarianism, Swedenborgianism, and Universalism mingled in happy fraternity.

And if all men were naturally good, as Unitarianism taught, what could be wiser or better calculated to secure the happiness of a nation, than to give every one an equal share of the power?

Unitarianism, to which Coleridge had become a convert at Cambridge, were to be preached.